What is filmmaking if it’s not the culmination of thousands of creative decisions? There are three acts in a linear story – beginning, middle and end. And there are three phases to making a movie – writing the script, production, and post-production. Each part is a puzzle that could be put together in any number of ways.
Our first challenge was to determine the most effective way to visualize The Alchemist Agenda. We knew it needed to be engaging, communicate clearly, set the right tone, and dramatize the action well. But we didn’t want it to be all about the technique; we didn’t want to use technical gimmicks that could look like a poor rendition of the real thing or be difficult to sustain for a feature length film.
We also knew some form of storyboarding would be the best expression for our action adventure story; the flexibility of drawing allows for locations to give the sense of place, emotions to be articulated, and action to play out; and something about drawn images allow the imagination make the leap to what a live action version would be.
We had agreed that we were going to pace this test film like a live action movie. Typically one script page equals one minute of screen time. Other test movies tend to rush through, probably to keep audiences engaged. But we wanted to pace this movie more accurately, and to do so we needed movement, something best served by a Motion Comic. (Sounds like a term for Steve Martin walking.)
Since the script called for so much action, we would have to prioritize certain set pieces, must-see scenes, but just the same, we really wanted to strive for a high level of consistency throughout. The artwork needed to have the right detail and depth to give a visceral reaction, certain scenes would require movement within the frames, as well as [simulated camera] editing moves, and selective color would be needed to create the right mood.
Time and money were a consideration in all these areas. We had to strike the right balance between how many frames we could produce, how much detail in the artwork, how much color, and how much movement we could accomplish within our production schedule, keeping the essential goal in mind of finding the right tone.
When people first read The Alchemist Agenda script, they compared it to Bourne Identity, Indiana Jones, The De Vinci Code, National Treasure, and James Bond movies. People tend to do that with scripts, comparing them to known movies, so there’s a common reference. But few filmmakers set out to make a derivative movie or put their favorite movies in a blender, no matter who or what their influences are.
So we first looked at The Alchemist Agenda in relation to what those aforementioned movies had in common. They were all in the action adventure genre, and all franchises. Not bad company to be in, but still, we didn’t want to be compared to anyone else. As Yesenia Higuera, our talented editor-producer, said, “In the future, we want people to say that their film is a cross between whatever and The Alchemist Agenda.”
The late Blake Snyder and his Save The Cat books talked about commercial movies being “the same, only different.” And he meant that audiences generally want their genre served up with all the expected courses, but they want to see them disguised in unexpected flavors. And if you’re wondering why I’m using cooking metaphors, it’s because it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry…But seriously folks, that’s how we came to determine a style and tone that would be unique, consistent, and hopefully awesome! And tomorrow I will begin to explain the process.