Recently, I was asked to write up something for a client who was impressed with my work on Tale of Shadows. One of the things they pointed out was my story writing and how the characters were well-written.
But, I had to be honest about something...I am not a writer. I write, yes, but I am not a writer per say. It also made me think on something else: Not many people know about HOW something like Tale of Shadows becomes what it is. How the story is actually born, or how it grows from a single idea and snowballs into its final incarnation...Or the fact that even though it is 3minutes and 16 seconds long it took about 5 years to get where it is.
But why? Why would this three-minute short take so long to make?
Fun fact...Tale of Shadows was originally a comedic short.
Yes, you read that right...Tale of Shadows, the project that was described by several judges at Kingstoon as "too dark", originally started out as a funny romp through the woods with Boris, the human hating forest-monster, basically chasing a hunter out of the forest he protected, all while the forest spirit tries to keep him in line with scolding looks and a few well-placed smacks to the head with her staff. Also, there was going to be no dialogue save for a few yelps, screams and growls.
It then evolved further with the addition of a girl and her father...a woodcutter who cut down trees, but encouraged his daughter to replant saplings to replace them. It was the girl and the woodcutter who would make Boris realize all humans were not bad.
But there were nine characters to contend with: Boris, a deer, the hunter, the little girl, her father, a rabbit, a forest spirit, a squirrel and a hummingbird (Boris' animal sidekick friend) Modeling and rigging all those characters, was waaaaay too much for one person to tackle. So, I wanted to change the story to have the same impact, but with less characters.
And this is where things become complicated…funny how, while on one path, something comes along and changes you so much that you rethink your entire approach and direction for a story. This is life…this is what creation is…being open to change. During this time, I read an online comic called "Bayou" by Jeremy Love. It was a part of the online Zuda comics community (now defunct) It was so different in the way it tackled racism... tying the harsh realities of being black in the deep south during the 30's, with fantastical swamp myths and legends. It was fascinating how the fantasy world and the real world intertwined yet, never really interfered with each other...how, while reading this fairytale, you were also reading about the tumultuous life in the deep south. There was so much culture and history involved...It was fantasy, but it was real...it was dark, but I didn’t want to stop reading or look away.
That one comic inspired me to change Boris' story into what it is now. A dark fairytale about the 18th century West Indies set against the backdrop of the slave trade and runnings of a sugar plantation. A ploy to educate and show that yes, things had changed, but many things had not, like the mentalities towards race, class and colorism, and how those things seem through the eyes of creatures outside of it all.
All of this took time and several iterations...reworking things in my head over and over until it made sense and resonated with me. The characters had to feel real...conflicted...complicated. Not just the...good-guy, bad-guy trope. I wanted to make my story feel the way Bayou made me feel, that I am using my stories to make a difference, not just tell a typical story. I feel I have a responsibility to the world to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned.
Second Fun fact: Tale of Shadows was originally an "Open project". Meaning that it was supposed to call upon the skills and contributions of animators, modelers etc. in Jamaica to get it done. Things like Props and flora and fauna for the background, matte paintings etc. If I had waited, Tale of Shadows would never have been finished. All the talk of "collaborating" I kept hearing, went nowhere fast. After a while of waiting on people I had to accept that this was not a viable route and move on.
Third Fun fact: Tale of Shadows was/is never intended to be the final name of the project. It was just meant to be a place-holder. Back when I named it. I googled "Tale of shadows" and nothing came up...However, googling it now brings up a load of results including a comic, a metal band project and a few other things. It is a cool name...but it may or may not change in the future.
Fourth Fun fact: Tale of Shadows isn't even finished...It was supposed to be 15 minutes long, but I figured I would stop it where I did and present it as a proof-of-concept, before another five years passed, trying to complete the entire thing. The whole Kingstoon win and all the feedback we got as a result, further added to the inevitable evolution of Tale of Shadows.
Making a story takes time. At times, you will be inspired...at times you will be uninspired...you change, the story changes…the story you start off with most times, won’t be the story you end up with...and that is O.K. That is how stories are...they are organic, always changing, and Tale of Shadows is still evolving. We know the story we want to tell...something that is both fantastic, yet, unsettling...magical, yet, real. And that is something for a whole other blog update.