news on anything directly related to film or video. Projects taken on, inspiring works and moments (may be some LJ overlap there), the evolution of concepts, technical achievements ideas or practices, film work or anything about schooling, news, video posts -- so there's a lot of material I've barely even touched on there, it being relatively new.
The implication here is that I post wholly formed ideas, fully developed concepts, as part of the concept evolution process. Well, I happen to have such a theoretically wholly formed idea that I wrote for a film program application this past winter. CalArts, actually, who have since rejected me. Though if I read it now I'll likely find things to change in it, I don't want to alter the ideas of it at all right now, just to post it here exactly as the admissions people saw it. It's more interesting that way. It filled up almost two pages, single-spaced, 12 point -- it went overboard on length (although, hey! they didn't list any limit...). It follows, though I didn't block-quote it because I thought that'd be annoying. I titled it "the Terkwhalt Economy."
This is a limited television series of four or five half-hour episodes set among the dessert denizens of a community called Saykle. It is a kind of fantasied-up Masada, sitting on top of a mesa, surrounded by eerie, arid, and beautiful desert. Water is collected via a few balloons called cloudospheres. which hang so high in the sky that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Their pipes and cables fix to the edges of the plateau; they extend like beanstalks into the blue above. Mines, glittering and colorful, delve deep into the Mesa, producing minerals, called the neam, that are refined into essential fertilizer. Both neam and cloudosphere meet in the middle to grow trees, the essential food supply of Saykle, but which are just called trees. The three-part dynamic which thus arises is referred to as the Terkwhalt Economy, named for the brilliant scientist and utopian Alpack Terkwhal, founder of Saykle and inventor of the cloudosphere.
Our hero is Damson Plum, the fifteen year old son of a treeman retailer. His family buys wholesale minerals from miners and water from scientists, and sells both to treemen for a profit. Damson is self-motivated and efficient, but a little arrogant and self-centered. He can be easily embarrassed as he’ll often find himself affecting a vain façade of homespun merchant wisdom. Class tension between the Sayklish miners and scientists bubbles to the surface as Damson grows into a more relaxed chore load. The two groups’ radically different lifestyles begin to come into conflict over land development. Caught in the middle, the treemen ignore the situation, try to calm it, or else manipulate it for profit. The Plum family business is well-situated to take advantage of this conflict. though its financial heads are too noble to do so. The actions of some Plum competitors, who begin to manipulate the market thus, forces the Plum family to do so in order to stay in business. Damson, who had been fascinated by the business, is disillusioned by the enforced corruption and his life takes a more aimless turn. As a result of this newfound open-endedness, two women find their way into young Plum’s life.
The first is Sita Laba, the young wife of a scientist who is herself proudly descended from Alpack Terkwhal, though she lacks his vision of social harmony. She enters into an affair with Damson when they meet by chance in a fruit market – she assumes that he sells fruit and through a quirky mix-up she smoothly to walk away with him. Slow-speaking, slender, and spacey, whimsically witty, she glides across the floor like the string of a balloon some feet above. The unpredictability of her airy, lightly cynical conversation is like nothing Damson’s seen before; he eventually stops questioning her non-sequitor questions and goes with the flow, just to be around this spectral vision. From a bed they share beneath an open arched window to the starry sky, she regales him with the mention of a society out in the world that loafs about luxuriously all day, while at night, rather than dream, the people do all their day’s labors subconsciously. Poor Damson doesn’t pick up on her manipulation and condescension. To her he is just a plaything for her amusement.
Damson begins seeing Sita regularly, but almost immediately he meets the second girl, young daughter of a mining family. He meets her when sent to pick up a supply of neam. As a foil to Sita Laba, Nonya Estex is a year younger than Damson. She enjoys an outlook of wonder and innocence, complete with childish superstitions and hand-holding. With utmost sincerity she rushes our hero to her “secret place,” a particularly beautiful, but cozy grotto somewhere underground, with the intent of showing him “something really cool that my dad dug up!” Damson is almost ready to buy into this Nonya’s kid romance of play and imagination, especially as he becomes aware of Sita Laba’s subtle condescension and elitism. However, Nonya develops a frightening seriousness about her relationship with Damson, becoming extremely committed to marriage against all odds. Their relationship is also sexless; his relationship with Sita is basically all sex.
Damson is thus compelled to split his time between the two because his aimlessness suddenly is very focused. This practice is very difficult as the fracture between the classes moves into a walls-and-fortifications stage. Nonya is prepared to die a star-crossed death for poor Plum, while Sita is more and more averse to lowering herself to his level, bored and more outwardly stuck-up, which hurts Damson’s feelings. He now feels as though, even if business is corrupt and joyless, and having messed around a bit with nothing to show for it but worry and emotional scarring, he might be able to bring meaning to his life with a real, true love: an equal and companion that he can respect and who respects him back. A weekly duty of Damson’s is the processing of neam into fertilizer that can be sold, which involves a machine worked by two people at a time. Damson’s partner in this task is his cousin Mirabel Greengage, and the two bicker throughout, as they have done with each other for as long as they can remember. Meanwhile, the division of the city slows down; the two ends come to their limits without self-destructive economic cut-off, and the prices of water and minerals are so inflated that every level of society feels the hard times. In these quiet, hungry weeks, it becomes impossible for Damson to enter either the mining or science districts. He has no choice but to preoccupy himself with family market chores. This enforced, mindless task management serves its meditative purposes. It takes his mind off Nonya and Sita, and like an autobiographical grandpa, he slowly lets slip the details of his escapades to Mirabel, who is the only person in his age group that he has around to talk to. She initially accuses Damson of making it all up to sound like a hotshot ladiesman. As he continues his tales, bit by bit, week after week, Mirabel’s icy exterior transparently belies an interest underneath; she is apparently intrigued by Damson’s adventure, or at least has little else to look forward to all week. They continue their work with little choice but little complaint. In time, the miners and scientists come to resent the effects of their division. After a good deal of build-up, the final blow to the barriers comes when a bastard son of Sita Laba, the only living male descendent of Alpack Terkwhalt, very publicly marries a poor neam widow. A constitutional republic with a representative government emerges, and naturally, it is beset with troubling constitutional republic issues of how big the government should be, which industries should be public, how much should taxation be, and so on. But overall, it seems that Saykle has grown up a little.
This concludes the plot description of this story. I feel it is worth pointing out that I imagine Saykle to be in itself a particularly whimsical place, amusing and joyful in just the way it looks. There should be a way out there design of buildings, transportation, flora, interiors, fashion, and so on, based roughly in Steampunk, but on the very quirky end, mixed with a good deal of abstract geometric forms. Where this approach really matters, though, is in the characters themselves. There are many characters barely mentioned here, such as the Plum parents, who all get their own wacky personalities and a good deal of air time, but for whom there is no room to specifically describe here. At every turn, even in Saykle’s darkest hour, there is a lightness owed to the kookiness of the Sayklish themselves: mainly their amusing dress and dialogue. I think overall, characters and visuals, the easiest way to put it roughly is as a cross between the archetypes of Steampunk and Dr. Seuss.
As for the development of concept, all you really have to know is that Saykle's a desert island I made up to represent myself in the "Pentagon Epic" fiasco, which I honestly can't bear to take the time to explain at the moment. Saykle as I first conceived it was an entire island, the capital of which was three mesa cities called the Drayhams, as opposed to here where it is just one mesa city. The main feature of the island was that it was all but impenetrable except by crossing a desert from the east, where a port shared in ownership by the Albionish and Astorians was set up in case of diplomatic missions, etc. To the south were a set of rocky mountains, the Bergshire, and further south, surrounding the south and west of the island was a shore of sheer cliffs and a set of small, similarly sheer islands called the Indayber. To the north, the shores were placid and sandy, but in between them and the Drayhams were a set of extremely difficult dunes known as Bergley. Between the Drayhams and the western shore was a kind of lush Sonoran desert, while the desert that anyone approaching the Drayhams would have to cross was extremely arid.
The Sayklish people themselves were to be tied by implication to air, the air elemental concept. They were the only people on the map to have harnessed steam power (Neam referred to steam in this version), and so were planned out to be fairly steampunk. They would have had airships and hot air balloons. Their main symbol was the "Terkwal Sworl," a connection of three spirals, kinda Celtic. Their naming is a combination of Englishisms and Yiddish and personal choices. They were to behave in character and have an architecture and culture that combined Native Americans and fairies, Indians and English. They were to be spacey, guarded, cryptic, with a pseudo-spiritual connection to the Neam, hot air, and gunpowder (which each had their own names).
But I was pretty stumped on how exactly they would work economically, and it doesn't make sense for an entire people to have the same character. When I adapted the Sayklish idea to this story, I split them up as described. I had a lot of problems generating conflict between the miners and the intellectuals, and if I could change anything, it'd be how that develops. The style of plot developments here is supposed to be very plausible, almost Zola-like (though I didn't happen to read Germinal until almost right after), but the actual setting and so on are totally fanciful, the characters in some cases larger-than-life.
In a rewritten version, the characters would be described as having whimsical, bizarre, unearthly personality traits, but full characters pushed around by the plot plausibly... or pushing as the case may be. And of course there's the things I didn't have space to mention. I don't think Steampunk and Dr. Seuss is how I'd actually want it done, I think something closer to a combination of nineteenth century English and some tribe of Native Americans, on all three levels. I'd fix up the main character's story, as well, of course, which is pretty rudimentary. I'm also kind of ashamed of even mentioning Steampunk, they probably just assumed I was some lame fantasy nerd the minute they saw that, with no concept of l'arte! the fools!