Saturday, 20 August 2011

3rd and 4th Week: New Ideas

This has been an interesting couple of weeks for the team. Most notably, the original ideas we had for our project have been scrapped, and we now have all new ideas! Only this time, we have the basics of the story and concept 100% clear in our heads, so we have been able to move forward quickly.

First things first, we are no longer making a science fiction comedy.

With the previous idea we were all disagreeing on how the story should end and whether we needed certain characters and the script was becoming long and complicated for a short film etc etc, and with time running out we came up with the idea of an animation that was to do with not having ideas.

So from that we have come up with the idea of a writer who is experiencing a day of misfortunes as he tries to write his next best selling novel. It begins with the struggles of coming up with ideas, to the endless mishaps that occur while writing his book. Our short animation has remained a comedy and has but one character. It is set somewhere between the 1920s to 40s, in an isolated house in the middle of winter.

After we all discussed some ideas, this concept has been outlined into a basic story structure by me, based on the notes taken from the meeting. It is now my job to finish this off by creating the final script.


This is the outline of the story. It ends with an additional list of optional extras that can fit into the animation.

It's still got a few tiny gaps, which will be filled in by the time the final script is written. It mostly positions the three of the main gags in the timeline.


___________STORY STRUCTURE________________

___ACT 1_______________________________


// Establish the setting //

The story takes place in a writers office in his home.

The camera pulls in on this 1920s house, closing in on the window with a light on.

It is snowing. (since it is clearly winter, there is less daylight. The whole film takes place at night, but it is not exactly late at night… yet )



// Establish he is a famous writer //

The camera pans round the walls of his room. Showing the many photos and newspaper cuttings of his success as a writer. There are also many books and lever arch files and boxes on his shelves, Showing the titles of many books he has written. (The names of the books can be a play on some real famous books.)


___ACT 2_______________________________


// Coming up with an idea //

Standing up, the writer is fills up his glass. He puts the bottle down. // Then cuts to a close up of his face.// He is thinking. Then takes the pen from a pot for the first time.

When he first picks up the pen from the pot, the lid is so lose that he takes the lid and leaves the pen behind. He then takes the pen after putting the lid down. (honestly, its not his day!)

occasionally the writer would take the hanky from his pocket and wipe his face / brow.

/// This is where we mix in some other little gags ///

He pauses for a second and puts his pen down. As he wipes his brow again, the pen slowly starts to roll off the table. It hits the floor and busts the nib. Rendering it unusable. (but filled with ink) Realising that he cant write with it anymore (unless it can be mended), he puts the (lose) lid back on and puts it in his pocket. (the clip on the outside of the pocket)

He finds just one pencil in his draw and continues to write with that until the lead snaps. (which is almost immediately)

So he puts it into the electric pencil sharpener. It unfortunately gets stuck in there and it keeps eating away at it until there is only a pathetic bit of pencil left. He persists with writing with it from then on.

He pauses again. and takes his hanky out. (by this time it is covered with ink as the pen has leaked!)

He wipes his face / brow. Before revealing his face the camera cuts to behind him and the desk. He looks at some of his papers that are out on the desk. Thinks he is getting no where, so he just makes a moaning sound and gradually smacks his face on the first piece of paper on the desk. The camera come to face the writer and he then rises back up going 'ERHHHH' with a piece of paper stuck to his face. The paper gracefully un peals and you can see an inky imprint of his deformed face on the paper.

He soon realises that his hands and face are covered in ink, and he then takes the pen out of his pocket, and once again, the lid only comes out. He then takes the pen out too and throws it all in the bin.

(he may decide to leave the room at this point to get cleaned up) /// Time passes ///

To the side of his desk, he starts to toss the ball against the wall, he stands up, gets an idea (maybe looks out of the window and into space), then the ball bounces back and hits him.

/// Either at this point, time passes again and he is now typing on the type writer, or we see him start to type straight afterwards. ///



// Typing the idea out //

The lamp switch keeps switching itself off at various moment int the animation. (who knows why… its a dodgy switch!)

He first looks at the lamp when switching it back on. The next couple of times he isn't even looking, but still keeps switching it back on every time it switches itself off.

(For whatever reason, the lamp and fan are moved backwards slightly on the desk - make more space for his notes, for a particular chapter he is working on perhaps?)

The last time it switches of, he accidentally switches on the fan, so instead of the light coming back on, the papers in the pile of typed paper one by one from the top start flying off of the pile in a curly fashion. He quickly switches the fan off and puts the lamp light on instead.

He has now mixed up his pages of his book.

(from then on, the switch is permanently stuck down with Sellotape)


___ACT 3_______________________________


// Burning all the work //

With the book almost finished, he lights another cigarette. When he waves the match out and placed into the ash tray, it didn't quite go out.

the writer finishes the last sentence of his finished book. It a moment of relief and happiness, he does a 360 degree spin in the chair. He accidentally hits the side of the desk with his feet/legs/knees. This causes the whole desk to rattle. The match in the ash tray falls in the bin. He quickly straightens up the pile of pages. (as if - phew, best be careful)

He takes a sip of his drink and places it in the easiest place. (to the Right of the type writer)

Types 'The End'. and slides the slider over. Knocking over the drink and spilling it over the side of the desk and into the bin, where it quickly ignites and as the flames crawl up the side of the desk, it reaches and burns the pages of the book.


___The Writers mannerisms_______________________________

He has common sense, but is slightly forgetful. (mainly when he is directly preoccupied with something else)

eg - He is constantly putting his cigarette out on the table and not in the ash tray. When he realises (almost instantly) he drags the ash tray under the scorched patch and puts the cigarette out again.

If you see several scorched patches, showing that he is doing it all the time.

Its not exactly a gag, and the audience may not, and doesn't need to pick up on it, but it (if only subconsciously) adds character to him for the audience.

___The Little Gags_______________________________

Maybe he has a cold, (considering its winter). He sneezes or is about to sneeze every so often in the film. (A cause for some other gag perhaps)

He types out an entire page and makes an obvious spelling mistake in the last sentence of that page. (the whole page needs retyping!)

Every so often he gets his finger caught in the keys.

A page falls on the floor, but has drifted under his desk. (really awkward to get to!)

He then decides to take the bottom draw out to make it easier, but unfortunately, there is another board of wood in the way.

He tries to open a locked draw so he ends up pulling the handle off.

or maybe - He has a stiff draw and when he tugs at it, some of his drink spills over the paper.

while stuck for ideas, he goes to his shelf. He finds one of his lever arch files with lots of old notes. As he slowly starts to pull it from the shelf, once its almost out, pages and pages of unclamped notes fall out over the floor.

or maybe - he has this untidy pile of books, notes, pages etc, that is precariously balanced. He hesitates at first, as it his last resort for ideas. He attempts to take a page from the middle of the stack, and like a game of jenga, he carefully takes the page out. He is successful, but as he walks away the pile falls over.


___________END OF STORY STRUCTURE_________


Meanwhile, Ruben has collected some images to use as reference for the the designing of the main character and has also created the first draft profile sheet.


Initial Profile Sheet

Name: Writer (Name to be Decided) (like Walter, Alfred)

Biography: (name) is a recognised author in literature, however when prepares to write his new book, ideas slipped his mind and he is left with nothing. For an accomplished author not having ideas is like a crime. After some time of reflection and thought gathering, he thinks he has yet another masterpiece, however the real struggle begins when he tries to write his ideas for the new book.

Age: 40-45

Race: Human

Speaking Style: Calm, Polite, Formal (Academic Level).

General Demeanour: When normal he is excited about his books, when he has an idea he overreacts and becomes silly.

Career: Novel Writer

Prejudices: Loves to write books, but lately unfortunately he is not lucky enough to have an idea.

Best Qualities: enthusiastic, determined, polite, has common sense.

Worst Qualities: melodramatic, silly, sometimes frustrated.
Weaknesses: when overreacting he behaves silly, allowing gags to play on him.

An additional research on the clothes of the period so we have a rather accurate character.


I too have collected some other random bits for further reference, baring in mind that this is set before the days of computers, so I have looked at typewriters.

While I was writing the story structure, I was also needing to check the dates of inventions such as the electric pencil sharpeners, light bulbs, swivel chairs, Sellotape etc. I also found some other images that might be useful later on, for when it comes to designing the props for modeling.

I never knew until now how typewriters worked, but there is a ribbon (in this case black ribbon) that is wrapped up and suspended between two reals.

From what I've found out; the arms with the letters on portable typewriters (generaly) proportionally take up more space.

Where as with full size typewriters, the arms with the letters fit in a smaller space.

You can see here that there are two letters on each arm. (caps/non-caps)

I doubt that we will be making a typewriter that actualy works, but this might be useful.

And here are some other images that might prove useful too.

I found some interesting videos about typewriters as well.

This one shows how a typewriter is constructed. (if you skip to about 4 minutes in, there is a stop-motion animation of all the components building themselves together)

This video shows exactly the correct posture for type writing. (might be useful for animation.)


So in the upcoming weeks we will be doing further research while coming up with character concepts, set concepts, and will be beginning the story boarding phase.

That's all for this post, until next week.

A Flock of Pixels


  1. sorry about not replying yesterday, I was away from the computer... by the way the post looks great.

  2. Okay you guys - I'm liking this 'one set/one character' emphasis a lot - and the period setting is a bonus because it will help you focus on your production design much more quickly. Although you're going for comedy, there are a number of 'struggling writer' movies you would benefit from looking at - certainly in terms of getting the acting right. Obviously, some of these are NOT comedies, but I suggest you look at them in acting/shot structure terms - so, in no particular order:

    Barton Fink
    The Dark Half
    The Shining
    (my life... not a film actually, but, well, my life) :(

    It might be interesting to suggest that the novel that your character is experiencing difficulty in writing is somehow a BIG departure from the books that made him famous. In Misery, the writer has made his name writing a series of 'Bodice-Rippers' - historic melodramas aimed at female readers. He has become dissatisfied with his niche, and when we encounter him in the novel/film (King's novel is superior to the film in lots of ways, but the film packs a punch nonetheless) he is just finishing up on a book that is entirely different - a risk. Of course, what happens next to him is thoroughly nightmarish... Anyway, perhaps in those opening shots, when you show the writer's den - with his books everywhere, you could communicate his dissatisfaction. Alternatively, writers like Dickens originally wrote their novels as serialisations, so that they had to produce a continuation of their story every month for their avid readers. The 'pressure to produce' could indeed create writer's block. Anyway, none of these set-ups alters the meat and potatoes of your story in the slightest, but might add another level of understanding to his plight. You should certainly watch Barton Fink and Adaptation (again! - I showed it as part of Postmodernism hijinx) - great depictions of miserable, desperate writers...