4.22.2006

"Synchronicity of a Community" or "The Nature of Good & Evil"

There are a slew of great comment threads and posts going on today, and instead of posting responses to all of them, I feel the urge to ramble here, and the word of the day for me is 'synchronicity'. "Plainly put, it is the experience of having two (or more) things happen simultaneously in a manner that is meaningful to the person or persons experiencing them, where that meaning suggests an underlying pattern. It differs from coincidence in that synchronicity implies not just a happenstance, but an underlying pattern or dynamic that is being expressed through meaningful relationships or events." (Thanks Jung, & Wikipedia) One of the things that I have come to rely on and love about blogging is the connection to a community (Scarlet Letters, Darkstrider, Halfland, and all the rest). I have so many seeds of posts in my brain that have yet to bloom, thoughts that come and go, weaving together a series of random ideas all tied to some deeper meaning that I cannot grasp or attempt to put into words...but occasionally a rant by a fellow blog brother or sister does just that. Which reinforces for me the notion that we are all connected not only by the physical process of creation of our respective worlds of artistry, but also by our thoughts and fears. The comment that rings most true to me today was made by Gretchin at the Scarlet Star Sudios blog: "One of the interesting dualities about blogging is that tension between casual conversation and archived expectation. i'd prefer it if the archives were viewed more as the archaeology of a project rather than a contract for it. that would allow uncertainty to be a valid component of the work and release a lot of fear about prematurely committing to an idea." Thanks for a great segue into a post that I was trying to organize for today...

I have been having an internal arguement about the story for the Jenny Greenteeth project, on the surface a simple element of character that has me stricken indecisive. As the story was conceived originally, the girl was an innocent, a victim of "wrong place at the wrong time", which has strong ties to what was happening in my life at the time. I think I've alluded to the outcome of the story, but let me just say it flat out right here. The little girl doesn't survive. This element of the story is non-negotiable for me. She is faced with an obstacle that is completely out of her league, spends the entire short trying to get out of its path, and ultimately fails. At the time, this seemed only natural. Horrible things happen to good people every day.

But as an artist, I began to feel a certain amount of guilt, the pangs I think of a responsibility that we all have as artists and filmmakers. As this girl's creator, the decider of her fate, I found myself attempting to make her demise easier to swallow. My first instinct was to make her a boy, because for some twisted reason I thought it might be less disturbing, more acceptable for a boy to die, but I've really planned to get a lot of expression out of those pigtails, especially in running or screaming mode, so I nixed this thought. Next natural progression for me was to make the girl bad. Not in an omen kind of way, just bad-natured. I ran with this idea, developed a whole opening sequence to set it up, which had me very excited as a storyteller, because there are some great additions to the story that I think would enrich it, add a little humor, but go against the original base concept of bad things/good people. Here's a breakdown of the story tweak...

Opening set-up shot, cave to cabin, all is quiet in the woods until we hear a crunch, a twig snapping, and again, getting louder. A tiny robot bursts from the forest. It is rolling speedily but clumsily, is missing an arm, and flashing red & shouting "HELPHELPHELP". It rolls out of view as the little girl bursts from the same spot in the underbrush, chasing the robot with a gleeful look in her eye. She stops, looks around curiously, never seen this place before. She walks over to the robot, now rolling in circles, still flashing and speaking "helphelphelp". She picks it up, looking at its back, where there is a piece of masking tape that says "Michael". We flash to a quick shot of the little girl snatching the robot from a crying boy with scuffed knees. Back to the edge of the forest and shoreline, she rips of the tape, and chucks the robot into the lake, where it sinks, hitting the bottom, and disturbing whatever lives in the cave.

In the earlier versions, she just sort of stumbles onto this lake, it has a much more magical, otherworldly feel to it, and is a little more mysterious because we don't know where this girl came from, why she is in the woods alone. Makes her almost a magical character herself.

So here I am, stuck in mid-movie-morph, a conceptual roadblock simmering in the back of my brain as I go now to do something more mind-numbing and physical, like continue to clean out my future workspace.

10 comments:

darkstrider said...

Yay synchronicity! Great album, and cool concept. Jung is a fount of great insight (as are Sting and da boyz).

I love the storyline with the robot... it demonstrates good solid visual storytelling skills and leads nicely up to Jenny and the real storyline. It sounds like a much more interesting beginning than the other one, but I see your dichotomy. To make her innocent or malicious? That is the question.

Kudos on the bravery to make such a bold film. I can feel the tendrils of Katrina woven through Jenny's seaweed-strewn hair, and the existential horror you must have experienced while helping with the cleanup. I can't offer any advice on which way to go, but thanks for sharing both options.

Darkstrider said...

Wow, had a devil of a time getting in today... when I hit the comment link I just got a white box that was trying to contact blogger.com for a long time. I ended up closing it and coming back an hour or so later.

Anywhoo, what I was gonna say is, this post has been on my mind ince I read it, and i might be wrong here, but I'm gonna go out on a limb (over dark swirling water) and say that it seems to me your original idea is the way you should go.

I suspect the revision is a concession to fear. You said the ending is non-negotiable, and I think you came uo with the whole robot scenario to try to justify the bleak nature of it. Maybe you should just go all out... bad things **do** happen to good people, and that seems to be the whole point of your original idea. I'd suggest working out the idea that way, uncompromisingly... don't worry about what the moral majority or any other group will think of it. It's something you've got to say, don't stifle yourself.

At least you could go ahead and envision/concieve it that way, who knows if you'll end up making it that way or not. But hopefully if you decide not to, it will be for a better reason than what some people are going to think. Some of the most powerful works of literature (and filmmaking) are bold, raw undistorted visions of horrible realities, and in many cases the authors later made up excuses or tried to re-write them, but the revisions always bled the life out of them.

Stride boldly through darkness my friend!

Ubatuber said...

Yeah, I've been having problems with disappearing posts/comments, actually I happened to find this comment by accident, it didn't show up on the main page, or get emailed to me like usual (?!) but I was coming to respond to the first one and lo & behold, an even better post from you was here waiting...
I usually do stride boldly through darkness, which is why I think this newfound guilt for the demise of the character is so strange to me, and something that I am trying too hard to rationalize...probably because 'moving pictures' are new to me artistically, I mean I've done a couple of live-action shorts, but nothing with this kind of committment level...so i feel for the character more b/c I actually get to bring her to life...as opposed to painting/charcoal/etc, which captures an instant, a single frame of guilt-free grotesquerie :)...
I am usually the guy cheering on the death of the main character (go Richard Bachman!) and criticizing mainstream films for not allowing that freedom b/c of some expectation that audiences won't approve, and here I am in the same boat...I know deep down that I should stick to the original plan, but I've gotten attached to the robot scenario...maybe I can get that out of my system in another stopmoshorts short (gonna try real hard to get another one done for june)...
My painting professor Sandy Chism once planted a seed in my subconscious with a simple question meant to stir me..."Can grotesque also be beautiful?" The short answer is of course yes (see one of my favorites, Odd Nerdrum, and his beautifil post-apocalyptic figures and landscapes). The long answer is in the struggle, in the concepts and processes of my work, and the work that I have yet to do.

darkstrider said...

You could just shoot both openings, and go with the one that works better....
(I'd love to see the robot scenario, whether or not it makes it into the film)

herself said...

Hi, I agree with Mike and too would encourage all of us to express what's true for us, even if it looks unpleasant. It is what it is. I would add that the pangs of feeling funny about killing the innocent could be something beyond your feeling a loyalty to public sensibility. Maybe you are changing a bit, maybe the darker grotesquerie was for an different time in your life? Tastes change. Just adding that in too.

gl. said...

i've been meaning to respond to this for a week, but shelly already said what i would say, so i'll just reinforce it: "[I] encourage all of us to express what's true for us, even if it looks unpleasant. It is what it is."

and i'll also invoke sven's notes on making art:
"When to judge: After you've completed a piece, look at it and decide what direction you want to go in next. Or if you're selecting pieces for submission to a show, apply your critiquing mind then. Make a piece of art; look at it; make another."

and...
"Don't be afraid to re-use elements. If each piece has to be unique, then you're going to get hung-up when you create some bit that you like. But if you can re-use bits, then you can keep moving."

like i told darkstrider, creation is the only cure for doubt & fear. :)

(btw, i really adore the sorts of stories where magical things happen to normal people. but it doesn't mean they all have to end happily.)

sven said...

"Let Sleeping Gods Lie" started out with a simple enough concept: explorers find monsters, explorers die. As I've been forced to live with this project for several years now, I'm increasingly bothered by the formula. Is that the best I've got?

I've got an irrational love for sci fi critters. Give me robots, give me aliens, give me spaceships. ...But in making my own film, I'm increasingly obliged to ask: yes, but what does it mean? "The unknown is dangerous?" ...That's not really a message I want to promote. :-P

Allow me to project my own scriptwriter's angst onto you by meddling with your narrative. ;-)

...Here's one interpretation of Jenny Greenteeth: Jenny is the embodiment of Katrina. Translation: Jenny is a force of nature, and the only way to save yourself is to be prepared.

Little girl isn't bad and being punished. Little girl isn't good and dying because "bad things happen to good people". She's dying because her parents and/or community (= US government) somehow failed to protect her. They didn't make ritual sacrifices to Jenny. They didn't build the walls around the river tall enough. They didn't believe the witnesses who said something horrible was happening.

Godzilla is a parable of nuclear energy gone wrong. The smog monster is the embodiment of pollution. I'm offering up a really simplistic A=B angle. It's already been implied that Jenny = Katrina elsewhere on the blog -- so I just figured I'd flesh that idea out.

For gawd's sake, don't feel obliged to go with this idea. I just had to think out the possibility, out loud, eh?

Ubatuber said...

Mike, Shelley, Grethin, Sven--as always, thanks again folks! Tons of great thoughts...so here's where I am now...Jenny=Katrina, that's pretty much been said a few times and is one of the few 'concretes' of the project...this is (tho i didnt know it at the time) my original concept, so whether or not I have a scene with a robot, whether or not the girl seems shifty, this is the thread of the story that I have to stay true to...so i think i've decided to go with the robot scenario, i've compromised in my mind...for no other reason than that it improves the story, and gives me plenty of parallels to work with visually (the chase, the name on the robot vs little girl's name on her scarf as it sinks in the final frames, etc)...also...good or evil, we're all shades of grey right? the elderly , the criminal element, and everyone in between, we were all horrifically effected by Katrina. She did not discriminate, and neither should I...there will still definitely be magical elements, and just because she swipes the little boy's bot doesn't make her an extreme (EVIL!), it just makes her more human. Good people, bad people...I prefer Gretchin's term...."normal people"...

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