Last time we ended on the monumental decision to make a feature film.
The next step was a pretty big one. What was the film going to be about?
We like to call the sitting down and brainstorming of random ideas “monkey tennis”, ala Alan Partridge, so we sat around and monkey tennis-ed for a while.
We toyed with a few ideas, but nothing seemed quite right. Then one day Mike told us about a book he had been reading, all about female pirates. One of the women he had read about was called Jacquotte Delahaye, a French-Haitian orphan with indescribably red hair, who was forced to fake her own death after being hounded by the local authorities who had murdered her father. On returning from “the dead”, she took to piracy, eventually captaining a huge fleet. She then set up Freebooter Republic, a Utopian paradise pirate island, and died a few years later defending it during a shootout.
The story blew us away, Jacquotte (or Back From The Dead Red, as she was known) was an amazing character, and we were really inspired to make a film with such a strong female lead. The story of her life was a wonderful narrative arc that seemed perfect for a 90 minute structure, and had the perfect blend of drama, love, action, adventure and badass-ery.
That by no means meant that we were handed an animation script. The rise and fall of conflict and drama needed to be developed into a well rounded three acts, and motivational drives for each character needed to be thought out. Filling in these blanks was something we are used to doing with our service work, though of course this was on a completely different scale.
The story of Red is quite dark, the themes tackled certainly aren’t the norm of a typical Hollywood family animation. Looking at the styles and audiences of more European animations, we wanted this film to be for a more teen and adult fan-base.
We then looked further into the story, and each filled out a questionnaire of how we thought the story would develop, what the targeted audience was, and what motivated Red. What kind of story was his? Achilles? Faust? Romeo and Juliet? Was it more an adventure, or a noir? All these questions help confirm what the driving force behind the story is, and what the best way to tell this is.
As a fully functioning service studio, we have to fit working on the feature around our 9-5, squeezing in what we can when we can. Inspired by Google, we often aim to cram 10% time into our working week, taking time to work on passion projects that exercise our creativity.
During one particular trip to London, we had a couple of hours to kill before a meeting, and so hauled up in a cafe and wrote the basics of our three act structure. On the train home, this was further developed into the synopsis of the entire film by adding in the highs and lows, fine tuning the conflicts, working on the motivations of each character, and defining more concrete scenes, ready to be fleshed out into a treatment and script.
As most of our projects tend to be sub-five minutes, this was a really interesting process to explore the pacing of a feature, learning to identify key arcs for each act and how long we need to tell each chapter of the story.
By no means scriptwriters, by pushing on with passion, enthusiasm and creativity we had the bare bones of a story ready for a clever script person to flesh out into something magical.
Keep your eyes peeled here as we continue on our journey, or read Vol 1 here.