Last Sunday at the last day of my week off I managed to finish off the moving storyboard of Rapa Nui project against all odds. I felt really content, like I could relax again.
Well not really. You see, the movie wasn't exactly working. It was too long, most dialogue scenes felt boring, the tone of the film seemed to shift all over the place, and worst of all: we thought that Kaula, our main character, was a whiny, irritating little brat, your typical nine-year-old righteous environmentalist with a bad temper. Somehow it happened, somewhere between the umpteenth rewrite of the script and three months I spend storyboarding it we allowed this film to become long-winded and unsympathetic. And it was a deal breaker. We both just couldn't make this film as is. Something had to be done, something drastic and quick - since Alex only has one month left to write the score before it must send to the orchestra.
This resulted in possibly the worst Wednesday of my life where I spend from 11 in the morning to 10 in the evening in a tiny little room with my composer trying to think up a way to save this film: what we could do to make it work again? We had really rough spots in our 6-month preproduction track before, but usually one of us was hopeful enough to pull the other one out again. But this time we both couldn't see the light and we were pretty close to just giving it up, throw in the towel, just wrap it all up and go on with our lives. That's a pretty grim thing to consider after spending a good 300 hours on this thing the past half year for sure, it's been my passion and artistic goal to tell this story well for so long...
But somehow we found a solution at the end of that day and the days that came after. But it's a bold solution. It means clearing out all remnants of previous visions/versions of the script, rewriting about two thirds of the existing dialogue in a new tone and cut out another third. ( zolphia helped us out a tremendous deal with this over the weekend we cannot thank her enough.) And also effectively throw out two months worth of pretty storyboard art and redraw it all roughly in the new vision in a matter of weeks. Painful but necessary: all remnants of the previous incarnation must be purged for this story to work emotionally.
You see, we started out with an epic period piece where the island's native society were a lot like the ones you see in a movie like Pocahontas, but by now the natives are much more like village clan from Asterix. We mock modern-day consumerism and the problems of it's sustainability in a gentle and playful way by placing it within an ancient Polynesian society where the islanders created a totally silly industry of an ever increasing production of Moai statues and their spin-off merchandise.
We've lost a lot of the initial esoteric/ecological themes of the project along the way since we wanted to avoid becoming to preachy or pretentious. Yes, we do have a message to convey, but to do this in a fun and fulfilling matter is really important to us. This is no propaganda film for an environmental organization. The characters and their respective story arcs have to play out in such a way that they’re likable and believable even it doesn't necessarily serve the film's main message. Finally we dared to set our priorities. There's still the change it won't work out ideally... but I'm confident it'll be at least a hundred times better then our initial version. And that'll have to do. The music has to be written, the timing has to be locked.
But I'm learning so much about film making and story telling once again, it's pretty wonderful really. This film is really pushing the limits of my abilities and thus expanding them. It might take infinite effort and patience but animation sure is rewarding if you hold your breath long enough. I still can't think of anything I would rather do with my time. :)
Heh, but so much talk yet so little to show for it. I promise to release some material here as soon as were happy with it again. :)