For people that are seeing this for the first time, these are weekly looks at progress, as we develop a system for fast, low cost production of an animation product. All WIP footage with many errors as usual.
I thought that this video would be a good opportunity to talk a bit about world building, something that is important in creating a movie experience that feels larger. It's something that's almost universally absent in indie film, because of the budget typically involved in implementing it.
World building has different meanings to different people, but the way I would describe it is expanding the attenuation radius of your audiences perception of the fictional world. It may sound like a new concept to some, but once you understand it, you'll remember seeing directors do this back to the 1920s. I'll break it down into very practical terms.
level 0 - Clerks, The Blair Witch Project, Saw, sitcoms
Only the main characters are ever really in focus, we never get any information about the world in which the story takes place. These stories are unframed.
level 1 - True Blood, Dexter, Star Trek TNG, The Sopranos, and most mainstream tv shows
The story has a defined world and setting, with some random interactions with auxiliary characters in the world external to the primary clique of central characters. Occasionally a fictional news broadcast is shown on a tv screen to establish in the viewers mind that there is a world of people within the fiction that are reacting to the events of the plot. "KTLA is live at the scene where Batman has just announced that he will be partnering with the X men after last weeks purchase of Dc Comics, Ticketmaster, and the interstate highway system by Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Lucasfilm Inc."
level 2 - Falling Down, Robocop, Rocky, Casino, Boardwalk Empire, A Time to Kill, The Dark Knight Rises, mostly movies and high budget television
Events in the outside world of the fiction are commonly shown full screen. The larger world in which the plot exists becomes part of the plot, repercussions of plot events frequently impact this larger world, and those repercussions are shown and sometimes feed back into the main plot.
Level 3 - Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Cinematic Universes
These stories have built worlds so large that full plotlines form in orbit around the central plot. The wider world is so fully established that independent fictions can spawn within the context of the periphery of what the central plot showed us. Rouge One is an entire AAA movie that occurs as a footnote to events we've already seen. Prequels, sequels, and spinoffs are often evidence that a franchise has succeeded at world building.
So how do you get started, just sitting in front of a blank screen, trying to do some world building?
1. Show on screen that life is happening outside the events of your story
2. Allow events in your story to affect this outside world
3. Add camera shots that show people outside the story reacting to the events in the story
In the video above, just some daily reels, the protagonist is simply driving home, but there are many instances of normal life going on in the surrounding street. While this doesn't have a direct impact on the events of the plot, it's significant. To give a concrete example, later in the film this same city is destroyed by a nuclear missile. While the same plot point could be delivered by only showing the nuke scene, it becomes more effective via world building, since we have previously established the existence of many people in the city.