Microflix 2020 Progress Diaries with UTS Animation Students – No. 5

Hello and welcome all you Flixers! Only one day left until the submission deadline – Monday August 31st – how is everyone feeling? Here at the Microflix team we wish everyone the best of luck while they progress through the finishing touches of their Microflix’s. How many of you are feeling a lack of motivation to do these finishing touches? Or maybe you’re all completely done and I’m talking to no one here… Even so, I’m still here just in case there are a few of you still in need of some motivation to get you through those final stages.

Today, I am delighted to present my last two UTS animation student groups and their adaptation progress so far, who have chosen texts that depict the subject of natural disasters through different writing styles and structure. Caroline, Christy, Ivan and Zang have adapted Caught Up by Kathryn Fry.

‘Initially, the vivid imagery of the men at the gym in Fry’s text jumped out to us, and we thought it would be fun to explore and animate. Upon further reading, we saw the chance to play with the juxtaposition of the gym scenes and the environmental issues that Fry also explores, and decided to choose this text for those reasons.’

Colour palette iteration from “Caught Up

Caitlin, Charmaine, Irina and Jacob have adapted Rain in the Northern Rivers by Moya Costello because,

“There was a strong sense of imagery, but light on specific plot and character, which gave us freedom to construct our own story within the text’s themes.

Final Environment Illustration from “Rain in the Northern Rivers

While both texts explore the subject through imagery, the differ in narrative structure, plot, character, and tone. Thus leading to different adaptation approaches by each group, especially when adapting a text that needs the filmmaker to decide on a plot and structure.

“When adapting Moya Costello’s microlit text “Rain in the Northern Rivers’, we wanted to visually and audibly capture the extreme transition from a drought to the flooding of a forest, from the perspective of the life forms affected by such a drastic change. The piece was broken down into smaller parts which were individually researched; this included information regarding the location, gothic ideas and themes, human impact and wildlife native to the area. From here, we worked as a team to produce a narrative that incorporated this, focusing on the dual perspectives of the bird and fish. The colour, environments and designs changed through the short film to reflect this evolution. We explored the theme of rain as a force for both destruction and protection. It was also important to capture the intense metered writing style of the original story through stylised sound design, that adheres to an internal rhythm.

Preview from “Rain in the Northern Rivers

Their group found making this decision to be the most challenging part of the adaptation process.

“It was challenging creating a new story and characters based on the imagery and geographical identity of the original text; finding the balance of creating a new product that remained true to the ideas and spirit of the original text.”

Character Iterations from “Rain in the Northern Rivers

On the other hand, Caroline’s group’s story has a clear main character and narrative structure, and within that there are many layers to unfold.

“We wanted to adapt the original text in a satirical way to highlight the hypocrisy and performative wokeness that social media users, and in particular influencers, exhibit when serious issues arise in society. We represented this through one instance of our main character, Peachy, capitalising on the devastating bushfires in Australia to promote her social media presence.

They also found that decision-making was the greatest challenge when adapting their text.

“As we have our own artistic style and preferences, decision making was quite the challenge as our opinions tended to clash, though we did not experience any major dispute, narrowing our ways through to a compromise took time, patience, and a lot of communication.”

Character design from “Caught Up

Contacting the author can be a good way of diffusing any challenges or issues that might arise when approaching your text. Caitlin’s group for example,

“Were able to receive feedback based on the author’s intentions and motivations for specific imagery, which helped affirm some of our research ideas regarding establishing a specific, visual identity and story focused on environmental ideas. The author’s responses also assisted in our research process and enabled us to gain a wider scope for our research that went beyond our assumptions.

Storyboarding from “Rain in the Northern Rivers

Whereas Caroline’s group found that,

“We contacted the author and discovered that even though our interpretations of the text were slightly different, the underlying themes were the same. She gave us the creative freedom to adapt her text in any way we saw it and even encouraged us to do so, stating that the beauty of the connection between reader and writer are the limitless interpretations that can be formed.

Storyboarding from “Caught Up

And on that note, the creative freedom given to the sound designer of your piece can dramatically effect the overall look of the piece, and can be used to convey the literary techniques of a story. Like Caitlin’s group who worked with UTS Sound Design student Julian Oliver,

“Rather than simply having sound effects scattered randomly throughout the short film, we aimed to have a naturalistic score, with every sound contributing to a musical rhythm; building a rising pulse with the story’s tension, and diminishing in the quieter moments of release or catharsis. We wanted to capture the original story’s poetic and rhythmic writing style. The music was used when needed to supplement this idea further, establishing or contributing to the emotional tone of the story, as well as the rhythm. The sound ultimately helped provide additional life to the environment and characters in the story.

Preview from final scene of “Rain in the Northern Rivers

Similarly, for Caroline’s group,

“The sound brief was to mainly depict the superficial tone of the story but also for it to contrast with the sombre nature of the tragic events in reality by juxtaposing an airy, upbeat pop instrumental depicting the bubble we live in in society against the devastation and destruction portrayed through the minimalist sound effects of the bushfires. The music tied our whole film together and made the contrast of the two different atmospheres much more memorable, effectively conveying the message we wanted to send.

Preview from “Caught Up

Everyone who’s looking for that motivation to get those last bits of editing done, then look no further, since once you have your sound and visuals all together, what’s not to be proud of according to Caitlan’s group,

“The most rewarding part of the process was seeing our initial ideas come to life over the duration of two months.

Similarly, for Caroline’s group,

“How our ideas gradually evolved and came together at the end, resulting in a final polished work that is both fun and delivers a message. We all have our own aesthetic and initial concept about the adaptation, so to be able to overcome all the differences to contribute to one that meets all our standards is something we’re proud of.

So good luck getting those flix’s submitted! We are super excited to watch what everyone has created!

Happy Flixing! Taj

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.

Microflix 2020 Progress Diaries with UTS Animation Students – No. 4

Hello and welcome all you Flixers to todays blog post! More dates have been crossed off your calendars as the submission date to the Microflix Film Festival draws nearer – August 31st. I’m hoping that today’s blog post with UTS Animation students will inspire you as you finalise those last stages of your flix. The groups featured today have chosen texts with a strong Indigenous Australians focus, exploring imbedded themes of displacement, belonging and identity over time.

Firstly I’m delighted to present the work of students Celine, Gary, Kyle and Sean who have chosen to adapt Two Skulls by Steve Kinnane.

“Go home, or go back to where you belong. We think this is the best anime theme, as the concept of missing home resonates to all audiences

While they did not have contact with the author,

“A lot of the story’s true meaning and backstory was revealed to us when we were informed of the hundreds of indigenous remains that had been taken from indigenous communities to be displayed in collections around the world. After hearing of the reality behind the story, it became clear that the writing was about the journey home. It was from here that we used certain moments of the journey in the animation, trying to put a lot of focus on the landscape of Australia.

I’m also delighted to present the work of students Noah, Fanglin, Paul, Samuel who chose to adapt Finding Charlotte by Judith Ngangala Crispin,

“We liked that it handled the themes of indigenous identity in the modern world in a beautiful and delicate manner. The text was layered with beautiful imagery and emotion, and we were eager to attempt to tell the story through visual narrative.

Early concept development for “Finding Charlotte

Luckily the group got in contact with the author, which impacted their approach to the story, since,

“Judith provided us with audio of her reading her poem, which allowed us to bring her
voice into our adaptation. Judith also provided us with an image of Charlotte (the subject of her poem), which helped bring us into that world and portray Charlotte more truthfully.

Character Design for “Finding Charlotte

And so they begun their adaptation process.

“After we contacted Judith, we started off by visualising how we imagined the story would play out in our heads and transferring that to paper.

Celine’s group on the other hand approach their adaptation by,

“[Doing] research about the location or ceremony that were been mentioned in the article, and the author’s cultural background. Since this story is in an aboriginal cultural context, we tried our best to find a balance between loyalty to the original article and expressing our own aesthetics as respectfully as possible.

Drawing iterations from “Finding Charlotte

Finding this balance proved to be a challenge for their group.

“We had to identify the key aspects/themes of the story along with the not so important parts. Using animation, we would then try to show what the author was communicating to the audience. After many iterations in finding the balance in the story, we eventually settled on a suitable timecode for our film.

This also proved to be equally as enjoyable for the group, as,

“The process of adaptation allowed us to fully imagine and thoroughly explore the author’s ideas, and grasp the core in the imaginative and poetic words and sentences. The process of exploration is indeed full of charm. Different group members have different understandings and ideas about the same verse. Therefore, in the process of exploring and being able to discuss with the team members, we finally get the most perfect solution.

Iterations for “Finding Charlotte’

Noah’s group experienced the same kind of enjoyment from the adaptation process in exploring the authors ideas.

“We really loved the opportunity to immerse ourselves in someone else’s story and try to understand it and communicate it. I think that the magic of adapting a biographical, intimate poem, like the one we did, is an opportunity to try to see the world through someone else’s eyes and maybe in some small way experience their emotions.

They instead experienced challenges when,

“As a group we had a lot of ideas and images in our minds of how to bring the text to life, and it was difficult to settle on a storyboard that did justice to the story. Visual design was another very difficult aspect of this film, given the historical nature and cultural nature. We would have loved to have more time to explore this aspect of the film.

Preview from “Finding Charlotte

Luckily both groups did not experience any challenges with their sound design students, however they did experience the great impact sound design can have on a piece! Noah’s group worked with Nathalie Oong who,

“Brought a lot to our film. Her sound work contains some indigenous elements. It helps us tell Charlotte’s story easier. And the music also set up the mood for the film.

Character design for “Finding Charlotte

And Celines group worked with sound designer Noah Henry, but before

“Contacting our sound designer, we made a mock sound version of our storyboard, and wrote down notes for every moment where we needed sound effects and music, with several of the draft sounds just coming from Youtube.  After meeting with the sound designer and hearing his thoughts, we knew there was much more growth to be done with the sound design of the film. We were asked about the kind of sounds we wanted in the film and then he got started on his work. The final work came out and we felt it met our needs and more, putting sounds into moments we weren’t completely sure about. Overall, our sound designer had an important role in this project and succeeded greatly in that role.

For those of you reading this that have finished their adaptations already, please leave a comment telling us about how sound impacts your piece! We’re looking forward to your submissions in the meantime!

Happy Flixing! Taj

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.

Microflix 2020 Progress Diaries with UTS Animation Students – No. 3

Have you crossed the dates off your calendar since my last blog post? If so, then you’re on the ball and know that the Microflix deadline is just round the corner. Actually, it’s next week people (August 31st), so we better get cracking on the finishing touches of our Microflix films! And subsequently, onto this weeks progress diaries from our UTS Animation and Sound Design students. Let’s see how they worked together to get the project up and running, and to the finish line…

Today we have two groups who have chosen microlit texts that reflect Australian experiences with the land and nature. Both use strong visual imagery to highlight the devastation experienced by the land. Nathaniel, Kirsten, Hollie and Theo chose to adapt Safety in Mundanity by Claire Thompson, with Elie Rizko as their sound designer.

“The text was chosen for its strong visual imagery and narration of very recent events, which we thought would strike a chord with Australian audiences. It also had personal significance with each of our members having, like most Australians, been affected by the bushfires, one of which lived in Port Macquarie at the time, and experienced them firsthand.”

First refined storyboard adapting “Safety in Mundanity

Despite not discussing with the author about their original intentions,

We were nevertheless able to make our own interpretation of their work, by unpacking the themes and imagery within the text. By doing this, we believe we were able to generate a reading and adaptation of the text that was based purely on our own experience.

Our second group, Colden, Holly, Jinyu, Hansel, and Geoffery, chose to adapt Landscape by Brenda Saunders, with Marco Bucci as their sound designer, which explores mining in Australia.

“We decided on this short story because of the visual potential of animating this story to an appealing and interesting film. We liked how it could resonate with Australian audiences due to the topic it depicts – mining of the land.’

Preview from opening scene of “Landscape

While you do not have to animate a Microflix to convey strong visual imagery, if you do there is more room for animators to create abstract visuals. The initial approach to adapting texts with such strong visuals depends on the story itself. Where Nathaniel’s group,

“Firstly considered the text and defined the main themes and imagery. An iterative process consisting of research on the Australian bushfires, as well as the creation of multiple storyboards, ensued, with feedback from peers and tutors shaping the way we combined distinct visual imagery taken from our research and the text, as well as a story that encompassed our experiences and that of other Australians.”

Iterations from “Safety in Mundanity

However, their initial defining of central themes and imagery posed a challenge to the group where,

“A lack of clear direction in imagery inhibited our ability to generate ideas early on, which resulted in a disjointed story when put together originally. By ensuring a more direct focus on narrative and our experiences during the fires, we were able to collate a range of more refined storyboards that enabled our characters to thrive within our story.

Unpacking themes for “Safety in Mundanity

And while a challenging experience to begin with, in hindsight,

“The discussions during the early stages of the adaptation process, as well as the animation process itself, were perhaps the most enjoyable experiences. Being able to see the completed animation after many hours of collective effort was a rewarding experience as we were able to see everything put together, from the sections of our story board and Animatic that made it to the final film, to the completed coloured animated sequences with sound.

Early Storyboarding for “Safety in Mundanity

On the other hand, Colden’s group approached their text by,

First we broke down the keywords and any adjectives in the story that gave us a visual imagery. This helped us to research and iterate on our designs and colour choice. During this process, we kept iterating and gave each other feedback until we were all satisfied and agreed on our approach to the final animation.

Final Storyboards for “Landscape

This initial process ended up sparking the most enjoyment in the group as,

“We enjoyed the learning and iterative process of this adaptation such as testing colours and designing our landscapes to match the Australian landscape whilst keeping it original to our style and our unique take on the landscape.

Having a strong visual piece is not all trippy visuals, there is still the underlying message of the text that needs to show through all the imagery. Colden’s group found this to be a challenge.

“The greatest challenge in adapting this text is animating the film to be visually appealing and engaging to the audience whilst also conveying an important message on the impact of mining on our environment. Perfecting the timing and pacing of the film, using camera shots and angles to show the change in mood were all important elements that contributed in showing this important message.”

Iterations for “Landscape

The sound design also proved to elevate the message of the piece,

“As it reinforced the emotional impact of the devastation to Country, caused by the mines. Our sound designer Marco Bucci composed an amazing soundtrack that satisfied all the important elements to create an emotional connection towards our film.

Similarly, Nathaniels group found the sound design lifted their visuals.

“By allowing the sound design student to explore a range of instruments and diegetic sounds for our film, the final film was able to capture more of the ambience and intensity of the story that we couldn’t project visually.

Iteration development of “Safety in Mundanity

For those reading this now who are completing or have already completed the sound competent of their flix, please leave a comment telling us how you’re using sound to tell your story! Or if you’re just starting on sound design then I hope this post has given you some inspiration! We’re looking forward to your submissions in the meantime!

Happy Flixing! Taj

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.

Microflix 2020 Progress Diaries with UTS Animation Students – No. 2

Another day bites the dust as we roll closer and closer to the Microflix submission deadline (August 31st). For some, it’s another day of going around in circles trying to find inspiration for their adaptation.  And so another progress diary from UTS Animation students is in order, in the hope that it will spark your imagination.

Today, I am delighted to present two groups and their adaptation progress so far, who have chosen texts that depict and explore different takes on motherhood throughout time. Xinyi, Yaojia, Yue, and Yumeng have chosen to adapt Fabulous by Rose Young,

“We think this article mainly speaks about the estrangement and barriers between people of different ages. The mother and daughter in the article have different aesthetic standards. This situation is very close to real life. Due to the development of the world, each generation faces and experiences different living environments and receives a different education, which makes people’s ideas, opinions, cognition of the world and evaluation of beauty different. This has also led to many family conflicts. Parents and children may not be able to understand each other’s behaviours and ideas due to lack of communication, and treat each other in a more extreme way. This undoubtedly will not solve the problem, and will make the generation gap between the two more and more serious. So we added a good ending to the story. When the daughter grows up, she remembers her unhappy childhood experience. She chooses to be an open-minded mother, learns to tolerate her children and understands her new clothes. That’s what we want to convey through this story and the final work. It is hoped that the new generation of young parents will be exposed to many new technologies and education, and may be able to get along with their children more peacefully in the future.

Illustration developments for ‘Fabulous’

From the other group, Alexandra, Elana, Jasmine and Jihee have chosen to adapt Pressure by Jude Bridge,

“It was the most memorable short story out of the selection we were given, and we were attracted to the author’s writing style – the frantic stream of consciousness, and the relationships between the characters was prominently depicted through the author’s emotive language, and the truncated sentences – conveying the busyness and pressure that the main character was under.

There were many elements in this story that we found interesting and challenging to adapt. The social media aspects, the relationships between the characters and the mother’s obsession with perfecting her virtual persona – these were all elements that we found incredibly interesting, and wanted to adapt.

A team photo of Alexandra, Elana, Jasmine and Jihee

In short, find an aspect of the Microlit text that resonates with you personally and/or your understanding of the story theme. The way you and your team approach this does not matter, as long as it inspires creative story-telling. Alexandra’s group approached Pressure with a ‘faithful to the original’ perspective, beginning the process by,

“Annotating Jude Bridge’s story, picking out the key elements of the story and trying to rewrite them into a script for us to storyboard. We also did some research on yummy mummies and social media influencers – the aesthetics, clothing, houses, and the way they interact with their followers, and audience. We iterated the characters and interiors a couple of times until we were happy, and we wanted to present a ‘clean’ but ‘hectic’ version of the main character. It was our first time adapting someone else’s work, so we tried to stay as faithful as we could to the essence of the story, and to present it in an interesting way.

“Pressure’ character adaptations

Where as Xinyi’s group approached their adaptation of Fabulous having,

“Brainstormed about the possibilities of different storylines. The first version of the story we adapted was quite different from the original version, which mostly changed the meaning of it. Therefore, we just made a slight difference in the ending. It’s more realistic, easy to understand and better expresses the key points in a limited time.

Both approaches are true to the adaptation process and neither are more challenging than the other. Challenges will arise and how you handle them is part of the adaptation experience. For Xinyi’s group, the historical context was the most challenging aspect.

“The story of ‘Fabulous’ took place in the United States in the 90s, and the story involved a considerable proportion of the fashion and culture of the 90s. We hope that this short film can reflect the characteristics of the time in three aspects: fashion, art and music. It is challenging and very interesting to understand the United States in the 90s from so many aspects.

In addition to this, their collaboration with their UTS student Sound Designer, Matthew Hocking, arose artistic differences, however produced a satisfactory result.

“In the initial stage of communication with the sound designer, we hope to use different types of music to express the differences between the characters. The sound designer we worked with did this perfectly. During the production stage, we considered using instrument sounds instead of sound effects, but the sound designer was not very satisfied with this idea, so we gave up at the end. After several communications with our music department partner, we are satisfied with the sample he sent, which is in line with the theme. So after a few small changes, the final sound source was decided.

Illustration development for “Fabulous

Alexandras group on the other hand found,

“One of the greatest challenges in adapting Jude Bridge’s ​‘Pressure​‘ was going through trial and error in storyboarding to depict the story in a distinctively visual manner. At the beginning, we were stuck in the track of literal translation from the text to the visual. We had to create and discard lots of storyboards and animatics until we were satisfied with what we have today. We were also struggling with using Harmony Premium at a professional level, as well as naming conventions which caused some issues when we had to go back to certain files.

And experienced a similar trial and error process with their sound designer Josefina Perdikaris Curulli too.

“We provided our sound designers, with a list of diegetic musical references and non-diegetic sounds which reflected the key underlying themes of our film. This helped establish an overall atmosphere within our compositional process. Our soundtrack went through multiple iterations, including experimenting with the main melody, tempo and pitch. We broke our film down into scenes for the sound designers, in order to convey the story beats. However, after playing the sound effects and soundtrack together we noticed it sounded disjointed. We had to refine these scenes with an underlying melody, which made the composition more succinct. The final result accentuated the key moments of the film and cohesively conveyed the essence of our story.

Getting everything right in the process is challenge and a far-fetched expectation. When challenges come, the parts you enjoy the most come to light. Alexandras group found,

“[What] we enjoyed the most about the adaptation process was the collaborative experience with both the animation students and the sound design students. Our animation team had similar interests and we were easily able to decide on the aesthetics of the film. We were also very eager to communicate with each other so we would regularly hold Zoom meetings and discuss our film in the chat group.

Storyboarding “Pressure

And Xinyi’s group found their challenge simultaneously to be the most enjoyable part.

“The research process was enjoyable. We managed to research many styles that we had never encountered before, such as different clothing styles in the 90s, surreal background designs, 90s home décor and contemporary home décor.

For those of you reading this that have finished their adaptations already, please leave a comment telling us what your most enjoyable aspect of the process was. Or if you’re just starting yours then I hope this post has provided support and inspiration. We’re looking forward to your submissions in the meantime!

Good luck! Taj

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.

Microflix 2020 Progress Diaries with UTS Animation Students – No. 1

Hello Fellow Flixers!

With less than a month to go til the submissions deadline date (August 31st), many of you filmmakers, animators and storytellers are progressing somewhere through the second half of your projects! Maybe you are near the end or have already submitted? Or you are just beginning your Microflix now and are in need of support to get through the tough bit: just doing it.

Microflix partners with UTS Animation students every year where the students create an animated Microflix to submit to the festival. Deborah Szapiro has lead this alliance since 2018, and this year her students have been kind enough to provide information on their progress so far. Hopefully their progress will inspire and support your Microflix progress until the submission deadline.

Today I am delighted to present two groups and their adaptation progress so far, who have chosen texts that depict themes of loneliness. Daisy Allen, Olympia Schulte, Jay Towney and Abhi Carvale have chosen to adapt Earthquake by Karen Whitelaw.

 ‘We chose this text as the themes of anxiety and loneliness resonated with us. We were initially drawn by the idea of exploring mental health through abstract storytelling and finding an interesting and unique way to portray this visually.

Screenshot from their adaptation of ‘Earthquake

And Alex Banks, Jasmine Tran, Sophie Bal and York Li have chosen to adapt With the Moths on Ash Island by Kathryn Fry.

‘The manner in which she described Ash Island was visually compelling, and the characterisation was very strong for such a truncated piece. The text acted as a jumping-off point for further research into the real person that was Harriet Scott, a renowned artist who experienced much hardship and prejudice during her life.

Screenshot from Zoom meeting for “With the Moths on Ash Island”

With many ways to approach an adaptation process, the groups begun their projects differently, as the microlit texts they had chosen portrayed the theme of loneliness differently. On one hand, Earthquake portrays this visually and metaphorically, so as a group they:

‘Began this adaptation process by interrogating what exactly we wanted to say in our adaptation and which details of the story would be the most visually interesting. Through multiple iterations and discussions, we narrowed down our themes, which over time came to be an exploration of the anxiety and world breaking emotions that come with the end of a relationship.

With the Moths on Ash Island conveys this through the characterisation of a historical figure, and so:

‘We wanted to communicate certain facets of Harriet’s background in a non-intrusive manner, encouraging audiences to pursue their own research just as we did. As such, we created a fairly literal adaptation, cautious not to fabricate or overly exaggerate aspects of the historical figures who made up the cast.

Storyboarding ‘With the Moths on Ash Island’

Texts that include historical figures do deserve more research than others, which Alex’s
 group has done by contacting the author.

‘We created a quite thorough list of questions for the author, seeking counsel regarding characterisation, and attempting to unify our references and inspirations. They replied with textbook extracts that provided insight into those areas of learning, and we were able to get a better idea of what Kathryn Fry was passionate about.

The authors interpretation can sometimes impact your own interpretation of story, however,

‘This interaction reassured us that our approach was respectful to the original text, and that our research was similar to that of the author’s, putting us on somewhat equal ground.

Storyboarding ‘With the Moths on Ash Island’

And even without historical figures, like Earthquake, some sort of research into the author can be helpful in understanding the text, like Daisy’s group who,

 ‘Explored her Twitter feed and blog posts on the author’s website which added some context to the author’s background.

Storyboarding ‘Earthquake’

Getting the actual film done while COVID-19 restrictions continue has shown to be a challenge, especially for animation teams like Daisy’s group who found,

‘Our greatest challenge was not being able to collect first-hand reference material due to lockdown, as well as having to coordinate an efficient production pipeline from home. Sharing material between group members was difficult, but we were able to develop organised shared folders and crucial naming conventions.

Storyboarding ‘Earthquake’


Similarly, Alex’s group found that,

‘We did struggle somewhat with time management and convenient file sharing. Our method of file sharing over Google Drive was sometimes confusing and made it difficult to find files, as we didn’t have a consistent naming convention for uploaded files.

Not only did the teams have to coordinate the whole project in their teams of four through Zoom, both groups also collaborated with a UTS Sound Design student to create the audio, facilitated by Sound Design tutor Felicity Wilcox. The sound for With the Moths on Ash Island was put together by Rosemary McClelland and Mark Sahin, and the sound for Êarthquake was created by Sarah Bonnet.

In the end of their production, Alex’s group were,

‘Happy with the outcome of our sound designer’s work, however our creative vision shifted during the process of production, which resulted in our overall theme that we wanted to portray to change, so our film’s music gave us a somewhat different tone then we were aiming for.

And Daisy’s group, in recognising their inexperience with sound design,

‘We strived to give freedom to the specialists we collaborated with. By providing broad suggestions and inviting regular consultation, we believe we were able to cultivate a healthy working relationship with those students. As a result, they produced a very successful soundtrack for our film, especially considering the limited access to facilities, which inarguably elevated the final product.

Final stages of ‘Earthquake’

Now that both groups have completed and submitted their projects, they are able to reflect on the most enjoyable aspects of the adaptation process! For Daisy’s group this included,

‘Learning about the character and being able to uncover her real life, and interpreting her emotions into a living form. Figuring out the style and aesthetic was an enjoyable process as we explored different kinds of animation.

And for Alex’s group they found,

‘The collaboration aspects of the working process was the most enjoyable part. Being able to bounce ideas off each other and draw new inspiration from the different ways each member interpreted the story was immensely helpful to the adaptation process.

For those of you reading this that have finished their adaptations already, please leave a comment telling us what your most enjoyable aspect of the process was. Or if you’re just starting yours then I hope this post has provided support and inspiration. We’re looking forward to your submissions in the meantime!

Good luck! Taj

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.

REAR WINDOW: Inspiration in isolation

There are almost too many microlit texts to choose from – but here, I’ve done all the hard work for you.

Between frenzied hand washes, check out these microlit texts and get thinking about how they could make the leap from page to screen. What makes these texts great? More importantly, how do we communicate what makes them great as we take them into a new medium?

Rear Window by Susan McCreery

I predict Rear Window (1954) is going to make a 2020 comeback – the original Alfred Hitchcock film was about a man trapped inside, overcome with boredom and taking up weird new hobbies, like murder investigation. Sound familiar?

Rear Window – the microlit – switches things up a bit. Now it’s the wife murdering the husband, and the story is told from her perspective as she observes a nosy photographer watching her every move.

How to dramatise this story

To dramatise this story, it might be necessary to take a step back. This microlit sits in the moment after a murder, which means it’s missing all the drama. What if the woman wasn’t sitting, drinking a martini? What if she was active – cooking dinner, putting suits away in storage, making phone calls to secure an alibi – before revealing the body on the floor? By not immediately revealing what has happened, intrigue is created as the audience vies to discover what this woman is up to, and what might happen next.

This is a great microlit to adapt for the screen if you are friends with your neighbours or live in student housing. If not, it’s still possible to communicate the same idea with the photographer watching from the street. Either way, the distance between the characters makes filming COVID-19 friendly!

Make sure you check out the many microlit texts up for adaptation in our Microflix Competition.

Ashleigh Mounser has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong and a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Since graduating in 2018, she has written and produced five short films. Mounser was Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012; the overall winner of the Future Leaders Writing Competition; winner of the ‘Time to Write’ contest by the University of Melbourne, and recipient of two arts grants from the Bouddi Foundation of the Arts, presented by John Bell of the Bell Shakespeare Company. Her first feature comedy film, Questions and Comments was nominated for the Humanitas Prize by Thomas Musca, was shot in Miami and is due to be released in May 2020.

The new normal: How to adapt stories during COVID-19

Or Ashleigh’s Tips for Adapting Microlit – Part Two

By now we’re well into isolation and adjusting to the new normal – if normal is a parallel universe where I go on three walks a day and spend my nights learning embroidery. What time to be alive. 

Many people are finding isolation is a chance to sit back, reflect, and get creative. Here, I’ve curated three Microlit texts worth a read on a lonely iso night – and some ideas to get you thinking about how those small literary moments can make the transition to the screen. 

Story #1 Seen by Emily Ralph

Seen explores the momentary highs and lows of online dating.

It’s a timely topic – most people predict a certain level of satisfaction from their mindless scrolling – something called affective forecasting – but the majority of studies conclude that time spent on apps like Facebook and Tindr lead to a drop in mental health. The big moment of Seen which needs to transfer to film is the missed connection – when the interaction could become substantial and meaningful but doesn’t.

What makes Seen unique is the switching perspectives – the writer switches seamlessly from one character to another. This could be achieved on film by using the phone as a go-between – a portal of sorts into what’s happening at the other end of the conversation.

This filmset is an isolators dream come true. It’s essential to the story that the actors are never in the same room – which is so on trend for 2020.

Read the full story here.

For an example of a short film with a similar vibe, check out Nope by Brooke Hemphill

Story #2 – Makeup by Angela Blake

Makeup contrasts the soothing effect of a ritual with the confrontational and unpredictable outside world. The protagonist of Makeup is in control of everything – except how other people react to her.

To dramatize Makeup, the protagonist could verbalise what she’s doing – a kind of self-soothing make-up tutorial for one before she is yanked out of her cocoon.

Makeup is a great story to film in isolation – it could even be filmed by a jack-of-all trades. Depending on how many hats you can fit on your head, you could be actor, cinematographer, director and editor, with a brief cameo from an unseen voice at the end. After all, we need to hear the response to her when she steps outside, but we don’t need to see the aggressor. This isn’t their story.

Read the full story here.

Story #3 – Tuna by Lucy Fox

Tuna is almost funny – until you realise what’s going on. As the character moves through various incidences, past trauma is evoked. The story explores the way trauma can manifest, sometimes in ways as innocuous and unexpected as a tuna sandwich.

Tuna has a relatively simple narrative – putting it on film gives us the opportunity to expand and strengthen the story. There’s nothing dramatic about someone staring at a sandwich, thinking intently. Filmmakers must ask – how can we get inside this character’s head? How could the world around her be dramatized to reflect her internal conflict? Is her world loud? Grating? Visually overwhelming? How will the filmmaker transport us from one memory to another?

To make a film version of Tuna safely in the age of COVID-19, some of the settings need to be moved around – you’ll have more luck setting up a makeshift café or waiting room at home, than taking actors in public spaces to try and capture the perfect shot. Don’t underestimate the finishing touches to make your scene believable – lighting and background noises (Café Sounds on Spotify has been a real comfort to me this last month) can make all the difference.

Read the full story here.

Ashleigh Mounser has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong and a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Since graduating in 2018, she has written and produced five short films. Mounser was Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012; the overall winner of the Future Leaders Writing Competition; winner of the ‘Time to Write’ contest by the University of Melbourne, and recipient of two arts grants from the Bouddi Foundation of the Arts, presented by John Bell of the Bell Shakespeare Company. Her first feature comedy film, Questions and Comments was nominated for the Humanitas Prize by Thomas Musca, was shot in Miami and is due to be released in May 2020.

Three texts you can adapt for short film during COVID-19

Or, Ashleigh’s Tips for Adapting Microlit – Part One

The 2020 Microflix Comp is here, and the microlit is in. There are countless texts to choose from, and endless ideas to explore. Here, I’ve broken down three texts which I loved and could visualise on film.

The following texts lend themselves to dramatic adaptation and can be filmed easily and safely at home during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

First, some tips and tricks to keep in mind:

  • Some of the best adaptations capture the theme of a text, rather than transferring a literary play-by-play to the screen.
  • Film is a new medium, with its own rules, challenges and advantages.
  • Identify the aspects which will be harder to portray on screen (inner dialogue, a particular literary style) and decide early how these challenges will be overcome.
  • What will make this text visually exciting? When adapting from fiction to film, look for moments which can be dramatized on screen – moments which capture the theme of the text and can be expanded and enriched.

Story #1: Well, then

Well, then explores the clash of idealistic, old-fashioned, corsets-and-carriages Romanticism with a modern-day, match.com gone wrong reality.

This idea doesn’t need petticoats – it needs soft romantic lighting with a record-scratching return to reality when Mr. Darcy finally opens his mouth and pronounces that he is freezing his balls off.

For a fresh adaptation, play with the setting and characters. It’s the moment of letdown – the great missed opportunity of romance – which needs to transfer to film to capture the heart of Well, then.

Read the full story here.

Story #2: Body Image

Body Image explores themes of disordered eating, with each of the two characters representing extremes – one who eats too much and one who eats too little.

A series of vignettes – short, sharp shots could show the “little digs” building up in Jen’s mind and create a narrative arc which justifies her actions.

The important thing is not to get hung up on the details. Don’t have a treadmill at home? Free weights or any exercise equipment would work just as well. A limp hand and the thud of a weight on the ground will still communicate what’s happened without explicitly saying.

Don’t sell your audience short – they’re smarter than you think.

Body Image is perfect for a COVID-era adaptation because it takes place between two characters within a contained home set. Ideally, housemates or sisters could try their hand at acting – so as not to involve a second household.

Read the full story here.

Story #3: Traces

Traces has enormous potential for short, sharp and deeply funny film. Sure, it’s about love, loss and moving on, but’s also about burying a toenail clipping in the yard.

This is one of those moments which can be expanded and dramatised. If the protagonist would go so far as to bury the toenail, would she change into black for the occasion and write a heartfelt eulogy? Play on the ridiculousness and melodrama of the moment – and get as much comedy out of it as you can.

Traces only has two characters, and can be filmed at home so it’s about as COVID-19-friendly as a film set can get. Because the protagonists lost love is being recalled in memory only, POV shots would work best – which also eliminates the need to have the actors in the same room at the same time.

Read the full story here.

Even if you’ve never picked up a camera or performed in front of one, isolation is the time to try new things and experiment. I hope these breakdowns inspire some fresh (and sanitary) adaptations of 2020’s Microlit texts – I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Entries close August 1st – so get filming!

Ashleigh Mounser has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong and a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Since graduating in 2018, she has written and produced five short films. Mounser was Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012; the overall winner of the Future Leaders Writing Competition; winner of the ‘Time to Write’ contest by the University of Melbourne, and recipient of two arts grants from the Bouddi Foundation of the Arts, presented by John Bell of the Bell Shakespeare Company. Her first feature comedy film, Questions and Comments was nominated for the Humanitas Prize by Thomas Musca, was shot in Miami and is due to be released in May 2020.

THE ART OF ADAPTATION

The 2020 Microflix Awards and Festival is upon us and this batch of microlit is ripe for adaptation – but what’s the best way to make someone else’s story your own?

In Such a Transformation, Yasmine Gooneratne says; “The best adaptations imitate … capturing the spirit of the text …Imitation invites the reader to hold the old text and the new simultaneously in their mind and rejoice in their differences.”

Part of adaptation is recognising what works in the current format. What makes this story so compelling that you feel the need to tell it in a new and unexpected way? Was it the characters, the prose, or a feeling you got when you read it? It’s important to know what part of the story made it what it was so that you don’t lose it in the process of adaptation.

To make a text work dramatically on film, sometimes you have to lose your favourite parts.

The phrase “kill your darlings,” isn’t a popular one for nothing. Some of the best bits might not translate to the screen. It can feel perilous deciding what to cut and what to keep – but in a three-minute film, every second is precious and must be to the benefit of the characters and themes.

According to Linda Segar, there are three main categories of adaptation;

Reconstruction: in which you try to be as faithful to the original material as possible. To pull this off, you should decide first what the central story is – then focus on preserving and sharpening this narrative. A good example of reconstruction is Pride and Prejudice (2005).

Pride and Prejudice (2005) is an example of trying to remain as faithful to the source material as possible.

Reimagination: in which you remain faithful in parts to the original, but put your own spin on character, setting and plot. To reimagine a text, you should define the essence of the text and decide how to translate those themes onto the screen. An example of reimagination is Ten Things I Hate About You (1999), which is reimagined from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

An example of reimagination is Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)

Deconstruction: in which you take the original as a jumping off point and create something almost entirely new and original. To deconstruct the text, define what is intriguing to you about the source material, and then take it as far as your imagination allows. An example of deconstruction is Marie Antoinette (2006).

An example of deconstruction is Marie Antoinette (2006).

So there you have it – reconstruction, reimagination and deconstruction. Which one is best for you and the story you have chosen?

So, why do some adaptations work, and others don’t?
What drew critics and audiences in their millions to Greta Gerwig’s Little Women? On the other hand, what was it about The Girl on the Train which alienated fans of the novel? You can’t make everyone happy – but when adaptations make changes which sacrifice what made the original text truly memorable, the result is often only an echo of the extraordinary source material. Big changes aren’t always a bad thing – but they should enhance the narrative, rather than distract from it. When Greta Gerwig changed the timeline of Little Women, shifting and rearranging events, she never lost the heart and soul of what made Louisa May Alcott’s novel so beloved. Moving between past and present created a moving, fluid narrative about the changing relationships of the March sisters.

Regardless of what form of adaptation you choose, the most important thing is to decide early and often what makes the source material remarkable – and then hold on to it at any cost.

Ashleigh Mounser has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong and a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Since graduating in 2018, she has written and produced five short films. Mounser was Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012; the overall winner of the Future Leaders Writing Competition; winner of the ‘Time to Write’ contest by the University of Melbourne, and recipient of two arts grants from the Bouddi Foundation of the Arts, presented by John Bell of the Bell Shakespeare Company. Her first feature comedy film, Questions and Comments was nominated for the Humanitas Prize by Thomas Musca, was shot in Miami and is due to be released in May 2020.

Taj’s Tips for Filmmaking in COVID-19

Hello to my filmmaking and screenwriting friends! With the Microflix submissions for writing in, who’s keen to dive into some new adaptations?!

For today’s blog instalment we’re going to be looking at a few of the Microlit submissions for this year’s upcoming Microflix festival with the theme of IMAGE and I’ll be running through a few possible ways they could be adapted. The three incredible texts we’ll be looking at are Fragment from a Western by Mark O’Flynn, Mona Lisa by Susan McCreery and Valencia by Banjo Weatherald. To get the most out of each text I’ll be identifying the key theme and the best visual moment, as well as where there’s potential to run into problems with budgeting and ways to overcome those. An important issue to think about this year is the current climate surrounding COVID-19 and how social distancing measures may affect filmmaking when working in teams. Most of the tips I’ve given below are tailored towards non-pandemic situations, but since I know you’ll want to get cracking right away I’ve also included some COVID-19 safe alternatives so you can keep creating while staying safe. 

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Fragment from a Western by Mark O’Flynn

Fragment from a Western explores the inner thoughts of both a failing horse and its rider after an exhausting police chase out in the dry and unforgiving Wild West. It’s the end of the line, and while one reflects on what life could have been the other curses his bad luck and his partner, forgetting all the times the horse came through for him. O’Flynn really captures different reactions to the realisation of time being up. 

Narrative theme: When the race finishes.

Best moment: The description of the horses ‘better life’.

Main budget problems: Horses, sheriff car and location.

Overcoming budget problems: Instead of picturing this played out in real life, think a bit smaller. Literally. You could use miniature plastic toy horses, cars and play house toys to set your scene, potentially using stop-motion animation techniques to ‘act out’ the story. Collect sand from a beach to use as the dust, or just use dirt, and a small grassy hill could become your horse’s lush paddock with ‘a gentle incline up which to gallop’. You still want it to feel authentic even with plastic figurines. This interpretation would require no actors! Only voiceovers if you decide to include dialogue and sound effects such as galloping, church bells, wasps buzzing and a horse’s sigh.

COVID-19 alternatives: In this scenario, as long as your team is separated (one person films the figurines on their own, files are sent to an editor who puts it together on their own, etc.), you’re good to go! If you do choose to use voice actors, however, try to use someone in your own home or send your actors a script via email and ask them to record their lines on their own. If you must get together because of equipment needs, remember to keep you distance (1.5 metres) and thoroughly sanitise all surfaces post interaction.

Mona Lisa by Susan McCreery 

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Mona Lisa captures two art lovers in a quarrel about one of the most talked about paintings in the world. It really highlights the subjectivity of art and that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ opinion to have, even with highly praised and widely acclaimed artworks.

Narrative theme: Tradition vs. change.

Best moment: The humour in the dialogue.

Main budget problem: Location. 

Overcoming budget problems:

Option 1 – You could recreate the space using a room, a wall, and a handful of people. Set the room in your re-imagining of the Louvre; think bright ‘art gallery’ lighting, high ceilings and large rooms with various sizes of paintings evenly spaced along walls. Cut between extreme close ups of the ‘crowd’, a tight shot of two actors with extras behind them taking photos, and shots of the Mona Lisa. Use printed versions of the artworks (you could use a home printer for these, the works that are in the background of shots won’t need to look like professional quality), but make sure you get the sizing of the Mona Lisa right.

Option 2 – If we’re thinking outside the box, this scene doesn’t need to be gallery based at all. Change the location to either a library setting with the characters in the aisles looking at art books, or the characters seated at a desk on their laptops and Graham is showing a photo of the Mona Lisa. In these two scenarios, focus more on the actors and their dialogue; really play with their relationship and reactions to each other’s opinions.

COVID-19 safe alternative: In both of these options, you will need at least 2 actors. In order to overcome social distancing hurdles, do not film the actors together, but instead film actor A from actor B’s perspective and vice versa during conversations. Make sure that the camera operator is keeping his/her distance too! Recreate the scene of a gallery or library in your own home, and instead of having extras to make a crowd, add in a background sound that mimics the hubbub of a crowd during the editing process.

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Valencia by Banjo Weatherald 

In Valencia we see a more lucid and fluid form of storytelling, with images drifting in an out attached to conflicting emotions. The narrator attaches a faded love to an orange tree, and in the blooming of the fruit he sees moments from their past, both sweet and haunted. Weatherald’s text is an exciting opportunity to play with depiction and movement between scenes, with the driving form of the story being how feelings reside in objects long after the person has left us.

Narrative theme: Going through the seasons and the same changing nature of relationships. Best moment: The description of oranges in each season.

Main budget problem: Orange tree.

Overcoming budget problems: Instead of finding a whole tree, use oranges that have already been picked. Take single shots of an orange differing in its ripeness, and contrast each stage of ripeness in the orange to the stage of the characters’ relationship. This contrast could be done through ‘flashback’ moments with actors or even as the story progresses; an orange in the early stages of ripeness in the grass by a picnic rug as two actors blissfully in love eat watermelon, then later yellow and almost ready to be picked cut open on a plate and discarded by a man in a purple scarf sitting alone with a cup of tea, and again a fruit bowl piled high with perfectly orange fruit maybe with the man making a dish from a few of them. He has to find a way to eat them all himself after all.

COVID-19 safe alternative: Here, you can get away with using mainly one actor, and if you choose to include a second for flashback scenes film them from the perspective of the main character. REMEMBER! Keep your distances and sanitise regularly. Another completely different way to approach this would be to use animation in place of actors. This way, multiple team members could work cohesively by sending files back and forth via email, googledoc or any other preferred file sharing method.

These are just some of the many ways each of these texts could be translated onto the screen, and I hope they inspired some fresh interpretations for your 2020 Microflix submission! You can find all of the details on the do’s and do not’s here (link: http://microflixfestival.com.au/microflix-entry-regulations/), and most importantly remember that the deadline is midnight August 1st. So get your creative cap on and peruse our selections of Microlit (link: http://microflixfestival.com.au/2020-microflix-image-texts-excerpts/selected-2020-microflix-microlit-texts-image/) for this year. Good luck! From Taj Luksic