Taj’s Top Tips No.1

Helloo fellow filmmakers, writers, and storytelling enthusiasts! Looking for some inspiration for your entry to this year’s Microflix Award? Our resourceful intern, Taj, has some top tips on adapting microlit to film to get you started… plus an exclusive deal on Shuffle, the sound-themed anthology.

How great are adaptations?! Isn’t it amazing to see how the literary detail and imperfect and perfect features of characters we love are communicated onto screen? Growing up I felt like the luckiest person alive during the Harry Potter era. Reading those books then being able to watch them come to life was an experience like no other. And so my love for storytelling began, where now I am a UTS Media Arts and Production graduate, and filmmaking is my forte. Throughout my degree I hadn’t considered adapting a text for an assignment or personal project since I was focusing on other forms of filmmaking. However, now with the emergence of Microflix and the use of microlit texts as part of the festival being brought to my attention, adaptation is definitely something I will be, and every filmmaker should be, experimenting with now! Entries close June 30. This year’s theme is SOUND. See entry details here.

In the meantime, I will be examining some of the microlit texts, and how they could be adapted onto the screen. Today I will look at three texts from the anthology Shuffle: ‘Thin Wall’ by Mark O’Flynn, ‘Da Doof’ by Luke Evans, and ‘Stovepipes’ by Elizabeth Tyson-Doneley.

‘Thin Wall’ is a sorrowful but heartfelt story which immerses the reader into a world of loneliness using very simple, but highly effective imagery. Much of the imagery in ‘Thin Wall’ can easily be translated onto the screen without your production becoming excessive in detail. The narrator overhearing his neighbour’s conversation rather being in the conversation could allow for minimal use of actors  and setting changes. This depends on your interpretation of the story, or how detailed you want your three minutes or under film to be. A simple approach however, could be to simply use no actors, one room, voice recordings, shadows and a POV camera angle. Imagine a POV (multiple shots or one single shot) of the narrator showing us the empty, plain space he is in, with shadows from bars darkening the space, meanwhile a muffled sad-toned phone conversation is occurring next door. These techniques would simply convey the sorrowful, loneliness tone of the text, as well as the prison context of the narrator and his neighbour. Each of these techniques could be extended or removed in your adaptation, which depends on your brilliant interpretation!

I found ‘Da Doof’ a funny take on today’s music scene, highlighting an individual’s perception of different environments where we hear music, and the type of music that is admired. ‘Da Doof’ holds a strong opinionated tone throughout, where the narrator does not like hearing music in nightclubs, and clearly likes listening to music in pubs. They have no interest in following a DJ, but will make an effort to continuously see bands they like. The contrast between the music scenes and the narrator’s selectivity in their music choices has potential for screen adaptation. Rather than following the narrator’s chronological opinions in ‘Da Doof’, an adaptation could continuously switch between the two music scenes. For example, beginning with a short montage of nightclubbing, potentially through photos changing to the time of “doof-doof” music, then the same short montage for live music in pubs. Then using a highly processed, disjointed song choice with footage and/or photography which captures aspects of techno music scene that the narrator is unimpressed by, compared to an instrumental calming song with images that capture a feel good atmosphere, would emphasise the narrator’s tone throughout the text.

The last microlit text I will be exploring is ‘Stovepipes’, an endearing and simple love story where the narrator reminisces about the beginnings of their relationship. ‘Stovepipes’ is told in three parts, firstly describing the couple’s first meeting and kiss, then the week after this meeting, and the present day when the couple are now living together. An adaptation could also communicate the story in these three parts, using chapter titles such as ‘When We First Met’ ‘One Week Later’ and ‘His/Her Birthday.’ The ‘When We First Met’ sequence could cut between two people sitting alone, then to the pair sitting closer together, eventually the last cut shows the couple sharing a kiss. Music, laughter, and muffled dialogue could fill the sequence too. ‘One Week Later’ could show a series of close up shots to the items the narrator describes to be in the space, such as a TV, noodle cups, clothes scattered around. Meanwhile music is playing and the couples laughter builds and builds and builds. Then we follow into ‘His/Her Birthday’ sequence, where we see the narrator just finished getting dressed, and as we hear a door unlock, his or her face lights up and heavy breathing and footsteps sound effects begin and become louder until they reach the narrator.

These adaptation descriptions I have made are just suggestions! They may or may not resonate with you as you read them yourself! And that’s the beauty of interpretation, so register for Microflix, read the texts for yourself and resolve your own vision of the microlit texts provided as part of the festival! Or find your own sound-theme text to work on.

As a special deal until the closing date, you can grab yourself a pdf of the Shuffle anthology for just $5 where you will find over 40 microlit texts on the theme of sound. To grab this bargain use this link and use the discount code: TAJ

Thank you for reading!

Taj on location

Anastazija (Taj) Luksic is a student at University of Technology Sydney, where in 2017 she completed her Media Arts and Production degree, and is currently finishing off her Creative Intelligence and Innovation bachelors. During her degree she worked on personal documentary projects, with one screened at the Focus On Ability Film Festival 2017. She also volunteered on a number of sets ranging from a commercial for Batyr, to ‘The Horizon’ web series.

Q & A with 2018 Microflix award winners

Welcome to Microflix – a place dedicated to adapting great micro stories into fantastic short films! In our first blog post, Jaimee Cachia interviews the filmmakers and the author behind Koi which took out last year’s Award for Best Direction.

Back in 2018, Spineless Wonders was thrilled to see its microlit brought to the screen in the inaugural Microflix Awards at the Surry Hills Festival. In its first year, the Microflix Awards saw emerging animators and sound designers from the University of Technology Sydney adapt over thirty 200-word Spineless Wonders texts (or microlit) to films of 90 seconds in length. 

In preparation for the opening of the 2019 Microflix Awards, we first cast our sights backward: read on for our chat with Maximilian Cao, Yvonne Cheung and Karin Zhou-Zheng, whose collaborative efforts won them the 2018 Microflix UTS Award for Best Direction for their skilful adaptation of Karen Whitelaw’s Koi. Whitelaw also shares with us her thoughts on Microflix and microlit at large.

Maximilian Cao,Yvonne Cheung, Karin Zhou-Zheng – Winners of Microflix UTS Award for Best Direction

Tell us about the experience of making the film – the best bits? The hardest?

The experience of filmmaking was really enjoyable because we worked very cooperatively and collectively as a group. The most memorable part of the production was when we were able to see our ideas and storyboards coming together in short animations and sequences. However, the most difficult part was editing the animation with just enough information for the audience to understand as our animation duration was becoming too long!

What attracted you to the particular microlit piece your film was based on?

As a group, we knew already that we wanted to do a black and white film and it just so happened that Koi by Karen Whitelaw complimented this idea so well. We were inspired by black ink paintings in Chinese culture with its faded and minimal depiction of landscapes. We also felt a personal connection with the relationship between the mother and daughter characters due to undergoing similar experiences in Asian culture, where parents often compare their children to other children in terms of achievements. It was nice to see the story took place in a familiar and iconic place in Sydney, the Chinese Garden of Friendship as the group all have been there before when we were young.

How was adapting someone else’s written work different to producing your own original content?

At the beginning of producing your own original content, you have to do a lot more researching and development of ideas because of the endless freedom that you have. However, with this written piece as our base, we had to try not to be too literal about their work and so it was challenging to be metaphorical. You have to spend more time understanding the written piece which led to a longer process in refining our ideas and seeing which visual ideas fit the written work better than others. Through the refinement of our ideas, we learnt that adapting someone else’s work allowed us to also have our own interpretation of it. With this understanding, we were able to develop different perspectives of the story and more freedom with the piece.

Karen Whitelaw – Author of Koi

Karen Whitelaw

How did it feel to see your piece adapted in this way?

I’m excited to see creative interpretations of my work.

Given the ever-increasing potential for interactivity and multi-platform storytelling in our digital age, do you feel that the role of the author has changed? How?

No, I don’t think my role as an author has changed. My job is to tell a story, one that means something important to me, and hopefully to others. My medium is language and words, playing with them for aural and visual effect, and meaning. I’m in awe of filmmakers, sound designers, and other artists involved in multi-platform storytelling, who take my words, interpret them in unique ways and use their skills to create new imaginative works of art. 

What do you think distinguishes microlit from longer fictional forms?

Distillation. What isn’t said but merely implied becomes as important as what is said. Every single word and every image has to carry meaning, often multiple meanings. For me that’s the challenge and the excitement of writing microlit.

Still from KOI.