Saturday, January 11, 2014

Video production class weblog--Day 5, 2014: story development and the pitch

Yesterday, D6 Productions and Average Film Studios edited their action videos and brainstormed ideas for their big story lines. After spending four hours trying to hash out a continuing story out of their post-apocalyptic hook, D6 Productions were getting frustrated with the whole idea, but with O.K. Keyes' help, they came up with this treatment:

A young man named John wakes from a nap to discover that everyone has vanished from his school. Desks are overturned, pieces of paper lie scattered everywhere. As he looks for his sister Lilian, he finds a sheet of paper with a bloody handprint on it and her name written in pencil. Calling out her name in desperation, he runs around the school until he collapses by a bathroom. He hears weeping, and when he enters the bathroom, he finds her curled up in a corner behind the sinks. She says "Thank you for saving me," and as they are walking out, one can see that only his shadow appears in the mirrors.

As they wander around the school, they discuss possible scenarios as to what happened. A neutron bomb? Some deadly chemical from overseas that they are strangely immune to? John notices that Lilian seems disengaged, emotionally disconnected, with a tendency to stare off into space when she should be paying attention. They decide to work their way home, but they have to pass through downtown first, and they keep thinking that they're finding someone still alive amongst the scattered cars, the drifting sheets of paper, and the eerie piles of ashes on the sidewalk. What seems to be a human will suddenly become a mannequin in a shop window, a fallen branch, or a laptop blinking in an otherwise empty hallway.

After they become used to the silence and the isolation, John hits upon the idea of investigating various random homes with the hopes that someone may be holed up inside.  In the midst of this search, he locates some crackers, peanut butter, and bottled water, but when they sit down to eat in someone's backyard, he notices that Lilian isn't hungry. She just stares at the food as if she didn't know how to pick it up. She also refuses to drink anything. Again, concerned, John prompts her with one of the favorite songs of their youth "Hush little baby, don't say a word / Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird," but Lilian looks away not comprehending at all. Alarmed, John tries to shake her into being more awake and aware. "What do you mean, you don't remember it?" he asks.

Soon after, they arrive back home, but there's no one inside. Again, John tries to jogs his sister's memory by reminding her of a favorite Operation board game, but she just looks at him helplessly. They both end up taking a nap, and when they awake a neighboring girl named Denise has appeared at the doorway. While they are silent, Denise joins them joyfully. It turns out that she has been alone at home for the entire day, and she's just as concerned about what happened as they are. Still, both John and Lilian fail to respond, and when she asks them what's going on, they reply in unison, "Thank you for saving me." As the camera moves around the living room, we can see that, of the three of them, only Denise appears in the mirror.

When it came time for D6 Productions to pitch their 3 story lines the rest of the class, they also mentioned a home invasion-type idea involving two sisters who hate each other, but are forced to work together to stop a strange man from getting inside their house. When the group brought up the Lilian story, immediately people began to question it. Is there really a plot? Will the ending make any sense? After some discussion, I proposed that the entire class (except for one) close their eyes and vote for one story or the other. After some confusion of a split vote with 6 - 6, the class then chose the home invasion story over the Lilian one by a margin of 7 - 6. So, after all of that time working out a semi-coherent ending to their narrative, D6 Productions switched to something else altogether! Screenplay writing is a bitch.

Over the weekend, both production companies will write out scenes, storyboard, and plan out their shooting schedule. Principal photography of the two major videos (in a park and in an antebellum mansion) will probably begin on Monday afternoon.

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