The Intent

When we submit our miniature exhibits to the Flower Show, we have to write an “intent.” This is a 50 word summary of our exhibit. This summary, which is posted with the exhibit, informs the viewers (both the judges and later the audience) what story you hope your exhibit tells. Successful intents can guide the viewers to look at your display in more than a superficial way. An unsuccessful intent can confuse and discourage your viewers.

This year (the 2015 show), since the subject of our displays is Hollywood movies, we have the unique opportunity to craft an intent for a scene that viewers may already be familiar with. How, then, do you write something that enhances their viewings? A look at past intents and their exhibits may help.

Last year I also had a scene from a movie but my intent, I am afraid, was a little too obscure. While anyone who was a rabid fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds would get all the references in the intent, the casual viewer (and possibly the judges) probably didn’t get the significance of the paragraph.

Annie’s house in The Birds

My intent read,

“This tilling of the soil can become compulsive,” says schoolteacher Annie Hayworth who gardens next to the Bodega Bay School. “It’s something to do in your spare time,” she wryly comments. “There’s a lot of spare time in Bodega Bay.” Meanwhile, the birds are gathering and time is running out.

A well-constructed intent can be seen in a work from an earlier show. In their First Place and Best in Show exhibit from 2005, Deb Mackie and Nancy Grube created a perfect scene called, “Love Thy Neighbor” (today, when we talk about this exhibit, for some reason we all call it The Neighbors).

Love Thy Neighbor
Love Thy Neighbor

Their intent read,

Ben Franklin said: “Love thy neighbor, but don’t pull down the hedge!” Cats or dogs, neat-freaks or slobs, Old Glory displayed proudly on the porch reminds us all that we’re free to live as we choose in the good ol’ USA (as long as we don’t annoy the neighbors).

While the exhibit could have been understood without the intent, the wonderful paragraph made the story of the exhibit easier to get and added an additional touch of humor.

For 2015, I am doing a replica of the backyard scene from Hitchcock’s Rear Window.


The first draft of my intent reads,

Lars Thorwald: gardener, jewelry salesman…and murderer? That’s what photographer “Jeff” Jeffries thinks as he watches the melodramas played out in his neighbors’ windows, including the sudden disappearance of Thorwald’s nagging wife. Is her body in that trunk in Thorwald’s apartment? Or is the little dog sniffing it in Thorwald’s garden?

RearWindowScene079 copy
The trunk in Thorwald’s apartment


The dog digging in Thorwald’s garden, attracted, perhaps, by the body buried there?

Since I won’t have figures in my scene (I will have the dog), I need to draw attention to Thorwald’s apartment (on the second floor) as well as his garden at ground level. The intent asks two questions that encourage the view to notice the trunk in the window on the second floor and the dirt spilled by the dog in the patio garden.

The intent, then, should encourage an engagement with the exhibit that extends beyond noticing how “cute” or “fun” it is. Instead, it should explain that there is a story in these scenes worth investigating. I think the Rear Window intent does that better than the intent for The Birds. The key for movie intents, I think, is to balance what you write for those viewers who are familiar with the movie with what you write for someone who has never seen the movie before.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s