The Life We Leave: MA Short Film
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
First 10 minute brainstorm
Jackie: 27, she has black hair and a small nose. She is strong-willed and stubborn but has a lot of love for people and things.
She is estranged from her mother and her closest friend is her seal point siamese cat. She lives in a forest and is a primary school teacher. She prides herself on a deeper care and respect for her belongings.
The forest is misty and mossy in peaceful rather than eery way, as if brewing with a mystical undercurrent. You know you're not alone in this forest; you are among the spirits.
She lives in a small house in the heart of the forest. It was a straw roof and mossy walls, which you walk through to enter. Inside, her home is brimming with life. Inviting pools of warm lighting with condensation on the four pane windows. Wooden floors and ceiling. Candles with dripping wax and trinkets line the worn surfaces. The things in her house are worn; patched quilts, painted cracks in picture frames, scratches in the tables. But it's worth noting that they are not worn from carelessness, but worn from time and love.
So its not about fixing things because they need fixing to be new, its about using the most out of the things you own and sharing your life with them, so that they are apart of your experiences and are intertwined with who you are. It's about when they break, they are not broken, they can be fixed and that only adds to its life and strengthens your connection with the things around you.
We can't just throw things away because we think perfection is store-bought. It's not. It's cultivation, it's experiences, it's fixing and mending and imprinting your life on the things around you and your soul being enriched in return; it's history and it's memories.
There's an ornate hand-sculpted golden key with a ruby inlay in a bejewelled box on her table. It's tarnished and smoothed by years of use; once used frequently, it is stored away with mystical status. She was born on the 27th and he life has been filled up the 27-related coincidences. Believes something will happen on her 27th birthday - which is coming up in a few days.
She has an unwillingness to visit her mother, who lives in the city, a 2 hour drive away from the forest
She hopes that her mother learns to understand and respect her and that she can be loved the way she loves.
Following on from an interest in making a cel animation inspired by making something intuitive, formed through drawing the same thing over and over. Inspired by Ryan Larkin and other experimental animators, I wanted to see what I could create with this process, watching the shapes slowly morph into something entirely different.
Cel animation with oil pastel, with a portion edited using the multiply blending function on Photoshop.
For the FMP storyline, I'd like to use this process to work out what the internal makeup of her belongings (or general objects) are. So, it's like working out the atomic makeup of an object through connecting with and focusing on the object fully. Science meets artistic expression. By taking the time to render object over and over I begin to see it for what it is; taking away the presented form and discovering its essence.
inspired by these concepts in Codex Seraphinianus, Luigi Serafini
playing around with colours, forms and characters
Left to Right
(1,2,3,4) Automatic drawings: Spirit forms, objects
(5) Cat character designs: Her siamese toy comes alive
(6) Mug: Showing the life inside crafted objects
(7) "Jackie" character designs - modelled from Winona Ryder
(8) Scenery: Flowers, misty forest.
In line with the concept of Afterlife by Ishu Patel (the afterlife state is a working-out of your past experience), your belongings feed into who you are:
A sequence in which the essence of her objects becomes who she is; we see part of her belongings' internal structures in her.
Inspired by Samadhi, Jordan Belson
Oil pastel drawing inspired by previous drawings
Oil pastel automatic drawing (running with this "bulb" theme)
Liking this colour combination
Oil pastel (and sgraffito) automatic drawing and charcoal character designs
Liking the deep blue and green with lime combination
Character designs inspired by Winona Ryder
Top: Automatic drawing with charcoal and oil pastel
Bottom: Loose trace of top drawing with charcoal
Cat character design initiated through this method?
Really love the softness and tone with this medium
Charcoal studies. Cat on trace with drawings created using the trace tears as guidelines
It's not just nature that has a spirit but its also the belongings you care for and that are crafted with care and dedication because they both lie under the concept that these entities are created with an attention to the spiritual nature of all things - the belief that natural world is crafted or exists in a delicate cradle of elements that are fine-tuned to cultivate their existence. (Does that even make sense??). With dedication and care in preserving these things, they will thrive, and the spirit that lives in all things cared for will live in those who ensure that they do. Whether that is in mending things that have been broken or witnessing/aiding in the intricate self-preservation of the natural world.
What her mother breaks and cat character design
The spirit of the cat:
By using the method I used at the top of the blog post - re-drawing the subject matter until it morphs into something entirely different - I'm hoping to discover what the spirit of the cat will be. Above is the first frame. As a toy, the cat will be this two-tone turquoise colour and as a real cat, will be a more vibrant version, glowing and translucent, showing the spirit within.
So, the design of the spirit will reflect these final patterns; twirling and looping curved entities.
I'm still trying to work out the story. I want to include her childhood in the story but I also really want viewer to have a moment of realisation that her cat companion used to be her toy. I think by showing the transformation from toy to cat is important but I'm not sure whether it should be present day, or a past event (so the viewer sees the transformation, and the ball is dropped when they realise that this real cat was a toy).
I don't want to get bogged down this fleshing out a huge plot line (her goals, desires, where she lives, her occupation, her relationships, the climax, the resolution) because I don't think there's enough time to fully comprehend who she is in a wider sense. But I want the heart to be there; I want the viewer to know enough about her to connect with her and understand the meaning behind the animation and take away what they interpret.
So I think having the storyline, set with her as an adult, with flashbacks/memories of her as a child would solve this problem. You don't really know the complexity of who she has become, but you know through her actions that she is acting out a resolution to/realisation from her childhood experience.
The first scene, we see her in the car, windows down, driving away from a dark and grey city (Sky-scrapers, vapid billboards). While driving, a small yellow spirit flits through the window and circles the car, whipping around her head. She grins down at her friend in the passenger seat, her translucent teal siamese, who grins back at her. They're finally choosing to follow their path and a sense of excitement and relief flows over them. Shot from the back, they are driving towards the forest, and even more spirits fill the car, floating and flitting in and out of the car windows.
These scenes might be interspersed with memories from childhood so the viewer can slowly start to comprehend who she is
In the forest, she and her cat wander between the verdant trees and shrubs of the forest's understory. As she place her hand on the leaves, spirits shoot out, caressing and enveloping her hand and spirally up her arm. They weave between her cats legs and tail and boop their nose. She looks up at the trees to see the insides alive with energy, pink, blue and orange spirits swarm its heartwood, creating an intricate and vibrant network of colour.
They arrive at their destination, a run-down cabin; there's a hole in the roof, the windows are boarded up and the chimney is broken. She puts her bags down and her cat jumps onto her shoulders. She puts her hand on the hip. She has finally begun what her life has led up to; after years of mending what her mother had broken, and realising that by fixing those things with care and love, she has instilled her heart in them, she has decided to move to the forest, so she can be surrounded by the thing most loved and alive than all. She has bought this house to fix and mend with love and dedication, so it can too can be filled with life and heart. And begin a life dedicated to instilling the heart into everything; to bringing light to forgotten, discarded things. To making broken things whole. To create a life and encourage lives dedicated to looking after things and cherishing the gift of restoration.
The gift of restoration. She is being restored through restoring the things around her; its a mutual gift. Your connection with things, objects, the world around you becomes stronger once you learn to appreciate what you have and learn to be dedicated to keeping them alive.
A commentary on throw-away culture, the re-establishment of a slower life, a life of love, protection, and gentleness towards the world and the things in it.
I need to think more about how the forest and nature fits into the fixing of things you have broken. I know theres a link but I need to condense it.
She has a love of things. They are alive
What do I like about this character and her story:
Her cat and the transformation from toy to real cat because her love is so strong
The spirit in things and showing the internal structures of these things
The idea that belongings are meant to be used and used to the fullest. You imprint your life on the things around you and your soul is enriched in return; it's history and it's memories. They witness who you've been/are/become. They are a reflection of who you are.
The idea that when you mend things, you are adding to their life, they become filled with spirit and love.
Belongings have life and soul and the care you give them regulates that.
The misty forest
Drawings from automatic drawing. Surreal character and environment design
6 drawings from the drawing below
Charcoal drawing loosely traced from oil pastel and charcoal automatic drawing (seen further up in this post)
Showing the magic in the love a child has for their belongings (their favourite toy) Crossing the road, cat dropped in road. Car hits it, and the girl is so upset. Mum throws it away. Late at night, the girl sneaks out her room and retrieves the cat. In the glow of the lamp by her bed, she sews the cat back together. The love she feels for the cat and that goes into repairing it bring the cat to life.
Idea # 3
Random idea: Cat walking home. Through the cat you can see into people's house. Showing people's act of love and togetherness. Cat gets home and sits on woman's lap by the fire.
The lives we create for the things we love. The experiences we go through affect the belonging we have. They are a part of our growing up/lives.
Oil paint on glass - testing out this scene idea
With these ideas, I not sure about the tone - I don't want it to be too simple or obvious. I want it to be a bit more abstract. Something where it hits you and you can understand it but the visuals aren't necessarily acting out obvious scenarios.
Should the Mum even be involved?
We become the objects we own. They are us. They reflects our lives. Show this in an abstract way - we subsume our belongings. The essence within is injected into our belongings, and vice versa. We project our lives onto objects, and they enrich our lives in return. But have an emphasis on the history of belongings - the belongings that we've had for years and years, that are special through this history; the places they've been, the experiences we've had around them/with them, the times we've mended them. It's this connection that is visualised through abstract spirits/forms, like I've experimented with above.
Adding spirits to a photo of my and my favourite childhood soft toy, Bertie Bear
1. Photoshop, 2. Exposing hand-drawn 'spirits' onto plate with photopolymer printing
Another charcoal automatic drawings and a drawing made from a detail
Abstract drawing - patterns could be made into background environments
1. Her mum breaks things. All Jackie knows is the cold empty life she has at home
She mends the things her Mum breaks, the viewer notices glimmers of life in the things she fixes
Her mum breaks her favourite toy, her car.
This is the point of transformation. The love she has for this toy and the care and dedication that goes into mending the cat brings her to life
From this point on her cat helps her realise the life in the things around her, she is shown that all the things she has mended now have a little more life and so does she as they now share this bond.
She goes out and now she can see all the life in the those things protected
2. Another perspective of the same story: Her as an adult reflecting on the transformation
In the car with the windows down driving away from a dark and grey city (sky-scrapers, vapid billboards). While driving, a small yellow spirit flits through the window and circles the car, whipping around her head. She grins down at her friend in the passenger seat, her translucent teal siamese, who grins back at her. They're finally choosing to follow their path and a sense of excitement and relief flows over them.
Shot from the back, they are driving towards the forest, and even more spirits fill the car, floating and flitting in and out of the car windows.
In the forest, she and her cat wander between the verdant trees and shrubs of the forest's understory. As she places her hand on the leaves, spirits shoot out, caressing and enveloping her hand and spiralling up her arm. They weave between her cats legs and tail and boop their nose. She looks up at the trees to see the insides alive with energy, pink, blue and orange spirits swarm its heartwood, creating an intricate and vibrant network of colour.
(throughout these scenes they are interspersed with memories from childhood so the viewer can slowly start to comprehend who she is)
Arrive at a run-down cabin in the heart of the forest. She sighs a breath of relief and puts her bags down. Her cat jumps on her shoulder as she puts her hand on her hip. We see the parallel between them now and them as children, when she fixed her cat and they came alive.
She has finally begun what her life has led up to; after years of mending what her mother had broken, and realising that by fixing those things with care and love, she has instilled her heart in them, she has decided to move to the forest, so she can be surrounded by the thing most loved and alive than all. She has bought this house to fix and mend with love and dedication, so it too can be filled with life and heart. To make broken things whole. To create a life and encourage lives dedicated to looking after things and cherishing the gift of restoration
3. Another perspective: The mum is not callous, she just threw away the cat because it was damaged and the things the daughter fixes are things that have broken by other means, not at the hands of a careless mother. She drops her cat toy in the road, a car swerves but hits it. Mum throws it away, daughter picks it out the bin and sews it up with the light of her bed-side lamp way past her bedtime. Sparks fly, spirits encircle them and the cat toy transforms into a real cat.
Little idea: Running theme of the cat being see-through in all these stories. Cat walking home. Through the cat we can see past walls and fences. We see little scenes of acts of kindness and togetherness. Ends with the cat sitting on the arm of her owner's armchair, by the fireplace, in her warm, cosy cottage.
4. Off-shoot of all these ideas: Looking at childhood toys and the lives we create for them. Stemming from the lives I have given my toys: Had to cut blu-tack out of Bertie Bear's fur- battle wound. Got nail polish on Merls the Dog’s foot - had a manicure, the beans fell out of Sam’s MoMo - stitched up after surgery.
5. A montage of loosely-animated memories (based off of the things in my room). These memories are triggered by the object. The object becomes the spirit in it, then the memory forms from those abstract spirits. A series of memories; walking home reading the crucible while listening to The Smiths, carving a heart into a piece of wood on a visit to the Yorkshire Dales, hanging up flowers to dry after my BA graduation, the fields of sunflowers I captured on film in 2018, exploring the pyramids in Giza with my brother in 2006. We zoom out of the last object to reveal the woman sitting in her room, surrounded by all these objects that are still with her, that have helped form her life.
I think the main strand running through all this is looking after our belongings, realising that these objects make us who we are. Through looking after them and projecting our life onto them, we breathe life into them and they enrich ours in return.
Style and energy mood board
- The colours and the abstract shapes in Yamasuki Yamazaki, by Shi Shi Yamazaki - The transiency in Morning by Vojtěch Domlátil. Short scenes with limited content that blend into each other, guided by sound. The subject matter itself is constantly moving, as if alive.
- The quietness (atmospheric, focused, minimal sound of natural environment) in the introduction to Ciervo by Pilar Garcia-Fernandezsesma. Warm colours and simple sound design of summer insects.
- The combination between realism and abstraction in Asparagus, by Suzan Pitt.
Highly illustrative and textured scenery - Shirley Hughes
also seen in Wolfwalkers - Tomm Moore, and Ross Stewart
Penny from The Rescuers
Girl fixes things that are broken and gives them a new life. What people may believe are rubbish, no good, she sees the life they still have and the life she could give them. With this, through fixing these things, a part of her soul is in these things and a piece of them is in her. In her room, we see that so much of what she owns is mended, old and well-loved. Her room is alive. Flowers in washed-up ketchup bottles, peeling sun-bleached books on the bookshelf, mugs with glued-on handles, re-painted picture frames, found jewellery - maybe found objects in general - rocks from special places. Growing up in a house where the old or used isn't cherished, her home is usually the source of "broken" things she fixes. One day, he most cherished belonging, her toy cat, is broken and her family say she has to throw it away. She is so upset and is adamant on fixing it. Her mum puts it in the bin but at night, the girl creeps out and fishes it out the bin. With only her bed-side table lamp illuminating the room, a vignette circles the girl on the edge of her bed as she sews her cat back together. This cat being the thing she loves most in the world, that has been with her through everything, she pours all her love into fixing it. As she's sewing the cat back together, we see small spirits pass through her fingers, into the needle and into the ripped seams of the cat. Soon spirits from the cat grow bigger, intertwining with her spirit. A pulse reverberates between them as spirits emerge from their microscopic scale and encircle them, spiralling and popping. With all the love and life the girl is giving her toy cat, it morphs into a real cat. It snuggles up to her face and climbs onto her shoulders.
The cat then urges her to follow it out the house and as she's walking down the street, her cat shows her that there are others like her who care deeply about the things they own; the things that make up their lives, have seen them through stages in their life and have been enriched by the care given to them. She sees families, couples, individuals surrounded by the spirits of the things they love, sitting on the sofas in their living rooms, wearing old jumpers, reading old books, old patchwork blankets.
Trying out rotoscoping for the cat climbing onto girls shoulders
I want to use metamorphosis a lot in this film. The objects are symbolised through their connection with the owner. The people become the objects and vice versa (how people say the dog normally looks like the owner)
The story is rooted in reality, so how do i find a balance between realism and fantasy, reality and dream-like sequences.
Bedroom design inspired by Kiki's bedroom in Kiki's Delivery Service.
Screencap Illustration with @amidst.silence
Maybe the mum really isn't needed?
Need something to be resolved.
If the cat is the main transformation
Developed story ideas:
The viewer sees glimmer of life in the things that she fixes but she doesn't know. Her cat shows her.
The cats role is showing the girl that by looking after things and seeing the beauty in broken things she has given them life. She collects things, reuses things, transforms things into beautiful and useful things. But what she didn't realise was she had the power to bring them alive.
Everyone has the power to make broken things beautiful. Even if you cant physically see the life in things, know that with the care you give objects, you also give life - you create life and, by doing so, they give become your life.
Maybe a funny ending would be to them show everything coming alive and the viewer is left wondering whether it's such a good idea that she collected so many things because her room is about to get very busy. Anthropo/Zoomorphising objects to show the life in your belongings but also hints at the danger of collecting many things.
She collects things and sees the beauty in things. What she doesn't realise is she is giving them life - quite literally.
For the things you most care about, have the most life.
Quiet beginning - sound of tinkling, rustling - close up of objects in her room - a sort of intro to the setting. Her lying on the her bed. Finger twirling the ivy hanging from her bookshelf. She is about 8 years old. She gets up and heads outside, says goodbye to mum. Mum knows that she's going out foraging. Rolls her eyes.
Out into the open, she's happy. Looking for things that are broken.
Comes back and the cat is broken. So upset. Her mum says the cats got to be thrown away - She’s very distraught. At night, she sneaks into the kitchen and opens bin (the cat is sitting by the bin) and rescues the cat from destruction. Small snapshots of her getting a needle and thread, her bedroom illuminated by her bedside light. She sits crossed-legged on her bed and begins to sew her toy up. Shes upset but determined. With every stitch glimmers of spirits swirl out of her finger, through the needle and into the cat. On a molecular level, abstract, automatic. We see the transformation from the internal. Zoom to reveal that the toy has transformed into a real cat. She’s shocked but exstatic.
Her cat slinks around her room and seems eager to show her something. She shuffles across her bed to her bookcase. Her cat has her paws up on the bookcase and is nudging her book with her nose. The girl picks up the book and feelings the spine. Suddenly she feels a rush of energy and we sees her prints on the cover and the spirit that exists in the book. These objects that the cat is showing the girl are objects that we have seen earlier in the story. Objects that we know she has fixed or found beauty in their age and wear.
A book, a mug, a blanket?
A book in a box on the side of a road
A mug her mum dropped
Or a torn dress - snagged while walking past a fence
And slowly she sees the objects in her room start to glow, as she discovers that everything she has that she has looked after is alive because of her. She's so happy.
Her cat jumps up onto the window sill and looks out the window. She smiles as the moonlight streams through the window, casting light on her iridescent fur. The girl follows and from her window she can see lights in some houses. She squints and sees that there are others like her, who deeply care for and find the value in their belongings but have also/are also discovering the extent to which life lives in them.
The cat gives her the power to see the life in everything. She saw the beauty and the potential but now she nows that these things are really alive. Alive in the sense that she has given them life and purpose, despite what others may think. The cat coming alive to show her this symbolises, the extent to which things can come alive with the amount of love you give them.
She collect things, she fixes things, she cherishes her belongings. Her room is full of these things. But she didn't realise was the beauty in what she does. She didn't realise how impactful her actions were. That is until she fixes the one things she cares about most in the world - her toy cat.
Beginning - should be her being side-lined for alway collecting things - her room being messy - you have her mum sighing rolling her eyes when the girls comes back with more stuff - old books, chipped mugs that she glued back together - patch-worked blankets - flower in washed up ketchup bottles. Her family don't understand it - doesn't have to be such a prominent feature - just has to be known that she is singular in her family - she enjoys what she does but is cautious that its not normal.You have this tension between the mum and her when the mum wants to throw the cat away and the girl is distraught So when she sews the cat back together, she knows that what she is doing is wrong - against the rules - and makes she second-guess her attachment to her belongings. But when the cat comes alive and shows her that the things that she cherishes and has found beauty in are actually now alive and have a spirit because of her, she is affirmed in her passion, especially when she sees other in their house with they own spirited belongings - children playing with the spirits - boy with aeroplane - flying through the sky (spirits flying too), But also window ledge plants. Everything that people believe to be important and cherished in their life have spirit. She ends the day knowing that while her family don’t understand her - there are so many others that do and she knows in her heart that there is such beauty, magic and importance in what she does.
start of storyboard
scanned hand references
looking about the bedroom window at the spirits in other houses
Deconstructing the narrative:
At the beginning her room is sketchy but when she discovers it’s full of spirits it becomes mooore so (maybe same with her - she becomes more of a spirit)
Oil pastel and then bring in digital element frame by frame
Perhaps draw a checkpoint frame to reach in digital - like 00:08 flash it before the oil pastel reaches
Too long to have her finding things (by herself or with her mum)
But with the panning at the start of the animation, you get the impression that she collects a lot.
Need to make throwing the cat away make sense
Maybe she comes back with one more thing and the mum has had enough and wants to have the sort out, throw away. The cat is already tattered - no because why would she fix it if its been like that - yes, because she's allowed to keep it if she fixes it.
She fixes her cat
What do I want to say: The things we care about have a life in them. They become a part of us when they become a part of our life. She finds this out
How much do I show
Full: Mum exasperated as she leaves to hunt for treasure
It's more so that the things she has are things connected with her life not that she looks for things that aren't hers.
The cat is transformed because it's the most cherished belonging that has been through the most with her. So through extending its life, it comes to life.
And the cat shows her that all the things that she decides to keep have a bit of her spirit in them, because they mean so much to her, they are special, full of life.
It's important to cultivate a life where you really care about the things you own. She needs to be reminded that while her mum says she needs to stop holding onto things because she's basically becoming a hoarder, its holding onto these things that makes her special and enriches her life and identity.
Meaningful maximalism. It's not about getting loads of things, it's about thinking about who you are, what you need and, what you find important. It's about cherishing the things you own. William Morris: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
So the cat shows her that others hold onto things they care about. It is who you are, you make the space you fit into. Surrounding yourself with things you love.
So, what does the Mum do:
She says the girl needs to clear out her things (in a kind of 'Come on come on its sort out day')
She gets rid of a few things, but this includes her cat.
We'll get a new one
She rescues the cat. Decides that she should fix it.
Using the objects to print patterns
Fur for car
Books - drypoint or embossed printing of book - letterpress?
— looking through a microscope at these objects (use the microscope in August in France)
Needle and thread Record groves
Use these forms to build the spirits (as well as making forms using the materials themselves)
Tracey Bashkoff on Hilma af Klint:
'Two pulsating orbs are, at the same time, microscopic eggs and intersecting solar systems. These forms continue to evade singular or stable interpretations - evolution, continuity, growth, and progress all coexist with a return to the beginning or the oneness of spirit. Science and spirit, mind and matter, the micro and the macro are simultaneously present.'
Printmaking with objects - cel animation on top
- Link: Walter Benjamin
Through craft (hand-made) we rediscover experience and memory.
The aura of objects
Blank cel animation
On print background
Edit cel on background
Test of oil pastel cat in scene: