Production Update 116 Let’s Get Started!

I hope everyone had a good holiday break, got to spend some time with family and also got all the Christmas goodies you asked for! Personally, I enjoyed some time with some family but we didn’t celebrate Christmas yet, since we are waiting for my sister to travel up here to actually open gifts and such. I did get some good stuff I ordered from RightStuf to tide me over; titles such as Persona 4 and Blast of Tempest. At some point in 2015 I will be able to provide reviews of them. Let’s get down to business though.

I have reached the halfway point of the online animation class I have been taking, it is a 6 week intensive with lots of homework but I can see the course already paying off and I know it will be fine tuned from work and also on the Cosmic Rage project. I did finish up framing the remaining shots for the current scene I am starting. The next step is an animatic, which I aim to get done before next week’s production update. This will depend on the homework assignments through the week and also some travel time, but I feel I should be able to get this completed since I have the compositions laid out and also have the assets pieced together, leaving me with laying some keyframes down this week for timing purposes.

Next time I post it will be 2015!

Recent Viewing: A Good Day to Die Hard

Action movies have a special place in my movie realm, after all, I grew up on action movies as a kid. When we would go visit family we would watch whatever action movie my uncle had on tape, which mostly was made up of a collection of Lethal Weapons and Die Hards. I recently watched all of those films in the last month or so while I was working on Cosmic Rage. Of course every time I finish watching a franchise like that I have to go online and see when the next in the franchise is going to be released. For instance, rumors online are that Lethal Weapon will be rebooted in the coming years. However, I haven’t seen the latest film in the Die Hard franchise so I decided to remedy that.

The film has the premise of John McClane (Bruce Willis) goes to Moscow to rescue his son who is in prison, only to find out that his son is a spy and is protecting a political prisoner. While the premise of the film sounds like it could potentially be solid, there were certain things in the film that didn’t fit the series and it felt out of place. My main complaints with A Good Day to Die Hard had too much CGI and it really felt like bruce Willis was handing the franchise over to his son Jack character, Jai Courtney.

The film followed around the 2 McClane’s as they argue about what to do and past history that we never get a glimpse of. The two characters have a rift between them and we get nothing as a member of the audience and only get a resolution at the end that feels predictable. As they venture through Moscow and eventually out of the city, Willis’s character seems to pass on his knowledge to his son, which is why the film feels like they are introducing a new character to lead the franchise.

Bruce Willis’s character relies so much on knowledge of the previous films. This hurts the film in two areas. The first being character development; since his character is already developed and has been in the previous 4 films, there isn’t much left at this point for them to do considering the character’s age. The second is the character’s karma. We know his luck in situations and we know how his brain works, so when he has a gut reaction to certain situations, it really foreshadows the film because he is never wrong. The premise of the movie felt better suited for another franchise, not one with a well established character.


Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Volume 6

The Flowers of Evil is starting to pick up steam, we last left off with volume 5 and a pivotal scene in the story (at least in my opinion). Our main cast of characters, Saeki, Nakamura and Kasuga, all collided as a result of the plan Kasuga and Nakamura were scheming, which was foiled by Saeki.

Volume 6 starts off with Kasuga panicking over the foiled plan. The summer festival is approaching quickly and he needs to plan something to unleash on the countryside with Nakamura. Looking back on Kasuga’s personality, you can see a definite growth and change since the first volume of the series. Kasuga even goes as far as getting into arguments with his parents instead of obeying their wishes. A blatant influence from Nakamura and her control of his emotions.

Saeki keeps inserting herself into Kasuga’s life, trying to win him back and be a good influence in his life. If you recall the start of Kasuga and Saeki’s relationship, Kasuga almost worshipped Saeki. At this point, there is nothing Saeki can do to gain more control of Kasuga. After their interaction, it seems as if Saeki starts to realize that she has lost.

Kinoshita even confronts Kasuga with everything. The main plot point of volume six revolves around the events at the end of volume 5. Kasuga starts to feel the school, city and his family start to turn on Nakamura and even start to blame his actions on her influence. Kasuga starts to feel trapped to feel trapped by the whole situation.

As Kasuga toils in his emotions, Nakamura comes to his house to take him away. After a confrontation with Kasuga’s parents, the two leave the house to formulate a new plot for the summer festival. Once again, we see Kasuga and Nakamura alone and we get an idea of how Kasuga and Nakamura work together and how the relationship works. Nakamura has complete control over Kasuga.

Volume 6 closes as Kasuga and Nakamura show up for the summer festival. A plan has been formulated and the two characters are there to make it a reality.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Volume 5

The Flowers of Evil continues to progress in volume 5. As this volume begins, the school season is winding down and summer break is approaching. Saeki is confiding in her friend Kinoshita, who has been developing as a character in her own right over the latest developments in the story. We gain some insight into possible ways Kinoshita could effect the story in future volumes. Nakamura and Kasuga start laying out a grander scheme plan on the unsuspecting countryside. However, Saeki and Kinoshita may interfere with their laid out plan.

A solid chunk of the volume provides us with some further insight to the characters. Nakamura and Kasuga continue to deepen their relationship, almost becoming one in terms of mental state. Kinoshita and Saeki each have their own ideas for how to handle the current situation, but does Saeki have her stance because she still cares for Kasuga?

The final third of the book brings Saeki, Nakamura and Kasuga all together again and it involves the plan Nakamura and Kasuga had. All of the events of the previous volumes come to a head at the end of volume 5 in a very emotional and destructive scene. The event will no doubt effect each of the characters in a different way in the next volume.

Recent Reading: the Flowers of Evil Volume 4

We have reached the point in the story that the anime series didn’t cover and the reason I wanted to read the series. I haven’t read a series that had this level of character development for a while. Volume 3 left off with all three characters; Nakamura, Kasuga and Saeki, having an emotional scene of venting frustrations and other emotional trauma.

The book begins transitioning to the summer season. The three characters have put the events on the mountain behind them and no longer talk to one another as they used to. Early in this volume we also get a glimpse of another character, Kinoshita, who is Saeki’s best friend. While she doesn’t have the depth of the other characters at this point, she has moments of being confrontational towards Kasuga.

In the time away from each other, each of the characters has had time to think. In Kasuga’s spare time he has an internal debate about Nakamura and decides to talk to her again. Initially Nakamura is hostile towards Kasuga having felt he wasted her time. Kasuga works to get Nakamura to believe he has changed. In his effort, he crosses the line, however it is exactly what is needed to get Nakamura to give Kasuga a second chance.

Kasuga goes  to great depths to get back in Nakamura’s good graces that we see a whole new layer to his character, a darker side. As Kasuga delves into his darker side with Nakamura, Saeki needs to share secrets with Kinoshita about the past events.

The stopping point of volume 4 shows all of our characters and a new one, Kinoshita, with a new direction for their character to take in volume 5.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Volume 3

My review of the series The Flowers of Evil from Vertical continues with volume 3. When we left off with volume 2, Kasuga and Nakamura were becoming closer and Kasuga was developing behaviors and thoughts similar to Nakamura’s. Especially the idea of being trapped in a dead end countryside city, full of people hiding their true selves.

The volume opens with the entire school abuzz over their discovery in school. Meanwhile, Saeki starts to learn of a deeper bond between Kasuga and Nakamura than she ever imagined. With suspicion mounting, the relationship between Kasuga and his dream girl, Saeki starts to get rocky.

Kasuga is torn between the two lives he feel he has and struggles to choose which path is the correct one for him. While Kasuga is battling within himself, Nakamura and Saeki start to interact with one another leading to a glimpse into the rivalry these two feel towards one another.

As Saeki tries to pull Kasuga down her path, Kasuga panics and flees towards where he feels safe, with Nakamura. Nakamura is able to persuade Kasuga into attempting to leave the countryside together. What Kasuga doesn’t know, is that Saeki is franticly looking for him back in the city, until she finds out the two of them were leaving the area.

The end of volume 3 features all three classmates on the mountainside pouring their emotions out while it storms. A fitting scene for the mixed emotions each character has within. It is during this exchange that we get to see more of the characters, in particular, Kasuga and Saeki.

The artwork keeps up with the rest of the volumes thus far. The facial expressions in the series; simply beautiful. The simpler art style allows for more emotion to come through since the artwork isn’t darkened up with a heavy use of tones.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Vol 2

This week we continue our review of The Flowers of Evil series, volume 2 in particular from Vertical. If you haven’t checked out the review of the first volume, you can see that here.

Volume 2 sticks close to the anime series if you watched it online via crunchyroll. The contract between Kasuga and Nakamura continues, only things get a little complicated since Saeki starts to play a more pivotal role in the series. Saeki and Kasuga go out on a date and begin a relationship all while Kasuga is hiding his secret of the gym uniform from the first volume. Nakamura starts to interact more with Saeki as well playing the role of a potential instigator by telling Kasuga something about Saeki that may turn out to be a lie. In a way, Kasuga starts to develop a second life. His first being the book nerd student at school who is dating Saeki, one of the prettiest girls in school. The second life involves him sneaking around with Nakamura and keeping his secret buried. A secret that plants the seed of an inner struggle.

As the story progresses we can see more and more of the characters dynamics intertwine and how they are starting to develop for the rest of the series. We get more of an insight to the dynamic between Nakamura and Kasuga that begins to show deeper layers than just the contract that was agreed upon that I can only assume will get deeper as the story evolves. The relationship between Kasuga and Saeki is just starting to get underway and should start to be expanded on in future volumes.

Kasuga and Nakamura have their own inner struggles and we catch glimpses of each. Kasuga is torn on what type of person he is and the battle is played out over his choice of which female classmate he wants to be with. Nakamura feels trapped and suffocated in the countryside town the characters live in. This trapped feeling is something that Nakamura feeds to Kasuga and he starts to feel suffocated by the countryside.

The second volume closes on a notable scene with some great artwork. The scene is beautifully animated in the series and plays an interesting dynamic in the future of the story (at least it did in the anime series and assuming the manga and anime continue to parallel one another). The scene is important for more than just the beautiful artwork, in a way it solidifies Nakamura and Kasuga as a unit instead of two individuals.

We get more of an inside glimpse into the characters in volume 2 and each of the characters are becoming deeper, meaning we are allowed to see more of their character and what drives or frustrates them, and the few things that make them happy.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Vol 1

I have been trying to catch up on some reading and I had to revert back to volume 1 of “The Flowers of Evil” by Shuzo Oshimi since it has been a while and I had to get caught back up. I reviewed the anime a while back and since the chances of a season 2 are probably pretty slim, I wanted to see the story to the end and picked up the manga. Here is the volume 1 cover.

One of the first things you will notice is the lighter art style. The artwork doesn’t get bogged down with a heavy use of tones. Here is an image of the manga art but also the side-by-side anime adaptation as well.

As for the story, it revolves around Kasuga who lives in a small town in rural Japan. He loves books and he feels that no one really understands his love and knowledge for books.
One day while walking home from school with his friends, he realizes he forgot his book back at school and turns back to go get it. While back at the classroom he sees that someone forgot their gym clothes in the school. Kasuga walks over and checks them out; discovering that they belonged to a girl in class he likes Saeki. Suddenly, Kasuga hears a noise and in his moment of panic runs out of the school with the gym uniform all the way back home. Kasuga finds himself in a whole new predicament when he finds out a girl in class witnessed him take them clothes, Nakamura. Nakamura promises Kasuga his secret is safe with her as long as he enters into a contract with her. Kasuga must now obey Nakamura or his secret will be known by everyone in class.

One of my favorite aspects of this series is the character development. The manga and anime remain true to one another in that regards and so far the manga and anime seem to be on the same storyline for the first volume. I also enjoy some of the artist’s notes throughout the book as he usually mentions real-life inspiration behind some of the scenes, people and authors that are mentioned in the story.

I will be posting up further reviews on the series. If you are currently reading the series, volume 8 will be out in early January from Vertical.

Rage Session #4 Character Development Decision Making

Last week we went over some tips for character development and how we can use the triangle method or 3 act outline for helping our characters evolve. However, last week we didn’t talk about one of the most important things, and this is what makes our characters do what they do? Of course as the creators we write the stories, but how can we make our characters make decisions that aren’t out of character. I am sure you have seen a movie and at some point the character makes a decision that you questioned because it seemed out of character. Those are the kinds of things we are going to discuss today.

Let’s first start with some basics in building your characters. For a beginner I would recommend an exercise.Write out a character bio but write it as if you were creating your a character based on yourself. See what events played an important role in shaping your character. These backstories are important for what shapes your character’s current state and also their future decisions. One trap to keep an eye out for, is by putting too much detail and emphasis on events that your audience won’t know or see. For instance, I have seen some character bio’s online that have details such as the characters blood type. In my opinion, if you aren’t using that information, don’t even create it or spend time on it.

In some cases, you can start with a loose outline of your character and develop some backstory later, it just depends on how much history or past events your characters connect with. I also don’t think you need super detailed past events for at least starting a story. For instance, in Cosmic Rage, I have some loose outlines for characters backstories but since I haven’t written a good chunk of the middle portion of the story, I can add backstory events if needed and most importantly, as long as they make sense.

So now that our characters have some backstory to them, we can start to discuss how the characters can make logical choices in your world. In a well crafted world, your characters will write the story themselves. As cliche as this sounds, it’s true. It might not happen right away, but once your characters start to take on a life of their own, their choices and decisions will make perfect sense.

Take your basic story of good guy vs bad guy. The good guy always goes after the bad guy, no matter what and for a variety of reasons. If the good guy just decided to go home there wouldn’t be a story to tell unless you were potentially introducing a character who steps into that role in your world. Even anti-heroes get drug back into stories of saving the day. Whether it is a reluctant John McClain from the Die Hard series who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if it is Vegeta from Dragonball Z who turns good from having a common enemy with Goku.

Let’s take a different approach, let’s say in a drama Guy X wants to date Girl X. That is his motivation for the story and he will do things that get him closer to that goal, unless he eventually quits, which makes more sense in a story when the world isn’t on the line. This kind of element may be why you visited this blog as well, you want to become a writer or storyteller and are working on advancing your skills. Your decision to read this post alone supports your own motivation.

Since we have been referring to the triangle method in terms of story outlines and character development, we can do the same with character motivations. A character has a  motivation and we need an event or a series of events that get that character to their end game or something that breaks them and gets them to disengage their pursuit of their motivation. And just like we did with outlines and character development, we can give a character multiple motivations. For instance Guy X who likes Girl X may also want to be a rich successful businessman, or maybe a broadway performer or even a mechanic. We can start to now use these motivations to play off each other. Maybe Guy X brags to Girl X about his successful business or his rich lifestyle in an attempt to gain her attention. Perhaps he uses his popularity as a performer to gain her interest or perhaps he struggles to talk to her so he formulates a character in which he uses as a self confidence booster to talk to her. Maybe he fixes her car or attempts to fix her car causing more damage making a relationship a potentially larger obstacle. The opportunities are endless.

So we covered a lot of ground today, but what if you are a beginner or you struggle with all of your characters making the same decisions or being too close to the same person. There are a few exercises and techniques you can use to overcome this as well. One tip is to base your characters personalities of of people you know or know enough of that gives you enough information. So imagine modeling a characters personality after yourself and then another character after a sibling, best friend or maybe a person you don’t like. By doing this you can write based on actual relationships and behaviors.

If you are writing about 2 best friends, maybe use yourself and a friend. By doing this you will give them certain details and intricacies that will make them more believable. It will also make the decisions the characters need to make towards or around one another easier to decide. Or if you want your character to interact with their parents the same as you interact with yours or even a friend and their parents. By observing different type of people and their relationships with others, it will provide a potential outline or blue print for you to at least get started.

You could even borrow personalities from existing characters, just beware not to write the same story. This technique takes discipline to use so your not just copying another piece of work, unless you are writing a fanfic.

For instance if we base a good caring character after Rick from the Walking Dead or to a more extreme example Goku from Dragonball Z, it would be really out of character for either of these characters to hurt someone else. They would need some form of conflict to make them do that or for them to change their ways and do so. In the Walking Dead’s case, it took a confrontation between Rick and Shane to resolve their conflict. Rick tried to avoid the conflict on several occasions and only had to fight when necessary. After his battle with Shane, it didn’t effect his character in the long run (at least so far) in his attitudes towards being a good person. It may have helped push him into having a shorter tollerance for threatening people, as we see in the start of the prison arc with the inmates.

Goku is the same way, he only fought the bad guys to save the world and even in those fights tried to persuade the bad guys to give up their evil ways. He even decided to remain dead since bad guys were trying to harm the Earth because he was around. Neither of these characters would go out of character and launch a pre emptive strike on another character, unless it was triggered by an event, which is character development.

As always feel free to comment below to share your thoughts or contact me if you have questions or want to talk about the topic some more. Next week may bring another writing lesson or a review, I haven’t decided. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Production Update 53

Very quick production update. Last week was crazy busy, but the final scene has finished it’s 3D rendering. So you are probably asking yourself what that means. Well, it means that there are 4 scenes that need to be composited and one slight edit to the audio track and then the prologue will be done.

Last week featured client work, some traveling and a lot more things behind the scenes that I can’t really go over right now. I am hoping to get compositing tonight on some of the scenes and looking forward to seeing how much I can get done this week inbetween client work. Thanks for checking in and Thursday we will cover more character development techniques.