I discussed my story with my sister, Emily, who is studying Documentary Film & TV, and she has learned a lot from Uni and college about Robert McKee's storytelling book, especially from one of our college film tutors who actually went to some of his seminars.
She told me about a simple flow chart that links up the Positive, Negative, Ambivalent and Negation of the Negation aspects of a story.
The Positive is the good things in a story, Negative is the opposite (bad) things, Ambivalence is inbetween these two and Neg of the Neg is the absolute worst possible thing that could happen.
Maturity>>Childishness>>Immaturity>>Immaturity masquerading as Maturity
A superhero movie would be like this,
My film was written like this:
So, we re-wrote my story with a device to allow these positives and negatives to happen. At first my sister suggested a watering can as that can be used to feed the little sapling at the end of the film, but we eventually settled on an acorn that becomes a necklace for Amber to wear and features in the beginning (Amber and Spirit meet and befriend) the middle (the necklace breaks and the friends fall out) and the end (Amber plants the acorn necklace or places it around a new sapling). Therefore the necklace becomes a metaphor for their friendship.
Emily told me that each character needs a desire, whether it is conscious or unconscious. So the Spirit desires an unconditional friendship, but Amber just wants attention, but her unconscious desire (which she would learn to realise) is also friendship.
I noticed similarities to this and Lost and Found (2008) where the boy believes that the little lost penguin wants to go home, but in fact just wanted a friend because he was lonely and the boy realises this only after they have travelled to the South Pole together.
Through this process, I discovered it created a much more meaningful story, however it would be difficult to accomplish without making Amber too mean as both characters need to be likeable. In The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Jack Skellington is a very naive character who does lots of bad things, but because he makes a physical attempt to undo his wrongs at the end, he remains an entertaining character. His naivety plays a big part in this too.
I also toyed with ideas of a bigger message, like an environmental, spiritual or child's loss of belief/innocence, but it looked like it would make the story too complicated at that point if it were to be made obvious.
Here is the synopsis I wrote after our discussion:
SYNOPSIS - 5/11/11
Beneath a great oak tree, a little girl (Amber) and a tree Spirit collect acorns, unaware of each other. As they draw near, they reach for the same, and also the last, acorn. After a brief struggle, the Spirit emerges victorious and scurries away with the acorn. Amber sulks, angry and upset. The Spirit hesitates and reappears to offer her the acorn as a gift. Amber fashions the acorn into a necklace and they play together.Amber returns to the tree every day to play with her new friend, through snowy winters, blossoming spring, scorching summers and golden autumns. One such autumn, the necklace breaks and Amber believes it to be the Spirit that broke it and is very angry. She runs to her bedroom, leaving the Spirit alone.In her room, Amber hurls the necklace to the floor, plays with her toys and sulks in bed. Eventually, she picks up the necklace to fix it and writes/draws a message for the Spirit before going to bed.That night there is a terrible storm, the Spirit struggles to stay out of the rain when suddenly the oak tree is struck by lightning, cleaving it in two. The following morning, Amber walks out of the house with the necklace in order to apologise to the Spirit but it is too late: the tree is destroyed and there is no sign of the Spirit. Devastated, she cries in the middle of the charred tree until her tears stop.She plants her acorn necklace where the old tree once stood to return it to her friend / OR / she spots a new sapling growing from the ashes of the old tree and puts her acorn necklace around the fresh green shoots.
I think the story structure works much better here than what I had before, it's clearer and makes more sense. My feedback for this from James Manning and Matthew Gravelle reveals some issues that will need addressing however (see next post).
I also may be showing my animatic to a local nursery near my home in North Wales where my Aunt works, but the children are only in a 2-3 year-old age range, so I will need to consider what I can show without upsetting young children. My Aunt won't have her after-school club of older children until February, so I may have to consider giving them a 'happy' ending for now to see what they think.