Sunday, March 30, 2008

Backtracking: Revisiting the Premise/Controlling Idea

In reviewing some of the ideas that were explained in the Stephen Cleary workshop I found that my initial premise wasn't very accurate. This was mainly due to my lack of knowledge of the character, more specifically the protagonist. This is something that poses a problem as I still don't have a concrete image of this ever elusive protagonist however I think now I have a better understanding of him.

This understanding came when applying the idea of want vs need.

  • Joshua wants to isolate himself from the rest of his family and find companionship in the Cicadas he collects.
  • Joshua needs to change and embrace his brother to get his Mother's attention, and fill the void that he feels.

While these statements are still a little rough, they help me to better understand Joshua, and through Joshua the theme of the story. And from what I can tell, it's about isolation. About closing yourself off from people. Through the story I want to show a positive outcome that compassion/companionship prevails over isolation. This will be personified through Aden, the brother. Aden is the antagonist. He is the problem, but he also offers the solution.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Animation Practice

Some practice animation to build my skills. This is an entry into the 11 Second Club. A website that every months puts out a short sound clip that animators create an animation to for practice.

11 Second Club - March Entry from Pete on Vimeo.

Stephen Cleary Workshop

Yesterday we had the Stephen Cleary workshop. It really helped to clarify a lot of things in my head about structure and character and telling your story. It's good and bad, good because I have a better understanding that I can apply to my script, bad because it's going to slow me down a little more as I revisit some areas of my story.

Here's the main points I got from the workshop, this lets me revise what was said as well as document a little of what I'm doing.

- It's not the story, it's HOW you tell the story which is key.

- You should be making the audience think and feel how you want them to.

- If you know your character then the scene will write itself. You don't choose what the character will do, there's only one option.

- The script is what you write after you've done all your development work. It should just flow, if you're having to make decisions then you haven't done enough ground work. Train HARD, fight EASY!

- The dilemma of need vs want. Find out what the character needs to do to succeed, then track his willingness to change and how he comes to the realisation. Generally if it's a happy story he will change, however if it's sad then he'll be stubborn and remain as he is.

- The moment of truth where the character is faced with change, giving up a part of himself to achieve what he needs vs choosing to remain how he is and not achieving what he needs.

- The antagonist allows the possibility of change. The problem offers the solution.

- You don't make up the character, you find out who they are by asking questions. If you can't answer the questions then you're not ready.

- The 3 main turning points that make up the basis of your story. The inciting incident, that creates the imbalance and subsequently the story. The turning point where the character discovers that maybe they need to change. The climax where the character is faced with the choice to change or to remain.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Updated Timeline

Below is an updated timeline for the project. You'll notice that the main areas that get attention are the Story, the Character/Set Designs, and the Animation. This will probably change and evolve throughout the year!

The PDF is here

Cicada Reference!

Sketches of all kinds of Cicadas!

Sketches - Boy

Some initial sketches of the boy character, still very early days.

Some reference sketches aswell!

Sketches - Younger brother

Working on the younger brother character. Included are some initial sketches and research/reference. Still needs a lot of work to get to something that really expresses the character

Younger Brother Initial Sketches

Younger Brother Reference

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Logline & Treatment

A brother who refuses to talk, a boy who adopts a wounded Cicada, and a Mother caught in the middle. At the time of year when Cicadas come to the surface, what else will be unearthed?

^Is the current log line for my short animation.

I've also completed a rough treatment, and I stress the word rough!

It can be downloaded here.

While the story and script will still be developed from this point, a greater focus on character and set design will now begin to keep on schedule!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Visual Look

Some photos taken around Canterbury and Camberwell of streets and houses. I want to achieve this sort of look in my animation. Tree lined streets, a warm evening sun, it's something that to me is a really beautiful.

Some grabs from the movie "Monster House", further illustrating the type of look I'm interested in.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sibling Bonds

A very interesting article about the different types of sibling bonds.

"Bank and Kahn in The Sibling Bond describe three kinds of sibling relationship:
  1. extreme loyalty
  2. rivalry
  3. solidarity

Extreme loyalty involves putting a sibling first even above loyalty to spouse and children—and a willingness to make enormous sacrifices. Examples include taking a brother into one’s home indefinitely or acting as a parent to a sister.

Such intense attachments usually develop in childhood when there is a collapse of the family, with the parents physically or psychologically unavailable. In an attempt to create a more stable environment, the children cling to each other. Excessive dependence on brothers or sisters could hinder development of individual identities or relationships with other people in adulthood.

Sibling rivalry begun in childhood may last into adulthood. Where sibling rivalry has been dominant, a person may become obsessed with comparing achievements or failures throughout life with the rivaled brother or sister.

Sibling solidarity, a sense of cohesiveness and emotional closeness with brothers and or sister, increases with age for many people. As older people observe the aging and deaths of their parents and siblings, their sense of belonging may be threatened. They strengthen ties with remaining family members to preserve their sense of belonging to the family system of their childhood, including their brothers and sisters. Persons who maintain the closest relationships with their siblings tend to be those who have never married.

Solidarity may not develop if there were no significant interaction early in life with siblings. Lack of closeness because of significant age differences between children in a family or an unresolved conflict are examples of this.

Sibling bonds that have been distant or negative for years will often further weaken or disintegrate entirely following the death of the last parent. Crisis does bring many siblings closer together. For some, a parent’s illness or family crisis may be the first time one really learns to appreciate a brother or sister."

Source -

Rough Timeline

Here's a rough timeline that's really about getting idea about how the project will be developed. It's something that I'm really glad I did as it made me realise that I don't have all that much time for this. Right now I need to really push forward with the story.

Real life situations

I've been going through parenting forums online to get a different perspective on the story I'm developing. Here are a few excerpts that I thought were very relevant and quite interesting.

“We may have found out what was wrong we had been driven to our limit last weekend so he was sent to his room we had a talk about what was going on with him but it went in one ear and out the other so finally i said to him he was grounded to his room i gave him some paper and a pencil and told him that he couldn't come out until he wrote down on paper what was going on what has changed in his life for him to behave this way after two days (sunday afternoon and monday after school) he came out crying with something written on paper he thought he was going to get in trouble for saying it but this is what bothered him he wrote "My Mummy doesn't love me anymore she only loves Maia" (Maia is our daughter) it nearly killed my wife to hear it so we talked about it. What has happened is my wife was home all the time at the end of her preg and for the first 5 months of my daughters life but then she went back to work, My wife is in senior management at a resort running all banquets and conferences so is required at work for up to 60 hours a week she is exhausted when she gets home so likes to sit and rest my son is use to her being home after school and on weekends so is having difficulty understanding why she is not home and when she is why she always shows our daughter more attention and not him (she likes to feed, change and play with our daughter because she is having a bit of a hard time adjusting her self but always involves our son) he is missing the time they use to spend together.”
bobshell -

“We have three boys. The two eldest are 13 months apart at 7 & 8 yo. The eldest has just had a birthday and preceeding this he has started to enjoy his own company more and more. With the arrival of some new toys and cub scout activities he is becoming more comfortable by himself. These two boys have been very close for their whole lives and have been through family break up and moving interstate together. To say that they are close is an understatement. The 7 yo is showing signs of unrest since the 8 yo's new found independence. He can't entertain himself and needs a lot more adult attention than usual. While we do our best to give him a little more attention he needs to learn to play by himself as we have a 3 yo and a business to entertain as well. He doesn't know how to play by himself and just mopes around.”
burtbunch -

“My son as developmental verbal dyspraxia. He has been having speech therapy for around 3 and half years. we didnt start getting any words from him until christmas 2005 (he was 4 and half). He's speech is coming along slowly but is getting better all the time. He is in presshool this year and he has an assistant with him to help in the classroom maybe you could speak to your school about seeing if your son would be eligible for one. Also when he wasn't talk we used a basic sign language called MAKTON you should ask your speech pathlogist if this would help him. it help us it relieves the frustation they and you feel when the can't get across what they want. Remember there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hope all go's well.”
mum3939 -

“My son is 3 and has been having speech therapy for about 5 months, he is on the list to see a paed and occupation health. He has a few words that he uses but 2 word sentences are his limit. He has 2 older brothers and I was aware at 8 months he wasnt making the same babbles that the others did. He goes to daycare twice a week when I'm at work and have made them aware of the problem, they are usually happy to help by reinforcing whatever is being done at home or therapy. We have been told that he may have to go to a speech kindy, I hope that he does so he can get help and hopefully fit into mainstream school when he is ready, he would be starting kindy this time next year and I would hate to think of him struggling to communicate with other kids.”
Diddlie -

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Premise

Last class we talked about the premise of our stories and how important it is to have something to come back to when writing your story. It's in the last few days that I've realised that my premise wasn't as strong as I thought it was, and as such I've been trying to really get to the heart of what I'm trying to say in this story.

Essentially what I'm looking at is the relationship between the brothers in this story. The older brother doesn't relate to his younger brother, and because he does not feel this empathy, he rejects him. The story will ultimately be about the boy discovering his brothers TRUE CHARACTER. The boy will learn that while he may not share all that much with his brother on a superficial level, their core beliefs aren't so different.

This development between the brothers will be driven by the Cicada, which will act more as a plot device.

I'm not sure how this stacks up as a premise so I might do some more research into premise just to strengthen the foundations.

Picture Story Books

Looking at picture story books at the local library. There were several that dealt with sibling rivalry, most however focused on a new baby coming into the family.

Cicada Research

- Cicadas are linked to Summer (when they emerge to mate).
- Many children like to collect them (this may have been truer in previous decades).
- Common cicadas (the green ones) are known as "green grocers" or "Cyclochila Australasiae".

Cicadas have 3 main stages in their life. Which are, the egg, the nymph and as an adult.

The Egg
- Eggs are roughly cigar-shaped, 1.5-3mm in length, white or pale cream.
- The female uses her "ovipositor" to cut slits in the tree where she lays her eggs. She will lay around 200-300, but can lay up to 600, usually over a few days on different branches.
- Eggs can be laid almost anywhere from grass to hard dead eucalyptus trees, however they will usually be laid near a nymphal food source (e.g. a large tree).
- Cyclochila Australasiae take about 120 days to hatch, and can be effected by rain.

The Nymph
- Hatches as a "pronymph" encased in a thin transparent skin.
- It then wriggles out of the egg and out of the slit (of the tree).
- Cyclochila Australasiae are white with black eyes when they hatch.
- They dry out easily so they quickly drop to the ground, it doesn't matter from what height as they are so light it doesn't harm them.
- After reaching the ground they find an opening to tunnel down to make their cell before looking for food.
- They suck sap from tree roots with their "rostrums".
- They usually live about 40cm-1m under the surface.
- They shed their skin a few times under ground as they grow.
- Before emergence, a tunnel is dug to the surface for easy exit when the time comes.
- One they surface they find a spot to shed their skin (usually a tree), they pump blood in their wings to expand them and then let them dry.

- Singing attracts females, once the female arrives the male will chirp softer and they will sidle for a little while before mating.
- As adults they live for 2-4 weeks under favorable conditions.
- A female in captivity lived for 6 weeks.

Birds - Cicadas are considered as quality food and everything but their wings will be eaten. They are at risk when singing or flying through the air. Often they will congregate so their collective sound deters birds from attacking them.
Cicada killer wasps - These wasps will sting a Cicada paralysing it immediately before dragging it into their next where it stores it and lays eggs beneath it so when the larvae hatch they eat it alive.
Other predators - Spiders, Ants, Praying mantis', Lizards

Information sourced from:
Australian Cicadas
M.S.Moulds 1990

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

Some summarised research into Sibling Rivalry.

The main cause stems simply from jealousy and competition. However other factors can influence it as well including:
  • Evolving needs - kids have changing needs as they grow up. Toddlers are very protective of their toys and belongings. School age kids often have a strong concept of fairness and equality. Teenagers are developing a sense of independence and individuality.
  • Individual Temperaments - One child might be laid back while the other strict.
  • Special needs - kids may act up if there is a sick/disabled kid because he is getting more attention or maybe out of fear for his brother.
Arabic saying:
"I against my brother; my brother and I against my cousin; I, my brother and my cousin against the stranger."

Kyla Boyse, University of Michigan says:
"Each child in a family competes to define who they are as individuals and want to show that they are separate from their siblings."

Kidshealth -
Wikipedia -

Initial Thoughts

My initial thoughts for the Cicada idea were to focus around the theme of purpose. By looking at these insects who spend their entire life underground only to come up for 4 weeks to mate before dying. I was then going to explore this idea further through some of the human characters, being the boy and a brother. However as I've explored this idea I've come to see the relationship between the brothers as more important and the Cicada concept as merely a way of expressing this. This puts me in an awkward position as the concept evolves into something else. Some of the themes I'll be looking at now are sibling rivalry and brotherhood. Hopefully it will be something that I can weave into a story!