It’s a new year and I’ve just recently gotten back from seeing my family over Christmas and new years so now my holiday is over I’m buckling down and ready to get shit done.
I’m still working on my script (it’s been 10 months so it’s dragging) but it’s taking shape and improving heaps. I’m almost ready to give several people another draft to read and give feedback. Hopefully I’ll finish it within a month or 2 maximum. As soon as the script is finished pre-production will go into overdrive because I actually know what I’m doing. I hope to finish all pre-production this year and model all the sets, props and characters. I’ll also be directing and recording the voice acting which is completely new to me, as well as rigging and animating the CGI characters which I’ve got a lot to learn in.
Another thing I plan to get started this year is making youtube reviews of animated films. It’ll be partly for my own benefit to study them, and partly because and I think there’ll be an audience for it who’ll appreciate exposure to new weird animated films.
I probably won’t update this blog for a while as I’m concentrating on my script. As soon as I finish the screenplay I’ll be all over this with at least 2 updates a week!
I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch with my health lately, hence the lack of posts and progress.
A couple of weeks back I got a pretty bad case of the Flu and it ended up turning into an intense case of tonsillitis. It looked and felt like insects had laid eggs in my throat. Thankfully after a course of antibiotics I’m almost 100% again.
I’ve also had a pretty difficult few months mental health wise, battling with depression. It’s something that I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager and It’s never really gone away, I’ve just gotten better at dealing with it. It still comes back to fuck with me every so often.
I really recommend learning how to use Cognitive Behavior Therapy if you suffer from a similar thing. It won’t cure you but it might be a useful tool to help you at least make your depression manageable. See a pro for sure if you’re having a rough time, but if for some reason you can’t (cost etc.) there are some D.I.Y CBT guides out there to take you through it and help you learn to utilise it yourself. Hopefully it’ll help you remain productive even in the shittest of times.
There’s some D.I.Y Cognitive Behavior Therapy material here and here.
Another thing I’m beginning to realise the more I get older is that if you hope to make it as an independent filmmaker, artist, musician, writer etc., you really need to take care of your body as well as your mind. Because we’re working on the fringes with fuck-all money or support it really puts you in a precarious place if you get sick or messed up. It also sucks up loads of time you could be spending improving in your art. You can’t work as hard when you’re sick and your quality of life isn’t as good so it’s worth keeping on top of.
I’ve been trying to exercise every day or two and eat better which is making me feel better. It also gives me more energy to do solid creative work. No doubt I’ll have a relapse into healthiness but as long as I get back on the horse I’ll be making progress.
Anyway that’s enough of a rant for now. I’ll have more updates on my feature and more badass animation content soon.
Over the weekend I finished the 11th draft of my feature script and had some friends around to do a reading of it. They gave heaps of in-depth feedback and solid critique which is what I needed. The outside perspective is really helpful as after days and days of writing you can kind of lose perspective and you miss things that don’t really make sense or aren’t particularly strong.
I’m going to take 6 days off the feature and then I’ll get stuck back into it with fresh eyes. I’m not sure how many drafts it’ll take until I get to the final version but It feels like I’m getting much closer.
I’m really looking forward to finishing it and getting stuck into other pieces of production which will roll out quicker.
I’ve been working as hard as I can on writing my feature screenplay, but it’s slow work. It’s taking a long time because I’m learning everything about writing feature screenplays from scratch. I’m improving heaps through each draft but I still have a lot to learn. It’s also the one stage of the film-making process I don’t want to rush. The screenplay is the kernel of the film. If your screenplay or story is rubbish, your film probably won’t be worth watching (I can think of numerous exceptions though). Other stages of film-making are very important too, but probably none more so than the screenplay.
I’m very conscious of the fact that people can fall into the trap of using perfectionism as a way of procrastinating and not actually getting anything done. So I’m constantly checking myself to make sure that’s not what I’m doing and I’m actually making tangible steps to finish the script. Fear can make you behave in strange ways if you’re not careful.
I’ve also changed the format I’m using to write the script. The first 5 drafts were done the way you’re MEANT to write a script but I’ve changed to writing it in paragraphs like prose. I found the regular script format harder to keep track of dialogue, descriptions and actions as it’s spread over many pages and not in condensed and easy to follow paragraphs. Once I’ve finished it I’ll convert it back into a regular script format.
One thing I don’t have to worry about that other screenwriters do, Is that I never have to be afraid of over explaining or over describing things. Most screenwriters write to sell their scripts or write it for other directors and production staff, but I’m the sole writer/director/animator and the only one who has to know how to create visually what the script is saying. In saying that though I still have to make sure I write in mostly visual terms and not describe inner emotions without directions on how to portray it on screen. For example if I wrote ‘Several dozen ants crawl up the man’s legs and begin biting him. The man feels terror and wishes he hadn’t smeared his legs in honey.’ it’d be no good because you can’t show inside his head where he’s thinking these things… unless you did a shitty voice-over or something similar. Instead it’d be better to write ‘Several dozen ants crawl up the man’s legs and began biting him. On the man’s face is an expression of terror. “Agh! Why did I smear my legs with honey!?” he yells.’ because you can actually visually or sonically depict that. In a sense it’s much harder than writing prose fiction because of this.
I’ve gone old school and started using system cards to map out the story structure on my wall. I’m hoping it’ll make it easier to see and analyze what’s going on in my story and what to improve/change. 300 of the cards set me back about $10 from a local office supplies store and they should last me ages as I’ll only have 50 to 80 scenes in my film.
I’m also constantly reading books on screenwriting, narrative and story to improve my skillz. I’m currently about halfway through ‘Story’ by Robert McKee which I’ve been told is one of the better screenwriting books out there. It’s pretty good but not perfect. In my opinion it’s about 1/3 really informative, 1/3 common knowledge and 1/3 bullshit (or at least very questionable). I’ve come to realise that there’s no real shortcut or formula for writing good screenplays and stories. All you can do is study, practice and find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Learn and know the ‘rules’ of classic narrative film-making and their function so you can use them, bend them or disregard them completely.
It’ll take many years with trials and errors but I’m confident I’ll attain a mastery of story some day. Perhaps I won’t master it with THIS film but I’m aiming to make the best film I can.
I’ve finally finished my stint of full-time work and am back to part-time which means I’ve actually got time to work on my film, various projects and update Underground Animation regularly. It’s good to be back!
I’m pretty familiar with Adam Elliot’s work as he’s an independent animator/director from the city where I live (Melbourne, AUS). Chris Sullivan from Chicago came out of left field for me and was probably the filmmaker that resonated with me the most. I was previously unfamiliar with his feature film ‘Consuming Spirits‘ (2012) which took 12 years to make. From the segments he screened and talked about, the film looks startling, dark and intensely intriguing. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to see it yet but as soon as I do I’ll write up about it here.
I’m really looking forward to seeing and talking about Sullivan’s work more as he’s an interesting character and he’s working on his second feature now. Here’s a sample nugget of wisdom from the filmmaker… “Making an animated feature is like making love and being stabbed to death at the same time”. Yup!
I also got to check out the projection of Botborg‘s ‘Principles of Photosonicneurokinaesthography’ at Kings ARI which was curated and shown by the Melbourne Video Art Society. “Botborg is an international audio-visual performance group that fuses and rewires raw electronic signals to create intensely visceral experiences of sound-colour synaesthesia.” Botborg use a custom analog electronic instrument called the ‘Photosonicneurokineasthograph’ to produce these intense abstract visuals. There’s also a great catalogue-essay ‘Collider‘ for the exhibition, on video abstraction written by MVAS by co-curator Diego Ramirez. Rad!
I’ve got a bunch of strange and rare independent animations I’ll be digging up and reviewing in the weeks to come, as well as more documentation of my feature film in progress.
I found this talk by Jonathan Blow, the creator of the 2008 independent game ‘Braid’. The talk covers content such as the best way to go about creating ‘deep work’ or long projects, how to survive these projects and how to allow yourself to receive great ideas.
The talk is really informative and you should check it out if you plan on (or are in the process of) making a large project such as a feature film, independent game or graphic novel.
Well, I’m up to the 6th draft now on the screenplay for my first feature animation. I’m finding it quite difficult as It’s my first one but I’m learning butt-loads. In saying that though the screenplay is a fucking mess and it’s taking me way longer than expected. Even on draft #6 I think it might be pretty incomprehensible and that doesn’t bode well for the film if it’s not fixed.
So I’m going to take a different approach and re-write the entire concept as a story, then turn it into a script. Starting with the main situation and setting I already have I’ll let the characters write themselves and see where it goes. I kind of know where It’s going to end up but I feel the story will flow better and seem more natural if I do it this way… or maybe not, who knows. All I know is I’ve got to get better at writing, and quickly, or my film will be z grade schlock.