Short Film Story Outline

I am working on the story for my first 3d short film, and would like some serious constuctive criticism. It’s untitled as of now, but I wrote down my first general story idea. It’s kind of dark. I’m thinking it will be four or five minutes at this point. Characters will be exagerated and cartoonish, and enviornments will be as realistic as I can make them.
(There are also some little notes to myself in there about camera movement and compisition)
Here it is:

First General Story Outline

Scene 1- (It’s a sunny day, but I want to give it a colder blueish feeling. The grass is scattered and rocks and boulders are common. ((Maybe evergreen trees.)) Characters are dressed for chilly weather. Maybe sweaters.) We see the man with the weird sideburn, “honest abe” beard, with a shiny bald head. Bright blue eyes. Shiny as well. walking on a cobble stone path to Basil’s house at the border of the woods(maybe! Remember render times on trees! Possiblility for compositing or matte painting) The man comes to Baz’s shop and see a wooden sign on the door that says, “Gone Flying” or something like that. The man goes around the house to see Baz packing supplies into his balloon.

Baz walks past it and accidentally knocks in a piece of wood that was sitting on the edge. (Baz is a sharp but kind looking man. Early forties maybe, has wrinkles and has an aged quality. He has a jagged hairstyle, some hairs long, some very short. with a dirty old top hat. Small irises. noticible crows feet around his eyes. Rough eyebrows, greyer than his normal hair.) The man greets baz “Good Morning”.- Baz says “It’s quite early for you”- The man asks if he thinks he really wants to be doing this.- Baz points into the sky and says he’s going to make it to the top. He knows it. The man says that Marie wishes him luck. “I’ve been flying for years, I hardly think I need it.” says Baz. But he does look down, as if he doubts it. As if he’s only lying to himself, and he knows it.- “Yes.” says the man quietly. He looks down as well and there’s a small pause.- “Well, I’ll be off.” and he begins to walk away. “When you make it to the top, Marie says to give a wave to the town. Some of the kids will be watching to see if you make it.”- “Okay.” says Baz, with a slight chuckle.- The man is now out of sight and earshot. A crow comes down and lands on the balloon basket. We see in a shot, the sun slowly go behind a cloud. END OF SCENE 1

MAIN TITLEs shown

Scene 2 We see the man back on the path. The light dims with the sun going behind the cloud. He looks up and sees a storm gathering. His eyes grow a little wider and he turns around with the camera. We see the ghostly silhouette of Basil’s Balloon floating quickly away from his home. “no…” mutters the man. (I want this scene to be one continuous camera shot. First the camera follows him from behind, the looks up as he does, then spins around him to see the balloon. But the camera does keep slowly spinning around him to see his face at the end of the shot, looking alarmed, fearful and worried.) END OF SCENE 2

Scene 3 -We see Baz in his balloon checking various dials and guages, and writing down something in a log of some kind. He sets it down next to the camera. We see that it says, “Balloon Mission to the Summit of Mount Rolan- Log” He jolts up when he hears thunder. He looks to see the storm that is gathering at the same height as he. Lightning flashes within the clouds. Without looking away from the storm, he pulls the lever to turn up the flame. The handle is rusty. Next there is a good large shot of the balloon from the side. You can see the silhouette of Baz moving throughout the basket, and clouds moving quickly down. Back in the Basket, we see Baz cough several times, and then a cloud engulfs the balloon. END OF SCENE 3
Scene 4- The man is now running through the door of his home in pouring rain. As he runs through the door, we see a sign by the door that says, Dr. Theodore Burg, Medical Doctor. Inside the home, Theo looks up at a leak in the ceiling. END OF SCENE 4

Scene 5- (It’s raining constantly, thundering constantly, and there is constant lightning. I want this seen to be very noisy.) Baz’s Basket is being shaken somewhat by the winds. Looking around for a reference point in the clouds, he sees one crow come through. He smiles a little bit. Then we see dozens more coming through. Baz’s mouth opens with horror. In a silhouette shot of the balloon from the side, we se the crows flying into the balloon and onto the other side. In a few quick shots, we see crows tearing the balloon apart. Suddenly all the crows are gone. Baz coughs again, then looks at the altimeter. He’s at 18,000 feet. The shot of the altimeter zooms out of Baz’s eye and we see him faint in the basket as the camera zooms way back from the balloon, clouds engulfing the camera until the screen is black.

Scene 6- (The storm has ended, but there is an overcast. We start this scene with Baz slowly waking up, slumped over on the floor of the basket, which is very wet. He gets up, and looks around, in a shot where we can only see his face. His mouth opens in alarm and confusion, and his bottom eyelids come up some. “What’s Happened?” he mutters. Jump cut to a shot of the basket floating in an ocean. Baz picks up his spyglass and looks around at the horizon. The camera is now inside the spyglass. He stops turning at a rocky island almost invisible in the fog. The camera now below his head, looking up at him. He takes down the spyglass, and keeps his eye on the island. Picks up a peice a wood off the floor, looks at it for a moment, then leans out of the balloon, and starts paddling towards shore. The camera looks at the piece of wood making ripples in the water. Next we get a foggy side silhouette of him paddling through the water. Then a shot of him in the basket. Then a shot from the island’s silhouette. looking at Baz hit the rocks and crawl out onto the island. It is grassy in patches and is very rocky. Another shot of Baz sitting on the island shore, catching his breath. The focus changes to a sign behind him that says, “Mount Rolan.”

A silhouette shot of the island shows a crow coming to rest on the sign. But the sign tips over and falls into the water. Then we get a shot of Baz looking up for a moment, then disregarding it. He doesn’t see that he has made it to the Mountain he set out for. The final shot is of the sign from Theos house floating to the surface of the water. The camera pans up to see the sun slowly come out again. The crows flies by, then the screen shows credits.

So, what’s the theme of this? What’s the point?

Not picking – it’s a serious question for writers. What are you trying to convey? All other criticism has to wait until that question is answered.

The theme on a very basic level, is that you can leave somewhere hoping for the best, and come back to find that the worst has happened while you were gone. It’s plot structure isn’t much like what’s normally seen, which is why I’m kind of uneasy about the story.
Thanks for asking, though.

Well, I was asking because I wanted to give you some meaningful feedback. Hopefully, here it is. Just so you know, although I abandoned it long ago for $ reason, I used to write fiction and studied writing, etc at an Ivy League Uni with real authors, so I kind of know what I’m talking about here. In other words, this is the voice of experience and thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of words critiquing, writing and work-shopping fiction. Take it for what it’s worth to you :slight_smile: :

Your story doesn’t seem to demonstrate your theme, and that’s perhaps why I was unable to determine the theme from your presentation of the plot. In your story, the main character leaves, suffers seemingly random difficulties, then accidentally achieves his goal without even knowing it. There is no “coming back” to find “the worst.” If you wanted to demonstrate your stated them, I would think you would show, for example, his family or his pet at home while he was out conquering the balloon quest. Then, he would return only to find that his home and family had been lost in a flood, or that his pet fish had jumped out of its tank and died on the floor without anyone around to help.

You need to really solidify your theme before you go any further, or it’s not going to work. It could be that your theme is “Sometimes our goals are only great because of how we perceive them.” I.e., his achieve his goal, but it turned out it wasn’t inherently valuable because something as simple as a missing sign invalidated his triumph.

The problem, though, is that you need a coherent theme that is borne out by the basic plot in order to have a good story.

An unusual plot structure isn’t a problem as long as things are clear, cohere around the theme, and provide the viewer with the necessary elements of a satisfying story.

For a production standpoint, I just don’t see how this script is producible on anything like a reasonable timetable by a single person. There are at least four different sets, two characters and a load of special effects. My experience tells me that you’re actually telling too much of the story here. Way too much. You could probably get the same point across with just the single character and two or three sets.

If you really want to workshop this story here, I’d be happy to help.

I agree with Harkyman. One of the main problems I have seen in shorts created by Blender users is that the story isn’t as coherent as it should be. This is a blog post written by a Pixar animator.

Here is an example of the things you might want to be thinking about when approaching a shot.
The Shot
Character at a bus stop and he just missed his bus.
All the stuff you need to know to animate this shot.
• What is the story point of this shot?
• Why does this shot exist in the film?
• What is it you are trying to tell?
• Who is this character?
• What was the character’s emotional state before he/she got to this shot? In the Sequence and film?
• How does the character feel about missing the bus?
• Where did he/she come from and where is he/she going?
• What time of day does the character arrive at the bus stop?
• What is the weather like; cold, hot, windy, rainy etc?
Answers to questions like these will help you start to understand the character and their appropriate reactions to situations like a character missing his bus. These answers start to help you build your performance, the character’s acting. You start having things you can act out that make sense rather than just hitting a bunch of standard poses that don’t relate to the character’s current emotional state and situation.
The first thing I do, which I think is super important, is I try to capture all of the above questions in one frame. I create my story frame or my KEY, Golden drawing, whatever you want to call it, and then determine what else needs to be in the shot to get the story point across. Less is more.

http://splinedoctors.com/?s=miss+the+bus

Here, this blog post by a Pixar animator on his co-blog “Spline Doctors” should help you out. I recommend running through each and every shot in your short asking yourself these and similar questions.

Here is an example of the things you might want to be thinking about when approaching a shot.
The Shot
Character at a bus stop and he just missed his bus.
All the stuff you need to know to animate this shot.
• What is the story point of this shot?
• Why does this shot exist in the film?
• What is it you are trying to tell?
• Who is this character?
• What was the character’s emotional state before he/she got to this shot? In the Sequence and film?
• How does the character feel about missing the bus?
• Where did he/she come from and where is he/she going?
• What time of day does the character arrive at the bus stop?
• What is the weather like; cold, hot, windy, rainy etc?
Answers to questions like these will help you start to understand the character and their appropriate reactions to situations like a character missing his bus. These answers start to help you build your performance, the character’s acting. You start having things you can act out that make sense rather than just hitting a bunch of standard poses that don’t relate to the character’s current emotional state and situation.
The first thing I do, which I think is super important, is I try to capture all of the above questions in one frame. I create my story frame or my KEY, Golden drawing, whatever you want to call it, and then determine what else needs to be in the shot to get the story point across. Less is more.
There are a million more questions you can ask yourself about any shot these are just a few to help get started. What questions can you come up with?

I would give you a link if it weren’t for this newbie link filter, it has deleted several of my long posts already.

At this point I’d suggest you go back through your writing and take out the production notes (anything to do with camera angles, scene breakdown, shot composition and framing, detailed modeling descriptions, etc.) so you can focus on the story.

If you had to tell this story in 25 words or less, what would those words be?

It’s about a man who attempts to fly to a mountain top in a balloon, but ends up paddling there in a makeshift raft.

It’s about a man who is caught in a biblical flood, whose life and good works are destroyed by the hubris of his friend.

It’s about an evil magical crow, who destroys people by making their dreams come true in wicked ways by commanding the forces of nature.

What do you want this story to be about?

I’ve been working on the story a lot over the past couple of days, and have slowly come to grips with the fact that I really am biting off more than I can chew. This isn’t to say that I’m giving up. I plan to come back to this story when I have more experience and time on my hands. For now, I’m gonna try to scale down my ideas, and go for something simpler. Thanks for all the help and replies.

NP. Sorry to shoot you down like that, but I think things will turn out for the better. My advice for someone making their first short animation project is:
One character, one set, one minute. It’s limiting, but it’ll make you really hone your story. Remember: it’s better to do a relatively simple project and actually finish it than to pour six months into a crazy complex one that dies on the vine. Of course, when you get your short-short done, you can move on to bigger and better things!