Progress Diaries with UTS Animation students No.1

Hello filmmakers and future Microflix submitters! Today’s blog post will be a short interview with one of the UTS Animation student groups who are currently creating a short adaptation for Microflix 2019! The students Tak Stapleton, Indigo Krix, Winston Liu, William Savage are adapting ‘Barrage’ by Jude Bridge, one of the microlit texts I gave some tips for in a blog post a couple weeks ago! A great microlit text, which you can read on the Microflix website under 2019 SOUND Texts!

And on with the interview…

Progress screenshot

What were key elements within the texts you were looking for as a potential text to adapt?

We looked for a text that brought visuals to mind when reading. I think an important part of adaptation is finding a source that you can resonate with, something that gets you engaged right from the first time you read it.

Progress screenshot

How and why did your group decide your text?

Our group were all drawn to the playfulness of ‘Barrage’. We liked that the text looked at some heavy concepts through a comical eye. We had a large number of ideas pretty earlier on with how it could be adapted into animation due to the rhythm and morphing visuals in the text.

Progress screenshot

What have been some positive highlights of the process?

It’s been fantastic getting to work with so many different creatives! I’ve enjoyed getting to learn off my peers and bounce ideas around as we worked on molding the microlit into our own interpretation. We all really engaged with the story from day dot so it wasn’t long before we had visions of where we wanted to take it. Each group member had their own set of skills and I think we all benefited from watching how one another do things and learning from that process.

Final year animation students Tak Stapleton, Indigo Krix, Winston Liu and William Savage hard at work!

That completes the progress interview for the week! Will be back next week with more!

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.

Page to Screen Adaptation: Fidelity or Liberty?

Guest blogger, Jaimee Cachia

Why is it that written texts adapted for the silver screen so often fall short of the expectations set by the magic of the page?

The most basic answer can be found in the understanding that film, which shows things, and literature, which tells them, ultimately speak different languages. Where a written tale conveys its meaning internally, a film must do so externally. Therein lies the letdown: this difference in transmission techniques can lead to difficulties in communicating certain aspects of a story—perhaps those that occur inside a character’s head—and often results in the omission of those sublime details that can only take place in that liminal space between the page and the reader’s own imagination.

First-person narration, for instance, can pose significant challenges for any adaptation; losing that immediate channel between reader and writer could strip a film of the unique voice that pervaded the original work. It is therefore unsurprising that so many successful adaptations of iconic literary works turn to the narrative voiceover, whether it be in small portions at crucial moments (e.g. Stand By Me) or as an extensive framing device (The Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club). In order to pull this off, these filmmakers do not simply employ the narration as a convenient expositionary device, but rather rely on its contingency with the fictional world in which they are working. The narration in The Shawshank Redemption is so successful because Morgan Freeman’s solemn diction of Stephen King’s words simply feels true to the time. Edward Norton’s wry narration as the unnamed narrator in Fight Club melds naturally into the comic cruelty of the universe David Fincher built from Chuck Palahniuk’s genius.

Fight Club 1999

But are such verbal cues always necessary to convey a story meaningfully? Perhaps not; one could argue that the purpose of an adaptation is not to dictate the original written word, but to interpret it – albeit in a very different art form.

Communicating something visually needn’t cost the piece its essence, even without a disembodied voice to provide consistent guidance. Stand By Me, Rob Reiner’s wildly popular adaptation of Stephen King’s lesser-known novella The Body, indeed features occasional narrative commentary from grown-up Gordie – though it is strikingly sparse considering the primacy of his first-person narration in the original text. The success of this choice proves that it is wholly possible for a film to embody a specific tone first embedded on the page, even if it does stray structurally from its source material. The film’s soundtrack of Buddy Holly and the Chordettes coupled with the nostalgic set design offer meticulous period detail, creating a mood faithful to the novella. The original text stood as a character study of the four 12-year-old boys; though the film differs from the original in that it revolves around the progression of Gordie alone, it retains King’s essential purpose: to examine the journey from childhood towards adolescence, and how the erosion of innocence that this entails can erode one’s friendships.

Stand By Me 1986

Literature and cinema, as two different forms of media, have different rules and expectations. The fidelity of an adaptation to its original text therefore needn’t be the measure of its artistic merit – as such filmmakers as David Fincher and Rob Reiner have shown us, it is entirely possible to insert one’s own creative vision into an existing story, to replicate an essential message without word-for-word literalism.

Jaimee Cachia

‘Jaimee Cachia is a Sydney-based writer of proses both critical and creative. She is currently undertaking her Honours year in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney, whose premier publication Vertigo Magazine has routinely been host to her non-fiction work. Throughout her degree in both Creative Writing and Social & Political Sciences, she has written zealously in the interests of social justice and has previously sub-edited the academic journal NEW: Emerging Scholars in Australian Indigenous Studies.’

Taj’s Top Tips No.2

Hello filmmakers and writers!! Are we excited for todays blog, Shuffle Adaptations: Part Two?!

As we are all preparing for Microflix’s submission deadline, the 30th of June, a little spark of inspiration can be what you need to push that idea out of your mind and onto a camera!

Today I’ll be talking about three microlit texts from the anthology Shuffle, ‘Driving With Gurrumul’ by Andy Kissane, ‘Aftermath’ by Shady Cosgrove, and ‘Barrage’ by Jude Bridge. Each of these texts showcase a variety of approaches to adaptation, and how to adapt a text that may seem too expensive to achieve for a low-budget/ no-budget film.

Continue reading “Taj’s Top Tips No.2”

Making Films on Smartphones – Hot Tips

Helloooo writers and filmmakers!

While we’re all mulling over the options of microlit texts we could choose from for all our Microflix submissions, I’ve gathered some ready helpful tips for shooting on a smartphone. One of the categories in our 2019 Microflix Festival is ‘Best Film Made on Smartphone’, so if you’re a potential submitter, but are unable to locate a camera and have a smartphone, this is your opportunity to get creative!

When Apples iPhone 6 was released, advertisements began popping up that involved stunning landscapes, close up animals and bright coloured photographs or footage, with text that said, ‘shot on iPhone 6’. It really made you think, was it really shot on an iPhone? Since then short films, feature films, advertisements and web series, have all been shot on a smartphone of sorts.

'Unsane' 2018 Director Steven Soderbergh
‘Unsane’ 2018 Director Steven Soderbergh
What filming on an iPhone 7 looks like! (See above)
‘Tangerine’ 2015 Director Sean Baker
What filming on an iPhone 5s looks like! (See above).

In 2010, Apple of My Eye was released which has since been widely credited as the first film to be made on an iPhone 4, shooting and editing. Then in 2011 the first full-length feature film made entirely on a smartphone- the Nokia N8, was released entitled ‘Olive’. The film was made by adapting the Nokia N8 and crafting a 35mm lens adapter onto the smartphone in order to achieve a shallow depth of field. The N8 is also taped to a motorbike and a remote-controlled helicopter for overhead shots in other scenes. More recently in 2018 ‘Unsane’ was filmed entirely on an iPhone 7, whereas Sundance winner ‘Tangerine’ was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s but used an iPhone filming app called Filmic Pro. Some other great examples include ‘Night Fishing’ (2011) by South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, ‘And Uneasy Lies The Mind’ by director Ricky Fosheim, and ‘Snow Steam Iron’ by Zack Snyder.

Full length feature films will be able to spend their “spare” money on extras for their smartphone filming, such as apps, lens adapters, drones. But I have listed some examples that don’t use any. I also recommend checking out some of these films above if you’re still in need of some inspiration.

Some tips that I’ve collected surrounding filming on smartphones do include extra costs but depending on your adaption you may not need to include any of those. majority of these tips are free!

How to keep your smartphone steady?

  • The newest iPhones have built-in optical image stabilization, which makes shooting decent handheld footage fairly easy.
  • You can try resting the phone on a t-shirt or something soft while you hold it on a table top, the ground or any solid surface.
  • You can even try resting your elbows on a nearby object
  • Holding your breath during shots can also help minimize shakiness if you are hand-holding the phone on a solid surface.
  • You can also keep the phone close to your body
  • Don’t forget to use your body to absorb bounces and shakes
  • Try not to use digital zoom as it makes the shots look more grainy and camera movement are noticed much more
  • If your budget does allow for it, miniature tripods are available to purchase at any tech store

How to fix the lighting?

  • The use of natural lighting can save so many shots on an iPhone! Get outside or open a window if you’re shooting inside, just be careful of shadows!
  • But also whilst shooting inside, more light the better, experiment with your different household lighting, bulbs, lamps, fairy lights, the options can be endless!
  • Keep in mind iPhone has an automatic focus and exposure lock. This can be a great function for quick photos, but when you’re shooting a video of one person talking to the camera, it can really complicate things. The iPhone tends to keep adjusting and refocusing, which can lead to jittery-looking footage. That’s why I recommend using the exposure focus lock. This will help to keep the focus and exposure constant throughout your shot.

How do I get the sound right?

  • Have your subject as close to the phone as possible. So when shooting on an iPhone it’s best to position a second iPhone directly above the subject’s head to record clean audio
  • Otherwise you can invest in external microphones.
  • Also can be a good habit to get into when shooting with smartphones, clap once at the beginning of each take to create a reference point for syncing the good sound from the voice memo with the bad sound from the video recording.

How to make use of smartphones built in features?

  • Don’t forget the great time-lapse feature of the iPhone, as they are a cool way to showcase a bustling work environment or event.
  • There’s also iPhone built-in slo-mo that’s a cool way to showcase a bustling work environment or event.

I hope some of these tips were helpful and can be applied to your next smartphone filmmaking attempt!

Taj’s Top Tips No.1

Shuffle Anthology Microlit

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

‘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!

Da Doof

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.

Register now and get a Shuffle Bargain

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.