Leo de Wijs (bakenius) wrote,
Leo de Wijs
bakenius

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The Easter Island project

Good morning my dear livejournal friends!

First of all: happy New year everyone! (I mean, it's my first post of the new year)

Remember that first fairytale outline of my new animation project? It's off the table. I spend the past two weeks brainstorming with Alexander and we came with quite a different concept since we want a slightly unusual exotic setting, personal drama and press an environmental issue.

But, as always, the story is far from 'there' yet. Especially the way to end it is something were not exactly sure off. So if you, my livejournal's 'writers room' have any ideas or suggestions on any aspect of the story... don't hold it back!









Background:

The story is loosely set on Easter Island during the fall of the proud Polynesian society that flourished on the Island for many centuries and erected an incredible number of giant stone statues of their gods and ancestors. It’s now commonly believed that this proud society collapsed because they completely cut down the island’s forest for producing and transportation of their giant statures and left them with no means to sustain their food supply. After fierce warfare under each other they eventually perished leaving the once green and fertile paradise a barren wasteland filled with broken statues well before the first European explorers came ashore in 1722.

The principle characters:

Manu A simple clan-boy, 14 years but still very child-like in his thinking. Very energetic and contagious optimistic but oblivious to the coming disaster till the very last minute. (representing the majority of mankind)
Kaula The pretty and intelligent daughter of the chief, 14 years but very wise for her age. Tired of trying to convince her father of the impending danger of cutting down the forest for erecting ever more statues. (representing intellectuals and environmentalists)
(Possible role)Kaula’s Father The Clan’s Chief, oblivious to the impending doom, too closed off to take his daughters warnings serious. Afraid of looking ahead but too proud to admit it. He keeps ordering more statues to the gods. (representing orthodox governments and businesses)

proposed story

1. We meet Manu skilfully navigate the dangers of the forest, dodges for wild animals, passes dangerous cliffs… all in pursuit of plucking an exceptionally beautiful flower. (He passes by men hacking wood and picking stone faces)

2. At night Manu sneaks into the tree house of a rival clan leader to bring his beautiful daughter the flower to declare his love to her. (The clan members are celebrating outside for the completion of yet another big stone head) The somewhat older and much wiser Kaula seems troubled looking out over a deforested hillside from her window. (Her room shows her care for nature and there hang blueprints to build a rowboat.) But Kaula lightens up by Manu’s clumsy but genuine gesture of affection.

3. In a montage we see a smitten Manu get out to collect flowers progressively beautiful and rare to fancy Kaula, however, Kaula seems less impressed each time. (Manu is blind to the fact that Kaula deeply cares for nature and feels bad for him bringing her rare flowers) (We see Kaula actually building a rowboat when Manu meets her at the beach) Manu gets increasingly frustrated when most of his ‘secret flower spots’ seem to have turned into virtual wasteland caused by the ever more escalating head-making process.

4. Feeling rejected, Manu seeks the ultimate flower but to his horror finds the whole Island is a deserted wasteland with a preposterous amount of giant heads standing all over the place. But then he sees it: the most beautiful flower on a sole little tree standing on the edge of a cliff. As he runs to the tree Kaula stops him. Finally the truth dawns to Manu: the flowers (stand for material possessions) don’t matter squad for Kaula loving him. They embrace their love and leave the flower tree untouched. (Once the kids are out of frame, however, the clan reaches the last tree and cut it down with a great sense of triumph. Then they all fall quiet and look around with a ‘now what’ feeling)

5. As Kaula and Manu row away from the Island with mixed feelings we see a clan war breaking lose in the background.

6. After the credits – The 18th explorer Jacob Roggeveen scratches behind his ear seeing the odd face statues on the deserted Island with a stupefied expression.

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The things we come up with...
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  • 22 comments
Wow, that certainly is different from your original story! I like it, though.

A few things:
- Why does Kaula love Manu? It seems to me that he is rather immature, especially compared to her. Has she given hints before? Put down like this, her love for him came out of the blue for me.

- You're pushing an environmental message, but you also say that the flowers stand for material posessions. That seems a whole 'nother message to me. I think you also have to be careful not to be overly preachy. The environment is the 'in' thing to do right now, but that also means people can get tired of it pretty quickly.

- I like the after the credits fragment! Kind of puts things in perspective.
- Why does Kaula love Manu? It seems to me that he is rather immature, especially compared to her. Has she given hints before? Put down like this, her love for him came out of the blue for me.

Yeah, that needs some work. Perhaps Manu deliberately refused to participate in the 'head building race' being a bit of a dreamy rebel? Perhaps Kaula is drawn to Manu because of his optimistic 'doing' nature since she with her thinking gets lost in a feeling of hopelessness?

Manu can be the doing counterpart of Kaula she needs to get her act together and actually try to do something about her concerns rather then just be depressed.

The thing is, I really like to jump right into the story, the viewer learning the what's and why's along the way. But perhaps the first scene should be a cross-cutting from optimistic Manu doing and depressed Kuala worrying...


- You're pushing an environmental message, but you also say that the flowers stand for material posessions. That seems a whole 'nother message to me.


That is a bad metaphor I guess. I just like that with flowers you come in direct contact with the deforesting progress. Perhaps I need to drop the whole idea that Manu is doing the same thing as the builders.


- I like the after the credits fragment! Kind of puts things in perspective.


I just hope people have the patience to wait the credits out: because it makes quite a difference to the final message...

Sorry, I'm thinking out loud again. Thanks for your input!
To me the love-story doesn't need much work. (Though I'm a bit hesitant in calling it love, since it involves 14-year olds. Affection may be a bit better).
To me Kaula has had a soft spot for Manu for a long time. And so when he goes to see her, she's happy. When she see he's hiding a present behind his arms, she's happier. And when it turns out to be a flower, she's disappointed, but she doesn't want to hurt Manu's feelings. So she accepts it, thus encouraging Manu to pick even more flowers. Of course, for Manu it makes sense to pick flowers, because he knows how much Kaula loves the beauty of nature.

Kaula's passiveness in not changing Manu's behaviour fits her character. So the only remaining question would be why Kaula would like Manu in the very beginning. Manu's kind, active personality is appealing. And maybe he isn't in the statue-business, but instead does something that shows him caring about nature as well (herding animals? growing crops?). So he does care, though he considers plucking a single flower to be harmless.

I too would like a begin with Manu running, because it immediately shows action. Later one may add a shot of Kaula secretly looking at Manu's eco-friendly job.

Sorry, I'm thinking out loud again.
Isn't that what lj's for?
To me Kaula has had a soft spot for Manu for a long time. And so when he goes to see her, she's happy. When she see he's hiding a present behind his arms, she's happier. And when it turns out to be a flower, she's disappointed, but she doesn't want to hurt Manu's feelings. So she accepts it, thus encouraging Manu to pick even more flowers. Of course, for Manu it makes sense to pick flowers, because he knows how much Kaula loves the beauty of nature.

Yes! You put my ideas in words here! This is exactly it! :D

(Though I'm a bit hesitant in calling it love, since it involves 14-year olds. Affection may be a bit better).

I would like call it affection too. It's all pretty innocent, I think that way it works best to contrast with the "keeping up with the Joneses" behavior of the grownups.

I too would like a begin with Manu running, because it immediately shows action. Later one may add a shot of Kaula secretly looking at Manu's eco-friendly job.

Of what about starting with a shot of Manu planting a crop, looking over his shoulder where Kaula gives him a smiles at him from a distance. He revels in her attention a moment and is an incentive to go look for a gift - that rare special flower and off the action goes...
I like the statues you drew :-)

Seems like a great story that I actually like better than the ice queen story :) (I want to go to Easter island one day)

For the story: I'm not sure if I get the whole picture here, but make sure that at the beginning the reason why these heads are erected in the first place becomes clear, as it plays an important role in your story.

For the story: I'm not sure if I get the whole picture here, but make sure that at the beginning the reason why these heads are erected in the first place becomes clear, as it plays an important role in your story.


Yep, that's a good point. I really have to keep an eye on this. Especially the space race element of it. Perhaps two distinctly colored labeled tribes (like teams) constantly out the 'message' of their competitors. I mean, the statue building did take on absurd proportions since there more then a thousand of these giant statues found on this one little island. This begs for a montage sequence to me, without the cheesy rock guitar music ofcourse. ;)
Remember that first fairytale outline of my new animation project? It's off the table.
I was wondering why I hadn't seen a new story-version yet. And I have to say, the new storyline seems more compact and easier to animate without voice-acting. The two of you clearly already thought about this a lot.

the tree house of a rival clan leader to bring his beautiful daughter
Why can't Kaula just be a beautiful girl? First off, the difference in clans doesn't seem very important, so there is no point in introducing rivalry between them. (Yes, there is a clan war in the end, but the casual viewer may simply interpret the fighting as a civil war). So it is more a general thought of how important rivalry is. And second, why must she be the daughter of an important person? I understand the advantage of that: it may mean that she has enough spare time to go and do things on her own, like building a boat. But as a disadvantage; the current 'bad' people are all workers and the only 'good' person, who knows what's going on, is royalty. So unless you show Bad Daddy (or any other triumphant clan-leader gloating over the statues), it seems as if only the simple workers are too stupid to know what's going on. Now I have to admit that this is only a subtle thing and may not be very important in deciding your story. But it was just something that occurred to me.

Once the kids are out of frame, however, the clan reaches the last tree and cut it down with a great sense of triumph. Then they all fall quiet and look around with a ‘now what’ feeling
The trees are only a means in making the statues, there is nothing triumphant about the cutting itself. I mean, it's not like they hate trees, they just want to use them. And there's no point in spending energy in cutting, when you don't use them. So to me they would only cut down the last tree, if they'd need just one more log for completing the statue. About which they would then be triumphant.

seeing the odd face statues on the deserted Island with a stupefied expression
His surprise would be "where do these statues come from?" and not "oh woo, look at what these people have done to nature". His thoughts do not agree with the message of the animation. Actually, the opposite may happen. For the Polynesian may have gotten themselves killed, but they will be remembered forever for their grand accomplishments.

As you can see I have much less to say about this story outline than the previous one. And that's because this one already 'works'. So there's not much left to say. I think the concept is interesting and it will undoubtedly look very pretty.
Why can't Kaula just be a beautiful girl? First off, the difference in clans doesn't seem very important, so there is no point in introducing rivalry between them. (Yes, there is a clan war in the end, but the casual viewer may simply interpret the fighting as a civil war).

Actually a very good point. Having a specific class distinction between the boy and the girl can mean you have to tell a whole extra story that might not contribute much to the main theme anyway.
The rivalry that's going on between the different clans, however is something I like to include, why else did they put about 1000 statues in a matter of a few centuries on an island that small with just a couple of thousand inhabitants?

it seems as if only the simple workers are too stupid to know what's going on.

It's important that there is a scene where the clan leaders encourage the crowd to make more head statues for metaphorical sake, yes. Because yes, many of our leaders seem even more deluded then the general public...

His surprise would be "where do these statues come from?" and not "oh woo, look at what these people have done to nature". His thoughts do not agree with the message of the animation. Actually, the opposite may happen. For the Polynesian may have gotten themselves killed, but they will be remembered forever for their grand accomplishments.

That is a valid concern. In the journals of Jacob Roggeveen however, he was equally baffled by the fact there was virtually no vegetation to speak of on the Island as of the statues. Since most islands like it are usually covered in rain forest, especially back in the 18th century.
why else did they put about 1000 statues in a matter of a few centuries on an island that small with just a couple of thousand inhabitants?

Because they can? Because they think they will receive blessings from the Gods and/or ancestors? Because leaders always like to build big things for their ego?
But thinking more about it, the rivalry is a good idea. I particularly like it, because of the "keeping up with the neighbours"-concept, which is still relevant today, even though clan-wars aren't.
Basically the concept means that people aren't unhappy when they have little; they are unhappy when they have less than their neighbours. So people want to have a car and a tv at least as big as the rest has and preferably even bigger. In the story it naturally means having as many and as big a statues as the other clans.
After a bit of googling: the term is actually "keeping up with the Joneses" and you can read more about it here and here.
I have two things to say:

- I like this idea of a story, and I think it gives a good chance for different types of environments and (thus) different types of music. Good one -- your visual style suits an exotic locale best.

- In many of the Konami MSX games, the Easter Island stone heads figure either as advisors or as enemies. There is this level in Parodius (a non-serious clone of Nemesis), where the ceilings and floors are made of these stone heads and they start spewing missiles at you. Not that that has anything to do with your story, but I felt it was essential for you to know. ;)
- I like this idea of a story, and I think it gives a good chance for different types of environments and (thus) different types of music.

Yeah we think this setting gives a lot of incentive and creative leeway since there is not much known about this lost a mysterious culture and it's also not such a treated path as say the Atlantis myth is where lot's of people have very specific preconceived ideas about.

Not that that has anything to do with your story, but I felt it was essential for you to know. ;)

Well, it really helps to know all pop-culture uses of the Easter Island to better anticipate people's reactions if we 'do' stuff with the stone heads, so thanks! :)
Apparently Konami is known to put Moai (that's what they call the Easter Island statue they use/depict) in a lot of their games. It all started with a level in Gradius 3. It was a selectable character in a racing game, and they even made a platform puzzler they only released in Japan. There are Moai statuettes hidden in the Metal Gear Solid games as well. :)
The concept is simply brilliant, I like it very much. Your style, the location/setting and his music should be material for some big fireworks.

But there's something about the Kaula / Manu lovestory that doesn't do it for me. I guess it has to do with Manu. Why does she love him? And why does he deserve to get saved? He's not better than the rest of the clansmen; he is one of them, yet simply not old enough to cut wood yet.

Maybe it is also the whole 'escaping' thing. The whole point you're trying to get across is: we cannot escape the effects of climate change. If we don't stop, we'll all suffer the consequences. There is nowhere to escape to, neither could the Polynesians in their day; that's why their whole civilization crashed and burned.

It's difficult, because it might not be satisfying for your audience if Kaula and Manu die with the rest - but having them escape in a boat gives me the typical all-American feeling of 'those who do good, receive good'. But that's not the point. If we don't collectively stop, we're royally screwed. It's not like the few environmentally conscious people will be okay, when all the ignorant people suffer the consequences.

My 2 cents!
2 cents? Nah, more like a dozen if you ask me! ;)

About the ending: you perfectly worded the difficulties we have with it.

The Easter Island tale is such a strong metaphor because there was no escape for the Islanders as well as there is no escape from earth if we blow it.

Another possibility would be a Deep Impact-like ending where the couple making themselves comfortable while waiting for the comet to impact: having the characters retreat in their little safe place where there are still flowers while the Polynesians go apeshit when they realize they're too late. But that way of ending is too bleak: it more or less tells you that no matter what you do, you end up dead anyway.

Ideally what I like to go for is that you have two similar stories of giving and taking but one goes wrong because they fail to see & act (the of the Islanders) but the one of the characters is resolved because of realization & working on a solution.
That Deep Impact-like ending reminds me of an animation I saw a long time ago, featuring an middle-aged couple (British I think) living in the time where the Cold War was still a threat. The bomb is dropped but they survive in their bunker for a very long time. When they decide to leave their bunker they see that the whole world has been destroyed and they're the only ones left. And it just ends like that.

I can't remember much of that animation but that ending stayed with me because it's so strong.

And yesterday I watched a short animation (an extra on the Little Mermaid dvd) about the Matchstick Girl and I was pleased to see they kept true the original story, including the sad ending, even though I normally prefer happy ones.
Hmm, that Deep Impact idea doesn't sound so bad. (Though you mustn't forget that in Deep Impact the lovers survive, cuddled up in the hills. However, in Titanic there's a shot of two old people accepting their fate and lying on the bed.)

Just a thought for an addition in that direction; say you have the two lovers die cuddled up. Then you pull out until you've got a bit more overview of the island (pick a scenic spot for them to die), and speed up time. While you show the credits, flowers begin to grow on the place where Kaula and Manu died. From their 'grave', they start spreading over the whole island again. Until everything is covered with grass and flowers again - no trees though. Then, when you've displayed all your credits, you slow down time again - and a boat arrives on the island. It's Jacob Roggeveen.
Also gives viewers an incentive to 'wait the credits out', because there is still action going on. ;-)
That's quite an ingenious solution really. Really... I already was thinking something about Kaula replanting the flowers she received from Manu. This would be a great way to show that doing something right for the environment (like replanting and maintaining flowers) may pay off in the long run even if it seems quite useless to begin with.

Brilliant thoughts man. Really. Are you sure you want to leave the film business? Perhaps you should try animation: a lot less hassle and dependency with external parties then you have with life action film. :)
That's excellent, the little flowerbed she made spreading to repopulate the island. Really shows that you, as an individual, are always the first step towards greater change.

About the film business, I'm not all that happy about being reliant on it profession-wise. But I'll never, ever turn my back on films or the filmmaking process. I guess I'll always be involved somewhere along the line in different projects. I just love it too much, and need to spill my creative energy somewhere. But I've noticed that my creativity seems to vanish when I'm under the pressure of 'having to do it to earn a living'.

And about animation, yes I've thought about that - I'm a total controlfreak and often found the collaborating aspect of filmmaking a bit difficult, but to be able to do that I should take some serious drawing classes. And even then, I'd never ever have the insane talent you have. As a writer though, I feel I do have certain talents. I've always been a bit of a writer. So. Who knows. ;)
Not much left for me to say after all these excellent suggestions.

I love your drawing, it looks very dark and threatening. Which makes me think that there should be a reason for the clans to be making the statues, because hacking them from the vulcanic stone and cutting down trees to move them with is an enormous amount of work. Maybe there should be a dark and omnious hallucination sequence in the story where the clan chiefs see the statues stand up and do some ritual dance, where the statues are threatening the chiefs that bad things will happen if there isn't a statue made for holding the ghost of every man that has died on the island.

Since bad things are indeed happening because of the deforestation, the chiefs are all the more motivated to make more statues, and so the downward spiral speeds up.
I find the plot weird, your trying to tell two stories. One plot is with Manu (love plot) and the second is with Kaula (Cassandra myth) It seems to me that you want to tell something about love. But being that you can't choose you try to tell them both at the same time. You should choose either Kaula or Manu for your storyline. Or the father's perspective if you like that one. They all have they're excentricities. Like the last storyline you don't really go into they're blindspots. I think that's more interesting. And btw if you need to make a love story make one. I'd love to see one and you seem to want to get that of your chest.

Grtz Lars