Sintel, the Durian Open Movie Project » Blog Archive » Script, script, script…


Script, script, script…

on September 8th, 2009, by Ton

esther-colin-3For each project I like to put our targets a bit higher, not only to have Blender improved, but also to learn more about how to create a good quality short film in general. We’ve done really great the past two films, but most of the criticisms do agree on the fact that we lacked story and scenario development. OK… nice challenge here!

Luckily we have the great benefit this time of a scenario/storyboard development budget from the Dutch Film Fund, which allows – and obliges! – us to take whatever steps possible to have the best scenario when we start in october

As you might recall, I’ve asked esther-colin-1writer Martin Lodewijk to write us a script, and scheduled all of the month of september with David and Colin here to further develop the scenario and storyboards.

Two weeks ago, when we had the first meeting with Martin, there were three rough outlines of stories written by him, but none of these were ready as scenario. The most promising one was a great concept but lacked storyline and development. Agreed was that we would take this ourselves further, trying to keep it as close as possible to Martin’s original creation.

Last week Colin – with help of the rest – developed a couple of story and screenplay variations. By the end of the week there was one script and story we were quite happy with.esther-colin-2

In the meantime I tried to find a couple of good consultants to assist Colin in this process. Yesterday we had the first session of Colin/David and consultant Esther Wouda, which really was a revelation and actually a big relief too! Esther convinced us to go back a few steps, and really do another attempt to design this epic and compelling film with characters people care for, and a story people will remember!

So… exit last Friday’s script, and back to a more challenging but far more satisfying idea… πŸ™‚ It’s a pity we have to sacrifice precious storyboarding time now, but – quoting Colin and probably most of the film makers – “story is everything”! First that, then a film…

Esther Wouda’s website:
Esther’s IMDB credit:

Later more!


(Pictures: Esther and Colin working today. Also shot many videos of them, will be great to see how much of this work will be in the final film!).

31 Responses to “Script, script, script…”

  1. Dave Ward Says:

    i think it’s awesome that you guys are putting so much work into this; it’s going to be a great show. not a doubt in my mind πŸ™‚

  2. Lasse R. Bruntse Says:

    Great! Colin are right. Story IS everything. Im glad that you take time to do a, possibly, better story. (although BBB had a pretty could story)

  3. Inlite Says:

    Im so glad to hear that so much work is going into the story for this project πŸ˜€
    Great animation is wasted on a mediocre story. I have great confidence in Durian, its gonna be EPIC πŸ˜€

  4. irowebot Says:

    I’m really glad to see the team putting so much effort on this part of the project. I think for a epic like this project is shooting for the story is absolutely vital and I’m happy to see this being addressed so thoroughly. For Elephants Dream it was an art piece and a tech demo, story wasn’t so critical. For BBB it could afford to be simplistic as most cartoons can get away with it. but for this, I think you guys are smart in addressing the story first. Way to go team!

  5. Gianmichele Says:

    Story is king! Everything from character designs, locations, clothing, poses, credits, should have a story and a meaning behind it…

  6. TobiDn Says:

    Didn’t Ton originally say that the movie was going to be “Action, no story, ten thousand warriors running down the hill.” etc.? ;-P

    But on a more serious note, its great that you take your time to do this,
    It also shows us, as a community, that it isn’t just about developing blender, but also about doing some fine work :-).

  7. tyrant monkey Says:

    this project is really aiming to raise the bar, story is king A good example of this is Pixar who produce some of the best animation shots out there with excellent story lines one only has to watch shots like Lifted, Presto or One Man Band to see what you can do with 8 minutes of animation.

    Damn I am really hating not having a credit card or any means to buy a DVD because this is one cool project. Hopefully I can change this soon

    go Durian Team

  8. squizzz Says:

    The real question is… will it contain giant snail? πŸ˜›

  9. Rafster Says:

    I think the original intent for Durian was to develop and demonstrate Blender physics (ie: smoke, particles, crowds, collisions, fluids, explosions).

    BBB was to develop/demonstrate fur, ED was to show off Blender as a serious film-making tool, and I think Mango is supposed to develop/demonstrate Blender as a visual effects tool for a live action film (set extensions, traveling mattes, sky replacements, green screen compositing, CG + Live character interactions, match-moving, CG props, wire/rig removal from live actors, etc).

    But everyone has been talking about Durian being a bigger than life ‘Epic’, and that expectation is growing, so a good story is crucial.

    You guys are defiantly going in the right direction!! Durian will be better than those hollow game trailers.

  10. 3DTinkerer Says:

    I actually liked Elephants Dream better than Big Buck Bunny.

    Althought I still don’t get what it is all about. hehe.

  11. Colin Levy Says:

    It’s so heartening to see the community feels strongly about this! These Open Movie projects are indeed first and foremost a technical showcase. The technical targets, practical limitations and story constraints (ex: warrior girl protagonist, lots of fighting), plus a layer of ‘politics’ make for an interesting story development process!

    I really thank Ton for allowing us the time to work this out right. Although this can be a fantastic showcase for Blender, I know this can be a lot more than that. There’s no reason not to aim for the stars. Why don’t we have a shot at some major film festivals? Some international recognition? (An Oscar??)

    I want to make an impression on people. I think all the technical feats of Durian will be more impactful if they’re done in service of a good film with a solid story. If people go “wow, that was an amazing film” BEFORE they go “wow, that was made in Blender?” I think we’ve achieved something.


  12. Rob Cozzens Says:

    TobiDn is right. I remember Ton saying that about Durian too. I also remember not being that excited about it.
    But now that they are going to have an actual story, I am getting excited!

    Even if you mainly want to show off special effects, you need a good story to get people to pay attention.
    Only geeks would have been impressed with LOTR if it had just been special effects.

  13. Mr.Nexy Says:

    I’m really glad that you guys are upping the ante with project Durian (Blender is my 3D package of choice,chosen over Max and Maya of course πŸ˜› ) , you guys are totally capable of the visual aspect of things so a little more story will really make people sit up and notice.


  14. J.B. Nicholson-Owens Says:

    “Only geeks would have been impressed with LOTR if it had just been special effects.”

    Funny you mention that because that’s all I thought Lord of the Rings was: an overlong, overblown technical demo with an all-too-thin on the ground plot that really doesn’t deserve the glowing reviews it gets in tech communities.

    I’ll spare you the details of why I didn’t care for LOTR, so suffice it to say that LOTR didn’t resonate with me as a thinking feeling human being. I couldn’t identify with its characters (which struck me as cartoonishly simple). The characters’ struggle was too metaphorically distant from anything most people deal with in their everday lives.

    What does this mean for Blender Institute movies? I think it means that the story should be first and foremost. I don’t think mass audiences go to see Pixar movies because of the rendering capabilities Pixar’s software. Audiences may marvel at the latest improvements in special effects used in Pixar movies but I think people go to see Pixar’s movies because they have come to associate Pixar with being a good storyteller. I hope the Blender Institute will come to see themselves similarly: instead of being a technical showcase first and foremost, choose to be a good storyteller and let Blender improvements made during these movies serve the needs of the story.

    As an audience member I can see plenty of tech demos for free online. I find that technical demos really more about the skill of the artist than they are about the program used. Tech demos won’t get me interested in anything Blender Institute does.

    I’m happy to help fund free art (art I’m free to share at least verbatim without royalty). I happily buy overpriced merchandise from Blender Institute to help keep Blender development going. But I’d prefer to buy into future movies with storylines and characters I won’t forget; characters I’ll identify with because their story seems real in some way.

  15. crowline Says:

    Glad to see the effort going into the story… especially at this early stage – so it doesn’t eat up time and resources later. I disagree with a lot of the posts. Story is absolutely NOT everything. You can have a VERY entertaining film with virtually no story, and a worthwhile film with awesome graphics and a crappy story… and this is after all, all about improving blender. Anyway, a good story is a good thing and glad to see it getting taken care of early. here’s a lolcat to encourage teamwork.

  16. RH2 Says:

    Can we have a penguin character?
    Preferably a ninja πŸ™‚

  17. D Says:

    This is by far the most relieving news I’ve read, here! I’m very glad to hear you’re working with an independant story consultant for this movie; this will almost certainly turn out to be a good thing.

    So, all the best to you! And make every best possible use of it!

  18. Piiichan Says:

    I agree: the visual effects should empower the story, not the other way around.
    The story and its characters are what really makes the depth of a movie, and what makes people watch the movie again and again.

    Japanese animes are very good at creating strong, attaching characters, maybe you could find some last-minute inspiration in those. Sometimes the visual quality even sucks, but the story is so fascinating (or presented in such clever ways) that nobody cares.

  19. rogper Says:

    @ Piiichan:
    Japanese animes probably are the only thing that can put us looking to a still picture for one minute and we still enjoy it… or don’t even note that is a still picture πŸ™‚

    Durian will rock the world πŸ˜‰

  20. Ton Says:

    “No story, maximum impact” was my original Durian briefing.

    It was especially meant to challenge the people who’ll make it, to give them confidence that having fun together on making a short film is important. They’re allowed and invited to make obvious choices to please a young audience. Many Hollywood blockbusters are considered to have “no story” anyway, even though they’re extremely well constructed and entertaining.

    And of course you can get more maximum impact with a great script, characters you care for, and events that make you excited for what’s coming next. All elements of something you could call “story”… πŸ˜‰

  21. rogper Says:

    As I see it, all movies have a story, or it wouldn’t be a movie (a Portuguese director made a totally black 2 hours movie and it still had a story πŸ˜€ (it had sound)) … the problem is that some stories are so worn out ( a little Hollywood fault maybe :P) that we eventually got used to them, and/or tired to see them, and so… becomes a “no story” movie πŸ™‚ …some thing that’s visually different but build with the same code.

    I personally am very happy with this extra care put in the story πŸ™‚

  22. DrD Says:

    Its good to hear that you have some money that you HAVE TO spend on story and script development πŸ™‚

    I think 8-10 minutes are not realy enough time to delve to deap into characters, the best one can do is rely on empathy and entertainment.

  23. ronbravo Says:

    Excellent post. Thanks for the update.

    This is one of the reasons I will be paying for the DVD prerelease because I feel like the money I contribute will be used wisely. Thanks again.

  24. Rafster Says:

    Has she seen Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny, and if so, what did she say?

  25. AlexM Says:

    @Colin Levy:
    An Oscar?! You’re not aiming high here at all, are you! πŸ˜›

    Seriously, I’m looking forewords to the results of this. And the DVD. πŸ™‚

  26. young_voter Says:

    What happened to writer Martin Lodewijk? It seemed the article no longer mentioned him half way through.

  27. Cory Taylor Says:

    I admit, being a graphic person. Watching an all visuals movie does entertain me to some extent. But walking out of the theater after an all visuals movie I don’t take anything with me. There isn’t as much feeling in just a visual movie. And reverse if it is a good story, but has bad production values it’s still bad. You need both to make something entertaining and memorable.

  28. Rudiger Says:

    Why don’t you put out a request for story idea submissions from the general public? It is an open movie after all!

  29. Ton Says:

    young_voter: Martin is still involved, but for turning his ideas into a screenplay, it was really something we needed experienced help with.

  30. LOGAN Says:

    Ton, good to hear Martin is still involved. I sorta raised an eyebrow that you asked Martin for some ideas and you took the one without story and decided to bastle up a story yourselves. Martin is a good storyteller so I hope he’ll contribute to the story. Getting external help to convert the story into screenplay is a good thing, but, heh, story/script will hopefully be by Martin.

    On a final note… be bold, don’t cram it into 8 minutes when you could be doing it in 15! Yeah that’s right, go for 15 minutes of pleasure!

  31. Double_Dose Says:

    “Everything from character designs, locations, clothing, poses, credits, should have a story and a meaning behind it” –Gianmichele

    These Blender projects have something seemingly unlike any other media in history for me, the ability for mass editing by common people. I’m one of those common people having no formal art training, yet I like many others might have a good idea that could be fully realized by the opportunity open projects provide. For me, creation of art happens when the question “what if” is repeatedly asked and answered, consciously or subconsciously.

    Subconsciously, the answer can sometimes flow from my mental image straight to media. Say I’ve drawn a character that has a gun in one hand and a holster on the side. I might say or think on instance, “what if the holster was made from straps,” and I go about converting editing my image.

    Consciously, as another approach to my drawing, I could have used knowledge of reality’s rules, and possibly a burning desire to break them, to compile a story; or I could simply use someone else’s story on the object to be created/modified. Continuing my gun holster example, say I plan that, or read a post saying, the holster would be better if it were a magnet, enchanted by the great priest Camillazod. From there, I might draw a gun hovering by a uniquely engraved metal plate… with a blur representing a force that cannot be broken but by the accompanying trigger finger ring’s proximity. Also, I would have a motivator and/or option to draw… Camillazod.

    I believe both creative processes have their place and both can inspire each other, but at the end, I agree with Gianmichele, in that everything “should have a story.” Having one would make sure, as Colin Levy posted, ‘people go β€œwow, that was an amazing film” BEFORE they go β€œwow, that was made in Blender?”.’

    I propose the creation of a wiki. The wiki would be for Advanced storytellers and artists and the common people to contribute inspiring images, sub-images (ones that can be used to modify a main image), revised images, concept object’s current story section (where Colin/David and Esther could document their leadership decisions as to the final story if they choose to create this section on an image or concept page (and only they would have editing rights to this section)) , and a discussion tab allowing suggestions and comments on all the above. The wiki would be a journal of the creation process; a story in itself of the deep meaning of items a viewer might be curious about and want more from; something creating community and meaning on even the small things of Durian and future Blender projects; a repository for Colin/David and Esther to pull from; a direct resource to those that want to base their creative process from story; and a way for even the common person with only a little to contribute, say a holster or a background story comment,… to do so… and that adds up.

    Sorry for taking so much space here, I rarely post anything, and I just really would like to see a wiki on this.