Monday, 17 October 2011

Adapted Screenplay draft 1

Well so far, I have had little opportunity to fill my Animation and Technical folders, namely because no one has really got to the production stage yet and therefore I have no animating or rigging to add to my portfolio yet.  I have however, been working on advancing my rigging skills for Dan's unit.

As for the Artistic folder, I have drawings that I did for the Arcade project.  These drawings include early and finalised character designs, as well as concept art.  I would like to have more Character Design work for this folder, but it seems that the majority of projects have got their Character Design already covered.

I have actually been given work by Lily's group, who are making the film, Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac.  They have given me the task of writing an adapted screenplay from the original story that was written by Ed Young, which in turn is based on a traditional chinese story of how the animals of the Chinese zodiac were chosen and also an underlying explanation of why cats and rats are now enemies, in a similar vein to Rudyard Kipling's Just-so Stories.

I was recommended to write up this screenplay of the story from Sarah Strickland, one of the members of this team, who I worked with on The Weave project 2 years ago.  For this project I wrote an industry standard adapted screenplay from an extract of the book Exodus by Julie Bertagna.  Screenwriting was a skill that I have had since I was 17 and studying for an A-Level in Film Studies and it is a skill that I would very much like to be part of my skill set when I am working in industry as it could give me the opportunity to transcend into other areas of film.

In order to write this adapted screenplay, I was given the story in a Word Document by the group so that I could write this story up in screenplay form.  An adapted screenplay is different from an original screenplay, in that an original screenplay is a story for a film that originated in script form, whereas an adapted screenplay is a script for a story that was originally written in prose, but has been converted to screenplay format for the purpose of adapting the story for film and television.   The story for an adapted screenplay could either have been written especially for film, or it could have been written from an already published book.

Here is the pdf document of the first draft that I have written for Cat and Rat.

The main challenges that I faced when writing this script were to make changes so that it would be practical to animate for a 1 year film project.  This meant that the majority of the characters' dialogue, other than the Emperor's, the Buffalo's, the Cat's and the Rat's, had to be omitted.  However, as this piece tells the story of how all the animals were chosen for each year, it was essential that they were all still included to some degree.  Luckily, the Maya work is to be cell shaded, meaning that only the main character animation needs to be modelled and animated in Maya and all of the secondary characters (i.e. the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Monkey and all the other animals of the Zodiac) can just be made in 2D.

Another challenge that I had in this screenplay was to establish the context of the story, as well as the era, through the use of mise-en-scene.  Throughout the story, Ed Young describes a lot of the action, but not a lot about location or historical context, other than the fact it is set in Ancient China.  This was somewhat of an advantage to me as it left the door open for me to use my imagination when it came to establishing the scene.

I want the piece to look as genuine as possible, so I actually read into Imperial China, just to get an idea of the scenery and context, in particular the Ming Dynasty; the era in which many of China's most iconic landmarks were build, including the majority of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.  In order to establish the context of China, I decided to base the Emperor's base at The Palace of Heavenly Purity, which is a palace within the Forbidden City.  The palace was used as the Emperor's audience hall during the Qing dynasty, so I thought that this would make a good place to set the scene where the Emperor adresses the audience about the race.
I also like the way this palace has a set path in front of it, with some steps leading up, because I came up with a really great idea for a scene in which all if the animals that the Emperor address, stand in numerous rows, each with equal amount of space apart from one another.  I got the inspiration from this scene in Hero (which I could not get a better image for, I'm afraid) in which all the soldiers stand either side as Nameless walks the path to be executed.
I thought this kind of imagery would work really well in projecting the fact that the two main characters do not stand any real chance against the bigger, stronger animals and it would look quite good to see these small character side-by-side with really big, intimidating animals.

I was pretty much doing the research on Imperial China as I was writing the screenplay, so I only started researching the Zodiac when it came to the race and figuring out why the animals finish the race in the sequence that they do.  After looking up the Zodiac, I found that they finish the race, depending on the order of the years of the Chinese.  I made sure that the screenplay includes a scene of all the animals overtaking the Cat in the correct order.

I also found out that the story that this is based on originated as a traditional Chinese story called The Great Race and that the character of the Emperor is based upon the Jade Emperor; the head deity of the Taoist religion, that is regarded as the ruler of heaven and all realms in existence.  This was interesting to learn as I had initially pictured the Emperor character as one of the later imperial rulers of China from the Ming Dynasty.  When it comes to redrafting the screenplay, I might make the Emperor more like that of the Jade Emperor.
Another challenge that I had when writing the script was writing up the lines of the Narrator.  The project required there to be a Narrator doing a voice over and telling the story as it unfolds.  The project also required the dialogue of the characters to be delivered by the Narrator, as the characters deliver the action; much like a lot of children's animation from the 1970s including the works of Oliver Postgate,  such as Bagpuss.  This meant that I would need all of the Narrator's lines to also include the voices of the characters.

When writing the Narrator's lines, I had to make sure that I abided by the fundamental rule of screenwriting which is to "show, don't tell", so I did not include every last bit of story.  However, I needed to make sure that the bits I did include made sense with the imagery and that I did not leave anything out.  In order to do this, once I finished the screenplay, I recorded myself saying each of the Narrator's lines and then I played it back to make sure everything relevant was there.

This video below consists of the sound file that I recorded to hear how the narration would sound.
I have deliberately left two parts of the story fairly loose and vague in this draft; namely at the start when the Cat and Rat are helping each other to get food and then when the Cat is overtaken by all the other animals in the river.  The reason for this is because I want to run it by the rest of the group to see what they think about how these parts should be produced and if we need to focus on making them as succinct as possible.  When I get to run through this script with the team, I will write up another draft of the screenplay.

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