Tuesday, 30 December 2008

A Little Certain 'Vampire' and 'Book'.

I was going to start by quoting the first line from the song Gravity by Embrace but I've changed my mind. I'll just listen to it instead. However it still applies without the opening word 'honey' of course.

'Vampire' and 'Book' are two short animation scripts that were begun on Dec 2007 and June 2007 respectively, and yesterday were extremely close to being once and for all, finished. The first, I think is as good as it's ever going to be, and the second extremely close and depends on further feedback and time.

What's interesting is that both scripts on every revision and rewrite over the last year were considered final. At the start they both were initially eight pages, which I soon found out was far too long for an animated short. But with some more time away, time to review and feedback from others, another rewrite always came about; improvements were made, precious page time was reduced and the story was tighter. They are both now four pages long, which still may be too long for some shorts but I think is the right length for these stories.

The final polish was unplanned and was a spur of the moment thing while I was about to email them to someone. As I read the attachment labels, I thought 'I'll give them a read to see how they're doing' and then found after one improvement, others came and the email was held up for awhile.

With 'Vampire' it was the vampire himself who's character and development was improved and ultimately, nailed. I never realised before that his actions and reactions weren't in character, they were just typical generic reactions. But now they follow a process of development, which for an animated character may sound strange, but is needed and it works so much better. Before, his first reaction in the script was a big one. And then they were smaller and returned to being big. There was no gradual development into the big reaction and change in the character. So it was nice after all this time to realise that I had been playing some of his reactions the wrong way. They were all there but just not in the right order. The weird thing is it stood out like a sore thumb whereas before it seemed perfect. The vampire feels like a real person now and feels like the icing on the cake.


'Book' had the most dramatic change to it and had almost a page wiped out from it. This was a large portion of the opening; that I knew beforehand and an animator had said to me, was a weak area and if it didn't contribute to the overall story, then it should go. But i just couldn't bare to lose it as I loved it too much. It did add to the story as it added to the persona of the mysterious owner of the house/estate, but it was more small jokes/set ups, that really didn't advance things to much, they just made the reveal more fancy and developed. But it survived intact without those. And so I killed that little gem opening page and reworked the essential scene from all that, that leads into the predicament of the story.

It's strange that a four page animation, admittedly casually, has taken a year to get to a comfortable point of completion. The last rewrites six months ago, for me were complete and done, and i was happy. But this time 'Vampire' in particular feels like it has reached its peak destination and I couldn't be happier.

I noted in an earlier post, that a lecturer, Jan Weddup suggested before that I should offer to write for the BU animators. He gave me the nudge to start thinking in terms of short animations for possible producing. It took six months for it to work its way to action, but ended up kicking off an exciting and unexplored territory, that at first, I didn't think existed in my capacity and I wasn't worthy to tread.

The main thing I've learnt on writing animations; is the importance of screen time and detail, and the extreme compression of the two in order to deliver a satisfying pace and enriched story. That has certainly informed my writing in general as well as that learnt on character and other areas.

It's something I recommend that everyone should try because, if nothing else, it's great fun and a great way to escape.

Cheers Jan for the nudge.

Friday, 19 December 2008

ZZZZZ - The World Of Deep Sleep.

Over the last month I’ve been working with a third year Interactive Media Production student on his major project; an 'interactive first-person game narrative website'. The story is that Colour has been stolen from Deep Sleep and your goal is to return it to its former glory through varied game play and narrative sections.

The collaboration came about through an email sent out to the scriptwriters 'looking for a scriptwriter to write the scripts to an already set story'. So I initially thought that it would be a) a quick job b) a challenge for myself to distill his vision into script form and c) I would be helping this guy out. Plus d) since the summer project in the first year, I wanted to be involved on another interactive website. So I replied and heard back from him pretty soon.

The initial meeting went well and I heard the concept for the website and was intrigued and interested. The great thing was that it was a leftfield concept that I’d like to create and would want to play. From our chat I realised that the overall story was there but in step-by-step script/story detail it wasn’t as set as I thought. And so I discovered that there was room for my own ideas to feature within the project at various sections and he was happy to give me the freedom to carry that out. I was really happy because I got to be creative not only on a narrative level but on a gameplay level also. So it was the best outcome for me.

He’d had a few replies from second year scriptwriters but I was the only third year that replied to him. And upon that basis I was offered the task of writing the scripts for the project, which I happily accepted. The others though were held as standbys in case I wasn’t available to complete all the sections.

An appropriate note; would be that after the meeting I was elated on a creative level but also extremely worried because I’d never written an interactive first person game script before. I was worried that my work would fall short and I‘d let him down. But I approached it on the basis that I’m only going to write what I would enjoy playing and as my expectations are sky high, I knew that on some level I would achieve my objective.

The next meeting we spoke about one of the in-game rooms and the first script I would write. The story for the room had a character who was an obstacle and gave you riddles, in which you had to answer to receive a key. There was no specifics on the room, or the character but a generic type or anything that existed in the room that had to feature. It was just those three specific things; a character, riddles and a key. So I was able to come up with the story, dialogue, enhanced character and scenario that complimented the world of Deep Sleep; and plotting and direction that enhanced the experience from a first person point of view.

Something that's worth noting is that before when working on something that I'm unsure with or ideas in general, I would be too scared to show them to anybody in fear of embarrassment or rejection. But as I've now built up good working relationships with two scriptwriting colleagues and trust their judgement, it has given me the confidence to show them work (and now others) without much fear but the desire to find the missing elements to make it work. And I somewhat anxiously showed this 'room script' to a close colleague and he approved and said he liked it, which helped to ease my insecurities with it. Over the last six months sharing ideas and scripts has become second nature and my view is simply; 'you win some, you lose some' and try not to take any feedback, however harsh and founded to heart and take everything into consideration to make it better.

Upon meeting for the reviewing of the script I was still a little nervous and anxious that it wouldn’t be good enough and I‘d have to change parts. But I was completely ecstatic and happy with the script from my point of view as a player. But my nerves were short lived as he loved the script and said it was perfect. He said it was exactly what he wanted. He said 'he wanted it to carry a story within the room' and so was really pleased with it.

I was extremely happy and looking forward to writing the next room, which had the same three obstacle/goal elements as the previous; a) three characters, b) puzzles and c) collect a parchment. And it was up to me to create the story scenario, dialogue and interaction within the room and narrative. The review meeting for this script was a good one also as he was happy with it which was reassuring as I wasn’t a hundred percent happy with it, unlike the previous. I was about ninety percent happy with it. He shared the same reservations about the gameplay and wasn’t satisfied that the puzzles and lead into them was the best it could be. But he said as that was his area he would figure that out.

Recently I’ve completed an intro to the first chapter and an outro, which consist of meeting a character and receiving your task; and returning to the character to return what he asked you to get. They total two pages in length and follow the premise and conclusion of the story for that chapter. He was really happy with those and didn’t need any changes to be made.

I’ve also completed the third room script for the first chapter of which the previous two room scripts are a part of. The room was more involved on the gameplay and less on dialogue and character action, and so was the shorter and less free creatively than the other two. But enjoyable nonetheless. Again, he was happy with the script apart from one line of dialogue which needs to be changed.

At the moment Chapter Two requires a few small video and dialogue sections to be written. The entire chapter is based around a specific interactive format with set stories and so only requires character dialogue. I hope to have that completed within a day or two. Then work on Chapter Three will begin. I have a rough idea of what’s required but I‘m awaiting the overview. There is a fourth and final conclusive chapter of which I have no info about as I don‘t think it‘s been decided yet. So I don’t know what to expect there. But it must include a closing video to round up the main characters story and the experience.

Overall things are going well with this although time is pressing as the shoot is schedule for the 5th of Jan. But looking back I did hesitate about this advertisement and job because I had no experience or confidence in carrying it out effectively. But somehow, I just thought that it can't hurt to see what it's all about and so 'nothing ventured nothing gained.'

An important note and testament is that as much as I like the scripts I wrote (with room one being my favourite) I’m not possessive of them. I’m happy if anything is changed because I’ve done my part and I respect that it‘s somebody else‘s project and that I was just there to help provide the best scripts I could.

Overall, the project has been a really challenging and highly rewarding experience, even at the half-way stage. It’s been a nice experience and I hope that ZZZZZ can be realised to its full potential.

And I can’t wait to play it.