Monday, March 12, 2018

Bad Filmmaking 101: Pigeons

Dear Animateducated Reader,

You can learn from good films, but I think you can really learn more from films that contain, "bad choices" and  a great way to learn from other's mistakes. It could be a character design flaw, unclear storytelling, acting, a bad composition choice or editing problems. 

I am in search of content showing examples of bad story and filmmaking choices in short animation films. If you know of any short films which contain unclear story or cinematic choices, please send me a link and let me know what's wrong with the film.

Here is a short film on Youtube which has some examples of "Bad Filmmaking choices". This is a film about three bored baby birds who discover a cup cake and try to get it.


Enjoy this wonderful fun story of Disney/Pixar magic and then we will talk about it below.

First of all, this short was written and directed by 4 different people and is not from "Disney/Pixar" short. The only thing Pixar about this short is that the filmmakers have slugged in a lot of music from past Pixar films to create their soundtrack. And since the Disney legal team hasn't gotten around to shutting this film down yet, let's take a look at how many things we can find learn from in this short and compare your notes with mine below...

Our story begins as we move up to the roof where sits a nest. It takes about 30 seconds to get from the main title
to this first image.

Notice that you can see, bits of the yellow of the characters inside the nest already. And what are those detailed structures in perspective in the background? This is bad Staging. Take out the birds completely or introduce them from a different camera angle.

Cut to the characters, three yellow bored birds in the nest. 
The biggest of the birds yawns and stretches while the middle bird looks about. The biggest bird very slowly plops down again, and then there are lot of eye movements with all the characters and then they all laugh. 

What happened here? Why are they laughing? 
A situation has been set up, its not clear what they are all laughing at. This causes your audience wonder and fill in the missing information. 

I'm thinking the biggest bird farts and they are reacting to it, however there is no sound effect or music cue indicating this. I am coming up with a solution to why they are waking up and laughing. And they laugh a lot about whatever just happened, so much so, that a dissolve is needed to show that some time has past.

They are all waiting and looking bored. Starting a story about a bored character can turn into a boring story. We need to know more about why the character is bored in the first place. If they are waiting for Mama bird to return because they are hungry, we need to show them doing something that shows this situation.

What are they waiting for? Its called the "Inciting Incident" and before any story begins, we need to see our character or characters in their typical way of life. The "Inciting Incident" is the thing that occurs that changes the character's routine and it sets the story in motion.

In Pigeons, the biggest pigeon suddenly looks upward, screen left to see... What?! 


CUT to: Wide shot of the blue roof top, which you probably notice first. Screen right is the nest of French fries, but then you might have noticed toward the upper left near a window sits a cupcake.

This is not a Point of View shot from the Bird's perspective, but a wide establishing shot of where the white frosted cupcake is compared to the bird's nest of french fries. 

PLOT POINT 1: The birds make their exit from the nest which takes some time to do. Now we cut to this shot and Where does your eye go first?

I bet you noticed that the RED crushed (coke like) can. Why?
Because your eye goes to the one thing that is different in a scene. My question is, why is the red can there? If its in the scene, it must be there for a reason. Somewhere in the story, it will be used because its there for a reason, right? Why is the cupcake there? We are in a very interesting and clean environment, yet someone likes to drink soft drinks and leave cup cakes outside on their window ledge. Are they diabetic and hiding their condition from someone else in the apartment?

All these thoughts could be flying through your audience's head as they are watching this film full of unanswerable questions. But let's continue; the birds arrive, ignoring the can, but really wanting that cup cake.

Sorry, audience here... How do these birds know what a cup cake is? I'm Sorry, I'm just thinking too much again...

So, the biggest bird looks sneaky...

... and then has an idea.
(Fade to Black)

Do you think we should see a little bit more of where that cup cake is? Right now, I think we are a little too tight in on this frame. Your eye is looking around at all that Sky area.

This is the beginning PLOT POINT 2 and setting up a joke (gag), because at the bottom we see the top of the bird's head enter and move about. 
Then we show the joke; all three birds are working together, balancing on top of one another attempting to get that cup cake. Notice the red can is still there. Maybe the birds will use it to help them get the cup cake later, after all it must be there for a reason, right?
Then we cut back to a closer shot which should show the top bird grabbing onto the cup cake. But, due to poor character design, the bird has very small wings and so, nothing really happens in this shot.
They lose their balance and all fall down. Red can is still on the right.
They all look around and then, the middle bird turns around to look at the little bird next to him. 

This must be a joke intended for the birds, because the biggest birds just looks at the little bird that moves a bit and then we FADE to Black again. End of PLOT POINT 2.

PLOT POINT 3 is where we see this. Where did all this stuff come from? What, no red can? What do you think they will do next?

Of course, the two birds help the biggest bird to fly up to the cup cake above by jumping onto the plank. The biggest bird goes up and out of frame.  We cut to this shot of the cup cake just sitting on the window ledge. We don't see the bird go up, but it does fall back down and past the cup cake and we Fade to Black again.

CRISIS: The lowest or highest point in the story.
Fade In: The bored and hungry birds are now back in their nest again looking sad.

CLIMAX: Sounds of a Mama bird, a shadow zips by and the baby birds are all excited with wide mouths opened.

RESOLUTION: A worm drops into the next and the bird's look disappointed.

Did you find anything I missed or something you didn't understand? Did you like this film or not? Anything you would have liked to see happen? Please leave your feedback or a comment below, because this isn't a horrible, just had a few things that could have been changed.

Please send me a link to any films you may find like the one above. Also, please click on the ads on this blog if you can, every click will go to helping a local animal shelter. We only need $25 in ad clicks to get to the $100 goal. Every click helps!

Next Post: Bad Flimmaking 101: The Big Catch

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