SVA Film & Animation
NEWS & EVENTS

Writers of SVA: Mina Elwell

Today, we are starting a new year of  Writers of SVA. A regular space on our site for students whose work you might not always get to see – the screenwriters.  

Mina Elwell is a Screenwriting major, and the TA for Thesis. In the latter role she is indispensable – keeping track of every student’s work, every advisor report, every deadline. But as much as the Thesis Committee appreciates the work she does, she has another job that is a dream come true for another group of people: Children.

 

 

I was in the bathroom of a fancy apartment building. I was wearing a bulky pullover hoodie and black jeans. All my hair was pinned up, a few red curls falling into my overly made up face. I had a giant silver bag slung over my shoulder.

Suddenly a little girl burst into the bathroom, cake on her face, a bright red snowflake painted on her dark skin. I froze completely. So did she.

“Is your name really Elsa, or is it something else?” She asked me.

Suddenly, I heard a phony British accent come out of my mouth, “Sorry dear?”

“Are you really Elsa?”

I glanced down at the giant silver bag, which currently contained copious amounts of candy, face paints, speakers, a sparkly blue dress, and a blonde wig.

“Sorry sweetheart, I really don’t know what you’re on about. Are you looking for someone?”

Suddenly she looked heartbroken.

“Elsa. I was looking for Elsa. She was at the party and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

“You know what?” I said, in my ridiculous accent, “I did see a pretty blonde girl who looked a bit like Elsa leave that way. What’s your name? If I see her, I’ll say goodbye for you.”

She cheered up and left the bathroom. I waited till she rejoined the party, then I left too.

Of course, I am Elsa. I am also Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, and Merida. Most of all I’m a storytelling/adventuring pixie named Snapdragon, who I created myself. I’m a party princess.

A party princess is exactly what it sounds like (unless you are imagining someone who goes to a lot of clubs in a tiara. Stop picturing that immediately), similar to a party clown or a party magician, except a princess. Usually, a girl turning about six years old suddenly realizes there is nothing more important to her in the entire world than meeting her favorite Disney princess (now days Elsa from Frozen). Her perplexed mother then goes to Google, discovers that there are literally hundreds of princess-to-hire options, and books a princess to come to her daughter’s birthday party. How the princess entertains the children can depend on the entertainer or the company.

I started off working for a big company, which had entertainers working all over the country. I never met my boss — he just sent me a cardboard box full of candy, face paints, a sparkly dress, and a blonde wig. I never went to prom, but I imagine it is something like that. He hired me to work in Manhattan, but occasionally I went out to the other boroughs or the suburbs. I went everywhere from Harlem cafés to Brooklyn daycares to Manhattan high rises.

The very second party I went to was for twins in the Trump developments on the West side. It was half Elsa themed, half Spider-Man. When I arrived, the other entertainer was late.

When the other entertainer did show up, he wasn’t in costume. I wish he had been. We all have heroes. These girls like Elsa, I personally like Spider-Man. Unfortunately, this was not Spider-Man. This was a 40 year-old man in track pants.  

We were downstairs in the building’s gym. I think it was bigger than my house. There was a DJ and a sports instructor already with the kids, and life size Elsa and Spider-man balloons. Immediately Not-Spider-Man began yelling and clapping and blasting his music. A small hoard of children stampeded towards him.

IMGP0021With that company, each party lasts for an hour. Twenty minutes in, about 45 children were marching after Spider-man chanting “SPIDER-MAN IS GOOD,” and clapping. Six children were siting on my blanket with me, sheltering from the militaristic display. This included both birthday children. We quietly sang, “Do You Wanna Build a Snow Man,” and “Let it Go.” I painted some flowers and dragons and cats on their faces. I wished them happy birthday. It seemed t be the first time anyone had said that to them that day.

I have been to parties where all the snacks and cake were homemade, with about eight guests. They remind me of my birthdays. Usually after I sing with the children, they want to show me everything they own. One little girl insisted on showing me her bedroom. I remember saying, “Oh my goodness, I love your room!” but she must have misheard me because she threw her arms around my legs and shouted “ELSA I LOVE YOU TOO!” Suddenly, the whole party was group-hugging me and yelling that they loved me. I have never been so popular in my whole life.

Whether it is a party that is massive and commercial and designed to show your business partner how impressive your house is, or tiny and personal and you’ve spent hours decorating your living room to make everything perfect, my job is to make sure that this is a special moment that your kid will never forget.

IMGP7155 - Version 2            Eventually, I started my own business, Perfect Pixie Parties, with my own pixie character, Snapdragon. She is a fairy who goes on adventures and occasionally needs help from birthday parties full of kids. My slogan is A Fairy Adventure in your own Backyard. I do interactive storytelling with the kids, and lead them on adventures. I bring them homemade party favors, and they all leave with wands.

I’ve kind of monopolized the birthday business for girls turning six in my town. They are all friends and I now do all of their birthdays. At this point, each story we act out, can build on the last one because we all know each other. They are getting fairly elaborate.

With Snapdragon’s success, I thought I was done with Disney. Then a friend came back to New York and couldn’t find a job. Next thing we know, we are Belle and Cinderella, adapting classic fairytales to explain how we met, handing out candy, and teaching kids to balance books on their heads as they walk across the yard.

Sometimes, I think the princesses are rubbing off on me. I might say something a little…. neutered like, “Oh my goodness!” or I might walk with my hands a little out from my sides like a dainty cartoon character. I know all the lyrics to Let it Go, but then again, who doesn’t? I’m always happy to take off the costumes — even with my new expensive lace-front wigs, I worry that they’ll slip; the hoop skirts are cumbersome; the wings are enormous. But when I see a little girl in a Frozen shirt, or with a Disney backpack — and most of all, when I see one of my little local fairy fans building a fairy house for Snapdragon, I wish I could be, magically, in costume.