Critical Evaluation

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.


My journey throughout these modules and the questions I have tried to answer

Throughout these two modules C.P.D and C.P.R I have struggled, within the confines of CPD it is about your own development as a film maker, what job role do you want, where do you want your work to be seen? For me I didnt find these questions easy to answer, over the past few months I have struggled to find that creative spark resulting in a lack of enthusiasm, this has been infuriating due to the deadline approaching making these questions seem more even more important and difficult to answer.
To overcome this I found it easier to answer one, one that answers all that CPD is trying to ask, Who am I?
While constructing our book for CPR I have looked back over my projects the last few years and its clear to see my strengths and my weaknesses. I am skilled as a camera operator and have a wide knowledge about the different ways to shoot a film, I utilized this last year working on the film ‘Nosy Neighbours’ and it really helped me hone in on what level of production I am happiest being a part of. I find I prefer working on others projects rather than my own as it enables me to work in a variety of environments and hone my technical skills, but my passion really lies in being a story teller.
Through collaborations with others on this module and helping them straighten out and conceive their story I find that I am most comfortable in the conceptual stage as it allows me to explore ideas that aren’t quite the norm.
This is why I have worked solely as a scriptwriter on this module, it has allowed to me to write ideas that aren’t limited by physical constraints.
Knowing this I have begun to take steps into pursuing this after uni by looking into jobs as a staff writer and honing my craft to a professional level. I find that for me I am happy for my work to be personal independent projects that don’t have to be made in the conventional sense, I am simply happy for the story to be told.
This leads me back to the question I have been trying to ask throughout this module, Who am I?
After months of ups and downs I think I have found my calling within film, as a writer, although that this may not of been the intended outcome or path I thought the course would take me on, I am happy it has as it allowed to explore a variety of projects and roles and see where my strengths and weakness lie.

Themes within my script

-Triumph over adversity
This theme is a fairly common one as within every film there is a challenge the characters must face and defeat however the theme is important as the characters are defined by the adversity they face.
In a sense this theme could be summed up as ‘an underdog story’ one where the protagonist has some disadvantage yet still manages to find a way to win.
Within my script Mako must defeat five otherworldly figures for return of his grandfathers soul, here is his adversity yet it is through his triumphs that his character develops and pushes him to mature.
This journey not only serves the purpose to showcase Mako’s triumph over adversity but it also leads into another theme, the loss of innocence.

-Loss of Innocence:
This theme is typically seen as a coming of age story in which the protagonist is introduced to the adult world, I find that this theme works well within my script however as my character of Mako must learn how to accept the things he cant change. Within this theme the event that marks the loss of innocence is normally a traumatic one such as death, divorce or abuse, all of which are similar to the causes of grief, because of this, this theme works well within the confines of my script.
Mako suffers a loss of innocence after losing his grandfather and begins to develop angst and almost anti social tendencies, something that is often associated with teenagers, as Mako is on the cusp of adolescence it would make sense for this event to of pushed him into these teenage years as the concept of death is one that has brought him into the harsh realities of the adult world.

-Death as part of life
Death has always been a central theme in film as it has always been a part of life. Films that utilize this theme tend to go through its own stages of grief leading up to its protagonists acceptance of death. This theme is also pushed when the protagonist comes to the realization that there is still life after death, through them and within a spiritual sense. Throughout my story Mako refuses to accept death as his reality and fights against supernatural forces to chase down the spirit of his Grandfather, it is through this journey that he comes to mature through his loss of innocence, which enables him to accept death as a part of life knowing his grandfather is still with him in some sense.

-Triumph over adversity
This theme is a fairly common one as within every film there is a challenge the characters must face and defeat however the theme is important as the characters are defined by the adversity they face.
In a sense this theme could be summed up as ‘an underdog story’ one where the protagonist has some disadvantage yet still manages to find a way to win.
Within my script Mako must defeat five otherworldly figures for return of his grandfathers soul, here is his adversity yet it is through his triumphs that his character develops and pushes him to mature.
This journey not only serves the purpose to showcase Mako’s triumph over adversity but it also leads into another theme, the loss of innocence.

-Voyage and return
The theme of Voyage and Return is often used throughout children’s literature because it generally involves a journey to a magical land that appears out of nowhere. The introduction to this magical place is usually depicted as bright and charming but it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems, it is then that protagonist must conquer something threatening the land before returning home stronger than before, having learned something about themselves or their situation. Stories like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland all use this theme and give a good sense of how a narrative structure develops by implementing it. Voyage and return implements a 5 act structure, similar to the Todorov narrative model of Equilium, disruption, recognition, repair, equilibrium, it sets the pace for the story and breaks down into chunks what the protagonist will be encountering.
This theme is a central one within my script as it follows the same model:
-Mako enters a magical world through an open doorway (Anticipation stage)
-He is stunned by the world in front of him but begins chasing after what he lost back home (Dream stage)
-The world starts to become darker and more terrifying (Frustration stage)
-He is now fully submersed in the world and is about to be devoured by it (Nightmare stage)
-Mako has conquered his grief and returns home stronger for the experience (Escape and Return)

Production log

Feb 10th

I have begun working on my pitch to the class for my final major production, I have narrowed down my options to already existing scripts I have on the back burner like my animated scripts such as Mako and a currently unnamed project about a village in the woods.
Both of these projects seem promising but due to them being animated it will be difficult to produce a full film to the quality I desire within the time frame for the module.
Other options I have looked into could be my script ‘Business as usual’ which I submitted for Cory last year as I only completed the first ten pages, it may also be possible to film and produce my finished script for ‘Loop’ which was written in the first year, at this point Loop seems like the most viable option to film, just need to gauge interest from potential crew and look into finding actors.

Feb 20th

I gave my pitch last week and received a form of feedback in an email detailing people’s presentations, the ideas for my project seem to have gone down well enough that I have been given an amber light so I can only assume the ideas I have are viable enough to get a decent grade.
I also spoke with Lucy before the presentation and she has said it is more than possible to simply submit a script, admittedly this feels like a cop out for the final project but at this point I am hesitant to film as there is no real creative spark driving me at this point.
After completing the Drawn to the Valley project just before Christmas it has reinforced my strengths as a director and camera operator, I know that I have a variety of options such as getting a credit on someone else’s film as crew in one of these roles, this could be a route for me as I helped friends in the third year complete their film ‘Nosy Neighbours’ last year and enjoyed the experience.
I will wait for more feedback before making a decision.

Feb 27th

After a week of thinking it over I realised I have no drive to shoot a live action piece, I currently am only excited about my work when it comes to writing and discussing ideas. For me to create a piece of work that I feel will be substantial enough for submission I need to write a script, maybe multiple.
I know that it is possible that I can write and others can shoot it as a collaboration piece but I know that many people in the class if not all, want to work on their own unique ideas, This means that I will be limited in terms of crew and whatever crew I get will only be half hearted.
For these reasons I think going down the animated script route will be the way to go.

Feb 28th

After looking at the content I have been watching lately it is easy to see why I am so insistent on writing my own animated story. The script I am thinking of completing and submitting is one that I mentioned to Cory last year but due to constrictions with the animation department was ultimately unable to produce, I am hoping that with three months left I may be able to collaborate with animators this time, building not only a final piece but possible collaboration options for the future.

March 4th

Spoke with Lucy today about getting in contact with the animation department, she has said she will talk to the head of the course and given me a name to email, I have started work on my character designs and general idea for the aesthetic of the film so I should have something to present for my meeting with them. I have begun rewriting my initial script for Mako which I began last year as I feel coming into it fresh will help the story grow rather than picking up where I left off.
The story details Mako’s loss of his grandfather and how he must now deal with the five stages of grief to overcome his pain and move forward with his life. This idea has remained from the original script but now with a bit more research and insight I feel I will be able to produce a script, double in the length of the standard film submission size. Having a sizable script I feel may make up for the lack of a moving picture piece.

March 7th

Finished my character designs today, it is clear looking at them that I have taken influence from films such as summer wars in the art style. Mamoru Hosoda is one of my favourite anime directors so it is easy to see why I have subconsciously gone to that style of artwork when visualising the world within my script. With these designs done I now have something concrete that I can bring to my meeting with the animation department. I am still waiting to here back on if I meet with them but I am now at least prepared for the next step.
I have also begun looking into the Kübler-Ross model otherwise known as the five stages of grief to get a better understanding of the themes within my script, looking at each key step and how they can differ depending on the situation the person going through these steps may be facing.

March 13th

Today I met with the head of the animation department and explained what it is I want to achieve by the end of the submission deadline, unfortunately even with a team of animators Tony doesn’t believe that I would be able to produce at least two minutes of a high quality animation.
This was my fear when I originally set out to work on this script and it seems like a repeat of last year when I attempted to do the same, knowing that I wont be able to produce anything really relating to moving image definitely puts a dampener on the project however I am committed to completing Mako this time around.
I have been shown a programme however known as Cell Animate, the programme is fairly knew and they are holding a workshop with the creators of the programme at the end of the month, Tony has invited me to the session as he believes I may be able to create at least something utilizing the software, but I will still need a team of animators behind me otherwise I will still have nothing.

March 20th

I have received no further word on working with animators but from my meeting with Tony it seems that the students are already deep into their own productions, this is a shame but I have tried my hand at simple flash animation over the past week and it is clear to see that whatever I produce wont be of submission quality. This opens up another possibility for me though, within my RED project I mentioned a short piece called 2AM in the PM by JG Quintel one of my favourite animators.
This was a piece he submitted for his course at the California Institute Of The Arts, the piece utilised moving storyboards to create a basic yet effective animation.
I may be able to try my hand at this technique as well to plot out a scene and have something to submit this would mean however that I would have to get all the voice recordings for Mako finished and find some foley sound effects but this could lead me somewhere interesting.
I am still aiming on heading to this workshop at the end of March to at least see what Cell Animate can do.

March 27th

Production has slowed over the past week and I imagine that it will for the next couple as it is half term, I have had to come back home over easter due to personal reasons which unfortunately means I am going to miss the Cell Animate workshop, this definitely has put a downer on my project as it would have been something I could of carried on within my future development as a film maker but what can you do.
I will continue to work on my project over the easter break as I have finished the first draft for Mako over the past week which means I now need to start on my CPD which will encompass all of my research and pre production for the script.

April 12th

I have just got back into Plymouth from the easter break and while away have been working on poster designs, I have had experience in graphic design working with IPC in London so I am confident that I can create something to a high quality.
I have many ideas for the poster itself all of which have inspiration from various animated productions.
The main inspiration I have right now is from James Bacon a Cincinnati based artist who has recreated cover art from many of Hayao Miyazaki’s films in a very simplistic yet stylized way, the use of gradient colour and the simplicity of the art has really spoken to me and it is something I would like to try my hand at replicating.

April 23rd

Today I met with Allister to discuss the scripts first draft, He says my dialogue flows well and you can visualise the scene well through my description, this is good it means that I actually have some talent for what I’m doing which further reinforces my confidence in the project.
The advice he has given me to improve on is when writing the actions of the scene down to not write in such a novelistic style, there is a lot of description but some of it doesn’t need to be there to paint the scene, its just added bulk. After reading through the draft again I can see where he is coming from and have begun to change the style of writing more toward the aspects he said worked, I have also added a few extra scenes to give the story a bit more pace and to focus on the more surreal aspects within the story.
Looking at it, the first draft seems a bit rushed almost as if the character is just racing through each location, I realise why I had originally wrote the story in this manner as I was so focused on my characters end goal I myself was just racing to get to the end.
I may now extended the scenes and hopefully allowed the more symbolic aspects of the scenes to shine through.

April 30th

This has been by far one of my more busy weeks in this project, I have completed the second draft and shown it to some friends and family to get an outsider perspective on the story itself, the feedback I have received is good and many people can see the symbolism hidden within the scenes.
This is good it means that my second draft is more up to standard I want it to be, I have been told the story is good and been given some pointers on some things that didn’t quite work for some of the readers. One issue that was found was that during my characters stage of bargaining I had the definition of it as gambling, although the scene I wrote made sense it needs to be changed to match up with the themes present within the story.
I have completed my first draft of poster designs and will begin to narrow them down for the submission and for the book we have to submit.
For the book I will be classing myself as writer/director and use stills and posters from my previous works so it has some diversity.
I have also been helping Luke Hurley with some of his script ideas as he has decided to change his story entirely, this has been a good exercise not only for him and his story but for me as well as it has allowed me to have some experience in compromise while working on a story with another writer.

May 7th

Today I received feedback from Allister on my second draft, he has given me some pointers on some ways I can improve my script, adding more detail into the things I am describing and truly painting a picture with my words. I am going to work in these final weeks on buffing up the script and hopefully refining my writing style even further and developing the story I wish to tell to its final step.
I have completed the majority of the paperwork for this module now so I aim to push myself over this last hurdle and have everything ready for submission by next week.



Here is the poster that I designed for my script Mako, when creating the poster I wanted to use a blend of colour to grab someones attention. I found using warm reds and yellows mixed in with blues and purples would create quite a visual contrast, in doing so I felt that it would capture the surreal elements of my script with its juxtaposing composition.
The idea for this poster came from looking into minimalism, although this poster no longer holds true to the minimalist style it lead to end result.
I found graphic artist James Bacon online and saw the fan made posters he had created for the Studio Gibli films, each was unique in itself that while using the same style the contrast of colours and simple shapes really made the art stand out and grabbed your attention. I tried to replicate this style myself initially with my first poster idea but after a while it fell flat as I found that I wasnt creating my own original work, I was simply copying his.
I then decided to use more real looking textures while blending in anime artwork, by doing so I feel the composition works on many levels, not only are there many different elements to look at it but it also feels as if you are looking at of two worlds merged together.

tumblr_n5onefmdfl1tqdy05o5_1280 here is the James Bacon poster that I originally tried to base my work on.
mako poster edit 2 here is the first poster that I tried to create, as you can see the work is very similar to Bacon’s and that is why I decided to steer away from this style, you can see in the finished poster that some elements remain but has been changed for the better.

Synopsis Long and Short

Short synopses

Mako follows the story of a young boy struggling to deal with his grief after the death of his grandfather, pushing away his family and all social interaction around him. After finally unlocking one of his grandfather’s many treasures he finds his way into a strange and unfamiliar world which will force him to come to terms with his emotional turmoil and face his reality.

Long synopses

Mako follows the story of a young boy who is struggling to deal with his grief after the death of his grandfather, pushing away his family and falling into a state of limbo. While returning to his grandfather’s home with his parents he accidentally unlocks one of the many treasures around the house finding a key, all while being watched by an elusive figure.
Giving chase to this watcher he finds himself trapped in a strange and unfamiliar world filled with supernatural phenomenon.
It is now up to Mako to find his way out of this world and chase down the spirit of his grandfather who seems forever on the horizon, during this journey he must face the embodiment of his own grief represented by five guardians.
A never ending celebration, a dragon comprised of pure rage, a Tonooki trickster, the darkest depths of his depression and finally the treasure his grandfather kept secret from him for so long.
Conquering each guardian he will slowly restore the lost pieces of himself to be finally faced with one final choice, hold on to the past or embrace his new future.

Conveying emotion through drawing

During a live action production it is easy to see how a character is feeling simply by the expression on their face or by their body language, within the animated genre however it can be harder to perceive emotion due to looking at a flat image, therefore it is crucial that the art style can accurately portray how a character is feeling.
There are many ways to achieve this and one that I wish to focus on is by looking at the eyes.
It has been said that the eyes are the gateway to the soul and within the anime genre it is easy to distinguish a character by the shape or positioning of their eyes.
There are many ways to draw eyes each like the real thing are specific to the individual however the shape can really set a tone or look to a character, some may have more sharp features making them look intimidating and distinguished then when in comparison to a character with softer rounder eyes.
This is the first example of how slight changes in art style can affect how an audience perceives a character and their emotions in a scene but it is not simply the shape of the eyes that can portray emotion.

By looking at the iris you are also able to perceive emotion, for example when a character has a bunch of light spots floating around the iris it is clear that it is to portray crying or being upset, the edges of the eye may become wavey instead of perfect lines, these are a few simple visual ques that you can pick up on and it shows how small variations in art can portray emotion to a viewer.
One example of iris manipulation that I wish to look at it is when a character may have darker lines under the eye and the iris itself is not fully drawn with features intact but a block of gradient colour.

The reason I want to look at this type of eye in particular is because what it can and has conveyed in previous animated works.
The darker lines around the eye can either show a character is simply sleep deprived or it can be used to widen the zone around the eye giving the character a more shocked or phased look. The block of gradient colour is what I find most interested and useful as by simply taking the light and colour out of the eye a normal looking character can look distraught or deeply in thought.
This is an effect I want to replicate in my production for Mako as these simple stylistic changes can portray great emotion and show how my characters are feeling without them having to directly state it.

Image source: