Monday, June 29, 2009

TFS- Story Development Process, Part 1

As a reminder, I'm labeling all the entries for my new short film, if you want to place any entry into a context...

Personally, an initial story challenge isn't to come up with a story or a premise. The challenge is to come up with a story or a premise that means enough to me that I know I will stick with it through what might be a several year process. It has to be a story that is true to me.

Brand "Chris Walsh," if you will.

I'm at a point in life where I can fairly confidently state that I (hopefully) have time to keep making at least a few more films. But at the same time, I'm also at an age when I know I don't have as MUCH time as I used to have. Tick, tock, tick tock... a strong sense of one's own mortality is a wonderful motivator.

So, if I only have so much time left on this planet, what do I want to make with that precious time? I want to look back and be proud.

I gravitate to certain themes, it would seem. I get many ideas for "Twilight Zone" type tales, usually ones that have an aspect of a moral lesson attached, often about human mortality.

I seem pretty fixated on the struggle we all go through involving the fact that our physical bodies are so fragile, and prone to decay (hence the horror movie fixation? You tell me).

I generally aim to tackle hard-to-face topics, but served up in a tone and style that is attractive to an audience, (call it "charm") with some element of a "lesson" being conveyed through the story.

Here's some story ideas that have hit me over the last year or so (all to be staged in stop motion animation):

-a robot boy who struggles to bring his long-dead human creator back to life...

- an old woman facing what might be her last winter, when suddenly the devil appears. he offers to give her youth back but at a cost (of course).

- a man who cannot die, despite his best efforts, all the while his body is decaying (essentially a very dark comedy, zombie-style)...

And here's a few story development images from the "old woman" story, and the "man who wouldn't die" story. You can click to enlarge them.

As you can see, the process itself is a TOTAL mess, not fit for public viewing (except when being used for educational purposes!) Actually, speaking for myself, I LOVE seeing process, the work that goes on that leads to the finished work, so feast your eyes.

It's a personal process of connecting this to that in terms of story elements. It's a process of raising story questions on paper, crossing out and rewriting... it's a mess, but it's real, and it's on paper so as to refer back to.

In my opinion, few things are more harmful to early story development than to work it out on a word processor. It's just too easy to erase something utterly. It's too neat. When you do it on paper (or at least revise on paper, from a word processed document), you can see the whole thing laid out, forever (even if it's scribbled out). This informs the story as it develops, I feel. And it makes for a cool looking piece of post-modern storytelling, if you ask me.

So with no shortage of concepts in hand, it's simply a matter of starting to MAKE one, right?

Nope. As it turned out, finding the right story took about 6 months of developing various concepts and playing them out (story-wise), testing their strengths, testing whether the story had the substance to sustain me in what I knew was going to be a very long process of development, production, and post-production...

As an indie film maker, you HAVE to test your story for strength. It's the bedrock you'll build the whole thing upon. And you're going to sweat and bleed and cry so much for the thing, if it's story isn't perfect for you (as the primary artist creating the piece), you'll give up.

In several cases (including both concepts in the scans above), I would be completely enthralled with a story, and spend week teasing out plot points, imagining the staging, dashing out thumbnails sketches, convinced that THIS was the one, THIS was my next film!

But in each case, it was revealed that those concepts were NOT the real deal.I would develop and develop, only to find a roadblock in a story that wore me down as I tried to get around it. Or I'd find that my enthusiasm for the story would, sadly, simply dry up.

Thank goodness for "idea drawers", (or in my case, a journal) where all these half-formed concepts can dwell. By having a safe place to store them, it hurts a lot less to walk away from them, then if I had simply thrown them away. I can imagine the concepts "sleeping," "resting," or "waiting". But they're not "dead". Who wants to kill his own newborn ideas?!

And you never know what might be just the right idea, years down the road...

Anyway, these various story concepts depicted above couldn't hold up to the testing. With each one drying up on me, or road-blocking me in some serious way, the search continued. It's a process. You sleep, get up, think about new ideas, live your life... go to sleep, get up... you listen for a story to start talking to you... Working in an indie fashion, I can afford to take this much time on story. I set my own deadlines, so I'm patient. You CAN rush a story, but why do if you don't HAVE to?

I really respect stories, and their process of development. Letting a story reveal itself, in its own time, seems a respectful way to proceed.

And hey- it's my film, so I get to do it my own way!

Naked Frames Film Fest

The Named Frames Film Fest is just starting up in Toronto, and I have to say- it's much needed!

Toronto already has a massive amount of festivals, serving all kinds of audiences, but what it could use more of is a forum for truly indie animators to showcase their work.

Admittedly, there is TAIS (Toronto Animated Image Society), but the more chances to let animators get their work on a big screen, to connect with the community, and to raise their own profiles is extremely important. Without support like this, these brave and incredibly talented souls (many of whom are actually professional animators by day, and toil away on their own visions at night or on weekends) might run out of steam. And then all we'll have left to watch is multi-plex cinemas showing 10 screens worth of the latest mega-studio production, that was written by teams of hundreds to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

A festival like this celebrates and supports truly indie animated art, so please support it. Here's the official promo from the organizers...

"Naked Frames Film Festival is looking for animation films and music videos of any medium to showcase at it's inaugural event!

Naked Frames was created to showcase the independent Toronto animation and film industry by offering the opportunity for artists to display their work on a full-size silver screen with digital sound while enjoying the rockin' tunes of Bob Wiseman and Radius & Helena after the show!

The Naked Frames Series features some of the most relevant, innovative and weird music videos and animated film from the wellspring of talent that is the independent arts community. Our aim is to raise the profile of noteworthy, independent artists, with emphasis on local Canadian talent, through theatrical programmes at the Revue cinema.

The Naked Frames series is put on by a shadowy council of artists concerned with providing exposure to all things cool. Despite the growing number of film festivals in Toronto, there still remains a lack of venues for low to no budget animation and film. These films are largely created by artists who willingly submit themselves to poor working conditions, meager subsistence, and heart wrenching seclusion over a number of years to produce startlingly original pieces. We applaud that sort of thing.

The series organizers are looking for submissions for this and future series events.


Naked Frames Film Fest - Friday July 16th
Revue Cinema - 400 Roncesvalles Avenue"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TV Ghouls

Can't remember where I scooped this from, maybe metafilter?

It's a British comedy piece, but it's true for Canadian TV, and TV anywhere. And it's touches on a number of reasons why, about 8 years ago, I started to move away from live-action and towards animation. I looked at where I could head in live-action, where I'd be in 10 years, and it made my soul weep.

It also touches on why I'm so keen on this David Lynch "Interview Project," that uses media to actually show the connections humans have in an honest fashion, as opposed to using media to exploit others with a painful intent.

Am I some kind of fuzzy-wuzzy teddy bear, who only likes cuddly and sweet things done with media? No.

Is Bambi my one and only favourite movie? No. (Although I do love Bambi).

Considering my most recent purchase on DVD was Romero's Dawn of The Dead, I think it's pretty safe to say that I go in for all kinds of content.

I have just grown to truly loath much of what one has to do to get ahead in media production, usually for the purpose (in the grand scheme of things) of creating utter crap, that is truly destructive to humanity. What a waste of one's (relatively very short) life.

This clip is wickedly honest, and should be shown to all Film Students, repeatedly.

Click away:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pre-Code Horror Comics!

Scooped this link straight from the pages of Rue Morgue, Toronto's own amazing horror monthly.

The blog is

It features high rez scans of stories and ads from Pre-Comic Code horror comic books. The site is well laid out, loads fast, and is easy to navigate, making the act of reading the comics online pretty pain-free. It's not as good as having the comic in your hands (no wonderful smell of musty newsprint), but it's still a good time. And the blog is full of love for the gory mess that was pulpy shock stories.

Some of these tales are truly nasty and wild, so prepare your eyeballs...mwa ha ha haaaaaaaa...

By the way, as you can tell from the image below, the June issue of Rue Morgue features lengthy articles devoted to stop motion master Ray Harryhausen, so get it while it's in stores.

Lynch's Interview Project Up and Running

The first of Lynch's humble but very important (and savvy) interviews are up, via his main website. The actual Interview Project site is crashing my browser, so I hope they get it sorted asap.

Anyway, here's an article from The Globe and Mail that gives a great overview of the project, and touches on why I think it's so important. I love that the project stresses the connections all humans share, without resorting to exploitive, cruel, trashy pop-TV crap.

Could we be entering an era of post-trash-reality TV, that does everything it can to turn us against our fellow humans, and encourages us to cruelly laugh at others?

No. But at least David Lynch is doing his part to make the hurt go away.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Magic Projector on Air Canada!

Tickled to announce that my distributor, Ouat Media has sold my film The Magic Projector to Air Canada.

For the next three months, you can choose it from the seat-back screening machine.

Hopefully, doing so won't result in a need to use the barf bag, which is also located on the seat-back.

Not much money in the deal for me. Pennies, to be honest (OK, possibly a hundred bucks or so). There never IS pay-back for indie projects, it seems. Especially shorts.

But it's obviously great exposure, and hopefully presents me as ever-increasingly bankable and dependable, should the opprotunity present itself to pitch a bigger project that needs investors.

Curious thing, the digital age of distribution and broadcast. A while back, I discovered (to my shock) that my film had been posted online, for any and all to watch. And it hadn't been posted by ME. But before I flipped out on who posted it, I had to ask myself- Is this a BAD situation? It's out there, getting viewed by lots of people... and the guy who posted it is not getting filthy rich on me. So I let it be, figuring what was actually happening was a broadcasting of not only my film, but my brand, the "Chris Walsh" brand. My name, my rep, doing what I do, was being spread, and that was very valuable, if not in a tangible way.

Now this deal with Air Canada comes along. Without this fairly new form of exhibition (in the form of seat-back screenings), sold to the exhibitor (Air Canada) via a distributor that pays me pennies, what's it getting me, tangibly? A few dollars. Imagine trying to make a LIVING make these animated shorts? What a joke.

But again, it broadcasts not just the film, but me- as an artist, that can get the job done, in an indie professional fashion. And that will lead only good things to my door.

It would seem that the digital age allows you remarkable amounts of exposure and contact, that in time CAN translate into real-world results.

Just make sure you've got a day job in the mean time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Yes, my film True Family Story now goes by an acronym, "TFS". Deal with it.

Anyway, in the flavour of fun, here's a few more tasty stills. I must say, doing some "horror movie" scenes in this project was WAY too much fun (and has been going over pretty well with the selected victims I've been showing footage to). It might be hard to resist doing an all-out horror movie in the future...

Regarding the film, I'm about to end the first portion of shooting, before going on some nice holidays. The film is approximately 75% shot, with the remaining shots to be done either at the end of summer (when I'm back at school), or over the Fall semester (on evenings and weekends). Then the sound and score... I'm hoping to have it completely finished to show off, come Spring 2010.

I could probably rush and push and get it done sooner, but the school year makes it hard to move it forward (what with teaching those darn students), and I don't WANT to rush it. I want to take time, and make the process enjoyable. It's my own thing, for no external client, and so I need to enjoy that.

It's actually really nice to work at a modest, humane pace.

I have a whole heap of further posts, a lot of behind-the-scene stuff about story, puppet making, lighting and so on, that I'll start tossing up here in the coming weeks. It will be an awesome thing to tackle while on vacation.

Stay tuned.

Screen Novelties

I just wanted to bring up this company's stop motion work. They mainly do commercials and short pieces for other shows, but have recently been closing a feature film deal, with The Jim Henson Company.

Their web page is here.

What I love about their creations (be sure to watch their reel) is that they let the stop motion animation be FUN. The designs are fun, the overall vibe is fun, and it's not trying to be "real". They're puppets, for Pete's sake, embrace it. Things look handmade, the designs are very silly but lovely, and it's just FUN.

Can I put FUN in capital letters enough times?

Be sure to watch their short "Mysterious Mose," that combines puppet animation, silhouette animation, and live-action puppetry. I love seeing mediums blended, and this short does it beautifully.

I think their work is wonderful, and I really hope the feature project makes it to the screen.