I had started drawing small story situations as rough biro thumbnails. This method really helped me act out the scene ideas quickly without worrying about the shot construction too much. I just needed to get the information done as quickly as possible.
These scans show my preliminary story sketch thumbnails done over a few weeks (since my first storyboard).
As I was thumb nailing, I started to realise how long this scene would be, and how much time it would take up in the film. If I wanted to show Mollie's insecurities and Babbit helping her to overcome them with three "acts/moments", this first meeting/introduction scene to Babbit was definitely taking too long to show...
I wrote down an idea - "Babbit there right at the beginning?" I went with it. If Babbit and Mollie were simply established right at the beginning as being together, then I had much more space to create and develop the story.
So the bottom thumbnails show some shot ideas for the very beginning of the film - a fence as a foreground. Mollie's head would bob up and down, walking behind the fence with the top of her head visible. She would stop, look behind, and then there would be Babbit (large) bounding into shot behind her... I was thinking of wall height - as Babbit would be much taller than Mollie, the "camera" would follow the fence which would then show a wall which was taller than the fence. So then, the shot would show just babbit's ears bobbing up and down...
These set of thumbnails start by showing another establishing shot for the film. Mollie and Babbit are sitting with their backs to the camera, and Mollie is leaning on him stroking his face gently. The school bell would ring, and Mollie gets off the wall and walks away, Babbit watching her leave with a caring and warm look. Then it cuts to lots of ideas for Mollie in shot, isolated. Her head is in the same area of the screen as she stays relatively still, looking shy, unconfident and sad and her classmates would be looking happy and getting along with other things (etc). Examples of shot locations - the classroom, the Sports Hall, the lunch room table, the changing rooms...(etc) Then a shot of her classmates running outside, and Mollie turning back towards the camera and walking into the coatroom for the meeting with Babbit scene. This time, there are far less shots that the first few thumbnails as shown in Thumbnail pages 2 and 3, as Babbit has already been established right at the start. This gives more room to play with fewer shots that are better constructed to give the same/necessary information.
This page of thumbnails continues from the one before, with Babbit helping Mollie tie her shoelaces. The "tying shoelaces" theme is still one I want to keep. Though not as prominent as in these shots. I will change this by having more subtle shots of Mollie with her shoelaces undone at the beginning of the film, and then showing Mollie tying them herself later on to show she is growing up.
I showed these to my tutor, James, on the 14th November. I was having a lot of trouble trying to sort out the middle section of my story still. These pages showed the build-up, and I still wanted the ending shown in the first storyboard, but I just wasn't connecting with the middle section. James helped me tremendously. I initially wanted to show Babbit growing smaller bit by bit as Mollie grew in confidence, but I knew this was definitely going to be challenging. I also hadn't completely worked out whether Babbit is visible to others.. James simply said that (in regards to the scene where Mollie is in the coatroom with Babbit) that the teacher could only see Babbit as a "real" and ordinary sized rabbit. Therefore, Babbit is actually a normal rabbit, but in Mollie's eyes, he is a huge, cuddly and comforting imaginary-friend size rabbit. I instantly loved the idea, especially the potential for the film where the audience will realise Babbit is real! After the reveal then, the teacher could send Mollie outside and now I could show Mollie having to face up to her situation of loneliness head on. Time could pass, showing Mollie alone still, but at the end of the moment, it could show Mollie accepting a friendship from a classmate and being content with it. Growing up; learning to not be afraid of an unfamiliar situation(s), but to give it a chance and see what happens!
From this feedback session I finally had a clearer vision for my entire film with the middle starting to take shape. I decided to draw another set of thumbnails, this time, as an initial rough working out for the second official storyboard.
From this, I then started to draw the shots on wide post-it notes again as seen in the first storyboard. These are still very rough, but clearer than the thumbnails. I needed to show more detail, as this storyboard would be turned into an animatic. I didn't want to make it completely detailed, as I knew it would need lots of alterations in future feedback sessions.
I then put together an animatic from this second storyboard. I brought the photos (shown above) into Photoshop and cut them into separate images. Using Premiere Pro, I lengthened specific shots and shortened others, I added a title and put in some cross fades at particular moments I felt needed them. I began to look for a music track, but felt I really just needed to focus on the story first. I will add music in my second rough animatic.
**Animatic will be here on 26.11.11 due to internet problems!**
Feedback from the First Animatic (21.11.11):
I showed my rough animatic to Gemma Roberts (a friend on my course who's doing an epic film: http://littleacornfilm.blogspot.com/ ). She gave me a few points to think about after watching the animatic:
- After Mollie has been sent outside, instead of having the "time" montage of Mollie inside, the focus should be on Mollie outside at break times alone. I.e.: The times when she would usually see Babbit.
This is a good point that I had not previously considered. I will definitely incorporate this point into my second animatic!
- Instead of showing the classmates (and teacher) "ignoring" or not trying to get involved with Mollie in the beginning few shots when she is being left out, I could instead show the teacher and classmates wanting Mollie to get involved, but Mollie simply wants to be alone with Babbit. This could be shown with Mollie constantly doodling pictures of rabbits, rabbit-shaped sandwiches, rabbit keyrings etc.
Although this is a great point, I think that if I showed Mollie ignoring the attention of the classmates then the ending scene (where a girl in her class asks to play with her) a little confusing, and Mollie could come across badly. I understand the point, I have to make sure I don't make the scenes look like Mollie is being completely isolated by her peers. I just need to show that she is shy and unconfident and the other classmates don't really know much about it. It will have to be subtly done. Challenge accepted!
As well as this, Gemma suggested ideas for how some shots could be re-adjusted for clarity. She also lent me the book "Dream Worlds" by Hans Bacher for background research.
I then spoke to my tutor, James Manning who offered me some feedback/advice.
-The first shot perhaps needs to be set up a little better. Instead of having Mollie and Babbit in the shot straight away, It could instead have Mollie in a third of the frame, with the other 2/3s showing children playing or maybe even the sound of a playground to give the impression she is on her own, sitting on (a wall) and she is lonely, sad etc. A pan camera movement could then reveal the large rabbit, and then Mollie can embrace him.
I liked this idea, as it definitely sets up the film in a more fluid and visual way. The audience needs to recognise Mollie as alone and sad and young. When Babbit is revealed, the audience will be surprised to see the large rabbit, but will instantly recognise him as a symbol of comfort for this sad, lonely girl.
- James suggested I cut out a few shots out from the final scene. He liked this image a lot...:
...and felt that the shots in-between didn't need to be there up to the point where Babbit bounds off to be with the new child:
The hug scene was too "shmultzy" and he felt it wasn't needed.
I wasn't too sure about this, as I really like the hug sequence! I saw his reasons for his argument, so will work on the shots he had an issue with to make them stronger visually, as I believe these shots are a lot weaker than others in my film and can definitely be improved. However, I don't think I'm strong enough to let go of the hug sequence entirely!
- For the first sequence showing Mollie in different school situations, Mollie needs to be placed on the left-hand side of the frame to begin with so to comply with filmic lanuage and the rule of thirds in film. He also suggested Mollie progressively moving across the screen (starting from the left) and over to the right to further implement the illusion of time passing. James suggested to look up Bruce Block for further research on filmic language and ideas.
This could be used in either the first or second sequence where time passes. I think it would work best for the second sequence, however I will try both to see how/if it works. I very much like the idea of Mollie progressively moving across the screen, it will give a lovely fluidity which will hopefully look great if done well.
-James further told me to keep vigilant about continuity in certain shots. For example, when Mollie and Babbit are discovered by the teacher, (when the door opens and the teacher's shadow is visible on Mollie and Babbit) it cuts to a side profile shot of Mollie. The shot before clearly shows Mollie and Babbit standing next to each other, so Mollie would actually be obscured by Babbit. I will have to decide how I want to work this out. Either Mollie steps forward to keep the shot of her from the side, or I have a back shot of Mollie's head so she can then fully turn round to face the camera as the teacher walks past her to get Babbit. James reminded me of the 180 degree rule in filmic language too, whereby to keep the fluidity of a scene, the camera shouldn't cut past a character's face profile over 180 degrees. This leads to a sense of disengagement, which could hinder the film's clarity and fluidity.
3. Leonie and the MAs.
I had organised earlier in the day to see my tutor, Leonie, to show her my animatic too. She suggested I come to her MA lecture in the afternoon so I could get feedback from the MA animators too. So I showed the animatic and got some great feedback from the class and Leonie. When Leonie asked the MAs to interpret the story after the animatic had finished, one student completely understood the story and got everything spot on! I was very shocked but pleased I had got the message across clearly!
So here are the points they gave me:
-Keep an eye out for the proportions of Mollie. She sometimes looks much older than she should do. She needs to look young and chubby.
- Keep the hug shot! Leonie loved the final hug sequence between Mollie and Babbit and basically forbade me to cut it out! The MA's liked it too.
I was very glad, as I was a bit disheartened when James had told me to cut it out. Leonie wholly disagreed, so I will definitely be keeping this scene in the film! As described above in James' feedback, I won't completely dismiss his feedback, as I value everyone's opinions greatly. I just need to make those shots stronger to support the "shmultz".
- The Babbit reveal at the beginning could be extended. Maybe Mollie is lying down on the wall looking upset, and her head appears to be lying on something fluffy. The camera would slowly pan to reveal the fluffy thing as Babbit to make this scene a little more interesting. Think of shot construction more effectively.
Great little "reveal" idea! I will definitely play around with this for my second animatic!
- There was confusion when Mollie sees rabbit outside after she's just began to play with a classmate. The MA's were wondering whether this was a different rabbit altogether.
This is a tough question to see to. I will have to work on the build up to this particular scene to make sure the audience definitely realises this as the same Babbit throughout the film.
- Leonie was uncertain why Babbit was taken off Mollie in the scene with the teacher finding Babbit.
I want to show that Babbit is actually the class pet. I think I will have to show this at an earlier point to make the connection a bit more obvious, as perhaps to have Babbit revealed as the class pet just after the teacher finds him is a bit unclear. There is a scene where Mollie is in the classroom right at the beginning (in the first progressive time-span scene) where I can put a rabbit hutch in the background to show continuity.
- Work on the pacing of the film. Some scenes go to quickly, to slowly.
- Instead of being introduced to the new child right at the end of the film, the child could feature at an earlier point to further create a sense of fluidity. She could be featured in the background of any of the scenes with Mollie present.
- Leonie suggested for me to look at James Thurber illustrations of rabbits to help me. She had suggested this to me in the first meeting I had with her. His illustrations depict great subtlety and the lines are incredibly sparse, but the gestures are always clear and readable. I will research his works further for the next post.
From this feedback I will now develop a second animatic encompassing all these points to help my story work more coherently.