Throughout this project I have encountered many problems, first off not being able to decide which role I wish to play, I had many options open to me whether it was to create my own live action piece or work as a team member on someone elses, this was not an easy choice for me to make as at the start of this project I lacked direction and wasn’t sure of my feelings toward making anything.
To overcome this I started writing, just writing anything and everything that came to mind until I found something that stuck, this process allowed me to realise that I didn’t want to go with the curve and this put me on the path to Mako.
Last year for a similar module I tried to start an animated project known as Mako, it was a short piece about a young boy dealing with his grief, I never got far into this idea however due to not being able to find animators with enough time to produce a viable piece for submission, so the idea was just put on the back burner.
At time of me starting this piece the story was very personal to me due to developments in my personal life throughout the previous year and so I was never really able to get rid of the work I had started, finding this work again brought back my drive to finish this story and try my hand at one final ambitious project.
Mako is a short animated script no more than 25 minutes in length and inspired by films such as Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ and Mamoru Hosoda’s ‘Summer Wars’. The film focuses on the Kubler Ross model otherwise known as the five stages of grief and aims to explore the different stages in their own unique manifestations. Using the boundless potential of the animated genre it was much easier to create unique worlds that were not limited by the resources at hand but simply relied on imagination to add my own perspective and conceptualisation to these emotions.
With this potential Mako allowed me to hone in on my strengths within cinematography and develop my own directorial style which has been visualised through illustrations and mash up imagery.
When visualising each stage of grief I had to think about how I defined these emotions as not everyone thinks and feels the same thing. This was something I had to think about when writing the script as I wanted the portrayal of emotion to be commonly understood yet be subtle enough that it wasn’t directly telling the viewer everything that was happening. Through constant rewrites and feedback I was able to refine the story and stages over and over again which surprisingly changed the visual style of the piece and caused the work to become that much more personal.
When visualising the stage of denial I felt it would come easy, it could simply be the protagonist denying what the reality in front of him was, but this felt empty and had no real depth to it, it was through the emptiness that the idea began to flourish. I began to look into how denial affects others and the most common thing I saw was for people to rationalise the things around them. This was a jumping point I needed for my character Mako as he refused to let anyone tamper with his grandfather’s belongings, rationalising it as ‘its wrong to go through peoples things’.
I looked at denial in other areas such as problems with alcohol and drug abuse which were commonly personified by the person not recognising the issue, I found this concept interesting and wanted to incorporate it into the script and so the never ending carnival was born. By creating a location as the manifestation of Mako’s denial I was given the opportunity to play with subtext. Through this process I was not only able to use my main character to portray emotion, I could use everything that he interacted with to become a reflection of his emotional state.
I chose the location of a carnival as to me it was the environment one would be in when in the denial of death, it isn’t a wake or warm gathering to honour the memory of those past but a drunken party where those involved can only hear themselves and their desires, this is reflected in the crowd not even acknowledging Mako’s repeated attempts at gaining their attention. I found the denial of his existence a great way to segway into the next stage of grief, anger. By utilising the kabuki dragon in the carnival and allowing it to become Mako’s embodiment of rage I was able to portray the explosion of emotion one would go through when finally coming out of their denial.
Using the dragon in the scene I was able to utilise fire, typically seen as a symbol of destruction, it was through this I was able to show how Mako’s anger was now tearing through the party and affecting the people around him. The people of the carnival now turned into nothing but shadowy figures whose eyes were constantly fixed on Mako as if they were looking down on him only further fuelling the fire. The now darkened crowd now holds another purpose showing how his anger has now alienated those around him to the point they have faded into obscurity.
The next stage of bargaining I found difficulty with as I originally perceived it to be gambling or haggling for a better deal, although I was not far off on the definition it definitely affected the way I chose to handle the emotion. Through feedback I was able to see my mistake and add in the character of Toe. This character is that of a Tanuki, a small racoon like creature which is commonly seen in Japanese folk lore as a trickster, for me this was the perfect character to represent this stage.
Through trickery Toe is able to manipulate Mako and show him no matter how much he tries to bargain it will ultimately result in an unfavourable outcome. I feel this character is important as it begins to mark a stage in the script where it becomes evident that Mako cannot simply get what he wants, no matter how much he tries to find a way around it, further portraying his childlike innocence and his denial of reality.
The stage of depression was an interesting thing for me to write as I have had experience and gained perspective from others with depression. It was much easier to visualise this stage through feedback and description of the condition. The use of an endless ocean which only gets darker the further you fall really struck a chord with people who read the script, I had been told it simply feels like falling with no control of your direction and I wanted to really show the embodiment of this feeling.
The voice telling Mako that he wasn’t good enough is again something I had come across in my research and I felt using that voice as an entity of projection for Mako’s emotional state rung true with a lot of readers. The transition from the scene came from the saying that ‘there is always light at the end of tunnel’ I found this worked perfectly with the theme of the script as Mako was chasing his grandfather through the afterlife, by finally breaking through that depression he was finally reaching that place on the other side many people talk about.
The final stage which is acceptance is where I felt everything should come to a head and it was here that Mako should finally get what he was searching for, more time with his grandfather.
By using him as the embodiment of this stage he not only represented the cause of Mako’s grief but the answer to his acceptance. I found that by using the character of Pa as the final obstacle also allowed me to utilise the Todorov narrative theory as he marked the old and new equilibrium within the story. It is with Mako’s acceptance that he is able to let go and for the first time in the story accept his feelings about the situation and finally cry over the loss of his grandfather.
To me the story is everything I wanted it to be and reflects my own experience with grief making it that much more personal. The only thing I would change about this project is time constraints, I would of loved to of worked with animators to at least produce a scene for this story and I feel it would have been possible if I had not been so uncertain with the direction I wanted to go in months ago. Overall this project has been good for me as it has shown which direction I wish to pursue in the future, one as a story teller and scriptwriter.