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STORYTELLING LAB

 
Image by Mike Erskine

BORN TO TELL

Storytelling Lab launched in October 2020 and  far exceeded my hopes and expectations. I experience people transform themselves (even via Zoom)  simply by discovering their own voice! That's what the Storytelling Lab is all about. You have everything you need to be a

Storyteller - except the confidence.

Our lives are narratives. We're writing it every minute of every day. Storytelling predates language. 40,000 years ago, people painted their stories on the walls of caves. There are many ways to tell a story. Storytelling Lab explores them all.

Decades of experience as a writer, producer and university professor have shown me storytelling is the key to understanding the world we live in—whether it’s understanding how to tell a story, interpret a story, or write one.

 

Storytelling is a natural gift and our most effective tool. If you want to win an audience or employer, sell a product or simply communicate better, storytelling is the most effective method. That's because humans are hard wired for stories! 

Covid-19 has given us an unexpected  opportunity to stop and focus on what matters.  At a time when we're all struggling to make sense of the world around us, the Storytelling Lab offers a rare and unique opportunity to connect with your inner voice. 

This wholly original six week, six person course offers a multimedia approach to storytelling that spans the disciplines. It explores a range of skills applicable to multiple fields of interest, study or simply personal growth.

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HOW IT WORKS

Using film, graphic novel, and documentary storytelling, students will learn to translate what they’re watching into a broader life experience. Each class will encompass topics such as theme, metaphor, character development, and interpersonal relationships. Each story will be examined through a broader lens to include history, culture, art, gender, race, music, etc.  Students will be challenged to form and express their ideas and opinions through a series of fun and creative assignments.


The lab will be a cohort model, consisting of only six students. The intimacy enables people to form a cohesive group where everyone can contribute, and no one hides or gets lost. The atmosphere promotes a safe environment to express thoughts and ideas. 


Having been marooned together at the dinner table, the class will have to encourage meaningful table talk. Students will receive a weekly suggested topic relating to the broader issues addressed in the film.

ATTAIN NEW SKILLS

  • Gain access to your own "voice"

  • Turn your life experiences into compelling stories

  • Improve your ability to communicate, personally and professionally

  • Analyze and deconstruct the elements of storytelling

  • Enhance and hone writing skills 

  • Build self confidence 

  • Expand and improve verbal communication

  • Learn to contextualize and express ideas

  • Find new ways of self expression  

  • Stimulate imagination and creativity

  • Understand and appreciate film in a broader context

  • Be a more interesting person

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                 TESTIMONIALS

You will never regret joining the Storytelling lab! Bonnie's charismatic approach brings out the creative power in absolutely everyone. Bonnie is warm, hilarious, and inspires confidence in all her class whilst also sharing her extensive experience of screenwriting and the art of telling stories. It's a total gem of a course that really does enable people to explore their own voice; I feel so lucky to have found it.

- Anna McDonald, UK

 

Storytelling Lab has been a revelation. Not only is it created and led by Bonnie with a sense of humor, creative freedom, and a light touch, but we have all uncovered aspects of ourselves and been surprised by the results. Who knew to spend Zoom time with five strangers from across the globe would be so heartwarming and life-enhancing.

 - Sophie Mills, UK 

The Storytelling Lab experience has been such a joy. A global pandemic and the wholesale shift to Zoom opened up a wonderful opportunity to learn from Bonnie, someone I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to connect with in the “before times”. Bonnie graces her classes with just the right blend of teaching, encouraging pep talks and personal anecdotes. Generous and enthusiastic, she creates such a warm space for people to share, explore and ultimately find their voices, completely free of judgement. It’s a little like therapy but way more fun! If you think you have a story inside of you, or just want to be more creative but are lacking confidence - take the plunge and sign up. You won’t regret it. You will learn so much, meet inspiring new friends and maybe even start a new creative endeavour. It’s the only Zoom session I genuinely looked forward to each week!

Sally Gaynor,  Ireland

What can I say about Bonnie's classes... they have truly been a wonderful tonic to what can seem like the mundane routine of everyday life. My favourite thing about this class is that there is never any pressure about what or how you write; there is no critique and no set outcome so you truly feel safe and supported to create. This course is purely about the process and that feels liberating! Bonnie's  talent, wit and humour provides a space to discuss, share, create and connect to yourself again. Not only is Bonnie brilliant, but the other women I have met in the group have inspired and supported me in my growth as a writer, but also as a person. Don't deliberate; just say a big YES and watch the magic unfold!

- PIppa Orr, UK 

Like many, I felt frozen in my creativity during the pandemic. I also wanted something to relive any pressure to create anything meaningful as I couldn’t!  I knew I was in safe hands the minute I met Bonnie and the class. It was liberating to try out new ways of story-telling each week, develop an intimacy with the class and cheer each other on. It’s been a form of creative therapy for me and galvanised me to keep producing work...

- Camilla Hillman, Copenhagen

Bonnie’s style allows you to sink in and enjoy this experience for what it is – the opportunity to write without rules. There’s no judgement, there’s no rigidity, there’s nothing that will smash your smokes. It’s just pure fun, which is in short supply these days. It isn’t about “let me show you how to be a writer.” It’s about creative expression through storytelling, focusing on the beauty and simplicity of sharing your own. It’s so liberating to realize that we’re all storytellers, each with something unique to say. “Being creative lets you become more of who you are,” said Bonnie. My god, what else do you need to know?

- Marci Frumkin, Los Angeles 

Bonnie is bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, she inhaled much wisdom into the course. The exercises stretched my writing style, in an open and supportive environment. On top of that I was introduced to films I had not previously seen and books, and loved sharing analysis with a group of like minded and wonderful people. I can’t wait to start on our next stretch of the creative journey with a brilliant guide. All in all  I highly recommend.

- George Wilson, London 
 

 

In Bonnie’s class I experienced the opening of a place within me that was closed for a long time.  Writing comes out from a person that I swear is not me.  Bonnie's selection of movies to watch and books to read are rich in lessons to be learned. During out meetings Bonnie brings out and shows us what was used by the creator to make the piece outstanding.   In this class there is no editing, spelling or requirements for the assignments that are prepared and shared during our on-line meetings.  This made the class an entirely pressure free experience that frees the creative person within to fly. 
- Sharon Miller, Sanibel, Florida 

Not only did the weekly tasks broaden my reading and viewing horizons, they also generated new and interesting discussions in my household, which has been so refreshing and fun during the monotony of lockdown life! Bonnie is warm, positive and engaging and creates an environment that welcomes vulnerability - as a result our group bonded very quickly. It is such a great way to connect with new people on a meaningful level - especially during lockdown!

 - Jenny Eade, Australia 

Storytelling Lab was amazing. Exercises to help us with our own powers of observation and 'homework' to help each of us step outside our comfort zones, all done in an intimate and completely supportive environment. Best of all was Bonnie's constant mantra "There is NO wrong way to find your own voice." ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 - Ted Fox, Palm Springs, CA. 

I had really lost my spark in 2020. Storytelling Lab helped me to rediscover my creativity. The classes were unlike anything I had done before. It was such a supportive environment, I felt able to take risks and re-connect with both a new community and myself.

 - Emily Kempson, London/NYC. 

Loved this class Storytelling Class! The layering of the class was excellent with writing, expressing, reading/journaling, and, yes, the movies!  It was a good weaving of forms to consider and use.  I highly recommend it!

 - Mary Ginter, PH.D., Tucson, Az. 

Bonnie's class was so cathartic for me...blasting through several
layers of creative blocks ( I didn’t even know I had), to reveal unexplored creative areas of expression desiring to come forward. The
 class is a magical hybrid multi media storytelling exploration, coaching/psychotherapy, creative excavation/unblocking process. Bonnie's reach is far beyond just writers, and is geared towards how to travel the geography of your mind, find the joy in our unique voice and the multitude of ways we can express ourselves. This is certainly applicable to any and all interested in seeking more joy in life/living which is something that is deeply sought in this extended pandemic constriction we have been immersed in almost a year now.

- Kathleen Wilson, Michigan 

I consulted with Bonnie on a script I was writing and left each session inspired, hopeful, refreshed, and raring to get back to my computer and write.  Her ad — it’s all true!  She can really do all the stuff she says...

 - Treva Silverman, Emmy and WGA Award Winner 


No one tells a story better than Bonnie! Trust me, I should know because she has written numerous scripts for me, telling each story in a unique way. What I love most is Bonnie’s passion and enthusiasm... both of which are infectious. Treat yourself, you deserve it.

 - Anne Carlucci, Executive Producer

I have known Bonnie for over a decade.  I first met her when she was my professor in a storytelling course that focused on interpersonal relationships between characters as a means of driving a narrative.  I learned so much from her about the unique ways to channel my creative voice as well as how to study great films, books, and other forms of media in order to inform my own work and artistic choices. One of the many wonderful qualities Bonnie possesses as a person and a creative counselor/instructor is the fact that she does not prescribe to limiting beliefs when it comes to expressing oneself and truly believes that anyone, yes, ANYONE, can be an effective and impactful storyteller if they put in the work, discipline, and passion for the art of the craft.  I highly recommend her Storytelling Lab -- which is a culmination of her many years teaching professionally as well as working in several creative industries including film and television.  During this strange and transitional time, we need powerful outlets and creative think tanks such as this!  --

 - Jessica Mollo, New York, Humanitas Prize Winner

 

The Storytelling Lab is unlike any of the countless classes out there. That’s because Bonnie understands storytelling in all its many facets. She has an uncanny ability to get people to reach into their unconscious and connect to parts of themselves they’d lost over the years.

 - Rocky Lang, Los Angeles, Writer/Director/Producer

 

 

With 40 years of film development and producing experience, I know good storytelling when I see it and no one I've worked with knows it better than Bonnie Garvin...a true pro!

 - Linda Kent, Producer, Grossbart-Kent Productions

CURRICULUM

SIX WEEK SCHEDULE

 

Virtual Classroom:

Two-hour weekly group session via ZOOM. Students discuss and analyze their writing assignments.

Homework:

Unique, fun and engaging writing assignments challenge students to translate what they’ve seen and heard into a deeper personal experience.  Each assignment teaches the student to expand their ideas into the broader social context. All assignments are crafted to help students develop, evolve, express and individuate their ideas.

1-hour live weekly class:

Discussion and analysis of storytelling: character development; theme; metaphor; symbolism; socio-political landscape; historical context; music and art. ​

Discussion Guide

Weekly questions to discuss with family and friends whether they are familiar with course material or not.

COST: $750

SAMPLE SYLLABUS

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. The film explores the origins of Facebook. We’ll examine the impact of the platform from inception until today, as well as Free speech, sexism and the legal system.


THE HATE U GIVE.  Based on a book of the same name, it tells the story of a black teenager torn between two worlds - the inner city neighborhood where she lives and the world of white privilege where she attends school. We’ll examine Black Lives Matters, civil rights movement, family, cultural appropriation, class and race.


THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS. The only documentary in the course. As adults, three men discover they are in fact triplets. We’ll examine the differences in fiction and documentary. We’ll discuss the nature of family, secrets, mental health issues and "nature vs. nurture."


BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM. This delightful comedy explores a British Indian teenager’s desire to play professional girl’s football which conflicts with her traditional Indian family’s ideas about her future. We’ll discuss multi-culturism, loyalty, India-British history, women in sports, inclusion. 


PERSEPOLIS.  A graphic memoir hailed by the NYT as “a wholly original achievement in the form and one of the best memoirs of the last 50 years.” Told from the point of view of young girl and schoolmates coming of age in Iran among upheaval and uncertainty. Discussion will include Middle East history and culture, Iranian revolution, evolution of graphic novels.

ISLE OF DOGS. A stop motion sci-fi comedy-drama set in Japan is wholly and gorgeously conceived by Wes Anderson. A brilliant allegory for the world we find ourselves in and told from the point of view of dogs. We’ll discuss animation, metaphors and allegories, dystopian fiction and culture, discrimination and bias. 

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BENITA (BONNIE) GARVIN

CREATOR/INSTRUCTOR

Bonnie has taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students. For the last fifteen years, she’s been part of the faculty at the renowned John Wells School of Writing for Film and Television at the University of Southern California. She also coaches writers privately and hosts writing workshops.   


As an award-winning writer, Bonnie’s worked in film and television in the U.S. and Europe. She’s a produced playwright and authored numerous biographical essays published in acclaimed anthologies. In addition, she is a professional painter and studied music since she was a child. 

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SAMPLE ASSIGNMENT

SAMPLE ASSIGNMENT

 

Read “Persepolis.”  

 

Using no less than 12 frames, tell a GRAPHIC story about being in lockdown. It doesn’t matter if you can draw or not. You may use your computer, a drawing program, absolutely anything you want. You may create the characters as stick figures, use cut-outs or anything you’d like to represent each person. Include dialogue. 

 

Be creative! It’s your story!

 

Questions:

 

What feeling surfaced for you as wrote your story of lockdown? What surprised you most about the experience? 

In her story, Marjane leaves Iran but holds onto her Iranian identity. What does "identity" mean in that context and how does shape it shape her once she leaves Iran?

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