Short Film: A closer look at character

14 Apr

In short film, there really isn’t much time to develop a deep, complex character. Have a look at the protagonist (it turns out his name is George) from Paperman (2012).

Each of these three shots gives us a little more detail about George, but we really don’t learn much more about him:

  • his dress suggests he has a 9-5 office job
  • he commutes everyday by train (dreary, repetitive), to complete ‘paperwork’
  • he isn’t excited about his work (dreary) supported by the black and white of the film
  • he isn’t afraid to be a little bit silly; to see the lighter side of life, especially when it breaks his daily routine
  • he’s afraid of authority; he knows his place in the system
  • But, as we know, the tension of the film is created in that he breaks his routine, and takes a risk.

You can see how the writer has developed quite a bit of detail about George, with just a few quick shots. BUT, he hasn’t included anything unnecessary. We don’t know George’s dreams, aspirations, shoe size, what he had for breakfast or what he likes to do on the weekend. TASK: Flesh out the character of the plot diagram you created from the last lesson on plot. 

  1. Write more, then cut away the unnecessary stuff. Try answering some of these questions.  
  2. How does your character propel your plot? Often this involves some sort of change. From what to what? 

George is clearly not satisfied with his life (job, routine), though he doesn’t really know how to change it. When he meets Meg, he sees something different in life (represented by the coloured lipstick). By coincidence, he sees her again and takes a chance (risks his job) to talk to her.

3. How are you going to show your audience this? 

Has a boring “9-5”, “paperwork” job. → grey suit, papers, b&w, slightly unkempt. He is light-hearted → reaction to the lipstick Knows his place in the system → reaction to authority/his boss.

Narrative Conflict

La Luna, by Enrico Casarosa

The narrative conflict of a story outlines the problem the protagonist must overcome. They can be categorised into 4 types: person vs. person; person vs. nature; person vs. society; person vs. herself.

TASK: Imagine an example for each of the different narrative conflicts. If you’re having trouble, take an example from  a film or novel you have read.  

La Luna is a short, Pixar film from Italian director Enrico Casarosa that tells the story of a young boy learning to follow in the footsteps of his father, and grandfather.

TASK: As you are watching make a table that shows how the father and grandfather wear their cap, pass the time, and the type of broom they use. 

Look at your table: what is the narrative conflict of this story?

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