Saturday, 29 November 2014

'Very Strange Things' - Preparing for Cast Readthrough of Pilot script (29/11/2014)

Some major news: there will be a demo cast reading/recording of the pilot script, The Town of Miracles, courtesy of a good friend and co-worker of mine, Keith Matthews, who also has a wealth of theatre experience. Over the next few weeks, he will be sending the script out to some of his actor associates, and has already been breaking down the script to prepare for the reading, as you can see.

Also to help, I gave him some more concept art for the characters in the pilot (more on that in future posts, so be aware) to help the actors with developing their personas and takes on the characters, which he stapled alongside copies of the full script. The reading is due to take place sometime after Christmas to enable both casting and time for rehearsals before the big day, so expect an update on this sometime in January.

I am incredibly excited about this, dear reader: aside from Keith's tremendous kindness, what's wonderful is that I'm going record the show, and use it later for a potential animatic of the episode. With that, I could give potential producers a better idea of how the episode would feel and look, instead of just relying on the script alone to do all the work. So, fingers crossed!

Friday, 28 November 2014

'Very Strange Things' - Development History and Origins: 2010-2014 (28/11/2014)

Despite the relative 'new-ness' of the blog, 'Very Strange Things' is actually a project that has been active for some time, having been the result of several years of trails, experiments and redrafts. I briefly covered this in the 'Outline' post earlier, but here's a more detailed explanation of how this got started, and what has happened since.

The Beginning: As I stated before, this series was originally based on my own writings from college, specifically BTEC Media, as a means of creative amusement between the rather more tech-oriented nature of the studies. The series was birthed very much from my childhood love of adventure and fantasy stories, with some of the biggest influences including: Doctor Who, Tintin, Around the World in 80 Days, Blake and Mortimer, Batman Returns, The Shadow and Doc Savage. I loved the escapism, loveable characters and the high concepts that could be as fantastical as the writer wished: mad machines, lost continents, nature-defying experiments, lost treasure, evil cults, monsters, it was all there and my young mind ate it all up. So, around 2010, as secondary school was ending and my college career was set to begin, I decided to try my hand at serialized writing, much like the pulp authors of old. English was one of my strong suits at school, and my teacher often encouraged me to not let that talent and passion go to waste.

So, 'Very Strange Things' was born, albeit under the slightly less distinct title of 'MI4 Adventures', as 3-4 part written stories that were posted weekly on Deviantart. Fundamentally, this was the same thing as the show is now: Dan and Risa, two British secret agents, go out and solve seemingly bizarre mysteries involving some kind of phenomena. The biggest difference though, was the audience: this was not a children's series. It was sort of stuck in an awkward midground, with the odd bit of cussing and even some darker subject matter (like a gangster with a mutated head, and a mad doctor who murders girl to rebuild his dead wife), but I didn't care at the time: it was the thrill of creation.

Despite some formatting and spelling errors here and there, I kept going, and did so for a good two and half years. The entire series is available here for your consumption on Deviantart:

However, all things must come to an end, as pressures from college, moving to university and finishing my Spanish A-Level all took their toll and the series had to be dropped in order to accommodate circumstances. For the full story, I did a full editorial on why it ended, and what the plans were after to continue the series on DA:

Naturally, having written these a few years back, and having done as many as I did, gave me lots of time to think about how to someday bring it back. Then, the next issue would be how to fit them together into a half hour weekly format for a television series, as well as add an extra layer beyond the simple nature of the one-off adventures, now armed with the skills and foresight of a screenwriter. So around spring 2014, I began to redevelop MI4, under that title still, as a pilot for an animated series. I adapted my old first story, The Black Bells, and set to work topping and tailoring it for a half hour tv show. Fast forward to summer, and now redubbed 'The Oddities Bureau', I began shopping the script around, primarily to the BBC Writersroom, who had an opportunity to submit for an children's show. I threw my hat in the ring, and saw what happened: I didn't even make it past the first round.

Still, in the meantime I went on holiday to Spain, and armed with a little journal I had received from a good friend, began to make notes and plans for the rest of the series and new episodes. One of them was an idea for a second series' script, The Town of Miracles, which centered on an English town being visited by an 'angel', who brings about odd miracles upon the townsfolk. When I received news of the rejection, I reviewed my old pilot and, dissatisfied personally, I junked it and began developing Miracles instead. 

And well, that's the whole backstory, dear readers. If you want more details, please visit the links and quench your thirsts. Next time, I'll be showing you what the original pilot was like.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

'Very Strange Things' - Early concept art for main characters (27/11/14)

Of course, what good's a blog on creating an animated series if you don't have, well, VISUAL representation of what the show is going to look like. Back in September of this year, a very good friend of mine, a training animator and artist over at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics in Padova, Italy named Luke Ceranic, agreed to work on a few bits and bobs of concept art for the show. 

This was his first attempt and I have to say, he did a damn fine job. The angularity gives it an anime quality, while the anthropomorphism is sort of a plenty of the sleekness of the artwork from say, Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, with the liveliness and attire more befitting the Disney TV Renaissance of the 1990s. 

If you want more from Mr Ceranic, not only will more artwork be coming to here soon, but you also check out his Deviantart page here:

(GUIDE: Green male fox is Dan Clancy. Gold vixen is Risa Velton. Mammoth was actually a character from an earlier version of the pilot script that got cut in later drafts. More on that in future posts)

(c) Luke Ceranic 2014.

'Very Strange Things' - Short Character Bios & Brief Outline (27/11/2014)

Basic Outline: Set in an animated anthropomorphic world, "Very Strange Things" is a 12 episode mystery-adventure series for all ages. The series is headed up by two agents from an enigmatic 'Bureau', Dan and Risa, who combat all sorts of bizarre villains and phenomena week to week. However, it’s not all what it seems, the bigger mysteries being much, much closer…

Originally based on my own writings from college as a means of creative amusement between the occasional mundaneness of studies, the series was birthed very much from my love of adventure stories as a child, with key influences including the likes of: Doctor Who, The Adventures of Tintin, Blake and Mortimer, as well as 1930s pulp characters like The Shadow and Doc Savage.

Naturally, having written these a few years back has since given me much time to think and mull over how to fit them together into a half hour weekly format for a television series, as well as add an extra layer beyond the simple nature of the one-off adventures. In an age where children's entertainment seems to be dominated more by comedy (Phineas and Ferb, My Little Pony, Gravity Falls etc.) this would make for a refreshing change of pace, with its slightly darker and more serial-esque adventure flavour. Furthermore, it also serves as an introduction for children to the more dramatic and arc-heavy style of television storytelling that has become more mainstream over the past decade, and as shown by series like Doctor Who and the tragically defunct Sarah Jane Adventures, children do respond to this, and given criticism levelled at Who recently with Series 7 and 8 for maybe being too complex, this series would offer a much more even playing field for this young audience.

As for ethos, it’s really quite simple: Children love to see the fantastic and sometimes scary. However, it also deals with issues that as they grow, children face; choice, morality, the nature of lengthy platonic and romantic relationships, consequences and atonement. It’s this balance of elements that I greatly and sincerely hope ‘Very Strange Things’ will help impart and inspire within each and everyone who watches this series for years to come.

Dan Clancy: Our protagonist; a self-styled man of action, the ‘coolest guy in the room’ sort. Underneath his brashness though lies a strong concern for those around him, and a manic desire to see right be done. However, all this hides a secret that even Dan himself is not fully aware of.

Risa Velton: Dan's partner, herself a former member of Britain’s secret services. She is very spirited and feisty, but is no one’s fool. Of course, this drive is partly brought by a less than tender past with her family.

Heidi Clairemont: The woman in charge of the Bureau and former field agent/companion of Dan (More on that below in the outlines). Despite her matter of fact exterior, she still harbours feelings for Dan with whom she has many fond, even personal, memories.

Rucard: Dan's brother and seeming archnemesis. He is a supremely intelligent and conniving criminal who is also rather unnerved by his brother’s lack of ‘remembrance’, and decides to set that straight in his own vicious, cruel way.

Introduction to 'Very Strange Things' & Welcome to All ! (27/11/2014)

Hello, surfers and residents of the internet! My name is Abel Diaz, I'm a twenty something Spanglish guy with all sorts of skills and thoughts, just drifting through the universe. Well actually, I'm a young screenwriter with two pence in his pocket, and a head full of wacky ideas for all kinds of tall tales. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what this saga will be all about:

This blog will be an ongoing diary/archive/workflow portfolio of all things related to the creation and realisation of my titular pet project. Join me as I battle the odds to see a dream project of mine since teenagehood come to life on television screens all around the UK. It's a mystery/adventure series called Very Strange Things, and it's exactly what it sounds like. Imagine a blend of say, Willy Fog, Ducktales or Dogtanian, shows that use the image of anthropormorphised creatures to invite the children into a world of adventure, with the likes of Fringe or the revived Doctor Who, series with a carefully planned story arc and high concepts designed to capture the viewer's imagination and send them on an incredible ride.

Over the course of the coming weeks, months, maybe years even, you'll see news updates concerning developments in the pilot script, meetings, concept art/other art for the show, even little tasters of what the end product may be like. So sit back, relax and let's get rolling!