Soap Operas are long-running, continuous TV dramas. They are usually based in one location, with a large cast of characters. A soap will run several major storylines at one time, often dealing with serious social issues. The soap opera is declining in the U.S., but is still a very important and popular genre in the U.K.
For this project, you will;
create a setting for a soap opera
create several characters
create a storyline
make a film clip of a key moment in that storyline
American soaps, like ‘The Young and the Restless‘ or ‘Beverly Hills 90210‘, tend to be more glamourous. For this project, we will focus on the British style of soap opera. The main characteristics are as follows;
strong female characters
characters developed over years
The characters on popular soap operas can become loved or hated by millions. For our case studies, we are focusing on three major characters from three popular soaps.
Beth Jordache, from channel four’s ‘Brookside’
Hayley Cropper, from ITV’s ‘Coronation Street’
Den Watts, from BBC’s ‘Eastenders’
You will study one of these characters, and make a short presentation to your classmates. Use clips to illustrate your points. Talk about the following;
Location (Where does the character live and work)
Backstory (Where does the character come from? What is his or her life before entering the soap?
Family Relationships (Who are the character’s main connections?)
Character (What kind of person is the character?)
Main Storylines (Did this character create any controversy)
Exit (How did the character leave the soap?)
Choosing a Location
The location for a soap opera needs to be self-contained. The actors rarely leave the location and the drama takes place in a restricted area. Eastenders takes place in Albert Square, a small street containing an outdoor market, surrounded by a pub and a cafe. In Coronation Street, there is also a pub, and a small corner shop. Most of the action takes place in these spaces, as well as the character’s homes. Within these very familiar settings, the drama feels authentic and real.
Some soap operas use workplace settings. Hospital dramas like Casualty and Holby City combine weekly medical emergencies and visiting cast members with the ongoing storylines between regular characters. Grange Hill was a popular school based drama, exploring the students’ relationships and problems.
Soap Operas have been a force for social change for many years. Viewers form very strong attachments to certain characters and may be affected by the same problems. When particularly difficult storylines air, many viewers look for help with their own problems. For example, the day after a character was raped on Eastenders in 2014, visits to the Rape Crisis website increased 70%.
Choose a strong issue for your soap opera, but play it from a personal perspective. Some examples are;
dealing with illness
Watch this three minute clip. What is the relationship between the characters? What is the background story to this moment?
Count the number of cuts / shots. What camera angles are used? Storyboard a brief section of the clip (thirty seconds is enough).
You can find more clips to study at the links below.
There is a blank storyboard for you to download and print here.