OUR JOURNEY TO
Story Changes !!!
Finding Our Title
Though we were well into the production stage in June 2020, we’re still calling our project the Kitemaker Film. We hadn't found a title to call our short yet, but it was time to think about it. I jotted down a list of potential words but none really feels right.
Sometime later that month, I was casually researching the history and culture of kites, which were very fascinating. One shocking fact that I discovered was that according to a German researcher, Wolfgang Bieck, the first-ever kite to be flown by humans was from Indonesia! It was a kite called Kaghati Kolope, specifically from Muna Island, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia (read more about it here). I quickly learned that ‘kaghati’ itself means ‘kite’ in the Muna language, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the word and thought how fitting and beautiful it is for our film’s title, and voilà!
So we eventually gained more insights on Kaghati Kolope by watching documentaries. There was also this online illustrated-children-book about it that I translated into English for our international teammates. This research stage was crucial as the last thing we wanted to do was misrepresent elements, or worse, offend anyone. Everyone was very excited to learn about this leaf-made kite that turned out to be the ancestor of all kites!
Revising Our Story
The first half of July was pretty hectic. It slowly became clearer to us that in order to have a realistic goal, we would need to cut the beginning part of the short entirely and stick to just the last part (the garage scene). This would save us a ton of time from modeling and texturing the whole interior of the house, as well as cutting down on animation and render time! Essentially, we can pour all our energy and love into a smaller chunk of the story.
However, the last bits of our original story couldn’t be left as it is; the audience will lack context and the point of the story will become unclear to them. I had a couple of friends that I showed our early animatic to and they both felt it was crucial to nail the first interaction scene between the girl and the grandpa, to lay down the chemistry of their relationship. Since we essentially need to cut down the whole beginning part, Amanda and I started revising the storyline to make sure we still maintain the integrity of our theme and message, while keeping all the action happening only inside the garage. I can tell you now that revising stories isn't a walk in the park...
There was a lot of going back and forth when revising our storyline. During those uncertain times, we happened to watch a documentary series Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II in Disney+ . We gained so many insights into story development and how even the professional artists at Disney face significant story changes in Frozen II - even towards the end of their production stage! This documentary series motivated us to further re-evaluate what we wanted to share in our film, and focus our story on telling that in the simplest way.
Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II
In my humble opinion, everyone in our team is beyond capable of creating a visually stunning short film. Every single one of them has great potential in their respective skills, and what a pity if we don't tell a great story to accompany the beautiful renders? Since we are already giving our maximum effort, we might as well deliver a high-quality short film not only visually, but story-wise.
Ed Catmull's book: "Creativity, Inc."
Perhaps like many others, I used to believe that 'story is king'. Well, it's true...partially. After reading Ed Catmull's Creativity, Inc., I learned something that is more important than just great stories and ideas; "getting the right people and the right chemistry". A team of talented artists doesn't guarantee a great film - they need to be able to work collaboratively. I quickly recognized that our team is filled with people that complement each other. No one is afraid to say something in the meeting, everyone listens to their teammates' feedback, we all respect each other and value candor, and from then I knew we were heading in the right direction!
"Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas." Ed Catmull
After a couple of weeks of tweaking different variations of the story, we finally settled down on one that all of us are happy with. We knew we coudln't afford unnecessary shots or character animation; each frame in each shot should convey something relevant and has an impact on the bigger picture. Before finally landing on the final storyboards and animatic, we had a few variations and here is one of them:
One of the animatic iterations after the story changes. Storyboards by Amanda Jayapurna and Nathan Huseth.
In this version, our girl character is seen entering the garage upset because her R/C plane controller is out of battery. She then caught a glimpse of a plane-shaped kite (kite-plane) behind her remote controller and tried to 'fly' it by throwing it in the air, and the kite dropped to the floor immediately. We thought the conflict in this version was too...light, and that our girl character's personality seem flat. After considering several options (we even thought of incorporating a Nintendo DS or a Gameboy Advance SP), we came up with a little more adventure-y vibe in the beginning part. Our girl now is actively looking for a power socket to charge her controller, and in the midst of doing so, was intrigued by the kite-plane that caught her attention. She then, figuratively and literally, stepped over her R/C plane to reach for the kite-plane. We wanted this to symbolize her letting go of her modern toy to start accepting her cultural roots of kites. I wouldn't bother you with the rest of the story, but here is our final animatic and layout (a little teaser of our music score too, more in later chapters)!!
Our final 2D animatic and 3D layout compilation. It's getting there, but still a bit janky isn't it?