Jasmine's pond of dreams

Jasmine's pond of dreams

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Entertainment while you wait... A new chapter on creativity

I'm still working on the next segment of Back to the Future. In the meantime, Focal Press just announced that the lost chapter of my book, The Animator's Eye has been found on the web!


There's cool stuff on paradigm shifting, surrealism, and an overview of the creative process with a cool chart for you to follow in your creative quest. And lots of pictures. Did you know that live action is only a special case of animation, just like Newtonian physics is only a special case of Einstein's theory of relativity?

Look for the tab- Why We Create

Actually when I wrote the book, I wrote too many words and created to many pictures. So some of it had to be cut, and we decided to put it up on the web. It's actually one of my most fun chapters. It gets a little crazy. You'll also find video of the finished film from the book and the storyboard animatic for the film. And video drawing tutorials and gesture reference with me acting it out! Oh, and check out the inspiring audio journey's my friend, Toni Pace, recorded.

The Animator's Eye documents the whole process of making an animated film from idea to distributing it on the web. Now with the missing chapter found, it's your complete guide.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to keep analyzing the beats of act 2 of Back to the Future...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back to the Future Part 3 Act 1 Storyteller's log

In the last blog post on Back to the Future, after my CTN road trip detour, I described how I would first find the beats, then identify them as to their function. This is necessary in preparation for mapping the complete story weave of the story. Here are the beats for ACT 1 of Back to the Future and how they function in the story. I created this list of functions as I needed them to understand their role in the story and how they drive it along.

Long camera pan reveals wealth of clues about Doc and themes of the movie.
In his garage laboratory we see a large collection of clocks, photos of scientists, inventions and indications that he hasn’t been there in a while. 
Robotic can opener opens dog food and empties into bowl marked Einstein.

TRIVIA HOMAGE: Look for Harold Lloyld hanging from the clock. 

2. INTRODUCE PROBLEM: Stolen Plutonium 
A news woman announces the theft of plutonium.

Marty McFly calls out, He places a set of keys under doormat, then drops it down. Marty enters the garage, calling out for Doc and whistling for Einstein. 
He comments on the mess the place is in.

Marty puts down his skateboard, it rolls on floor to hit a box of Plutonium.

5. ACTION (MISDIRECT: Think turning on time machine) 
He turns dials on machinery, turning all the settings to maximum. 

Marty plugs his electric guitar into a huge amplifier and plucks a string. 

The amplifier blows up, the impact throwing Marty back. 

Marty lifts up his sunglasses and we finally get to see his whole face.

 Marty answers Doc on phone who says to meet him at Mall at 1:15 a.m.. 

The clocks all start chiming, Doc’s elated, his experiment worked, his clocks are slow.

10. DISCOVERY (MISDIRECT) Marty is shocked at the news. We think he’s excited about TIME TRAVEL but instead, it means he's late for school. Marty skateboards to school.

11. INTRODUCE: His girlfriend Jennifer warns the principal is gunning for him. 

12. INTRODUCE: Principle Strickland warns Marty to stay away from Doc, he’s dangerous. (ESTABLISH DOC’S PERSONALITY)

13. FORESHADOW: Strickland tells Marty he’s a slacker, just like his father. 
"No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley”.
Marty replies, “Yeah well, history is gonna change."

14. SETUP SKILL: Marty and his band get up on stage to audition for school. 
A judge (Huey Lewis, in a cameo) cuts them off. They’re  too loud.

15. RELATIONSHIP POSITIVE: After school, Marty and Jennifer are walking through the Courthouse Square. Marty tells Jennifer his band got kicked off stage. He doubts he'll ever succeed in music. Jennifer tries to reassure him, she believes in him and gives him a pep talk.

Marty expresses his fear of rejection if he sends in his music. 

17. SEGWAY: 
Marty admires a new Toyota. It would be great for their camping trip.

18. FORESHADOW RELATIONSHIP: Jennifer asks if Marty's mother knows about their plans for the next night. Marty tells her he lied, his mother thinks he's going camping with the guys. Marty says how his mother was probably born a nun. Jennifer defends her.

Just as they’re about to kiss, a tin can is shoved in their faces.

"Save the clock tower!" a woman exclaims. The clock tower was hit by lightning thirty years ago and hasn't run since. They want to preserve it.
Marty gives her a quarter to go away. She thanks him and hands him a flier.

21. RELATIONSHIP & DRAW ATTENTION TO FLYER TRANSFER TO MARTY: They’re about to kiss again, but a car pulls up honking. 
Jennifer's has to leave and scribbles her number on the back of the clock tower flyer with "Love You!!!". She gets into the car. Marty looks at the flyer and smiles.

Marty skateboards hitching on the bumper of a cop car to his house.

Marty sees his father’s wrecked car. Biff his dad’s supervisor, is blaming his dad, George for Biff’s accident. Then he berates him for not typing up his work for him. Biff ridicules Marty as well as he leaves. Also sets up that he knows his mom, Lorraine.

Marty’s brother leaves dinner to work at a burger joint. His sister tells him that Jennifer called twice.

Her mom, Lorraine lectures that any girl who calls a boy is inviting trouble.
Lorraine says she was never like that.

Linda asks how she's supposed to meet anyone by waiting. 

Lorraine tells Linda it will happen like when she met her father, George. Lorraine explains her father hit George with his car after he fell out of a tree.
She asked him to the school dance and when they kissed she knew.

Doc tells Marty to get the video camera. A DeLorean rolls out of the van.
Doc emerges from the DeLorean and tells Marty to start recording.

Doc puts Einstein in the DeLorean, with a watch, Doc's clock is synched to the exact same time. 
Doc pulls out a remote control and sends the DeLorean streaking right towards him and Marty. A bright light flashes and the DeLorean disappears. 
Doc cheers, "88 miles per hour”!

Marty’s shocked thinking Doc disintegrated Einstein.

Doc tells Marty he sent Einstein into the future.

The DeLorean returnes. Einstein is alive and well, but his watch now one minute late. 

Doc shows the "flux capacitor", inserted in the DeLorean, which makes time travel possible. 
Doc explains in 1955 hitting his head caused a vision of the Flux Capacitor. 
It took 40 years to develop it. The time machine is a success and Doc plans to travel through time. 

Doc absently sets the vehicle's destination time to 1955.

When Marty asks what the DeLorean runs on, Doc tells him it needs plutonium to generate a nuclear reaction to create 1.21 gigawatts of power . 
Marty asks where he got plutonium. Doc hired terrorists to steal it with the promise of making them a bomb. But instead, Doc delivered a fake bomb.

Doc and Marty in radiation suits, load plutonium into the DeLorean. 
Marty shoots video. 

A van drives into the parking lot and begins shooting at them. 
Doc yells, “run”, it’s the terrorists that Doc cheated. The terrorists kill the Doc.

Marty tries to hide but the terrorist tries to shoot him. Marty prepares for his end.

The terrorist’s rifle jams. 

Marty tries to escape in the DeLorean. The time machine begins to activate. And when it reaches 88 mph there’s a flash of blinding light.

This is the end of ACT 1. It also marks our first crossing of the x axis 0 point. It is at this point that Marty has taken significant action towards propelling the story by escaping in the time machine, not realizing that it will take him back in time.

When I look at this list, I'm already overwhelmed. I can't keep it all in my memory. There has to be a better way to see the big picture. 

To start, lets' look at the hierarchy of narrative questions raised in ACT 1. We'll focus on the main driving questions of the story and ignore ones that are for comedic purposes, such as the giant guitar amp. Some of these questions are asked directly in the story, while others are implied. Sometimes even the title can ask an implied question. In Back to the Future we want to know who's going to time travel and when will they go to and what will happen?
The reason why these are important is that you are making a pact with your audience that you will answer these questions for them by the end of the story. If you don't, you risk alienating your audience. 

First, we want to know who the Doc is, and who the kid is. By delaying the introduction of the Doc, he becomes more mysterious. We also focus on Marty who will be our main character that we identify with. We also want to know who will travel to where with the time machine. This expectation is played with by the suggestion that all of the guitar amp dials could also be read as dials on a time machine. As writers we should know that we, the audience, couldn't have had enough information to go time traveling in the first few pages. 
Marty is late for school and is warned about the principle. Can he escape him? He can't. He's warned he'll become like the rest of his family. Will he? The next question asked is will Marty's and Jennifer's relationship develop? Then the woman interrupts their attempted kiss with a request to save the clock tower. Will they save the clock tower? 
Marty returns home where we're given a lot of exposition that will guide us later in the story. Marty then videos Doc as he demonstrates the time machine. There's a quick visual question asked, what will the time machine look like? The second quick narrative question is did Einstein get disintegrated? We get the answer almost immediately as he returns demonstrating that the DeLorean time machine works. Then the terrorists come, and we ask will they get away. The answer is no- the Doc is shot. Will Marty get shot too? The gun jams, and Marty gets away then there's the flash of light. Where's he go?

When I say it's a hierarchy of narrative questions, I mean that there are big overreaching questions and then smaller questions that get answered along the way of the bigger questions. I've found a way to map these is to imagine them as a computer programming language where everything must be contained within hierarchical matching brackets.

Let's give it a shot.

{Who's going to time travel? 
{What will happen? 
     {Who is Doc?
         {Who is Marty? 
           We learn Marty is a school kid who's friends with the Doc.}
                 {Will Marty evade the principle? 
                          {Is Marty a "slacker"?
                                 {Will Marty and Jennifer's relationship develop?
                   No. Instead it's an excuse to be given more exposition.}
                        {Will they save the clock tower? But does it matter?...
      We meet Doc the eccentric inventor.}
       {Will the time machine work? 
        After Marty thinks Einstein is disintegrated, the answer is yes.}
                {Will the terrorists kill Doc?
                  Yes, doc gets shot.}
                        {Will Marty get shot?
                          No. The gun jams. Marty gets away.}
                                {Will the DeLorean time travel?
Yes, and it takes Marty and we know that Doc set it to 1955.}

If you follow the narrative questions and their answers, we see that there is one important driving question left and two smaller ones. What will happen to Marty in the past? Will he become a "slacker"? And what will happen with their relationship? Also how does his family fit into this?
There's one more question, will the clock tower be saved but do we care? The first question, what happens to Marty, keeps the audience sticking around to see what's going to happen. The second question we don't really have enough information to care about.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

CTN animation road trip

This weekend I"m at the CTN animation road trip in downtown Burbank. It's been a lot of fun.  Here's some pictures from the road trip. It's going today too so come on down. This was the first year for Tina Price's CTN outdoor show in Burbank so there's no Cosplay yet. (Cosplay for those who are unfamiliar with the term is when people dress us as the characters. Kind of like the Disney characters who walk around Disneyland only this can include Superman, Batgirl and Japanese anime characters.)

As soon as the road trip reaches 88mph. we'll presently, return to the past in back to the future.

Monday, April 8, 2013

We interrupt Back to the Future for a road trip

I'm busy analyzing the ten pages of beats from Back to the Future and discovered some interesting trivia but I have some other big news. It's time for CTN's Animation Road Show in downtown Burbank this weekend.

You can all the info right here: CTN Road Trip

I've been busy preparing for this so I haven't had to much time to post. Look for my banner and stop by and say Hi. It's the first time I'm going to have a booth at a Comic-con type event.

Now on to the trivia.

I found some interesting stills for Harold Lloyd's film Safety Last from 1923. Do these look familar?

Harold Lloyd Safety Last

Here's the trivia. Do you know where this image is in Back to the Future? They paid homage to Harold Lloyd. Have you ever seen this image from the film? Then go back to watch it.

Next post, we go Back to the Future!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Back to the Future story weave part 2

In order to weave the story of  Back to the Future, I identified all the key beats of the story. The next step is to label each beat for it's story line and how it functions in the story. Then we can color key each story thread to make it easier to follow.

It also might be cool to create icons for each function. This could be another important mapping tool to show you when you might need a song or have too much action and need to give the audience a break or maybe you're missing a symbolic death.

In looking at the beats of the story these are the functions that I identified:
Narrative questions. These are usually answered during the story with actions.
1. Problems
Setup information
Suggest a direction
Warnings or messages
Character emotions
Setup Ironic contrast
Trigger Action (TURNING POINT)
Set scene
2. Wrong action
3. Consequences
Obstacles, function as story-delays
Setup payoffs
Ticking clocks
False goal
4. Right actions The audience often cheers when this happens.
Symbolic death (TURNING POINT

Here's our chart once again. We have 4 progressions and 3 changes of direction.


A narrative question is a question that is implicitly raised by the actions of a story that leave the audience wanting to know the outcome. This is the key way we engage in stories. 
A narrative question and it's answer are the smallest unit of a story. Here is the formula:

? > .

I'll have more on this later when I get to the algebra of storytelling. Don't worry there's no math involved. (I wonder if you noticed the narrative tease.)

Here are the main narrative questions of Back to the Future:
Will Marty get away from the terrorists?
Will Marty get back to the future?
Can Marty get his parents together?
Can Marty get Doc the information to save his life?

There's also lots of smaller narrative questions.
Will Marty see the Plutonium?
Will Doc fall off the clock tower?
Was Einstein, the dog, disintegrated?
Can Doc get the plug back in in time?
Can Marty start the Delorean?
Bif introduces a whole lot of narrative questions as the main obstacle for the progress of the story.
For example, can How can Marty escape Bif in his car, while he's on an improvised skateboard?

Here are the main storylines:
The terrorists and theft of Plutonium.
Marty and Jennifer.
Marty goes back to 1955 and must return.
Marty interferes with his parents romance and must restore it, before he returns.
Bif is an obstacle for Marty and George's plans.
Doc creates the time machine and has to help Marty go back to the future.

I identified over 80 significant beats that tell the story of Back to the Future. In the next post, I'll write up the list of beats with their function identified. When I look at the list as text it appears that they all look the same. I think what I creating could be called "spatial writing", you can see the function of each part and where it fits in relation to the others as well as how the audience is responding to it. As Marty would say, "This is heavy".

And stay tuned for some Back to the Future trivia...