My Sci Fi Fantasy: The Story of Sword of Arreon – Part 2

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The following is part 2 of the story of how Sword of Arreon got started. Read part 1 here

In addition to reading science fiction and fantasy novels, I also studied non-fiction. Since my picture was to be about an ancient sword, Riane Eisler‘s The Chalice and the Blade was an invaluable asset. Chronicling the rise of patriarchal society from a matriarchal one some 5,000 years ago, Eisler’s important work gave me much more than history about the invention of the sword. Her book went into depth about the intent behind the invention of the blade as life taking technology and the conflict between it and the life giving technology of the human female womb (the chalice). I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in changing the world for the better. It concisely states the essence of the problems all societies face today and points to a solution. In doing research on the history of swords, I discovered other interesting concepts which helped inform the story and cosmology of the picture.

I also needed to acquire certain specialized knowledge and technical skills in order to create my anime. I bought and read a book on writing original screenplays, gaining the understanding of why audiences watch movies and TV and how to write scripts that deliver what they want. Also, I bought and read a book on the process of anime production. It came from Japan, written in Japanese but filled with pictures and illustrations that explained some important concepts. For example, to draw a highlight such as the tip of a nose or corner on a box, you actually leave a blank point in your line work (see illustration). Another skill I needed to learn was marketing and publicity, and having researched what was the most current text on these subjects I found David Meerman Scott‘s The New Rules of Marketing and PR. In it, Scott explains how to advertise in todays world of people using Google to find what they want instead of learning about products and services through commercials and other ‘interruption-based’ methods. This blog was actually created according to knowledge gained from Scott’s book.

Finally, I am currently reading a book on film marketing and distribution which is proving to be very useful. Think Outside The Box Office, by Jon Reiss, details his experience as an independent film maker and offers information about best practices and the many different models of theatrical release. Especially interesting is the concept of transmedia storytelling, where the narrative extends out beyond the film into the video games, graphic novels and other platforms. This creates a convection effect, recirculating fan interest through a variety of media. The Matrix film of 1999 is an example of transmedia storytelling, with it’s combined launch of film, animations, video game and comics all conveying different angles of the narrative. Aspects of film marketing and distribution which I never would have considered are presented, making the $10 spent on the book a great value.

Having studied the work of a few fantasy and sci-fi authors and with a basic story idea, I began outlining the script for my animated feature. My main concerns were to weave an intriguing story and erase the line separating the sci-fi and fantasy genres, delivering a cinematic experience that no one has ever had before. In order to maintain an atmosphere of fantasy and mythology, I wrote the screenplay by candlelight sitting in an old Victorian style chair. Since this tale was not pure fantasy, I wrote on a Blackberry with its lighted keyboard in homage to the science fiction genre. I read recently that you write three scripts when you make a movie, during pre-production, when shooting, and then when editing. Currently in production, I can attest to this fact.

When developing a script, it seems more important to move forward than wait until every word is perfect before going on to the next step. Get the story as tight as possible and then proceed to character design or storyboarding, knowing there will be many chances to improve the script later on in the process. With the working version of your script in the back of your mind, you can constantly be watching and listening for ways to improve it during your day to day routine. For example, after having written the script you hear an interesting phrase or new slang, you can work it into the dialogue of your script. I realized that in order to make progress on a project this big, I needed to forget perfection and focus on process instead. During pre-production, there were no clear boundaries between character design, cosmology and story; instead I just opened up my imagination and wrote or drew whatever came over. I didn’t even have a title in mind. Many of these elements were incomplete as development progressed, but I pushed forward knowing it would all come together when production started.

Continues in 2 weeks

My Sci Fi Fantasy: The Story of Sword of Arreon – Part 1

chair1.pngI was sitting in a kid sized camping chair in the backyard one summer night, looking up at the dark infinity of the stars. Having recently dumped my punk band and the band mates I once hung out with (long story), I considered what to do next. In the back of my mind I always wanted to create an animated series in the same vein as the Japanese anime I was so obsessed with as a kid. Series like Zeta Gundam, Captain Harlock, Robotech and original video animations like Fist of the North Star, Vampire Hunter D, MD Geist and many others were inspirations in terms of art, design and storytelling. Many of these animations seamlessly integrated the fantasy and sci-fi genres in a totally original way that made the content more than sum of the two styles.

Ever since the first cartoon I watched, ever since The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, I wanted to be an animator. Ray Harryhausen, the animator who basically invented cinematic stop motion animation, fascinated me as well as everything else about the process. The design and production parts of the process where of most interest to me, rather than other aspects of film like editing and marketing. At the time (early 1980’s), finances were tight and my Dad couldn’t afford the 16mm camera needed to make my own stop motion animation movies. My aspirations to be an animator were buried by the circumstances of reality, like so many of our childhood dreams.

That night, sitting in the kiddie camping chair looking at the sky, I only wondered how cool it would be to make a story about a magic sword that could turn into a starship. And that is where my plan to Think and Grow Rich all started; with a crazy idea for a motion picture that would blow away sci-fi and fantasy audiences from six to sixty years old. An animated epic that takes place in a multiverse of heroes, dragons, angels and gods with the highest of technology and most advanced sorcery.

The more I thought about it the more excited I became, and the sore spot left from walking away from the former punk band scene quickly faded. During art school, one of my professors said to keep pushing and challenging myself. I would infuse my skills skills and experience in music, writing, illustration and design into the unlimited power of animation in order to express myself to the furthest limits of my potential as an artist.

With only my rough idea and a burning desire to create it, I looked at what I needed to learn and do in order to make it a reality. For one, I needed to study human anatomy. I bought Hogarth’s Dynamic Anatomy and began copying his drawings of arms and torsos. I studied the same pages many times, repeatedly drawing them until I has satisfied with my understanding of those muscle groups and could sketch them out by memory.

My reading of fictional literature was light, so I bought some some books from authors a few associates had recommended. Michael Moorecock‘s The Elric Saga proved to be a quick, accessible fantasy epic, and David Brin‘s first three books from The Uplift Universe were intricate and clever. I was inspired by the depth of the two author’s respective visions, excited to create my own with an equal quality of narrative imagination and engagement. Without basing my film on a good original story, I was wasting my time.

(Continued in two weeks)