Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pinecones and Cacti

It's pretty well known that stories can be made by simply taking two characters, placing them in the same environment and playing the "what if" game.

Not all trees are the same. Let's think of these little critters as avatars of specific plants and work on their design and personality from there. Is the oak tree quiet and reserved? Does the maple whirl about gleefully like its seeds? Is the willow melancholy and the red wood rugged?

Imagine the taiga, a deep north boreal forest dominated by coniferous trees like spruces, larchs, firs and pines. Pico, a young Alaskan Pine (the classic Christmas tree) takes advantage of the spring time weather and stretches his limbs. Spontaneously, he comes across a new neighbor, a cherry blossom tree named Pru. Pru and Pico become fast friends and enjoy their time together but when winter hits, Pru's tree falls into icy dormancy and Pru disappears. Pico, unfamiliar with deciduous trees, believes that Pru has died and mourns her loss. In the thawing springtime, Pru reemerges in a storm of glorious cherry blossoms, even more resplendent than before. The two reunite and their friendship resumes. If we want a more melancholy ending, the story can end at the onset of winter where the two must say goodbye and Pico waits faithfully for Pru to reawaken once again.

Alternatively, we can go down to the Sonoran Desert, home of the great Saguaro Cactus. Out in the burning heat stands a solitary giant, a Saguaro nearly two hundred years of age. Her name is Guarola because she is stubborn and hardskinned. She has spent her entire life alone in the rugged wasteland and nears the end of her time on this earth. Just when she is ready to expire, however, Guarola notices that a cereus has taken root. The infant, Sirius, is terribly vulnerable however and prey to insects, birds, and hungry mammals. Guarola has to protect Sirius as best she can and teach Sirius the ways of the desert. When Sirius has learned everything Guarola has to offer, she passes away peacefully. Guarola has changed over the story and where her death might have been spiteful before, she now passes on peacefully knowing Sirius will continue. When night time comes, Sirius opens his first pink flower to the moonlight as a symbol of love for his tragic guardian.

These are just a few small possibilities. There are millions of trees and myriad more stories that can grow around the flora. If one finds my examples saccharine, I invite the reader to dig up some Audubon literature or a lousy Wikipedia page and discover the names and personalities of the real spirits living in the trees.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Story Proposal (Sorry if TLDR)

After Jenna told me her rough concept and showed me some thumbnails I felt that it was something definitely in line with the type of film I would love to be a part of. After letting her concept stew in my brain for a few days I jumped out of bed early one morning, like I so often do with creative inspiration, and jotted down some story notes. I don't have any sketches but I will try my best to paint the imagery and link some films/artwork that capture the mood in my head.

The short begins with a large tree falling in the forest. As it cracks and splinters small spirits emerge from the bark and severed trunk. These spirits begin to walk through the forest towards a strong light in the distance.

As they walk more spirits float down from surrounding trees, that are also falling, and join those already walking towards the light. Leaves, rocks and other forest debris lift off the ground and are pulled towards the light, floating in the same directions as the spirits as if magnetized. As the spirits come to where the light meets the shadow at the edge of the forest we find that the powerful light is due to a large clearing in the woods where all the trees have been cut down and those left are dying. The spirits continue to walk towards the center of the clearing were all have congregated. They stand together and begin to shake increasingly fast and illuminate. A deep humming noise shakes the ground and echos through the trees. The rocks and forest debris floats upwards into the sky as the spirits emit a large burst of light that is as overpowering and bright as an atomic bomb. The explosion of energy sends light and wind through the forest and ruffles the trees as the spirits collapse and die. The debris has materialized into dark, rich soil falling slowly covering the spirits bodies like a soft snowfall. From their covered bodies sprout seedlings. End.

So yes not fully thought out but that's the gist.  The power of the film is in the journey as the plot is delicately revealed. It would be slowly paced and captivates the viewer using romantic landscapes and intimate cinematography of the spirits as they trek. Below is a film and a game that capture this mood and both are built around walking towards an epiphany.
Between Bears from Eran Hilleli on Vimeo.

Lastly an example of an amazing explosion. I suppose this is also just a dinosaur running towards something instead of walking. The beauty of this kind of film is that it can be brought to a high level of polish because of its use of simple walk cycles to tell the story. But it will also strengthen things we have yet to do in class i.e. effects animation with the explosion, lighting, wind, leave, etc.

LOOSAUR from Nadya Mira on Vimeo.
When Jenna came to me with her idea, I knew immediately that I wanted to work on it with her. At first, I was trying to come up with an idea for how the spirits could look. I started creating silhouettes and became obsessed with mushrooms! They come in variety of patterns, styles and textures. I thought visually they would be something beautiful and strange to add as a character. I began to do more research and realized that when mushrooms are at the base or on the trunk of a tree, it usually means that the tree is rotting from the inside out. So I began thinking that for a story, these mushrooms can be beautiful, mysterious silent enemies. I'm still not exactly sure of the story but, most of the ideas centered around mushrooms killing a tree and the spirits trying to escape the tree or save it. Here are my rough silhouettes. It transformed from thinking about the spirits to playing around with shapes of mushrooms.

Idea One

"The Keepers of the Trees" had come from a Radio Lab episode I had listened to, where I learned about how the DNA of babies stay within their mothers for about 40 years helping to repair the body and fight disease. I thought then about trees, and their acorns that fall to the ground. What if these acorns grew spirits that help the trees fight off disease and help the roots grow. Here are some rough sketches that came out of this thought:

Welcome to our Collaborative Film!

This blog is for my classmates and myself to develop a film for our Collaborative Animation class that we are taking this quarter at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. The title and blog are subject to change based on the ideas we come up with. Please take the time to enjoy our sketches and story ideas!