How to Develop a Stylized Short Film
The SCAD student film Drawn Apart is a story about a young art student who finds herself feeling the insecurities when looking to other artists work but learning to embrace her own work in its originality.
It’s about a journey of the artist’s self-portrait of herself that comes to life and tries to win back the artist’s own love and attention.
My favourite part of the filmmaking process are the early developmental stages when the story and characters is just starting to come to life. It’s that time of early exploration and brainstorming that is crucial to how the final product will read to the audience.
Our team was given an initial script to start from, in which we had the freedom to edit the location and certain plot details in order to better serve what we all had in mind for the film. We chose to set it in an Italian peninsula town. We took inspiration from places like Venice and Cinque Terre.
Our story went through many revisions until we found the best way to tell it.
The first thing we did was gather reference photos, via the internet and from one of the crew members who had been able to travel to Cinque Terre. We were tasked to then start coming up with ideas on what our city would look like, what color palettes we would use, lighting situations, and character designs.
We had to figure out what kind of stylization we were going to take on for the film, so the environment team started doing some early sketches. Early building explorations
Our reference was telling us to look at a bright, warm and colorful palette so I drew a couple different ideas for what the buildings that made up the town would look like. The trickiest part was translating our 2D drawings into 3D and still keeping that stylized appeal to them. I worked with the modelers on the shapes of the buildings in keeping them in cohesion with the original designs.
We knew lighting was going to be an important part in telling the story as it has the most impact in moving the story through its parts. I wanted to make sure that the environment explorations showed the same bright energy of a lush and vibrant beach town, yet still kept the audience focused on our main character’s journey.
Our story went through many revisions until we found the best way to tell it. Sequences were cut, and so were some characters. Being in the early stages you can’t really get attached to anything you make as things will change frequently and not everything made will be used. It’s all about the journey.
Color and Storytelling
Each image I made for the film I tried to tell the story with color and lighting in mind and how I was directing the audience’s attention in my images. I also wanted to play with how the cool shadows and warm lights would help to direct the eye to that story I wanted to tell.
Each one would start with a rough sketch, a color block in, and then the final refinement. Since they are only concepts, they were done in a short amount of time and were thus left more rougher than a finalized illustration would be.
Working directly with the lighting artists, I created some color keys to give them an idea of how to light each scene. Controlling the mood and emotive response the audience has is what color keys do in the early part of the filmmaking process and are a map for the lighting artists in how the story will visually progress.
Being a part of the process of making this film was one of the best experiences I’ve had at SCAD, as it was a fun and challenging project to tackle. I found that I love working in a collaborative environment where everyone is just as excited and passionate about the project as you are. It made it a really a wonderful experience.
I would like to thank all of the professors and advisors at SCAD who helped to make this project possible, and for my friends and family who always gave their never-ending love and support.
Thank you to The Rookies who invited me to share my journey here with you. I hope to learn something and enjoy the article.