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8

Week

Une Masquerade Ridicule

WHEW, so glad my feedback was received okay-- I was so embarrassed when I found out I'd initially posted all five of the comments I'd written here, I must've looked like a crazy person!! It's RARE that the two co-creators of a film are both impressive actors-- major props to both of you (even moreso now that I know you were BOTH the echoes of Doire's mother-- I'd NEVER have recognized your voices) AND to your girlfriend. You were absolutely right in your instinct to use her as that voice. When you can't hire professional voice actors, I think people too often forget that the people in their own life have amazing voices if given the proper direction.

Similarly, our own script breached over the ten minute mark, so I completely feel you. Fact of the matter is the story spine's natural tendency is to create stories that easily go past the suggested five-minute mark, since the structure relies so heavily on character arcs-- which, to believe that a character's truly gotten somewhere new... that takes time, or at least, the illusion of time. (Once again, I can't get over your use of compressed time in your storytelling that feels so natural. GREAT job editing down, both of you-- deeply inspiring to me, as someone who very obviously writes too much.)

I absolutely agree that voice makes a tremendous difference, or at the VERY, VERY least, you need a soundscape. The most effective silent movies still have a KILLER soundtrack that almost functions like dialogue. Or if not any of those things, then there's loads of sound effects and scene ambience, etc. Saying your dialogue made your story come "alive" is completely true-- your acting is strong you could've just posted the audio and I would've been completely entranced.

Can't believe Cassilda's had to do school on-top of all this. Hope both of you can maintain or regain sanity, haha. On the other hand, you and I are just about a year apart, woah! Happy to know I'm not the only one in that age bracket here-- bit of creative-person solidarity there.

It's impressive you instinctively understand romantic lighting in black-and-white from that more classic era, because no one does that kind of thing anymore in film! If you'd like a great black-and-white romantic short film from more recently to check out, I highly suggest a short called Validation by Kurt Kuenne, if you've never seen it.

Yes, the image of Doire's mother leaves a deep impression, great job visually representing a mental haunting. And Cassilda's conversation scene while Carolina's painting Doire is the least pretentious, most real type of way to talk about something that personal. Can't tell you how many romances I've watched where people get unrealistically weepy and verbose and dramatic about the hard stuff in their life, when chances are someone who's been through something like that is going to handle it in a very different way make it easier for them to talk about it. Crazy to think these characters didn't exist eight weeks ago-- fully-formed humans in eight weeks when they should still be babies, hahaha. Cheering you both on!

8

Week

Tails of a Hollywood Chinchilla

Wowie zowie, are you from Hawai'i, too?? I couldn't help but notice you've been writing with your ʻokinas on instead of apostrophes, hahaha. Mahalo nui loa, YOU are awesome.

8

Week

Tails of a Hollywood Chinchilla

I am absolutely overjoyed that Piper, Princess and Sabrina are real-- my dreams have come true. 8D And I can't believe that art is new to you!! I hope you've enjoyed that part of it, because I REALLY love your drawings-- I don't think the story would be even half as charming without them. And wow, what a wonderful reason to write a story, Corinne. The care and heart put into it really shows through. : ) I'll be excitedly awaiting to see a picture of Piper!! And I am 101% hyped to see more and to give my thoughts-- I'm so, so touched that you'd want that for me. Go to my website and grab my e-mail from there. If you look up "skyetheguy skye sonomura" on Google, it should be the first result.

8

Week

Une Masquerade Ridicule

OH WHAT A RELIEF, this is only the second short I've found where the final isn't just all told through narrating the story spine. And DEAR SWEET SYRUPS AND JELLIES, I'm assuming you two did your own voice acting. You are both EXCEPTIONAL actors, and the dialogue you wrote comes from a deep, abiding understanding of a rich inner life in your characters. I couldn't be more impressed with all the little nuances, asides, casual jokes, the perfectly timed stutters and voice falters-- all the DYNAMICS in volume, tone, vowel placement and all other manner of vocal affectations you've employed to create such real characters.

Without the full context of the next act (by the way, SUPER proud you're going to keep going-- we similarly posted an unfinished draft so we understand totally the levels of determination this takes), I'm unsure of exactly where this relationship is going, but the fact that you essentially chose to write a romance and to focus on expressing this relationship through dialogue... now THAT'S an intimidating first narrative project to undertake. Even more intimidating to take on in collaboration with someone, let alone someone you JUST met. Writing a realistic relationship is incredibly difficult. In a short without dialogue, there's lots of shorthand for the audience that lets people know two characters have feelings for each other, and it can effortlessly give you the SENSE there's something that's been developed there, but when dialogue gets in there, you could easily end up making something that feels trite or flat-- something an audience cannot connect with. But you created two characters that REALLY bounce off of each other seemingly effortlessly-- but-- haha, I know better to think it IS without effort.

Out of curiosity, what was the writing process like? Did each of you write one character's dialogue? I'd be interested to know-- despite it all feeling extremely naturalistic, there's also conciseness and clarity of where each of these lines is taking us, from a character perspective. Did you write a lot more dialogue than you ended up using-- like, just letting the characters speak until you found where they were supposed to get to? Just wondering, since they both feel so lived in as people, despite this runtime being so small.

I also think one of your narrative devices of their ongoing conversations playing almost like narration over times where they're apart is incredibly useful and effective. Where exactly did you come up with an idea? Is it something you gleaned from a specific movie? Or did you just come up with it naturally? It's a rather bold storytelling move, I think, and it's crazy that it works without further explanation or rationalization of it-- and Doire even interrupts his own recounting of their conversation with an, "I don't like hugs." Unusual AND it works, AND it keeps the story in this kind of perpetual motion.

So-- you drew SO many gorgeous scenes where people aren't talking. And I've noticed the moment that characters stop talking in this video, and your timing is not bound by the guidelines of your dialogue, all of this incredibly detailed pictures, oftentimes of completely different shots, get played back at a LUDICROUSLY fast speed. Pardon my audacity here, but you've gotta apologize to your beautiful, beautiful boards for not giving them a chance to shine! Each of these shots could easily be on screen for much, much longer, and MUST be. (That intro, especially, and the montage at 02:52.) Maybe you're imagining your audience is getting antsy because the image isn't changing (or because there's no music, as I'm almost certain would be in a final product), since this is a storyboard reel instead of an animation, but you've gotta think of this as a blueprint for the timing in the final product! So get into a full-imagination mode. See the finished product in your mind. Imagine exactly how long each shot should be on screen for, and then keep the static picture up for that long. And you'd be surprised at how an audience member's attention can be kept by a static image within the context of a storyboard reel! It's almost like it becomes more mesmerizing the longer the picture's up on-screen or something, bwahaha.

Unbelievable use of a lenient grayscale with slight colour added into the gray-- so many IMPECCABLY lit compositions that pop and have really clear ideas. In that opening, the use of little light bokeh blooms against the gentle gradients (what a great substitute for backgrounds with THINGS in it while still giving a strange amount of context!)-- it gives everything this feeling of really being IN motion, especially when added with your depth-of-field ideas. Out of curiosity, were you watching a lot of black-and-white romances as inspiration? The 4:3 ratio combined with all that backlighting-- it's quite a classic combo. If you happened to be watching specific movies as inspiration, please tell me which, I'd love to watch them!

That amazing scene with the shadow of Doire's mother in the corner of the room-- something about the way you shaded it fools my eyes into actual seeing the gradient warble and grow and shrink around the mother, it's so unsettling, in the absolute best way! I also love that ther outline on the figure of the mother is in a lighter (and redder) color than the fill of the body, makes it look aglow, but not in a pleasant way, hehe. Speaking of which, the mother's accusatory words that haunt Doire -- that doesn't sound like either Doire or Caralina's actor! Is there a third person who's not one of you two? Another excellent actor-- not to mention, the mixing on that cacophony, combined with that droning noise that whooshes up like a riser-- great understanding of sound as used to create emotion.

Despite only being drawn in one shot, that gramma Caralina walks the dog for is just pure Studio Ghibli charm-- what a MAGNIFICENT specimen. Studio Ghibli are filled wall-to-wall with the smallest characters that you instantly admire, and that's how I feel about dat gramma.

The very best scene in this, to me, is when Doire and Caralina are talking while she's painting him. The context of it is used so perfectly, and how Caralina discusses something deeply painful with such candidness and casualness, continuing to paint all the while like it doesn't bother her-- and then Doire trying so hard not to move from his pose while also being constantly moved to strong emotion throughout the conversation-- it's a REALLY good situation to put the characters in and a perfect acting moment, for both voice artist and board artist. Besides that, for Caralina to walk into Doire's room and to immediately literally and figuratively fill this very, very dark place with light-- genius. A very well-crafted story about breaking through someone's loneliness. Lemme tell you. Doire better know they deserve happiness by the end of the story, it is CRUCIAL. Ain't about that tragic ending here, nosiree.

8

Week

Une Masquerade Ridicule

8

Week

Mixiote and Lili

OH PRAISE BE, you're the first short I've seen in this round that didn't just repurpose story spine narration for the final product. Deeply impressed with the foley (even adding ambience to certain scenes-- birds, car engines, kids playing on playground, muffled voices in another room, crickets, TV playing in background, etc.), music (SO dig that moody acoustic guitar, that had perfect timing), voicework (You even had people off-screen with the RIGHT reverb and distance in comparison to when the character is in-shot!! What attention to detail!)... it's BONKERS trying to get all of those different elements done in the time constraint, nothing but respect that you brought all of that together, considering most people here are just... dialogue/narration + visual. Also, similarly to your group, we only got through the first arc, too, and by the skin of our teeth. SO excited to hear you're planning on continuing to add-- this story is SO worth it.

Whoever's doing Liliana's voice has got the CUTEST kid inflections. Major points for understanding the funny little enunciation things that kids do, and even vowel placement. The amount of thought in the VISUAL character acting is also off-the-charts. Every movement has perfect motivation and LOOKS like the voice SOUNDS. You're also the first people I've seen to use a CAMERA MOVEMENT in their storyboards, WOAAAH. You all really thought about shot composition, the timing of said shots (so many people have too many different shots at too fast a frequency all the time), and how they all tie together in context.

One scene in specific that I think needs to be retimed is that gorgeous little bit of silence at 02:26. Whoever drew those drawings-- excellent. But whoever paced it-- well, first, there's, like, a single frame of white in-between that first board and the next. Then, you should prolong the shot resting on the backpack. The image should have a chance to speak longer-- plus, Liliana still needs time to crawl onto her bed. Then, all those great drawings from above-- they're going WAY too fast. Each of those frames should be longer-- plus, they probably shouldn't all be the exact same length. When you do that in a storyboard reel, it creates a rhythm that you're probably not trying to create. And then make sure to linger on the last frame of that before cutting to the close-up with Liliana holding Mixiote. Also, I'm not sure EXACTLY about the timing of that shooting star. Maybe it's exactly where it needs to be, maybe not. Depends on your own take on it. Is it just that it happens to be firing off while Liliana's talking? Because it happens so soon after Liliana speaks that it doesn't seem to be as much in CORRELATION to Liliana speaking as it is just a coincidental thing. But if it's supposed to be more, like, IN EFFECT of what Liliana said, I think it needs a slightly longer pause. So you're getting a chance to look out the window and think, "Why's it staying on this shot?" And then the universe is, like, "Okay, Liliana, you get what you ask for..." ... and the star goes shhhhwwooOOSH across the window and you go, "Ohhh, she made something magical happen..."

Also, stepping back slightly, when Lili says, "Sometimes, I wish that I could understand what you're saying." ... I think that means it's important that you add a few cat noises throughout this whole opening whenever she and Mixiote are together! Like, Mixiote should ESPECIALLY make a few noises right then so that what Lili wishes feels more motivated by this specific moment.

Speaking of her newfound gift, was Mixiote just, like, missing in the morning, and all throughout the middle of the day when Lili got home? I'm just surprised she didn't hear Mixiote speak FIRST. However, you definitely made the right call having him NOT be the first person she heard, and that was definitely a conscious decision you made. I just think it's important that you add a scene with her waking up in the morning and hurriedly rushing off to school (you know, like, ten or so seconds, tops), showing that Liliana doesn't see Mixiote in the morning, despite falling asleep with him in her arms.

Then, when the birds begin talking, I think you can milk that a little more in the shot composition. Like, it should probably start with a mid-shot of Liliana looking at the other kids on the playground, and then she hears those bird voices and she can't peg where the sound's actually coming from. It could have, like, a little POV shot of her eyes darting around the playground, trying to see who's talking, but no one seems to be talking. Then she looks in the tree and sees the birds. And you can make it really dramatic, with Liliana, like, ever so slowly walking towards it, confused about what she's going to see up in it, and then the POV shot tilts to focus in on them. Speaking of which-- ADORABLE designs on those birds-- there's so many great pieces of design work throughout (there's even MULTIPLE good Liliana interpretations from the different artists here), but they're my favourite. It's the leaf-shaped eyebrows and the rounded, segmented beaks. Plus, love their voices, I can only hope that's what birds would actually sound like.

And then for it to cut directly to when Liliana's sleeping-- like, don't you think the first thing that Liliana would think when she got home was to talk to Mixiote? Like, it might be nice to have a quick series of shots of her on her drive back home, and her hearing EVERY animal through her car window talking. Then it quick-cuts to her busting into the house, expecting to be greeted by Mixiote, but nothing? Or-- what-- does Mixiote know that Liliana can speak with animals already? Has Mixiote been saying "meow" in-front of her, like she does at the end? Whatever the case is. Either he's not around, and she's disappointed, and then it cuts to her going to sleep, or-- she goes right up to Mixiote and is, like, "Speak! Speak, I can understand you!!" All determined, and Mixiote looks uncomfortable, but finally just meows. And Liliana's, like, "Guess you can't talk..." And then it cuts to her sleeping. One or the other!

Finally, impressive visual ambience on Mixiote's late-night meeting in the kitchen. That one spotlight created SO many striking scene compositions. I love how the light is even what Liliana's following into the shot. Who needs color when you've got light, I ask you?? Also, that little bit of info dropped in that last scene-- "the catnip business is spreading around our territory fast"-- I'm SO into this. And I love how Mixiote, despite being this tough-as-nails boss is obviously trying to protect Liliana from this world. This has got to be one of the most unique pet-and-owner relationships I've ever seen devised. While the story details bear very little resemblance, some of the feelings I get from this are a little like A Cat in Paris, if you've ever seen that film. S'got some great noir, just like this.

8

Week

Tails of a Hollywood Chinchilla

MAD-adorable illustrations. I like all the different textural methods of colouring you used-- it's like you took each picture as a chance to try something new, so your storyboards double as a fun experiment and perhaps concept art, to help to peg down specific things that feel like the world you're trying to convey. I also really enjoy seeing your perspective guidelines-- due to them being freehand, they have a lot of personality. Specifically, these drawings remind me of a series of old HyperCard games by Amanda Goodenough involving a cat named Inigo. I adore quirky, charming little stories about pets and animals. (101 Dalmatians, Babe, Homeward Bound, to name a few...) Speaking of which, are these your actual pets? Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes...

Some of the way that story points were phrased probably gave me a different first impression than you were going for -- "To make things more exciting, the two chinchillas would pretend they were asleep when their parents would leave, and as soon as they were gone, they would watch TV all day." At first glance, connecting "to make things more exciting" to "pretend they were asleep" seems to be what's going on, but I believe you intend the viewer to connect "to make things more exciting" with "they would watch TV all day". And then, even THAT is immediately followed up with the fact that they act OUT the movies, very aggressively, and that on-top of that, they pull pranks on Sabrina.

So-- I think what's ACTUALLY trying to be said is more like this: "Even though Piper led an ordinary life, she found ways of making it more interesting. Whenever their parents were going to leave, the two chinchillas would pretend they were asleep, and then, when the coast was clear, they'd turn on the TV and watch loads of classic movies, re-enacting scenes and using it as an opportunity to terrorize the cat. And sometimes, when they were feeling especially naughty, they'd drop the pretenses and just pull pranks on her." Something like that, I think that's more clear and helps us know that... pretending to sleep is not the part that makes things more interesting for Piper. Sleeping, I'm certain, puts Piper to sleep, as it were. ;) Also, whoever decided that Piper and Princess re-enacted THELMA AND LOUISE, of all films-- that's just the perfect hyper-specific touch.

When Piper decides to leave, I see you've added a little detail on-screen that Sabrina is saying, "I dare you!" The details of Piper choosing to leave are actually very interesting! Piper, Princess AND Sabrina all have their own motivations in play here, and they're all equally important to what happens. I think it'd be important to bring up that Sabrina was actively encouraging Piper to go on this dangerous adventure to begin with, to get her out of her hair for a while. Obviously, you follow this up with a bit of that-- "But Sabrina had a plan of her own and decided to lock the two chinchillas out of the house and have some peace and quiet for a while." But I think the phrasing on that's a little strange. Like, the "but" in that sentence-- what's the but? Is it because now Piper and Princess can't get back in the house? ... I mean... they don't seem to want to get back in the house right this very MOMENT, I bet they didn't even notice Sabrina did that, since Piper has no intentions of coming back home, and Princess is following Piper. So it doesn't quite seem to follow anything, as a transitional statement. (I KNOW, I KNOW, this isn't that important. But when someone's trying to follow a story, if the brain can't connect two statements together, it gets lost for the rest of the story.) I think the correct thing to put here would be a "meanwhile" instead of a "but". And I suppose "plan of her own" is a reference to Piper's own plan of going to Hollywood, but, I normally think of plans as being more elaborate, and more active. Like, as if Sabrina's been planning this for days. But this is more of a spur-of-the-moment idea. (Once again, semantics, but, when I heard the phrase "Sabrina had a plan of her own", I kept waiting for a plan, and realized that it'd already happened, haha.)

I think that Piper needs a more noble motivation that the idea that "she couldn't live without her mother"-- like, that just makes it sound kind of selfish, like she wants something from her mom rather than because she cares. Like, her mother's gonna... she's probably going to die, right? Like, don't you think it should be more like, Piper tries to save her mom just... because she loves her? Maybe that's what you're trying to get at-- like, said with a specific inflection, "I can't live without you" is certainly a WAY to say you love someone-- it just seems a little uncaring in the circumstances. Like... you're choosing between going to Hollywood and saving your mom who will die otherwise. Like, is it that hard a choice?

On that line of thinking, I think something that can be played with in a story like this is fully presenting your main character with their dreams and then having them reject them for a noble cause. Maybe it could go more like this -- Sabrina dares Piper to go to Hollywood, Piper goes while Princess isn't looking. When Princess finds out, she gets SUPER mad at Sabrina (who pretends she doesn't care at all) and then immediately leaves to try to find Piper. Sabrina heaves a sigh of relief and relishes in the solitude. Meanwhile, Piper actually makes it to Hollywood and becomes a huge star in movies! I think that'd be hilarious and wonderful, to have her acting alongside, like, actual human actors, and her becoming a huge draw at the box office, etc... (Obviously, this is compressed cartoon-logic time-- happening over days, hours, who knows? All happens in a single montage moment.) All the while, Piper doesn't know that Princess is out looking for her, not even stopping to think about her boring old home anymore in the midst of all this excess and glamour she's always longed for.

Then, an agent presents her with a coveted role in... let's say Thelma and Louise Rides Again. Yeah. And Piper is suddenly hit with an overwhelming guilt, and she realizes, she has all she ever wanted... except her favourite co-star: Her mom. So she flat-out rejects the offer-- her agent is, like, "If you do this, you'll never work in this business ever again!" But it doesn't matter to her-- she's gotta go home.

When she makes it home, Sabrina informs her that Princess has been missing-- and maybe Sabrina pretends not to care, but secretly, you can see that Sabrina is both relieved to see Piper AND really worried about Princess. Piper now has to go looking for her mom, and asks Sabrina for help, who still refuses, because of all the mayhem they've put her through.

Then Piper runs into the poachers, seeing Princess and the back of their van, and pursues them, and then...

-- Okay, here's where I need clarification, as a non-chinchilla owner. What exactly is happening to Piper when water gets on her? Is it like Gremlins? Does a new chinchilla form? I tried looking it up, but it doesn't seem to say that chinchillas can't move when they're wet. Just that it's bad for them, like mold and spores could form, or their body temperature could get dangerously low. So I don't know why Piper isn't moving out of the water. Or is it too deep? Was the "Her mom had always told her chinchillas aren't supposed to get wet" just a fun aside joke? Speaking of, more transitory stuff-- the "so" after that statement makes it sound like Piper was flailing in the water BECAUSE her mom had advised her to. So I was waiting for, like, her mom's advice about it to pay off, but then she's just dyin' in the water and just happens to be saved from it. It'd be kind of nice if something that her mom had always told her helps in some way!

At any rate, Sabrina coming in at the last moment is an excellent character moment-- a last-second change-of-heart just in the nick of time is a fabulous story tool, and it really adds a lot to the climactic moment here. Maybe in the end, Sabrina, Princess and Piper can have more of an amiable relationship? Like Snowball and Stuart Little, post-first movie. Maybe they can even act out movies TOGETHER now!!

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

8

Week

Cian and the Metaverse * Final Submission *

First off-- wow, you're the first people I've seen in this round of Xperiential to use foley, that's amazing. Whoever did your music and sound effects stuff, I REALLY hand it to them. They understand the power of sound, even down to things like the ambience of nature adding SO much to a visual, or you even understood the abstract nature of adding in a WHOOSH riser noise to symbolize where Cian is entering or exiting a flashback!! That's a type of noise that people instinctively understand without putting their finger on it, so great job breaking down the tricks of the trade. All the sounds-- children laughing, news music, howling wind, thunder, rumbling-- all those TECH noises!! Think about how many different types of noises we associate with technology, and how they're all different from each other! So many choices, great job not just using one noise and being done with that.

Other things of note -- whoever designed the characters, you created such wonderfully strong shapes for everyone. To be able to recognize a silhouette in a storyboard is an impressive thing. Whether it's the far more stylized world of the metaverse (SO cool that you actually created a different style for real humans vs. metahumans!!) or the people in the real world, there's a clear throughline through every image that makes it easy to tell who's who. Super-clear framing throughout and non-intrusive backgrounds that seemingly do their job effortlessly. Great use of your greyscale to make the drawings appealing AND readable. I really like the texture you put sometimes in the grey-- how'd you do that?

Couple questions -- is it a limitation of your art and editing tools that make it so this video had to be watched in a lil' square in the middle of a giant grey border? When I saw this the first time, I thought maybe it was going to cut OUT of the grey border whenever Cian was outside of the metaverse to distinguish between a "screen" world versus a real one, but it stayed consistent throughout! I think it'd be a real service for your wonderful drawings if you could get 'em right up to the front of the screen. : ) They deserve the best.

I assume I don't need to ask if Nausicaä: The Valley of the Wind had any influence on those suits in the outside world-- so classy and intriguing! Cian finding a stranger in the wasteland was DEFINITELY the pinnacle of interest during the story. I love stories about people who are isolated and then that isolation is disrupted somehow-- whether by one person or a few who challenge their way of life-- or by them having to change environments... it's one of the most solid ways to start a story, I think. You know, the old "the last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door." story. Some great sci-fi examples of this that I can think of are, like... Moon, Z for Zachariah, Passengers... I enjoyed the fakeout where Cian hesitates to go out to search for this mysterious stranger again, then does so, only for them not to be found. I think that's an often forgotten tool of storytelling. When you're search for something in a story, sometimes, it's good to just have them outrightly find nothing a couple times first, and to play with those expectations, so it feels fresh and natural when they actually DO find said thing.

Leading me to the reveal at the end-- how exactly did Cian and his sister get separated? It wasn't hinted at in the flashback, and I thought that'd be a perfect place to add that! Or is it that... they weren't separated, and they just haven't seen each other for a long time, because she chose to be untethered to the metaverse? At any rate, a reveal like that's gotta feel earned in some way, through something narratively placed earlier in the story.

Lots of questions -- do some people just NEVER leave the Metaverse? I'm just trying to gauge how long Cian stays in the Metaverse at a time, unless some malfunction keeps him from it. Seeing that Cian has a phone just made me wonder if he actually spends a considerable amount of time on his phone, too, hahaha. Funny how a detail like a phone in a sci-fi story can raise ALL sorts of questions. And how far away is Cian from any one else in the world? Were they always so far removed? Is everyone just super-separated from each other? I'd just think that, metaverse or no, it'd be super-convenient for people to live close to each other, y'know... live off the same power grid, etc. All kinds of worldbuilding questions to think about, and you've actually answered quite a few yourself! I really enjoyed the drone and maintenance robot stuff you included to help us see the sorts of physical assistance necessary in a world like this. I also really enjoyed the little detail of Cian's favourite spot essentially being a digital version of his own world pre-apocalypse.

I think the ending needs something with a little more personal drive-- Cian, for the most part, has been kind of a passive person in this passive world. (Which is a great place for him to start a story, for SURE.) And then Cian reunites with his sister, who's obviously a bit of an active vagabond of sorts. That's really the perfect place for a story to start. What will Cian do, now that his sister has returned, and that plants have begun to grow again? Will he try to cultivate a garden? Will he go back to the metaverse and try to tell people the news? How will they react? Will they care? Will they believe him? If Cian hasn't been many places since the fallout, will he go with his sister to see what's become of the world? Are there interesting things happening that aren't in the metaverse that he can become a part of? The whole world has opened up for Cian.

Perhaps one easy fix to the ending would be to have Cian at least how more of a personal reaction to the new that plants have begun to grow. I want to see his look of wonder and shock-- when was the last time he's still a real plant?!! I'd honestly cry for joy if I were in his position. Maybe Cian now considers this place with the plants to be his new "favourite spot", like those green hills of his memories and the virtual landscape after that. A place that might still look less than ideal, but something beautiful's beginning to grow.

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

Plus, in your case, I actually think your story works exactly the way it is with just the few dialogue lines and the GREAT foley work. Try it! Delete the narration and just leave in your dialogue and foley. I think you'll be surprised by how much a person can understand.

8

Week

Dreams Storyreel

DREAMS STORYREEL by BRENNAN

Oh, now THAT'S a breath of fresh air. I can't tell you how many times when a story here has involved an awful soul-sucking corporate job that I've replied, "They should quit!!" I was so worried that wasn't where this was going, and absolutely relieved when that all paid off. I think the points in the spine are correct, but I'm not sure if they're placed where I'd want them to be placed, if we just looked at its bullet points-- TECHNICALLY, it IS a kind of "until finally" for ALEX when she makes it to being a Director of Narrative Dreams (love that terminology, by the by-- that's the kind of stuff I dig in worldbuilding)... but I'd argue it's NOT an "until finally" for the STORY, since the phrase is used for resolution, and the RESOLUTION is that wonderful bit where she realizes she's gotta get out of this place. Doesn't really matter if you were tell it WITHOUT the story spine in place, but just thought I'd mention that. I also think that the "ever since then" you wrote might actually want to be connected to the "until finally"-- still being in SEARCH of a job doesn't sound like the GREATEST "ever since", because it kind of makes it feel like she might never find a job? "Ever since then" is, most often, like, the change in the character, something permanent. And I'd HOPE Alex job-hunting wouldn't be permanent, haha. So I'd put the Alex goes in search beat into "until finally", then "ever since then" would be the part about Alex prioritizing finding joy in life over soul-sucking corporate ladder-climbing.

I'm sure you were as strapped for time as we were, but one thing about that ending that definitely deserves some screentime is actually SEEING Alex happy as she jets out of Dream Corp for the last time. Since we've spent so much time just seeing her and her dreams dying, I think the audience deserves just... just RAPTUROUS CATHARSIS, WHOOSH, ORCHESTRA STARTS PLAYIN', CHOIR STARTS SINGING, WHEEE~ Examples of that type of payoff that I can think of is, like, the ending of Hook or The Truman Show. The way you've drawn it is she's realized her dreams have been crushed by the system... and then, poof, empty rooms. If I saw that without the narration, I honestly might've assumed the worst. I wanna see slap-happy joy of STICKIN' IT TO THE MAN!! >:D

Speaking of The Man, I really like that adorable design of the man who turns out to be Alex's assistant. Well, okay, he's adorable in the first act. I didn't trust him the moment she saw him in the building, hahaha. But yes-- I really like that twist in the way he's perceived outside the building vs. in. I don't know if it was intentional, but I swear, he looks like he's actually some lifeless suit someone's inside of once he's not out in public. Like, uh, the difference between The Other Father in Coraline at the beginning of the story vs. when the dream world is unraveling, and he's just kind of a ragdoll. Since the story only ends up focusing on Alex, I'd be interested if, in a fully realized version of this film, if The Man continued to loom over Alex the whole time as a kind of false friend, looking stranger and stranger the more she sticks around. It could be, like, a visual metaphor for this false hope she has that all she has to do is stick around and she'll get what she wants. A good protagonist-antagonist relationship like that could certainly has great payoff when she finally quits! The Man might try to stop her, saying the career of her dreams is just RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER if she sticks in there (That's making me think of the The Terrible Trivium for The Phantom Tollbooth a little-- a great small villain role), and she just lets him HAVE IT. If the man IS actually a big ol' suit (but I'm sure that's just my imagination getting away with me), it'd be cool if she just ripped him apart and realized he's not even real. Like, he's just... a nightmare in disguise! 8O WOAAAH.

Other thoughts: As you can see, I love worldbuilding, and I think, at the very least, it's good for a writer to know things that might not be fully explored in a story so that you understand the internal logic of this world. A lot of the phrases said in this story spine are a little fuzzy on the details about how this whole dream corporation works and why! It's COMPLETELY okay if every little detail isn't explained, or even if some things are outrightly not explained, but since you yourself brought attention to it, it kind of floats out there like a mystery that needs to be solved, so when it's not elaborated upon later, it feels like it's missing something! I half-expected Alex to unveil some master conspiracy about the intentions of this corporation, especially with that little note about 'control' of minds... Alex heard that, and she's STILL working here?!

Other worldbuilding things -- "They are transported here as they dream" -- "The company is magical, creating all dreams in physical space." -- wait, so... when I fall asleep... ... I PHYSICALLY appear in Dream Corp's offices and enact out my dreams on a giant Holodeck-like set? Do I disappear from the real world? Or is it more like I astral project there? Can I be physically handled by anyone working in Dream Corp? Am I in any danger? How do they decide what dreams to give me, how do they know all the context of my life to include in my dream? Obviously, this is touched on briefly in Inside Out-- I'm just wanting to ensure I know how at least SOME of this stuff works, so I can understand what kind of world Alex is in.

I also think it's at least important for anything related to Alex's goal in the story to be fully explained. Like, I was completely thrown off when I found out Alex's job wasn't creative at ALL at this new company. Since she just traded an old uncreative job for this, I assumed it'd be a step up, but this sounds even worse! And Alex's reaction isn't really brought up, when I'd like to know if she feels disappointed or confused at all. She was brought here by The Man because he said this was a place where she could "be creative without anyone telling you 'no'"... but this is just... more of the same? Is it just because of the carrot being dangled out in-front of her of something better? Her motivations as well as exactly what the job she's doing entails and what the job she wants entails (like, I wasn't expecting that whole thing about multiple dream departments -- what ARE those other departments? What's ALEX'S department?), that should all be very clear.

Other small things of note -- love that adorable illustration of Alex looking into the dream room, magnificent face. The montage of time passing is also SO well-thought-out! What a great visual that's instantly readable, without any words. And then, at the big moment where Alex gets everything she thought she wanted... the phrase, "She no longer has that spark of creativity." I think it would more a gut-punch if it was actually something more like... since Alex has been sacrificing her well-being for this ONE dream, now that she's gotten this ONE dream, she realizes... she no longer HAS any dreams. This place killed them all.

With that, real talk: Is this an animation industry allegory? If so, you smarty, you. If that was this angle, it might be cool to frame this story differently-- like, Alex lives in a world where EVERYONE knows about Dream Corp-- it's been her dream job (pun obvious) for as long as she can remember, and she knows everything publicized about it, and it sounds like everything she's ever wanted, and she works her whole life for a chance to work there... and when she finally gets there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed... it's all wrong. It's NOT a bastion of creativity and art for the sake of art. Poi'fect metaphor. If the harsh realities of the animation industry interests you, there's a couple great documentaries about that whole dealio-- Waking Sleeping Beauty, Dream On Silly Dreamer, The Sweatbox, etc.

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

5

Week

Liliana

As a quick first note, I love the frames you accidentally left your grayscale color swatches on, I'm gonna have to remember that trick for having a palette on-hand, so clever! And those first few nighttime panels really have an extra depth to them due to the sparing use of colour, very inspiring-- since, of course, none of us have time for detailed colour on boards, this is a great solution.

Whoa, this looks like it's RADICALLY changed from your story spine! For starters, the story seems to have shifted a LOT from Liliana simply being embarrassed about her heritage, and the titular Los Diablicos has gone from being a mask to a decoration you put on the shelf to something that Liliana actually sleeps with like a teddy bear! Quite the evolution, massive props to you for going with the flow about that.

And this whole new place to start the story, with Liliana's family moving to a new place where she and her culture don't fit in-- nothing like that kind of childhood angst to get an audience instantly sympathetic and invested. Did you, perhaps, watch the beginning of Spirited Away to pose Liliana? Her specific actions (even the slumping back in the chair, and wow, you showed REFLECTIONS in the CAR WINDOW, such thoughtful composition) looks so much like Chihiro at the beginning of that movie, haha. Good taste, if that's what inspired you.

Maybe it's just the way the narration is written, but the nightmare sequence isn't quite clear-- like, I wasn't sure if it really happened or not, and Liliana was just having bad dreams about an actual event, or what. Or even if it was just some nightmare, I wasn't sure if school had started or not, so when it turns out Liliana's mama was driving her to her first day of school, I was a little confused. Maybe I'm just dense, though. I'd probably include a little thing where Liliana looks over at a calendar or her phone after waking up from the nightmare to see that the first day of school hasn't happened yet. Then she can, like, sigh in relief, try to catch her breath, and the story can continue from there.

I think that nightmare honestly sounds a little realistic, depending on how bad her school is, haha. Like, especially if she brought foreign food to school-- because kids can be SUPER-cruel, depending. But it looks like, happily, Liliana's about to have better luck in actuality! Or maybe I'm totally wrong. I know a lot of the prior pitches for this story seemed to have a lot to do with Liliana trying to fit in, so many these girls are about to stifle her identity and culture, who knows...

... and then the Diablicos will have to protect her from those girls? I'm really interested to see exactly what the Diablicos will do, since I'm guessing it's not gonna eat her in order to teach her a lesson this time, since it sounds like its role in this is to "protect" her, however misguided or not. Things that come to mind are, like... Eduardo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, who (if you don't know) was created by a little girl who needed to be feel protected growing up. Or, like... the movie A Monster Calls, which is kind of a metaphorical use of an imaginary friend to express emotional chaos. I'm trying to imagine how the Diablicos functions within the current framing of the story. Maybe the Diablicos becomes monstrous whenever it senses that Liliana feels she's in danger, even if it's not actual danger? That'd be interesting. Like, these girls are totally nice, but Liliana thinks they're secretly going to hurt her, so the Diablicos keeps nearly manifesting itself and eating them up, hahaha. And then, in the end, Liliana has to face the Diablicos to save her new friends, thereby showing that she's strong on her own?

That would have kind of a similar feel to-- this is an odd comparison-- but the relationship between Will Robinson and The Robot in Netflix's Lost in Space. The Robot won't let Will go, because then Will will be in danger, but that means that Will can't do what's right and look out for other people. So maybe, like, the Diablicos is overprotective to a fault. Like, it's gonna even eat LILIANA UP so that nothing bad happens to her. It's always fun when monster buddies with good intentions go out of control and need to be talked out of something, thereby helping the main character to realize something they've been struggling with, too.

Oh-- I'm just noticing... I don't know if Liliana went back when her mom called for her about leaving her lunch behind... does that mean Liliana doesn't have lunch? Or that she did that on purpose so she would just eat normal lunch and not get picked on? Whatever the case, Liliana better, at some point in this story, share her yummy food with people who've never tried it before-- sharing food is THE BEST plot device!! The tastiest and perhaps most immediate way to share someone's culture. : ) Right next to storytelling, in-fact!

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

5

Week

Act 1 - Aria

Having seen all your submissions from the prior weeks, I thought it was WONDERFUL you added royalty-free background music in your Week 2 Character Video-- not only that, you actually CUT to a different song in the middle to fit the tone better! That's some REALLY smart editing work, and it shows you know how to use music correctly in a story all about music! As much as we can try to describe music, REALLY, in a SHORT FILM, you gotta play some music for anyone to REALLY get it-- even deaf people feel the vibrations of music, it's a powerful tool in the arsenal of any storyteller! I probably wouldn't be pushing this so hard if I didn't know you had the editing know-how to put fitting music into your stuff, but since I do, and since I know how integral music is to the whole point of the story, I just gotta push for some added music for the next two acts in your story.

Your character designs are so appealing-- the main character reminds me of-- kind of an odd comparison-- but Miss Clavel from Madeline? That round oval offset with the fun single straight line for the nose-- a recipe for instant success! I think you created the sunglasses to show how working in this stifling industry has changed her, and that totally works, too-- and yet, it can't change how we feel like she's still someone we can relate to, because her design makes her look like someone who's, underneath it all, still very down-to-earth.

One thing that I think needs to be clarified, especially for non-musicians, is that Aria is NOT getting to perform her own material. At least, that's what I'm getting from this. She's SIMPLY a composer. And... let's be real, NO ONE knows who a composer is unless they're doing their own material, hahaha. How many pop composers who don't do their own material does any normal person know? Maybe if someone's read an article, they MIGHT know Max Martin? And then, of course, there are examples of people who started off writing for other people and then became famous as a singer-songwriter, like Carole King. So you might need to really drive home that she only WRITES songs, and to most people, she's not even remotely famous. Just very successful, which is two different things. Like, yes, everyone who's in the pop industry would know her and want to work with her, but to the average music listener, Aria isn't known to them, even though they might know every song she's written and love it. Even if she happened to be mentioned in the Grammy's, songwriters are barely ever called attention to. Just the reality of the situation.

Why doesn't Bruno's representation want Aria's original song? I'm assuming that the answer is it's not mainstream enough, even though it's a great song, but that's not really said outright in the act. Up to this point, Aria's been a golden child, doing everything the record labels wanted, and ALWAYS get number-ones for those she writes for, so it just needs to be clear why they'd outrightly reject it from the start. Explain that the song isn't LIKE anything else Aria has made for the labels before, because it isn't filtered through guidelines for those hyper-polished but impersonal pop hits. So, like, maybe Bruno's representation is REALLY excited at first-- "Whatcha got, kid?" Then she plays it, and they begin to make a hundred suggestions, "Make sure to add a trap beat and give it a real hard bass synth underneath, maybe add some millennial whoop..." And then she's, like, "No, don't do that! I want it done just like this, it's not that kind of song..." And they refuse, because there's NO WAY it could be a number one without checking all those boxes.

I like how you describe the studio as "cold", I'd imagine it's as sterile and unfeeling as the music that comes out of it-- auto-tuned to perfection, but with none of the warmth her guitar might give her-- explaining why her strings go rigid-- the atmosphere sucks up the joy. I also like how, when Aria's looking at all the records up on the walls at night, she doesn't feel inspired-- she just feels like she needs to conform. The visual of all of these perfectly identical gold and platinum circles up in frames-- if you pulled out the shot a little bit so we could see even more-- that's a GREAT image, really selling the point that the industry's swallowed up a creative soul and spat her out. I also think the little bun on the back of her head looks a little like the records, so that's a fun visual comparison to be made. I don't know what the plans are for the hairbun-- if it's just meant to be an aesthetic choice or, if like the sunglasses, they're a part of her character... the idea of letting your hair down is always a fun visual metaphor. Might be nice for her, at the end of the story, to just get rid of the bun all together, and, HAHAHA, her hair suddenly gets twice as large or something, but now she's free.

When she gets out of the studio, is this, like, during the night? Has she stayed the entire night trying to work out a new song for Bruno, and now, it's morning, or is she going for a midnight stroll? All the little stick figures in the building are super adorable-- there's quite an energy to them-- everybody's got an odd, interesting internal life, and artists know that and often glean inspiration from that.

Obviously, you've already put out your story spine, so there's no going back, and now this act stands on its own, but from watching all your stuff, I know that you decided your "until one day" was when she decided to go for a walk. I think the until one day comes right afterward-- it's when she gets sucked into the world without music, THAT'S what changes everything. I'm sure Aria's had moments where she's walked through the park before-- the difference is this bar she's never seen that transports her to a music-less world. Just something to think about, as far as bullet-pointing a story! But, really, once it's all down, structure is invisible, it won't matter where you decided your bullet-points went at all. : ) Excited to see all the faceless people in this other world-- it's a great idea, to visually represent the loss of identity we'd feel without art in our lives.

BIGGEST THING TO SAY, knowing where the story's going: Maybe I'm just someone who does not like giant corporations, but... after Aria's learned all her lessons, she should NOT stay with this label, they're AWFUL! And really, who needs to go this extremely old-fashioned route in an age where any budding musician can distribute their work online and get paid for it, too? Maybe you envisioned Aria's musical desires as being one where all she wants to do is make music, not to be known as the one who performs it, but with your whole theme, it just feels sad that she's not getting perform her own work. Unless she gets to at the end! But it looks like she does so through the exact same label she was attached to at the start. Like... why would they suddenly let her compose stuff that makes her happy, rather than checking all the boxes? I think it's clear Aria needs to quit and be an independent artist, especially if this is about going back to her "roots"-- this would be such an empowering story for everyone who's ever wanted to make art, but has thought they can't do it now because they're not connected to some influential company with loads of money, etc... when all of us can just make art right now with whatever we've got and share our heart that way. : )

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

5

Week

Gravity - Act 1

Deeply happy you chose to add royalty-free background music over your short, in order to match each of the emotional beats, that already makes it super-fresh! Having looked at all your videos, you've done this every time, which massively impresses me.

I'm a little confused, though-- it looks like you kind of jumped the gun with the story spine assignment and just made what you're gonna post for Act 1 - 3 already? I don't hear any of the story spine indicators beyond the "Once upon a time"-- which I guess works good for you moving forward, hahaha, since you're finished! Well, aside from more pictures being added, for fun.

Speaking of those new drawings, great notes you left yourself -- "WHO DOESN'T WANNA DRAW HANDS? THIS GUY." and "Calvin & Hobbes energy"-- it's all deeply relatable notes in the creative process, so I'm glad you left those in for us.

From what we've seen of Declan prior to his outburst to his mom, it's hard to understand why Declan's being so flippant of Rylan's desires-- I'd probably add in some scenes where it's clear that Declan, despite doing everything he can to be a supportive big brother (I certainly wouldn't change that), is feeling all too much pressure to always do what Rylan wants and feeling like he's never had time to be anything other than some who protects and cares for Rylan. This is touched on briefly in your Week 2 video, but I think it's important for that to be clear in the final product, too. Otherwise, like... all the imagery we've seen in the beginning makes us question how genuine Declan is going forward.

Like, when approached about Winnie's party, Declan responds, "I was supposed to go and look at the... Haley's comet or whatever it's called with my brother tonight." The way it's worded, it makes it sound like either Declan doesn't like space and doesn't like spending time with Rylan... or Declan is simply trying to not look lame in-front of other classmates. The second option, I think, is a lot more appealing, but it'd require a bit more nuance to be the clear answer, especially when paired with his outburst with his mom directly afterward. He then says, "I don't want to go stare at the stupid stars with Rylan." Like... ... to have an outburst about not wanting to ALWAYS do what Rylan does is totally understandable, but once again, this is worded like he doesn't like space and doesn't like spending time with Rylan.

I think just a slight adjustment could make all of this behavior more clear-- that Declan's emotionally exhausted from being a secondary guardian to Rylan, and that he also is feeling a pressure to be accepted at school. Maybe instead of being so flippant, Declan could start out by saying, "But Haley's Comet is tonight, it only happens once in a lifetime!" And this classmate is, like, "Seriously? Declan, Winnie's PARTY is once in a lifetime, stars are always gonna be up there." He starts to rebut: "Well, yeah, but Rylan..." And then the classmate cuts him off: "Dude, why are you always on about your brother? He's just a stupid little kid. You're never any fun because you're always on about Rylan..."

And then, when Declan starts to ask his mom about going to Winnie's party, he starts off more low-key. Something like, "Hey, mom, I was wondering if I could go to Winnie's party." "Oh, that sounds nice, sweetie! When is it?" "Uh, tonight." "... wait, not TONIGHT tonight, right?" And he's a little sheepish, not responding-- his mom continues, "Declan, you remember what tonight is?" "Yeah, of course I do, it's just..." "Declan, but you promised him!" "Mom, but I do EVERYTHING with Rylan-- I never have ANY fun." Beginning to parrot what his classmates have told him. His mom tries to neutralize the situation, "Declan, look, if it were any other day, I'd say yes, but..." And then Declan just BLOWS UP, "That's NOT FAIR! Just this once, I ask to do my own thing, and NO, I'm not allowed-- because WHAT IF POOR RYLAN'S FEELINGS ARE HURT? What about MY feelings?! All I want is to have my OWN life instead of ALWAYS having to wait hand-and-foot on my HELPLESS BROTHER and always doing EVERY LITTLE THING he wants to do with me. Is that too much to ask?!!" This might seem more intense in some ways, but I also think it just feels like it comes from a more honest place. I think any person who has to take care of someone else, especially someone as young as Declan, has felt this way before. Meanwhile, the way it's written currently just feels like the sweet Declan shown visually in the opening visuals is suddenly replaced by someone who straight-up thinks all of the stuff he did was stupid.

Having seen the full story-spine (or whatever we want to call it), I think the payoff is really wonderful... EXCEPT... they don't miss Haley's Comet.

Like... ... if Declan ultimately chose to stay at home and watch Haley's Comet with Rylan, does he really have THAT much to make up for, aside from apologizing? I personally think-- and this might be a pretty brutal storytelling choice for me to make, but... have Declan COMPLETELY miss seeing Haley's Comet with Rylan. Have Declan choose to go to Winnie's party instead, and have him feel TERRIBLE about this. If that choice is made, instead, then maybe you don't even need to have a big blow-out with Mom over deciding to go. Declan could straight-up just... not come home until after the party, with both his Mom and Rylan worried sick, and when he gets home, and they realize that it was a conscious decision to forget about Rylan, THAT'S the ultimate betrayal. Now THAT needs a grand gesture to fix things.

And then Rylan has all the more reason to be super-sad when Declan presents him with the astronaut outfit and everything. Like, why would a 5-year-old who loves space think this idea is stupid?! Not unless the anger was just directed at the betrayal he felt-- which couldn't possibly be felt THAT strongly if Declan sacrificed going to the party to see Haley's Comet with Rylan in the end! And when their imaginations take them away, then they can see Haley's Comet together in that imagination, and it can be the MOST BEAUTIFUL THING they've ever seen together. And THAT'S the real once-in-a-lifetime thing, thus proving that any day can be a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing, if we can just be open to SEE that. I think things we actually miss is a great storytelling tool. If things are actually lost due to a character's choices, then that makes us EXTRA-invested, rather than if they get to have their cake and eat it, too. But even in what you've made as it is, I can tell that the imaginary world they shared is, ultimately, more important than Haley's Comet. And I LOVE that, and think that's deeply special.

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story (although you had actual dialogue later on, which I find to be a more compelling choice -- just don't tell us stuff like "Winnie is Declan's crush" in that kind of way, someone in the story has to drop it, or Declan should make it really clear with a verbal or non-verbal response, there's lots of way to telegraph that without a narrator butting in.): Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

5

Week

The Book of S: A Sketchbook Story Act 1

First, are you from Hawaiʻi? (Asking because in your Week 1 video, you mention menehune.) If so, that's super-rad, so am I! ^_^ Having looked through all your videos thus far, fun references to stuff like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dark Side of the Moon, and while I personally think we should all aim to use royalty-free stuff, the Final Fantasy music is a wonderful choice. (A bit of a shame this video doesn't have music, a final product for a story really could benefit from the proper music! ^_^) I also think it's a completely brilliant little detail that the mysterious "S" is that Cool S that no one really knows the true origin of. It makes sense it's something magical and other-worldly.

I should also probably know what the creature figurine is in Kylie-Anne's room, hahaha, please fill me in so I can be embarrassed that I didn't know!

If there's one big thing I could change, it's how the narration mentions Kylie-Anne's dad twice before the flashback. I think it's better to let questions like that linger a bit. If you take that out and just have us look at Kylie-Anne and how she lives her life, we'd begin to have questions about her, and why she is the way she is. Everyone has a rich internal life, and the best way to engage an audience is to have them attempt to see into it on their own at first. Like, without the narration, think of how affecting that flashback is, at the pond, which I think is VERY clear and VERY beautiful! To have that be the first mention of her father-- I think that's straight-up all you need to fill in blanks. Imaginations of the audience are remarkably good at filling in that kind of stuff, I think.

My absolute-favourite frame drawn in this Act 1 is Kylie-Anne retrieving her sketchbook from the other people at school-- that's gotta be one of the absolute funniest flustered faces I've ever seen-- lotta nuance. I can practically see it wobbling in motion. Reminds me of how people reacted to the River Spirit/Stink Spirit in Spirited Away. Also, I know how hard it is to draw action poses, haha, but that one drawing of Kylie-Anne throwing the book into the stream... don't you think she should throw it with a little more OOMPFH? Using the other arm a bit, maybe bent slightly forward, showing how upset she is, how angry she is? Never be afraid to act it out yourself and take photos of how your character might behave! You never know, you might even surprise yourself by the sorts of things it'll help you come up with.

I can see that a few things have changed or have just been modified from the original story spine -- this whole dad thing is new, and totally welcome! There's also the fact that her sketchbook isn't stolen forever-- it's just accidentally found from someone who likes it, then given back without any trouble. I also really enjoy this reframing, whoever came up with it, I think that feels like genuine interaction between kids. Something was completely not meant to be hurtful, but it ends up being hurtful to her, anyway. ... perhaps the biggest thing is right at the ending of this act... because the story spine indicates the sketchbook of S was not her own sketch book, and that Kylie-Anne finds it in this crazy temple-lookin' place. But now, it IS her sketchbook, as if the stream had the ghost in it, and it took over her own sketchbook before returning it. This is all fun-- that Kylie-Anne actively THROWS the book away in a moment of impulse-- it makes her a stronger character, and to have this throughline that her sketchbook now becomes magical BECAUSE of that action-- it's a strong connection now, making the whole plot feel more cohesive.

With all of that established, I'm guessing that means a LOT is changing going forward! But I hope that Cool S on the front cover stays-- maybe that's the ONE thing that changes about her sketchbook, beyond it being empty now. I also think it'd be cool if, like, the ghost possessing her book sometimes LOOKS like that Cool S when it's not materializing other things that she draws. All loopdyloop-y. Beyond that, I think it'd be good to develop the motives of the ghost. In the Week 3 assignment, you referred to the ghost as a "demon", and it turns Kylie-Anne's cat drawing into a monster! Something tells me that's not where you're going in the new Act 2. Or, if you are, that you'll at least make it clear that the ghost's just having a bit of mischievous fun, or that this is THEIR type of art, which is directly in contrast to Kylie-Anne's preferences in art. Which might be why they're not getting along-- because everything Kylie draws, the ghost turns into something scary. And then they find a middle-ground where, I dunno, they can do both-- which is, like, metaphorical for Kylie acknowledging both the bad AND good in her life, rather than not facing how she feels about her father's passing...

... BUT... something makes me think that what you're planning has to do with the dad. Something makes me think that your rewrite of the Ghost is about how the DAD is the Ghost. O_O Which I just think is brilliant, especially since you showed that the dad essentially taught Kylie-Anne to enjoy drawing. So it's, like, this new book is possessed by her dad, and he helps her to find joy in drawing again (since it seems like it's been so tinged with sadness for her that even though she does it therapeutically, she's never smiled once while drawing aall throughout Act 1). And maybe there ARE still some monsters that come out. Maybe it's not that... the GHOST is making what she draws into monsters. Maybe it's more that all the sadness inside of Kylie-Anne's drawings is doing that. The ghost is, like, encouraging her to draw, and Kylie-Anne is still thinking her art is worthless, and THAT'S what turns her cute drawings into these dangerous monsters who threaten to consume her life. And then, in the midst of all that, the ghost saves her, and maintains the form of her father, and she realizes that he brought back her sketchbook to bring back her joy. As she realizes this, she finally cries, and all the monsters of her grief dispel, turning back into docile creatures who all come up and support her. Now with her father at her side, she can make art that captures all her many feelings and memories safely... and share them with other! Yeah, then maybe she can come back to that nice person who had seen her sketchbook, and she can, like, introduce them to her father in the sketchbook. Yeaah, that's the warm fuzzies right there. Your group really came up with an idea that any artist immediately wants to get in on.

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

5

Week

Farron in the Valley: Act 1

Okay, having watched all your videos thus far, I think I have a clear picture of Farron's story! I really enjoyed the animation you did on the written titles of your Week 1 video, with the little roulette of ideas that go around until it reaches the correct "what if"-- classy stuff. One thing to consider is that very few of your videos have been able to stand on their own without reading the descriptions. Storytelling is all about being able to follow whatever it is the storyteller wants us to follow, and it's kind of a shame that you can't just look at the video for answers! Since our Acts 1-3 videos are essentially the final product, it'd be nice if it could be watched and could contain the story all on its own. One thing I WILL give you is that the Act 1 video itself doesn't have any narration, which is something I wish less people were doing! But... your narration is all in the description, and it's necessary, hahaha, so it's kind of the same issue.

I don't know whether you want dialogue or not, in an ideal situation-- I personally love dialogue. BUT, maybe you don't want that, so I'm coming at this from the angle that all you want to do is something more like what you've presented in your videos -- pictures. Like, I think it'd be nice to at LEAST add some royalty-free music and sound effects, but I'm gonna try to see if I can do this with JUST pictures. I mean, a LOT of the best short films have little-to-no dialogue at all and can be perfectly followed with visuals alone-- and with your minimal stickfigure drawings, you could make LOADS and LOADS of storyboard panels that very clearly help one to follow the story all on its own! How rad would that be?

I'll use this Act 1 video as an example-- Instead of starting the video by framing the circle of people around the campfire from above, start off with just a close-up shot of the campfire. In the next picture, the camera is a little higher, and behind the fire, you can see the elder community member's face. Next picture, they're opening up their mouth, telling a story. Next picture, now you can see more of the campfire, maybe not from above, though-- just as if you're behind the back of someone inside the ring of people, staring in at the elder community member. Next picture, the elder community member points up at the sky. Next picture, the camera's following the direction of the pointing. Next picture, just the tops of the mountains, dark in silhouette, with towers to either side of them, showing signs of the civilization they've set up. Use a transition to fade to the next picture, where it's clear it's daytime now against the mountains-- and the towers are gone, so we know this is a flashback.

Next picture, from the surface of the mountain, we can begin to see two people poking over the top. Next picture, they're enough up now that you can see more about them. One of them is wearing a mask, and the other is in their arms, dead, without a mask. Next picture. The one with the mask lays down the dead person, energy completely spent. Next picture. A shot of the dead person, without the mask, maybe with a slight shadow of the one with the mask looking over them. Next picture. A reaction shot of the person with the mask, looking sorrowful. Next picture. The person with the mask looks behind them. Next picture. The point of view of the shot moves enough so we can see that behind them is a valley that looks completely inhabitable. Next picture. Slightly closer up on the valley below, death seems to hover over it like a fog.

Next picture. The point of view refocuses on the person with the mask. Next picture. The person with the mask looks in-front of them now. Next picture, an overhead shot of what the person with the mask sees below, a new safehaven to be cultivated. Transition with a fade back to present-time with the same POV, now showing the campfire and small huts, etc... Next picture, the elder community member is finishing up their story. Next picture, they point over the mountains over. Next picture, they pick up a mask and gesture to those around them. Next picture, a slow pan around the circle from the inside, every seems to be in agreement, the pan ends with Farron and centers on them, so that we know they're the main character. They look like they're deep in thought. Next picture, the elder community leader claps their hands. Next picture, other helpers come to the fireside, bringing heaps of potatoes for everyone. Next picture, the helpers give the customary two potatoes to people on the left of the fire. Next picture, the helpers do the same to those on the right side of the fire. Next picture, Farron receives their two potatoes. Next picture, Farron makes a disgusted face.

Next picture, Farron raises their hand. Next picture, the elder community leader acknowledges Farron. Next picture, Farron gestures at the two potatoes, like, "What's the deal?" Next picture, the elder community leader makes an "aha!" face. Next picture, the elder community leader holds up one potato. Next picture, the elder community leader pretends to meagerly nibble at it. Next picture, the elder community leader exaggeratedly pretends to look exhausted and sick. Next picture, the elder community grabs a potato from the person sitting next to them. Next picture, the elder community leader pretends to ravenously eat THREE WHOLE POTATOES. Next picture, the elder community leader points at the person who they took the potato from. Next picture, that person understands and pretends to be super-hungry, exhausted, and sick. Next picture, the elder community leader and the person next to them both hold up a finger as if to say, "But!" Next picture, the elder community leader gives the person next to them their second potato back. Next picture, the elder community leader and this other person both hold up their two potatoes with pride. Next picture, they eat from one. Next picture, they eat from the other. Next picture, they rub their tummies and mime looking very satisfied. Next picture, while the other person continues to eat, the elder community leader gestures to Farron, like, "What do you think?"

Next picture, Farron doesn't look appeased by this answer. next picture, Farron looks at his two potatoes one more time, still not into it. Next picture, Farron gives their second potato away to another person at the campfire. The other person looks shocked, as if this should be illegal. Next picture, Farron begins to eat their one potato. The other person still looks completely uncertain of what to do. Next picture, Farron gestures to them to go ahead, eat it. The other person shiftily looks around. Next picture, Farron looks up, mid-bite. Next picture, zoom out, everyone else around the circle looks COMPLETELY outraged at this scandal. Next picture, from behind, we see the silhouette of the elder community leader stand up. Next picture, now from the front, the elder community leader, once jovial and sweet, looks like they're about to burst. Next picture, the elder community leader raises an accusatory finger to Farron. Next picture, Farron is now frozen in fear, mid-bite. Next picture, hard-cut with the same framing on Farron, now he's flanked by two villagers, being carried away.

Next picture, now on the top of the mountain, outside the perimeter of the watchtowers. Next picture, tiny and silhouetted, Farron is tossed unceremoniously beyond that perimeter. Next picture, Farron lands with a small comical dustcloud as the two villagers dust off their hands. Next picture, Farron picks themself up, looking disheveled. Next picture, Farron hears something, reacts. Next picture, Farron turns around, and the point-of-view moves a bit to show that the community elder is standing right there, holding a mask. Next picture, the community elder throws the mask at Farron, weakly. Next picture, the community elder points to the valley below. Next to picture, the community elder waves, somberly. Next picture, Farron picks up the mask. Next picture, Farron looks to the toxic valley, with a look of fear and uncertainty. Next picture, he puts on the mask, shakily. Next picture, an over-head shot of the valley, as Farron begins their descent.

So that's about 70 drawings, which would narratively follow each other and help to create something that can be seen and instantly understood, rather than having to watch the video, then read the description, then kind of... re-watch the video and read the description to see what things mean what things. Just some thoughts!

Final notes: the phrase "toxic valleys" is something I took from your own Week 3 assignment-- it even says that humanity wasn't able to live there for many years. Is this an unreliable narrator dealio? Because the story spine makes it sound like the valleys aren't toxic, if no one actually needs a mask. Or, is it just that, over time, nature has fixed the things that mankind did to it? We've all watched enough post-apocalyptic sci-fi to know what things make narrative sense or don't make narrative sense. Some other thoughts-- what if those who live in the valley are, like, evolved to live in the environment that really WOULD be toxic to these humans? What if they have something that could make it for humans to be able to live, something you eat that makes it so that this toxic gas instantly converts to clean oxygen in the mouth? And then, the story spine ends with Farron coming back to share new food with the village... are you SURE that's where you want the story to end? The way you've set it up, this village kicked him out for NOT eating "enough" food. Which is about the most unreasonable thing I can think of. They're going to straight-up HATE Farron for coming back with new food. I think THAT'S where the real conflict begins.

The whole Act 2 seems a little empty, to me-- I think he should go down, meet new people, find the food and whatever else is down there that could be good for the community, then come right back, and then the rest of Act 2 is his struggles getting the village to accept new food that could save them. Maybe it could even take place when they're about to run out of potatoes, and they STILL don't want to eat the new food. That sounds SO dramatic and interesting! Whatever you think of, just some food for thought, and not just potatoes!

5

Week

Marin-Act 1

Your composition and lighting skills create SUCH an immersive world in your boards! Couldn't be more impressed with your professional-caliber visuals, with such high-concept ideas present in them. And it's a good thing you've got a real handle on character design, because the character you've created needs to go through a VARIETY of different characters (with different face shapes, body types, age range, etc.), which you've handled with great ease. Definitely used all of your skills to great effect.

The what-if here is instantly intriguing. It has feelings of a classic transformation-curse story, like Beauty and the Beast, Eustace as a dragon in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or any number of portions of Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, Brother Bear, etc., etc. And it seems like you already understand how this device functions-- the "curse" is made to help you grow as a person, and in many cases, the curse is never taken away, because to do so would be to move backwards in the character's growth. Other adjacent ideas that come to mind are Phil Connors in Groundhog Day and... ... Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap. In-fact, because of how much I love Quantum Leap, my brain filled in incorrect details while watching your Act 1-- even though you said shapeshifter, I thought maybe Marin actually wakes up occupying the body of someone who actually exists, like in Quantum Leap, hahaha. But having watched all your videos now, I have a lot more qualifying information on how this works!

Actually, your story spine video might tell a more clear Act 1 than this does? Some of the phrasing in the story spine clarifies things I wasn't altogether sure about in this standalone Act 1 video-- things like why Marin can't tell anyone who they are, or what their living situation is... Speaking of, the original spine says a little cottage on the edge of the forest. It looks pret-ty cushy, all things considering, for someone who is unknown in this world and changes form literally every day. It'd make more sense if Marin, as someone who was successful before, might have... ... I don't know, a shed or a barn that they hide away in-- something they felt they had nearly no need for, then all of a sudden, that's where they live to hide away until the curse is lifted.

I find it interesting that it sounds like, in spite of everything, after being cursed, Marin's still trying to do good deeds just about every day they change? I mean, wow! I think that can work, but... especially in narration alone, it's hard to convey that Marin's doing this to change back, or because they desire validation. And, I find it hard to believe that Marin's random (at least from the perspective of those Marin is helping) acts of kindness aren't received warmly by those they help. Like, if someone randomly helps someone out, it's kind of a HUGE deal, it probably WOULD have "the same punch", if not more, if all Marin is seeking is validation. In Groundhog Day, EVERYBODY in Punxsutawney loves Phil because of what he does for them. I doubt people wouldn't praise this total stranger for helping them. UNLESS, due to their lack of sincerity in the matter, Marin's actually REALLY bad at helping people? Like, they're more concerned with just LOOKING like they're helping? That could be shown more clearly, if that's the case. Or maybe it's that Marin COMPLETELY disregards the personal thanks they might be getting, because she doesn't care about these people, and just wants CROWDS OF ADULATION instantly? Or because they're more just looking up at the sky, wondering when the Goddess will see how good they are and turn them back? And so they go from one good deed to another, largely disregarding the people they're "helping", and getting upset when they aren't being turned back. Just some clarification could help us understand what exactly Marin's doing wrong. Because, just saying that they're helping people, and to them, it doesn't seem to matter, that leaves a lot of room for questions of motivation and character.

One thing I love is that, outside of the initial Week 2 video, you never told us that Marin has blue eyes in every form they take... and yet, it's SUPER-CLEAR. Without having watched that one yet, I immediately keyed in on that, and that's a perfect example of show-don't-tell. It's totally working. In practice, I think it'd be really cool to see Marin actually transform a few times-- especially to help us follow their transformation into other ANIMALS, which really threw me for a loop the first time, since I'm so human-centric. (How short-sighted of me!) Like, I don't know how the goddess' magic works-- it could be an actual, like, transition, where every part of their body changes slowly, or it could happen all at once in a puff of smoke or a blinding voip of light... maybe you'd only see it happen in silhouette... OR, and this is a fun one for using Marin's eyes-- you could just have Marin close their eyes, and then it, like, zooms in on their eyes, then they open their eyes again, and it zooms out, and bam-o, they're a different person!

I think one of the interesting things about a SHAPESHIFTER as opposed to simply transforming ONCE is this whole idea of complete loss of identity-- or, perhaps, in this case, the largest blow to the ego possible. Marin has no choice but to remain anonymous, and that sounds like the worst thing in the world to them at the beginning of the story. Since I've seen the full story spine, I DO think some of that initial feeling is lost throughout the story, partially by necessity. Like... Solaire recognizes her from form to form, thus softening the blow of Marin's curse. I'm DEFINITELY not trying to say you can't have Marin have Solaire as their buddy, I just want to ensure that the flavour of the curse is not lost-- that Marin continues to just feel like a nobody, completely alone-- a loneliness that is primarily just of their own making.

I think the way that Marin meets Solaire in this version of Act 1, once again, feels... too selfless, at least in its execution. There could totally be a way to frame this as just another in a long series of ultimately self-serving actions, but on the other hand, I feel like the way it seemed to be framed in the other weeks felt like a better way to introduce these characters. Marin's just walkin' by, bitter and angry at the goddess for having cursed them, and feeling like just giving up and resigning to this (according to them) joyless, purposeless life, and Solaire goes, "I know who you are, you know." Which is a HUGE shock. It's like if someone came up with Phil Connors in his Groundhog Day loop and said, "I know that you were here yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that..." It'd be huge!

Moving forward, although it's not said in WORDS in the story spine, it looks like Marin doesn't have their curse lifted. Awesome, I think that's the right choice-- it seems like they've found a new purpose to their lives that isn't so selfish, and they've found someone in their life who doesn't care who they are, literally. However-- I think it's a little too convenient that Marin finds out that she can shapeshift whenever she wants. Maybe the goddess helps them change into just the right thing to help Solaire out at that moment. Or what I'd like better is if they continued to be a granny for the moment and found out it's EXACTLY what they needed to be to save Solaire. What if the monster doesn't sense the granny as a threat, or since the granny's old, she probably doesn't taste good? Or what if the monster respects their elders? HAHAHA. I'm just saying, it might be nice to essentially say that the curse actually turns Marin into exactly what they need to be exactly when they need it, even if Marin didn't think so?

One last thought-- Solaire gets mad that Marin's only helping her because she wants the curse to be broken? Like... ... wouldn't that be obvious from the get-go? Or, like, did Solaire slowly think that maybe they really had a connection over time? To present someone with a contract to be a hireling-- doesn't sound like friendship as much as an arrangement made out of convenience. I think something that would be clearer is if, since there's only one flower, the thing is that only one wish can be granted by whoever presents the flower. So Marin actually goes behind Solaire's back and attempts to bring the flower to the Goddess, so that they can get the curse broken, instead of Solaire being allowed to become a full-fledged witch. And right when they're about to do it... ... they hesitate, and then have a change of heart, realizing how Solaire deserves this more than Marin does. And then-- buh-bam, Goddess reveals that Marin has truly passed the test, and the curse-- the real curse, of unhappiness and selfishness, the one Marin had actually had all along-- has been broken.

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

4

Week

Gravity

Deeply happy you chose to add royalty-free background music over your short, in order to match each of the emotional beats, that already makes it super-fresh! Having looked at all your videos, you've done this every time, which massively impresses me.

I'm a little confused, though-- it looks like you kind of jumped the gun with the story spine assignment and just made what you're gonna post for Act 1 - 3 already? I don't hear any of the story spine indicators beyond the "Once upon a time"-- which I guess works good for you moving forward, hahaha, since you're finished! Well, aside from more pictures being added, for fun.

Speaking of those new drawings, great notes you left yourself -- "WHO DOESN'T WANNA DRAW HANDS? THIS GUY." and "Calvin & Hobbes energy"-- it's all deeply relatable notes in the creative process, so I'm glad you left those in for us.

From what we've seen of Declan prior to his outburst to his mom, it's hard to understand why Declan's being so flippant of Rylan's desires-- I'd probably add in some scenes where it's clear that Declan, despite doing everything he can to be a supportive big brother (I certainly wouldn't change that), is feeling all too much pressure to always do what Rylan wants and feeling like he's never had time to be anything other than some who protects and cares for Rylan. This is touched on briefly in your Week 2 video, but I think it's important for that to be clear in the final product, too. Otherwise, like... all the imagery we've seen in the beginning makes us question how genuine Declan is going forward.

Like, when approached about Winnie's party, Declan responds, "I was supposed to go and look at the... Haley's comet or whatever it's called with my brother tonight." The way it's worded, it makes it sound like either Declan doesn't like space and doesn't like spending time with Rylan... or Declan is simply trying to not look lame in-front of other classmates. The second option, I think, is a lot more appealing, but it'd require a bit more nuance to be the clear answer, especially when paired with his outburst with his mom directly afterward. He then says, "I don't want to go stare at the stupid stars with Rylan." Like... ... to have an outburst about not wanting to ALWAYS do what Rylan does is totally understandable, but once again, this is worded like he doesn't like space and doesn't like spending time with Rylan.

I think just a slight adjustment could make all of this behavior more clear-- that Declan's emotionally exhausted from being a secondary guardian to Rylan, and that he also is feeling a pressure to be accepted at school. Maybe instead of being so flippant, Declan could start out by saying, "But Haley's Comet is tonight, it only happens once in a lifetime!" And this classmate is, like, "Seriously? Declan, Winnie's PARTY is once in a lifetime, stars are always gonna be up there." He starts to rebut: "Well, yeah, but Rylan..." And then the classmate cuts him off: "Dude, why are you always on about your brother? He's just a stupid little kid. You're never any fun because you're always on about Rylan..."

And then, when Declan starts to ask his mom about going to Winnie's party, he starts off more low-key. Something like, "Hey, mom, I was wondering if I could go to Winnie's party." "Oh, that sounds nice, sweetie! When is it?" "Uh, tonight." "... wait, not TONIGHT tonight, right?" And he's a little sheepish, not responding-- his mom continues, "Declan, you remember what tonight is?" "Yeah, of course I do, it's just..." "Declan, but you promised him!" "Mom, but I do EVERYTHING with Rylan-- I never have ANY fun." Beginning to parrot what his classmates have told him. His mom tries to neutralize the situation, "Declan, look, if it were any other day, I'd say yes, but..." And then Declan just BLOWS UP, "That's NOT FAIR! Just this once, I ask to do my own thing, and NO, I'm not allowed-- because WHAT IF POOR RYLAN'S FEELINGS ARE HURT? What about MY feelings?! All I want is to have my OWN life instead of ALWAYS having to wait hand-and-foot on my HELPLESS BROTHER and always doing EVERY LITTLE THING he wants to do with me. Is that too much to ask?!!" This might seem more intense in some ways, but I also think it just feels like it comes from a more honest place. I think any person who has to take care of someone else, especially someone as young as Declan, has felt this way before. Meanwhile, the way it's written currently just feels like the sweet Declan shown visually in the opening visuals is suddenly replaced by someone who straight-up thinks all of the stuff he did was stupid.

Having seen the full story-spine (or whatever we want to call it), I think the payoff is really wonderful... EXCEPT... they don't miss Haley's Comet.

Like... ... if Declan ultimately chose to stay at home and watch Haley's Comet with Rylan, does he really have THAT much to make up for, aside from apologizing? I personally think-- and this might be a pretty brutal storytelling choice for me to make, but... have Declan COMPLETELY miss seeing Haley's Comet with Rylan. Have Declan choose to go to Winnie's party instead, and have him feel TERRIBLE about this. If that choice is made, instead, then maybe you don't even need to have a big blow-out with Mom over deciding to go. Declan could straight-up just... not come home until after the party, with both his Mom and Rylan worried sick, and when he gets home, and they realize that it was a conscious decision to forget about Rylan, THAT'S the ultimate betrayal. Now THAT needs a grand gesture to fix things.

And then Rylan has all the more reason to be super-sad when Declan presents him with the astronaut outfit and everything. Like, why would a 5-year-old who loves space think this idea is stupid?! Not unless the anger was just directed at the betrayal he felt-- which couldn't possibly be felt THAT strongly if Declan sacrificed going to the party to see Haley's Comet with Rylan in the end! And when their imaginations take them away, then they can see Haley's Comet together in that imagination, and it can be the MOST BEAUTIFUL THING they've ever seen together. And THAT'S the real once-in-a-lifetime thing, thus proving that any day can be a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing, if we can just be open to SEE that. I think things we actually miss is a great storytelling tool. If things are actually lost due to a character's choices, then that makes us EXTRA-invested, rather than if they get to have their cake and eat it, too. But even in what you've made as it is, I can tell that the imaginary world they shared is, ultimately, more important than Haley's Comet. And I LOVE that, and think that's deeply special.

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story (although you had actual dialogue later on, which I find to be a more compelling choice -- just don't tell us stuff like "Winnie is Declan's crush" in that kind of way, someone in the story has to drop it, or Declan should make it really clear with a verbal or non-verbal response, there's lots of way to telegraph that without a narrator butting in.): Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

4

Week

Aria's Music Journey - Story Spines

Having seen all your submissions from the prior weeks, I thought it was WONDERFUL you added royalty-free background music in your Week 2 Character Video-- not only that, you actually CUT to a different song in the middle to fit the tone better! That's some REALLY smart editing work, and it shows you know how to use music correctly in a story all about music! As much as we can try to describe music, REALLY, in a SHORT FILM, you gotta play some music for anyone to REALLY get it-- even deaf people feel the vibrations of music, it's a powerful tool in the arsenal of any storyteller! I probably wouldn't be pushing this so hard if I didn't know you had the editing know-how to put fitting music into your stuff, but since I do, and since I know how integral music is to the whole point of the story, I just gotta push for some added music for the next two acts in your story.

Your character designs are so appealing-- the main character reminds me of-- kind of an odd comparison-- but Miss Clavel from Madeline? That round oval offset with the fun single straight line for the nose-- a recipe for instant success! I think you created the sunglasses to show how working in this stifling industry has changed her, and that totally works, too-- and yet, it can't change how we feel like she's still someone we can relate to, because her design makes her look like someone who's, underneath it all, still very down-to-earth.

One thing that I think needs to be clarified, especially for non-musicians, is that Aria is NOT getting to perform her own material. At least, that's what I'm getting from this. She's SIMPLY a composer. And... let's be real, NO ONE knows who a composer is unless they're doing their own material, hahaha. How many pop composers who don't do their own material does any normal person know? Maybe if someone's read an article, they MIGHT know Max Martin? And then, of course, there are examples of people who started off writing for other people and then became famous as a singer-songwriter, like Carole King. So you might need to really drive home that she only WRITES songs, and to most people, she's not even remotely famous. Just very successful, which is two different things. Like, yes, everyone who's in the pop industry would know her and want to work with her, but to the average music listener, Aria isn't known to them, even though they might know every song she's written and love it. Even if she happened to be mentioned in the Grammy's, songwriters are barely ever called attention to. Just the reality of the situation.

Why doesn't Bruno's representation want Aria's original song? I'm assuming that the answer is it's not mainstream enough, even though it's a great song, but that's not really said outright in the act. Up to this point, Aria's been a golden child, doing everything the record labels wanted, and ALWAYS get number-ones for those she writes for, so it just needs to be clear why they'd outrightly reject it from the start. Explain that the song isn't LIKE anything else Aria has made for the labels before, because it isn't filtered through guidelines for those hyper-polished but impersonal pop hits. So, like, maybe Bruno's representation is REALLY excited at first-- "Whatcha got, kid?" Then she plays it, and they begin to make a hundred suggestions, "Make sure to add a trap beat and give it a real hard bass synth underneath, maybe add some millennial whoop..." And then she's, like, "No, don't do that! I want it done just like this, it's not that kind of song..." And they refuse, because there's NO WAY it could be a number one without checking all those boxes.

I like how you describe the studio as "cold", I'd imagine it's as sterile and unfeeling as the music that comes out of it-- auto-tuned to perfection, but with none of the warmth her guitar might give her-- explaining why her strings go rigid-- the atmosphere sucks up the joy. I also like how, when Aria's looking at all the records up on the walls at night, she doesn't feel inspired-- she just feels like she needs to conform. The visual of all of these perfectly identical gold and platinum circles up in frames-- if you pulled out the shot a little bit so we could see even more-- that's a GREAT image, really selling the point that the industry's swallowed up a creative soul and spat her out. I also think the little bun on the back of her head looks a little like the records, so that's a fun visual comparison to be made. I don't know what the plans are for the hairbun-- if it's just meant to be an aesthetic choice or, if like the sunglasses, they're a part of her character... the idea of letting your hair down is always a fun visual metaphor. Might be nice for her, at the end of the story, to just get rid of the bun all together, and, HAHAHA, her hair suddenly gets twice as large or something, but now she's free.

When she gets out of the studio, is this, like, during the night? Has she stayed the entire night trying to work out a new song for Bruno, and now, it's morning, or is she going for a midnight stroll? All the little stick figures in the building are super adorable-- there's quite an energy to them-- everybody's got an odd, interesting internal life, and artists know that and often glean inspiration from that.

Obviously, you've already put out your story spine, so there's no going back, and now this act stands on its own, but from watching all your stuff, I know that you decided your "until one day" was when she decided to go for a walk. I think the until one day comes right afterward-- it's when she gets sucked into the world without music, THAT'S what changes everything. I'm sure Aria's had moments where she's walked through the park before-- the difference is this bar she's never seen that transports her to a music-less world. Just something to think about, as far as bullet-pointing a story! But, really, once it's all down, structure is invisible, it won't matter where you decided your bullet-points went at all. : ) Excited to see all the faceless people in this other world-- it's a great idea, to visually represent the loss of identity we'd feel without art in our lives.

BIGGEST THING TO SAY, knowing where the story's going: Maybe I'm just someone who does not like giant corporations, but... after Aria's learned all her lessons, she should NOT stay with this label, they're AWFUL! And really, who needs to go this extremely old-fashioned route in an age where any budding musician can distribute their work online and get paid for it, too? Maybe you envisioned Aria's musical desires as being one where all she wants to do is make music, not to be known as the one who performs it, but with your whole theme, it just feels sad that she's not getting perform her own work. Unless she gets to at the end! But it looks like she does so through the exact same label she was attached to at the start. Like... why would they suddenly let her compose stuff that makes her happy, rather than checking all the boxes? I think it's clear Aria needs to quit and be an independent artist, especially if this is about going back to her "roots"-- this would be such an empowering story for everyone who's ever wanted to make art, but has thought they can't do it now because they're not connected to some influential company with loads of money, etc... when all of us can just make art right now with whatever we've got and share our heart that way. : )

Also, I'm going to be copying-and-pasting this short little sentence on everyone who picks wall-to-wall narration on their final draft of their story: Think of all your favourite short films, both animated and non-animated, and think about how many of them have wall-to-wall narration. I think you'll see that, even when they were adapted from picture books and maintain a level of narration, there's lots of points where the narration stops, and we get to just appreciate storytelling without the narration. Especially if the visual is telling us everything we need to know, why add a narrator? The story spine and the final product are very different assignments, and while one could choose to add wall-to-wall narration (it IS certainly a choice), I think going a route of purely visual storytelling or letting the characters speak for themselves is too captivating a choice to not consider moving forward! ^_^

4

Week

Jett's Story Spine - When Home Runs Away

Of everything I've seen so far from any of the Xperiential stuff I've seen, this one seems the most like it's dying to be something a great deal longer than a short. Don't let that discourage you from condensing it, because I'm a big proponent of being able to tell the same story in longer AND shorter runtimes. Otherwise, how will we ever get ANY of our stories out, am I right? But wow, so many moving parts, and what a beautiful family that Jett has! The way this story spine was told made it seem like Jett's family wasn't playing that big a part in the story, but having looked at your other entries (Excellent stuff, so impressed with your watercolour skills, what did you use? And I commend you for adding external URLs for things we can't include here), I can see they're REALLY integral to the whole thing.

To get the family into the story as fast as possible, I'd personally begin this story with Jett getting ready for another big day of shepherding the hills, maybe getting dressed with that huge scarf (favourite part of the design, so elegant, so magical) and eating a quick breakfast, with his family members all smothering him, making him feel like, more than ever, he needs to escape this routine. On his way towards his post, he passes all his other family members who greet him from afar from all their other houses scattered across the hills, etc. Then, when all the hills scatter, we know exactly who's being affected, and why that matters to Jett.

I love that the hills and mountains have little unassuming smiley faces, it reminds me of something that Hilda or Infinity Train (like the ubiquitous liquid Randall) might do. I also love that they have little arms and feets, but maybe they should look more like rock formations, maybe with lots of moss grown over them? I assume Jett tries to ensure they move as little as possible normally, so they'd probably have to pull away from the growth and uproot themselves to get anywhere. And that little tree pun in the second panel is very extremely my style of humour, I'm SOLD.

Did Jett THROW A BOMB into the mountain's mouth to clear a path? That MADMAN! I will say, it looks like Jett can fly? What exactly was blocking his path? Or would he have to travel by foot? I'm surprised it didn't just have to do with making a mistake on his musical staff (Is that a music pun?) that upset all the hills and mountains! Like, what if he just accidentally made a big, shrill noise because he was being careless or rowdy? A kind of Boy Who Cried Wolf moment-- he just was so bored and frustrated, thinking, "I'd go explore the world, if only they'd LET ME!", and he just let loose for a moment, causing the landscape to go into a state of chaos. Y'know, all Turning Red-like. Feels good to let loose, but it has consequences.

The little montage you drew of all the hills scared off to the wrong places is brilliant. I especially love the one that's just... on-top of a very, very tall mountain. It reminds me of-- this is a very esoteric reference, but this character called the Velocimomometer from Pajama Sam? She tends to find herself up in high places when she's scared. Also, I hope "I have made a terrible mistake" is specifically an Arrested Development reference, bweheheh. To fit into the short timeframe, you might actually need to do this montage style, with sparing to no dialogue, so keep this great frame you drew in mind during the final reel!

Woah, that crazy zoom-out of the landscape is so interesting! Is, like, the archipelago a... feral rat thing, and is it being surrounded by a whole bunch of clouds that is a regal cat? Lotsa fun design choices here. Looks like they don't like each other too much. ;) Are they upset because all of Jett's corralling is pushing them closer together?

The resolution to this is great because it doesn't remove responsibility from Jett for making this all happen. What we do can have lasting, irreversible impact on things, and we can't always just want to fix things and make them back to "normal", because normal might not ever be able to come back or be at all manageable under new circumstances. It reminds me a bit of the ending of Weathering with You, which I thought was brilliant-- the idea that things are forever changed, and it IS the main characters' fault, and it's... actually okay that it's never going back to normal, because this IS the new normal. And we can learn to have happiness in this new world that we have had a hand in shaping. Definitely an unexpected different kind of happy ending-- and I look forward to seeing the family integrated throughout, so that we can feel the weight of what Jett's trying to save, and feel pain when his family members say they don't intend on coming back into the valley where they always used to live, and feel that sense of emotional payoff when everyone realizes that they'll always be a family, even when they don't all live together.

4

Week

Dream Seller

Woahnally, you should slow those slides down by, like, a lot! You had each drawing showing for roughly two seconds, equalling up to twelve seconds-- each picture should show for at LEAST ten seconds, I'd say, equalling up to about a minute of pictures. But then, if you read out what you've written below, you'll also see when read at a reasonable pace, it comes out to a bit more than a minute. I just timed myself reading it, and it's a little under two minutes.

Speaking of speaking, while it's not REQUIRED to narrate these videos, I think they add a lot of charm and help us connect with your story in the way that YOU personally tell it-- don't worry about if you think you can't say it well enough. It doesn't have to be done with a fancy microphone, a lot of people here are just using their webcam mics or phone mics, and it sounds just fine. If you cannot narrate this yourself, it'd be awesome if you found someone else who is similarly passionate about the story to narrate it for you-- then just pace out the pictures accordingly so that they can be appreciated in conjunction with the story. BUT, if that's not something you can do, at the very least, divvy out your writing and pace them as appropriately sized subtitles to be read as the story goes along. Pacing and pairing story text to story visual so that it can be fully appreciated together is super-duper important!

Having gone through your other entries, you have made SO many excellent drawings of both Enderr Traum and Lauren! (While I'm talking about Enderr's name... was there an A at the end of that at one point on one of those drawings? ;) End Her Trauma or Ender of Trauma? Very clever.) If you were to pace out your story spine, you should totally add a lot of those pictures from the previous weeks back in, they're all perfectly in line with telling the story you set out to tell. I really love the old-fashioned candy shop feel of Enderr's Dream Store, what a great idea of what dreams might physically LOOK like. What a surreal touch, having Enderr wear multiple hats (is that a pun, because he appears to be the only worker in the dream store?), and I love that you made their head head shapes to contrast each other. All the other patrons of the Dream Store you drew are SUPER solid designs that I'd love to see more of. They remind me of characters from the Professor Layton series a bit, which is home to all my favourite design philosophies, haha.

The device Enderr uses to explore Lauren's dreams is super-interesting! Looks like he's connecting his brain to her brain, and I'm supposing the thing in the lower-left corner is, like, the console? Love how friendly it looks, like everything else in the Dream Store. -- The Dream Monster looks like a weed or a germ of some kind, very cool! I like how it's still round like everything else dream-related, but with a bit more of an edge-- great job making all the visual elements feel like they're from the same world.

Then-- two of the points are not fully illustrated in the reel, but I'd love to see how you'll handle, like, the TRAUMA that Lauren has held onto for so long. Does it relate to how the Dream Monster looks, or is it unrelated to the design of the Dream Monster? It might be nice if they tie together, like a fear went unchecked for so long and slowly morphed into something so large in the subconscious, that it seemed unchangeable. I see that the monster in the drawing has three heads-- I don't know if there's more-- but, like, maybe there's a bajillion of these monster heads, and maybe they represent people who bullied her as a child? Or, uh, this is a little dark, but maybe her parents divorced while she was young, and she always felt like it was her fault, and the three heads represent her mom, her dad, and, like, a step-parent that came into the picture later? I mean, trauma's a heavy thing to undertake in a story, so I'm sure you'll handle it with care.

Your idea to have Enderr completely shut down his Dream Store is a REALLY thoughtful plot point. Maybe he could call his new position, like, being an on-call Dream DOCTOR, who can see into people's nightmares and help to see what they themselves have been subconsciously trying to avoid facing. It's an excellent premise for a full array of different kinds of very personal stories about the kinds of fears we may hide inside ourselves. Fun that in that final shot, you can see the big sign of his shop has been set down-- although... what's the perspective like on that? Is the sign small, is Enderr a giant, or is it just farther away from Enderr than the perspective suggests? Plus, this video didn't even show the sign to begin with, so I wasn't sure what I was looking at until I went to your Week 3-- just thoughts to ensure we all know what everything you're putting in means-- gotta give us enough context.

In that last drawing, I can see he's still heading off with a little baggy of Dreams left, which sends my imagination whirring! Are there still positive uses for those dreams? Maybe he could give them to people who've literally never experienced having a dream! (I'm sure people like that exist somewhere, and that'd be sad, to never have a dream, metaphorically or literally.) Or maybe he can use the shells of those dreams to make new dream-based technology that can further his understanding of dreams and nightmares going forward! As a life-long lover of dreams, I'm super-jazzed to see some dreams get visualized.

4

Week

Ugo - Story Spine

I really like the use of both the well-chosen grayscale as well the sparing use of colour! The sort of blue-green that sneaks into the grey as Ugo finds the portal is very eye-catching. Also, fun that you showed us the same picture of Ugo at the end, but now in vibrant colour, as if to show the change in Ugo's life from trying to get by to now chasing after his dreams. It'd be fun to integrate some of these colour ideas into the final reel, to give us a sense of the character's journey! Not necessary, but could be fun, especially with colour limitation on display here.

This feels a bit like a happy-ending version of the saddest Pixar short, Red's Dream, which I'm all for! The idea of a dream manifesting in one's life in a more physical way and spurring one onto make it true is a wonderful message, and one I think any storyteller can relate to, since we're all in the business of turning what we imagine into something more tangible.

I especially love the second drawing, with the back light of the sun reflecting off the buildings, that very exaggerated, tilted perspective of the world whizzing past Ugo, the pieces of paper whizzing in the wind-- you really captured the feeling of fast motion in a still image. I also like the touch of the package still being strapped to Ugo's back, visible behind him, so his purpose behind racing isn't forgotten.

Instead of simply falling off the bike in the alleyway, I think it'd be REALLY interesting if Ugo isn't looking where he's going for a moment and literally COLLIDES WITH THE WALL. And the moment he collides with the wall, he goes through the portal, into his fantasy of being a racer. I think that'd give more of drama to the head trauma that spurred this dreamworld. A similarly dramatic thing happens in Wizard of Oz the film-- Dorothy gets hit SO hard with that window that busts loose.

Once again, I really love those action poses you've done during racing segments, that one with the diagonal angle with Ugo being flanked by the other two racers is solid.

Another big change I'd make is that Ugo shouldn't just wake up still in the alleyway. I think he should wake up IN THE HOSPITAL due to the collision. He's out of commission, no longer able to do his work for a while, and this accident gives him plenty of time to think, "What am I doing with my life?" Your message IS that we only have one life, so it'd make the point even more if Ugo's mortality is on the line-- when you realize life can be taken away from you any day, it really changes your priorities. I think it'd be super-cool if that's what makes him decide that he wants to quit his job at FoodDash to be a racer. (I think that's definitely a part that needs to be stressed-- that he QUITS his job, which shows him sacrificing security for his dreams.) He could be making phone calls to sign up for the classes while still lying in bed recuperating, and it could end with him closing his eyes and seeing his dream of being a racer just as clearly as when he jumped through the portal.

4

Week

Naila’s Story Arc

MAN, you got some serious storyboarding chops! The backgrounds are full of extremely readable and natural looking landmarks that all help to lead the eye to Naila and the other characters in the shot. Well-done giving just the right amount of detail and composing your shots so thoughtfully. Tilting your point-of-view closer to the ground or higher above the characters in some of the shots is very dramatic and appealing. I especially love the framing and lighting in that second image, where Naila's backlit by the warm sun, watching others play together.

Your character designs match the story tone so well-- they evoke childlike wonder and, like, really make you think about your own childhood, placing yourself back in those memories. Childhood sure ain't easy, if you can still remember childhood objectively! And I'm so glad this story accurately depicts these very real struggles of being a kid. Even without the language barrier, moving to a new place is always scary. It reminds me a bit of a play I watched once called New Kid by Dennis Foon. Inside of it, the main character has moved to a new country and doesn't speak the language of anyone at his school. The playwright makes it so the new kid SPEAKS his in English to the audience, but all the kids around him speak in gibberish. It's always a little interesting trying to convey that a main character doesn't speak the same language as anyone else. I mean, for all we know, Naila hasn't even moved to an English-speaking country, which could wrinkle this even more! There's lots of different ways to go about this-- you could have there be a very clear shift in-between Naila's POV, where she speaks English in her head, and then the POV of others, where she's speaking her language.

Another interesting way to fix that problem is to do what films like Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful does, where the main characters speak their own language the whole way, but there are English subtitles underneath to help us know what's going on, then all of the other characters (there are Germans and English-speakers in the film, apart from the Italians) just speak their languages without subtitles, since they do not need to be fully understood to get what's going on. Whatever you do, it's super important that we can understand Naila-- even if it's just through, like, visual communication. I know a lot of shorts have no dialogue-- I DO, however, think that a short about language barriers deserves to have some kind of dialogue in it of some kind, even if it's gibberish.

I really love the kind of everyday magic at play with this seashell that helped her to break out of her comfort zone and make new friends! It reminds me of this really wonderful animated short called Noitamina Poulette's Chair, where a sentient chair (I know, crazy, right?) helps the shy main character make friends. Like, it's calling for her, so cool! I can even imagine that the shell falling out the backpack seems more as if the shell magically pops out, because it wants to make sure Naila and the other girl become friends.

I think this whole losing-the-seashell deserved more pacing in the story spine! Like, this is the first thing in this new place Naila's moved to that has brought her JOY, it's gotta be like such a metaphorical loss-- I would've put another step into the story spine where it mentioned how upset Naila was over having lost it, and looking all over her house for it to no avail, and worrying the whole night over whether or not she'd even be able to find it the next day. She'd probably think, "Right when I thought things were getting better, this just proves this place is no good." Losing this, at any age, but especially as a child, can give you this tremendous feeling of powerlessness. It could even feel like the pain of moving away all over again.

In this case, I actually think the "until finally" belongs slightly later in this story-- the "until finally" is, like, the resolution, but that seems to me like the very tensest moment of the story! The "until finally" would be, like, when she realizes they brought a translation book and want to be her friend.

One thing that could be a throughline in the spine could be the music of the shell. Like, the other girl could be led to talk to Naila because she, too, hears the music of the shell and wants to know where it came from. And then, right before Naila returns to the beach the next day, it could show that the girls are playing and hear that same song again and find the shell, as if the shell has been trying to bring them all together this whole time. And then, at the resolution, they can enjoy the shell's music together.

The way the story spine is written, it makes it sound like the viewer's probably aware the other kids on the beach are pretty nice the whole time-- the only one who doesn't know is Naila, which is a cool little writer's trick! I can totally visualize the kind of miscommunications through the first part. Like, the other girl tries to say hi to Naila and doesn't realize she's listening to music. And Naila just walks right on by, without acknowledging her. And the other girl's, like, a little offended, and thinks, "Why is she being so standoffish?" Then, when she comes to see the shell that Naila's found, when Naila attempts to speak to her, she'll say, "Oh! You don't speak English, I'm sorry, I don't know what you're saying! I think we have a book at home..." And then they're called by their parents to leave, and she tries to explain, "Sorry, I've really gotta go, maybe I'll see you later?" Maybe it turns out these two girls both moved from another country, too, so they know what it feels like?

There's a great moment that has that kind of feeling in this movie/book called Wonderstruck, where the main character is deaf, and someone who becomes his friend later just thinks he's rude at first. Tender, real stuff, told in a quietly fantastical way, love how you fused the two.

4

Week

Rugula's Passion

As a first thing, your signature is SO much fun, it looks like some petroglyph from a long-forgotten civilization, das' sharp.

On the name of Rugula Sticks -- I assume you chose "Sticks" because of, like, sticks of arugula salad greens? It'd also be fun if her name was spelled Rugula STYX, like the Styx River. Styx sounds so edgy and has that mysterious diva allure, but it's also the name of the river that connects the human world and the underworld, which would certainly make sense here! If you were already thinking Styx, completely disregard this. I just think that the spelling's super-fun and HIP AND TRENDY. (Greek mythology is so hip and trendy.)

Was this idea come up with by flipping the concept of human actors voicing non-human things in this world? Hahaha, like... I assume in Rugula's world that humans are supposed to be fictional, but that they have a huge lore they've created about what humans are SUPPOSED to sound like, etc... I know that this isn't what your short is about, but it'd be funny if the monsters had a whole bunch of misconceptions about humans, and Rugula begins challenging them after meeting an actual humans. (A bit like that one scene in The Santa Clause, where Scott, having experienced actual elves, asks his marketing group to change things.)

I really like the ectoplasmic slime stand holding the script, nice touch. I also like that the headphones she's wearing has a little anglerfish light on it. I assume that's supposed to be the monster equivalent of the normal USB light clip that tends to be on stands. What if the headphones was, like, ACTUALLY an anglerfish monster? That might be funny, doing the monster version of everything normal, like how the Flintstones constantly had animals doing the work of electrical appliances. "Eh, it's a living."

"Somehow, the human found herself in the realm of monsters." Did she just appear? Like, poof from one world to another? Did she fall through a portal? It'd be interesting to know exactly how Rugula and Phoebe meet-- like, I assume it's in an area that's private enough that no other monsters would be present, so that Rugula could hide her. Like, what's her first reaction? Does she think this is a monster who's dressing up like a human? Maybe a crazed fan? "You're taking this cosplaying thing too far, humans don't exist." Does PHOEBE freak out? So is it a case of "AAH! A MONSTER!", "AAH! A HUMAN!"?

Since humans are IN the monster films, like, how would the rest of the world react to seeing Phoebe? Are humans typically portrayed as the evil forces with a few outliers? Would they try to kill Phoebe? Or would it mainly be that she's a curiosity of science that the government would like to take into custody and poke at? Since all of the focus is on the well-being of Rugula, it might be important to, like... get Phoebe back home, since she doesn't appear to be able to do anything safely besides stay inside Rugula's house? I know, I know, this is a short and it has to have priorities, but if you're going to have a character being HIDDEN AWAY in someone's house, that's gotta be resolved or at least hinted at a later resolution. Otherwise it'd make it look like Rugula doesn't care enough for Phoebe's safety.

I love the character designs for Rugula's management in the recording booth-- it has a bit of a Wander over Yonder feel (specifically, the Black Cube of Darkness), with how one of them literally has no discerning facial features, hahaha, it's fabulous.

The main idea of not being held by the idea of being perfect at everything is a good one-- we're all held to unreasonable standards all the time, so it's good to remember that it hurts a person to have to reach for something they can never attain or maintain. In this case, Rugula's struggles seem so far removed from Phoebe, though. Phoebe just helped her to become even more "perfect" at her job, tipping her over the edge. I think it'd be interesting if Rugula comes back from a session, all frazzled, wanting to go over more scripts, and Phoebe's, like, "Hey, you're good already, don't work so hard, why don't you just relax?" And then Rugula would really freak out, saying, "You don't understand, they think this is just me, and now they want me to do even better than what I did with all that practice with you! Without you, I'm going to crash and burn!!" And Phoebe tries to tell her she doesn't need to worry so much, and Rugula gets ANGRY about it-- maybe even gets a little more MONSTROUS, and Phoebe runs into another room and hides herself.

And THAT'S under the circumstance that Rugula tries to do another recording session and has a breakdown, realizing that in the process of trying to attain perfection, she has hurt the feelings of her dearest friend. Instead of being fired, what if she's about to be fired, or at least heavily reprimanded, and Rugula finally realizes... this doesn't matter! She doesn't need to stand for this kind of treatment, because it's completely unreasonable, and she thinks of how people like Phoebe in her life stand by her and strengthen her... And she QUITS!! BAM.

Back onto that whole cooking thing (which I assume will be introduced earlier in the story, since the order of the pictures seem to show it happens very close to first meeting Phoebe)... Do monsters not cook things, normally? Or is, like, Phoebe modifying a human recipe for what they have in the monster world? It looks a bit like they're preparing a Japanese-style curry (since they seem to be putting them in, like, monster bento boxes?), but I could be wrong. It's just interesting that Phoebe's the only person who introduces cooking into Rugula's life, if cooking EXISTS in the monster world. Is it combining the factors of Rugula living a life of the pressures of being famous, therefore never finding time to just enjoy simple joys like cooking and the fact that Phoebe's cooking is different than monster cooking, which makes it interesting and new for Rugula? Or is it that Rugula never had a friend to cook with, and that's what makes it special?

And at the very end, you say Phoebe... is ON the cooking show with Rugula? But, I thought Rugula needed to hide Phoebe! At what point could Phoebe be hired as a voice actress in this world? Is she doing all of this in disguise, pretending she's a monster? When did the whole gotta-hide-Phoebe thing get resolved? Once again, I think if you're going to displace a human from their world, you've gotta solve that whole issue, or at least end with that being hinted at. Poor Phoebe! I guess she seems unfazed by this whole thing, though, haha, maybe I'm the only one who would like to find my way back home. They're just having a wonderful time. : )

4

Week

Hero Town Storyline

Heheh, I think in the description, you mean "expected", not "excepted". Unless you meant "accepted", which is also hilarious. I mean, how often do we REALLY accept ourselves to be heroes?

Once again, I'd like to mention how much I like Renée's orange earphones. They really stand out against all the other boarding choices to really key you in on who's the main character. I also think it's brilliant that the earphones are not merely an aesthetic choice but show Renée's coping mechanism for trying to block out the awful things that are happening around her, and place herself in a better world in her head. It really says so much despite it never being brought up in the narration!

The whole idea of "local self-imposed authority" is SO interesting. Obviously, we live in a world where there are groups of non-governmental leadership with a great deal of authority over certain people... it seems like Renée's city kind of HAS no government! What, is it similar to The Dark Knight Rises? Did someone overthrow the government and give everyone a pep talk about taking control, and it brought out the worst in the criminally-minded?

I think the "until one day" is put together for the highest level of intrigue. It's not simply that Renée's family is terrorized by a thug, it's that this has been happening the WHOLE TIME and she just never knew-- because, of course, this is the kind of dark spot on a life that someone would want to keep secret. So to accidentally stumble upon the uncle paying someone off due to being sick, and THEN realizing this isn't unusual? That's one of those perception-changing moments in a life! Is Renée seeing this happen, like, from a stairwell or a bannister?

Obviously, in a story spine, we don't normally hint at what's coming up next, but in the finalized version, I hope you drop hints about Hero Town before she decides to go there-- that it's always been an option she's known about, but that she's been warned against going there, since the way is so treacherous that no one's gone for generations.

Okay-- that brings up an interesting question. The whole idea of Hero Town seems like a medieval fairytale idea, but obviously, the Renée and her city are all modern, without any hint of that kind of old-fashioned village lifestyle from fairytales. (Besides it being called a "village" -- which, it all seems very non-village in these images.) Since no one's gone to Hero Town in so long, is it, like, a remnant from the medieval ages? Is it essentially a legend, like, people can't actually confirm its existence? That'd be interesting, like, that the modern, broken world that Renée lives in is built upon a world with a rich and forgotten history of heroes.

Having seen last week's entry, the idea of GOING THROUGH A HOLE IN THE WALL to get into Hero Town Headquarters is HILARIOUS. You should've included the picture from last week in this video so people could fully appreciate the joke without having looked at last week! ^_^

The whole montage of pestering the "hero" is another excellent idea-- we're not told in the story spine, but since the next point reveals that there are actually no more heroes here, does that mean this "hero" she found is actually just a poser? Did she come into the building through the hole, too, and has just been hiding out, thinking no one else would find her? Is she a thief that thought there'd be plenty to steal, or that she could make it her base? Or was she in search of a hero, too, and when she found out that there were none, she decided to never go back? Or... is she, like... some... management & resources person for Hero Town LLC, that keeps it running only in name? The reveal could be hilarious there-- it could be like the big reveal about Flynn Rider's identity in Tangled.

You made me BUST A GUT at the message, hahaha. Obviously, I have no problem if these characters decide to beat all the bad guys to a pulp at the end of this story-- it IS hilarious, you got me there. I DO wonder if there's a better way for something like this to be resolved? I'm crazy amounts of pacifistic, but I can understand that if bad people do bad things, and there's no government in place to protect people (which seems to be the case), it might be the imperfect solution. But, like... what about JAIL? If there's no government in place, what's stopping Renée from setting a Home Alone-esque trap for the bad guys and just imprisoning them? Besides, there's a good chance these thugs and their grunts are pretty buff-- if you punch them, they'll probably punch back twice as hard. For Renée to be a hero and save the day, she'd probably have to think more creatively. I think that could be a lot of fun to mess with, the hilarities of comic violence aside.

An EXCELLENT message, though, especially since all of us in the real world do often feel just like Renée-- a great fable for those who feel powerless.

3

Week

Rugula's Home in Her World

This worldbuilding drawing has SO many wonderful details without it feeling busy or crowded, that's fantastic! If there's one suggestion I could make, the big logo of Creature Feature Films being RIGHT in the middle like that with a typed-out logo really draws all of the attention to that instead of the main characters. You should probably just draw the text in there and have it follow the arch that it's on. But even then, it being right in a circle makes it all a little unclear. Like, a circle is normally, like, a MIRROR, or perhaps a window, but it's neither of those. And, like, what's inside of the logo? It looks like the sun is breaking through some hills, and to the right, maybe that's a tentacle? And to the left, some kind of structure, maybe? And in the middle... is it supposed to be, like, the shell of a spiny monster bashing through the scene?

CF doesn't seem like the sort of company name that would want to be acronym'd (I can't think of many FILM companies with acronyms, only TV channels)-- for the sake of putting it in the shot, that makes sense, but maybe it doesn't need to be so front-and-center for this shot? At any rate, maybe come up with a simpler logo-- something more iconographic, with maybe the words being tiny underneath? Maybe, like, a film projector, but with a giant eyeball in the lens, and hair growing out of the spinning reel? I really love those Audrey II-esque and tentacle-y awards Rugula has on display on her desk behind her-- something like that would probably be a lot clearer.

One of my absolute favourite touches in this is the little bit of the poster or magazine cover in the upper-left that shows that Rugula's kind of a Big Deal. A really Vogue superstar shot of her looking behind at the camera with little dazzly lens flares surrounding her-- and, like, WHAT IS SHE WEARING, that's some high-art monster fashion. I also think that the slightly more transparency freckle-stuffs in the poster might be a better choice? Just a thought-- having freckles all over the body but not on the face is really interesting and does draw attention back to the face! And for that poster, you really integrated the fonts well stylistically. Great little headline, too, even though it's too small to read-- I think it starts with a "the"-- probably, like, "the up-and-coming voice actress every monster can't get enough of!"

I think it's really interesting how, like, the back half of the room feels like her professional life, and the other half is all the things that are a lot more personal to her. A cute little doodle of Phoebe. A family photo (great idea about what her parents would look like, deeply charming!), and... what I assume is her PET? HAHAHA, s'great. The two halves of her life are working to find harmony.

Everything happening on the table is very clever-- I assume the notes with all the highlighted sections are, like, scripts for projects that Rugula is acting on, and she and Phoebe are going through figuring out all the nuances of a human accent. ... but then again, Rugula's looking at a paper in her hand-eye while cooking. (How's that for hand-eye coordination? HEHEH HOHOHOH OHHHH--) Or, in reading your description, she's probably practicing her lines WHILE she's cooking. Which is cool, since this is all about trying to find a balance in one's life.

Also, on either side of the table, are those, like, highlighters? Or are those ingredients? I'd just be surprised if Rugula was using two highlighters that were the same colour-- and I don't see a green one being used. -- And are those happy pickle monsters going into the food? Sounds delicious. Who doesn't wanna eat some happiness?

Phoebe's dress is really cool-- is that, like, a dress to make her look more monstrous, a la the monster outfit Boo wears in Monsters, Inc.? Or is this Phoebe's preferred style of dress? Because, if so, she kind of fits in the monster world, don't you think? Perhaps she feels more at home here-- that's something that hasn't really been addressed here. how does PHOEBE feel about having been whisked away to this new world? Will she ever see her family again, etc.? In a friendship story, it might be important to prioritize both halves of how people are feeling in your story.

Excellent colours and warm shading-- definitely a great slice-of-life tone set with this picture alone. Now, to leave a comment on your Week 4...

3

Week

The Districts

Did you mean to take a vertical picture flipped horizontally that's cutting off the words on each side? I'm assuming there's probably more to this picture (literally, metaphorically, heheh)-- your Week 2 video also had a picture that was flipped horizontally that didn't seem like it should've been-- highly suggest making sure the pictures you take are good representations of what you've drawn before uploading them!

Is Rusty from the Steampunk District, or some other district? From his drawings in the last video, he kind of looks like a '80s action movie tough guy, which I'd probably place in the city district? When I think of rugged beards and cool shades, I don't normally think steampunk-- steampunk people have, like, big goggles and a more Victorian-style dress. Maybe I'm just very passionate about steampunk, but I'm not exactly sure if what you've drawn looks like steampunk to me? Rather than a modern paved road, I'd normally think of, like, cobblestone for steampunk. And if that thing in the upper-right hand corner is, like, a normal airplane, an steam-powered blimp is more steampunk. A factory is definitely steampunk (and a dome is a fun shape for the top-- I hope the top is entirely plated with glass!), but it could use some smokestacks puffing out smoke to really sell what kind of power they're using. A really great steampunk animated film to look for for inspiration is April and the Twisted World.

... UNLESS you actually meant CYBERPUNK this whole time, which is all probably more in-line with what you're drawing. I could see Rusty as, like, a Neo sort-of character, fighting in bullet-time, or like Rick Deckard investigating shady mysteries in Blade Runner. Just some thoughts! If we're basing this whole story off divided districts that all have their "genre", they'd better be easy to distinguish visually. Knights would have castles and villages, cowboys would have little desert towns, lost would... well, I assume you'll explain what the Lost District is (do you mean, like, the show Lost? Like, a surreal mystery on a desert island?), and City would be... well, I guess it'd probably look really, uh, New York City? Real-life-y?

Very cool to have an establishing shot from the road, looking out at the cityscape-- it'd definitely be good to have one of these for every district introduction in the story. A great recent animated show that shows off different, distinct worlds very well is Maya and the Three-- they could also be distinguished with color schemes, and even specific combinations of shapes in the backgrounds and the people there. Like, it could be really fun if, like, the cowboys were all SUPER lanky and oblong, and the knights were all squat, and the steampunk people were drawn with, like, a whole bunch of fancy curly-Qs, and the city people were all angular like their buildings. The idea of all of these disparate worlds joining forces is super-exciting. For some reason, it makes me think a lot of Jedediah and Octavius' friendship in Night at the Museum, haha-- or the extremely different Spider-Men in Into the Spider-verse-- or HEY, even Woody and Buzz. The idea of all of these odd friendships popping up just sounds like a recipe for great character moments. I look forward to seeing who you pair up against Rusty for contrast!

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