The 5 C’s of Cinematography – Camera Angles

This post includes my notes from the chapter on camera angles from The 5 C’s of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli. My previous notes from the chapter on composition are blogged here. I haven’t read this book since first year and had forgotten a lot of important points through lack of practice. Hopefully we’ll be able to employ this knowledge better in our next animatic!

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Mascelli, J. (1965) The 5 C’s of Cinematography. U.S.A. : Silman-James Press

The 5 C’s of Cinematography

  1. Camera Angles
  2. Continuity
  3. Cutting
  4. Close-ups
  5. Composition

Camera Angles Notes:

Story requirement should dictate the choice of camera angle. Ask yourself two questions when choosing: What is the best viewpoint and how much area should be included?

The scene is the place where action is shot. The shot is one continuous view without cuts, also known as a take. A sequence is a series of scenes or shots.

Consider three types of camera angles – objective, subjective, point-of-view.

The objective camera is when the viewpoint is from the sidelines.

The subjective camera is from a viewpoint within the scene, e.g. from a person within the scene or moving with the camera to take a tour of the scene. This is an effective viewpoint for startling the viewer e.g. in a rollercoaster or falling from a height. The viewer feels like they are in the scene, through the eyes of the characters on screen.

Moving shots are always subjective. A static shot can be made subjective by first showing a close-up of the person whose eyes you will see through, looking off screen.

You don’t generally see from the viewpoint of characters who are interacting as it will result in disruption from characters looking into the camera (your eyes).

Subjective filming should be reserved for when you want to show the mental condition of a character as using this shot too often will rob the audience of seeing the subject’s reactions.

Point-of-view shots are those that position the camera within the scene but not from the viewpoint of a character. It is like standing cheek to cheek with the character so that you see what they see, but you remain objective. Over-the-shoulder shots set up the relationship between the two characters. This objective shot can again become subjective by showing a close-up of a character looking off screen. It is easier to identify with characters on-screen if you see them from the same viewpoint/standing alongside other characters in the scene rather than objectively on the sidelines.

Two don’ts: Don’t show a close-up of a player looking off screen, cut to see what they’re seeing and then pan around to look at themself. Don’t show a player pointing off screen and then have them walk in the same direction that they’re pointing. (why this second one?)

A camera angle is defined as the area and view-point recorded by the lens” and is determined by three factors – subject size, subject angle, camera height.

The size of the subject in relation to the frame determines the type of shotExtreme long shot, long shot, medium shot, close-up.

An extreme long shot depicts a vast area from a great distance and is used to impress the viewer with the huge scope of the setting or event. A panning camera for this shot should be reserved for when something interesting can be revealed with the pan.

The long shot is used to establish the scene, who is involved and where they are. Whenever considerable, narratively significant movement is made by the character it should be re-established in the long shot. Medium long shots can be substitued for long shots on narrower screens.

A medium shot frames characters above the knee or below the waist.

The two-shot is a dramatic medium shot where two characters are framed confronting each other. The two shot can be framed with both characters in profile and equally dominant or it may be more interesting to frame the characters at an angle, with the character closest angled away from the camera. The character angled most towards the camera is most likely compositionally dominant in this situation. The two shot should be brought about in a natural progression of the medium or long shot. The characters should not be filmed toe-to-toe unless in a dramatic confrontation.

There are varying degrees of close-ups (discussed in a later chapter).

Terms: A pan shot is when the camera rotates on its vertical axis. A dolly, crane or boom shot is when the entire camera is moved with its mount. A follow or tracking shot is when the camera moves along with the character. A low shot is where the camera is angled upward and a high shot is where the camera is high and angled downwards. Also consider reverse shots, cut-in shots, cut-away shots and reaction shots.

The subject angle should be chosen for the best degree of modeling. Avoid flat images by showing at least two sides of the subject e.g. film heads at three-quarter angles and film streets so that they converge into the distance. Achieve depth with “lighting, camera and player movement, overlapping subject matter, linear and aerial perspective, use of short focal length lenses”. The camera angle is the greatest tool for achieving depth.

Camera height influences audience involvement e.g. viewing the subject at eye-level or above or below. A level camera results in vertical lines not converging and therefore not distorting. Importance is stressed when choosing the camera height for close-ups. The objective camera height should be on eye-level with the close-up subject, unless you are simulating the p.o.v. height difference of characters e.g. sitting and standing. Subjective close-ups should always be at the subject’s eye-level.

Level shots are employed dramatically in shots where a vehicle is rushing towards the camera.

High angle shots are useful for showing the layout of the setting or making the audience feel superior to a character. The subject always dictates the angle.

Low angle shots are useful for creating awe and excitement for the subject, and also for creating more forced perspective.

Angle-plus-angle is where the camera is angled to the subject but also tilted upwards or downwards. It creates the greatest degree of modeling a subject in 3D and also the greatest convergence of perspective.

Use dutch-angles with discretion for impressions of violence or instability.

Plan your combinations of camera angles and consider the pattern of shots, looking at area photographed and viewpoint. In progressive shots, the area and/or angle is progressively greater or smaller. Progressive/regressive shots require a definite change in the image size and angle or it will be jarring. In contrasting shots, pairs of shots are opposite in area photographed and/or angle. Contrasting shots also require a definite change. In repititious shots, the area and/or angles in a series of shots are the same.

Think “how much area should be included in this shot and where should the camera be positioned to view the action?” Only subjects of importance to the story should be included in the shot and for only as long as it’s point story point requires. Approach the shots in a scene creatively. Progressive shots are a standard way for telling the story but may become a lazy go-to, so look for dramatic opportunities with contrasting or repititious shots.

When filming continuous action, be sure to change the camera angle, lens, or both between cuts so as to avoid jarringly similar images. Be definite with change unless you are purposefully trying to pop into a distant subject e.g. a person in a crowd. Think of the lens focal length which is best suited for the shot e.g wide-angle lens for a distant shot, normal lens for a medium shot and a semi-telephoto or telephoto lens for a close-up.

Consider the individual story requirements of each shot but also consider everything as part of a sequence.

Consider the esthetic, technical, psychological, dramatic, editorial, natural and physical factors that will occur when choosing how to shoot the scene.


Audience versus Magic

This article talks about the thought process behind the magic in Doctor Strange (2016) and highlights a good point in relation to the audience’s engagement with the narrative of the magic.

Doctor Strange’s magic is more real than you might think (and is based on Tutankhamun)

The audience likes to reenact and imagine doing the magic themselves e.g. the specific wand movements and special words in Harry Potter. This was also talked about in the Writing Excuses episode on magic systems (blogged about earlier: link). It’s not just important to explain the rules so that the audience can play along in solving conflict, but it’s also a way of letting the audience unleash their imagination as to what could happen in a world with these rules of magic.

Scott Derrickson, who directed Doctor Strange points out that audiences “love the idea of magical objects and they like learning the rules of those objects and what they do”.

Derickson looked to the art of finger tutting as a way of visually showing the process of making magic.


With this in mind, we have a challenge of establishing our magic system in either our opening sequence or opening act. However, in an earlier episode of Writing Excuses on ‘Beginnings’ (blog link), the importance of starting and leaving as close as possible to the action was stressed. The audience doesn’t want to be bombarded with a boring log of worldbuilding. The first line/moment of the story is a promise of what the rest of the story will be e.g. a comedy or horror etc and if an establishing shot is made then it should contain conflict relevant to the story.

The Lion’s Blaze and Samurai Jack openings are examples that we’ve been looking at for inspiration.

They’re short (20-40 seconds) and don’t get boring. These two openings establish the conflict relationship between world and character. For us, this would be how Nami accidentally released her granny’s holdings of dangerous spirits who are able to possess any inanimate object with a face, but perhaps we should also give clues to how Nami produces magic? Looking back on reading about amulets (blog post link), this could be how symbolism is tied to the materials that Nami uses (e.g. different animal faces and motifs), the symbolism of color, how Nami implements offensive versus defensive magic e.g. adornment on weapons versus armor and cloaks, the variety of magical instruments that Nami carries e.g. different amuletic faces for different functions, the effect of recombination of materials e.g. faces composed of different symbols (our version of teeth of wolf, eyes of owl) how evil is symbolised in our world of faces e.g. the evil eye, how superstition is manifested in the non-magical people/denizens of our world e.g. removing faces of statues, making dolls without faces and wearing masks etc. We’ve also been considering how we can visualise magic using forms from either sacred geometry or the more fluid look of magic Tao calligraphy but this all needs developing.

Another (overlapping?) topic of research, mentioned by Yuan and Conánn, is the postmodern audience which I have a feeling will influence how we think about all of this!

House Texture Concept

Drawing inspiration from the traditional media textures and simplified shapes in Scott Wills paintings, I tried to paint the house concept in more of the style that we’re going for. I also tried to push myself to draw more of a dynamic perspective, with the house at an angle to show light on form better. Trying to paint in the style of Wills also made me think harder about using values and shapes within the frame to frame the focal point as I sometimes over-rely on vignettes and light sources to draw the eye.

We’re considering using the silver ratio (2.414:1) for a more cinematic feel in our short.


Top 10 Cinematographers

This video gives a great overview of important cinematographers over the last century. Seeing theory done well is very inspiring! We’ve been advised to find similar shots to what we want to achieve so that we can examine and understand the language of framing what’s on screen more effectively. I admit that I’m a bit ignorant of the work of specific cinematographers, apart from Roger Deakins who was another team’s presentation topic in first year, so this is a good place to start.

CineFix (2010) Top 10 Cinematographers of All Time

Worldbuilding: Amulets and Magic Research

The most recent logline idea for our short is:

In a world filled with strange, ancient carvings of worship, a young glyph-witch (glyph-mancer?) accidentally unleashes a realm of strangelings which can possess any object with a face. She must now travel her world and trap the most powerful strangelings who seek to conquer and spread terror.

With this rule that the spirits/strangelings are made solid in Nami’s world through faces in inanimate objects e.g. statues, masks, armour, skulls, tree faces, etc. it opens up more specific possibilities for designing the monsters, environments and costumes. Also, while some spirits are malevolent and need to be captured by Nami, others could form part of Nami’s magic system where she imbues different spirits into faces in her staff.


Looking to some real world research for inspiration, this book on amulets has lots of ideas that we could incorporate around our use of the face as a design and narrative device. The world ‘amulet’ could be replaced with ‘face’ for ideas. Some of the main points from this book that we could think of when developing our magic system and concepts:

  • The materials and forms of the amulet dictate its purpose.
  • People of different professions would require different amulets e.g. pilgrims, hunters, fish catchers.
  • Sometimes specific amulets were connected to certain Gods.
  • Amulets and amuletic decoration were used for both offense and defense. E.g. animals symbolic of fierceness and strength would adorn the hunter while decorations on shields and cloaks could be defensive.
  • The evil eye is commonly warded against. Like against like is a common way of amuletic protection.
  • The amulet commonly takes on the symbolic properties of the animal parts it contains e.g. strange, of the night, strength, ethereal, fertile, of the netherworld etc.
  • Multiple amulets are commonly carried for multiple purposes.
  • Ancestors held in amulets would answer questions and advise.
  • Faces would be left blank on certain Russian dolls so that demons would not be able to animate them.
  • The symbolic colors used in the amulet are important to the amulet’s function. e.g. red, black and white.
  • The sky is seen as the spirit realm, and the ground the nether realm. Therefore animals (birds, insects, reptiles) associated with these areas are linked symbolically.


Notes from the book: 

“An amulet is a device, the purpose of which is to protect, but by magical and not physical means.”

“A charm is something believed to bring good luck, health and happiness.”

“A talisman is something thought to be imbued with some magical property. It can both protect and radiate power and is often used in ritual.”

“The origin of the fetish was as a West African amulet but the word now describes an object believed to contain a spirit. Fetishes are found in Polynesia, Australasia, West Africa, North and South America and the Arctic. Once magical rites have been performed over it anything can become a fetish, especially if it is something unknown or not understood, but most fetishes take the form of a doll or statue. The spirit they contain is usually fed.”

The power of/belief in amulets thrive where there is rampant disease and pestilence which are caused by unknown forces in the eyes of the people.

Each amulet has a specific function which is symbolically tied to the materials and forms that make it.

Recipes for amulets were published in Le Grand et le Petit Albert by the thirteenth century alchemist and philosopher Albert le Grand.

Pilgrims of medieval Wales carried small ampullae or models of saints.

Bears were hunted in Finland, not just for food but for their mystic properties. Different parts of the bear and bronze replicas of bears could give the hunter protection.

To protect the fisherman, two pieces of birch bark are “stapled together and carved into a face with cut-out eyes and mouth and incised nose. Such amulets are pinned on a stick and set on a trap of branches where roach and dace spawn.”

“Eyes painted on Japanese (boat) bows watch for spirits of the river in the torrents ahead”.

Some amulets invoked the protection of specific Gods.

Warriors and Weaponry

Paper charms were used for protection in battle in Japan e.g. printed in red with the character for Fudo, the war God.

The King of Foumban in Cameroon wore an amuletic robe of hessian with leather amulet pouches sewn all over it.

“…for many headhunter of south-east Asia – the Nagas of north-east India, the Nias of Indonesia – it was the life-forces in the trophy skulls of their slain enemies that protected them as they went again to war. “

The decoration on a shield was thought to be as protective as the shield itself.

“As in hunting, where the power of a slain animal is invoked in its claws or teeth to help kill the next one, for the Baule of the Ivory Coast it was the faces of their enemies killed in battle and reproduced in small bronze masks that were worn or carried on their swords as amulets.

Highly revered monks can make amulets and sell them for large sums of money.

Seams, hems or any other opening on clothing is decorated or stitched with particular colors as these are vulnerable places for spirits to slip under clothes and cause disease.

Talismans are used to protect houses and their inhabitants e.g. “white hawthorn or white paint, patterning in brick, heads carved in stone (a device of Celtic origin), crosses, floral designs”.


Crossroads are widely seen as a place of supernatural dwelling.


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“In Romania, wooden shrines sheltering a crucifix are erected at crossroads to save the wanderer from taking the wrong path.”

An amulet made specifically for the wearer is more powerful.

The Evil Eye

“The evil eye is the most powerful of superstitions throughout the Indo-European and Semitic worlds, and its power is based on jealousy.”


“..the Greek word for amulet, khalitikhi, means eye, the Italian jettatura, the eye that throws or casts spells.” The strongest amulet against the evil eye is the eye itself “and the mirror from which the evil eye flees in horror or lingers in self-admiration”.


Like protects against like. The symbol of the eye protects against the evil eye.

“Mirrors have an element of mystery: they show the true image of both human and demon, and yet reverse it. The soul can escape through them, and they are thus covered at death, or during a storm, or even for the vulnerable forty days after marriage.”

Reflections can act as a diversion to the eye or demon as it might stop to admire its own reflection. Mirrors are often in amulets, house gables, and sewn into clothing and fetishes for this reason.

Capture Magic

There is universal symbolism attached to the materials and forms that the amulets take. Specific materials are usually dependent on what animals and resources are local.


Amulets are often made of magical materials encased in some sort of container. The shape and material of the container is connected to the type of contents and also to your status e.g. a rag would be associated with poverty.

“The talismanic scrolls of Coptic Ethiopia are rolled into snakeskin; the paper charms of Japan are tied in red thread and sold on a piece of card, or wrapped in brocaded silk”.

The cimaruta of Italy is an amulet made of a combination of amulets. It consists of a silver sprig of rue with an amulet on each branch.

“In Morocco, a clustered pendant of amulets would include miniature guns and daggers to fight the jinn, a candle to see them by, a hand to protect from the evil eye, a goblet to represent water as the source of life, and stars to protect against darkness”.

The two broad functions of the amulet is to attract or repel. If something sparkly attracts the evil eye then it is diverted from the wearer.

Goddesses and Dolls

Many human shaped amulets personify ancestors and would not only protect from wizards and invisible danger but would also answer questions and advise.

Grotesque masks, such as Medusa’s face during strangulation, are used to frighten away spirits.

Russian dolls were sometimes made of linen and clothed but their faces would be left blank to prevent being animated by demons. The place of their heads could be stuffed with different items to protect different members of the family e.g.linen for women, masticated bread for children.


Dolls are frequently used in black magic but are also believed to be “vehicles of evil spirits”.

Buttons, beads and blue

A single bead e.g. painted with an eye or a mass of beads e.g. arranged in a sunburst are often used as protective amulets.

Red, White and Black

These three colors are said to be basic to the human state for their traditional symbolism.

White traditionally denotes purity, black denotes chthonic creatures and decay, and red denotes the vibrant life force of blood which can repel darkness, demons, witches, wizards and the evil eye. These symbols are usually why these colors are used in amulets. Decorating thresholds with red rags, outlining doorways and windows with red (Welsh) and sewing red thread into the hems and seams of garments are a few example of using the amuletic properties of red.

Teeth Claws and Paws

“Animals can be jinn in disguise or an actual witch , as the hyena is known to be; they can be inhabited by evil spirits, as in the case of the jackal; they can be people killed by witches and turned into lions, dogs and bush animals, as in Cameroon, or – as for the Ostyaks of Siberia – they can be totemic protector animals like the bear, from whom the family is descended.”

Animal teeth are common as an amulet for strength a warning to stay away.

The teeth of wild boar and pigs are also associated with mental health and absorbing evil directed at the wearer.

Horns and Bones

Antlers are associated with the power of regeneration, while pointed horns are capable of piercing evil, especially the evil eye.

Horns and horseshoes are a classic favourite for protecting houses.

“The Uzbeks of Khorezm kept a ram in the courtyard of their house, knowing that the evil eye would be attracted to the horns and so lose its potency”

In Tibet, human bones are made into flutes and are played to keep evil spirits away.

Bones are often inscribed with incantations.

Birds, feathers and hair

Birds are almost everywhere considered part of the spirit realm, a link between man and the heavens. In Slavic belief, witches and also girls who died before bearing children turned into birds.”

“Loose unkempt hair is a symbol of the chthonic world and an attribute of witches and sorcerers, while neat hair, particularly plaited, is a symbol of belonging to organized society.”

Snakes and fearful creatures

“As birds link man with the spirit world, so snakes, toads and various bizarre creatures remind him of his closeness to the nether regions and waters of the earth.”

Insects are thought to be metamorphoses of jinn and are used in amulets to protect against disease or cure illness.

Amulets made from chameleon’s are popular among thieves for their ability to change color and swivel their eyes.

Water and the moon

Frogs are associated with rain and the rain Gods while toads, being nocturnal, are associated with witches, the devil and the dark side of female sexuality.

Seahorses, being delicate and beautiful, divert the evil eye.

The Gods, both benign and evil, are said to dwell in water.

Week 04 Art Direction

We’ve narrowed in on Scott Wills and Jamie Hewlett as artists that we would like to take inspiration from. We’re at first drawn to them just for the pure visual appeal. Their art is stunning and we want to get this level of appeal into 3D! This is a pin board of their art and influences.

I looked a little into their influences today to see where their art is coming from. In an interview on Consequence of Sound, Jamie Hewlett talks about being influenced from artists in Mad magazine – Brunel, Mort Drucker and Jack Davis, and also the satirical cartoonist Giles.



There’s a lot of caricatured anatomy and simplified comic shapes. Going from this, we shouldn’t be afraid to push our characters’ anatomy but we should also examine Hewlett’s work for how it creates appeal.



Jamie Hewlett

Looking into Scott Wills, this book has some useful information:

Makin’ Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies

Some parallels that are very obvious between Samurai Jack and our show, but didn’t hit me until I read about it,

The backgrounds were such a key point of Tartakovsky’s vision – after all, it’s about a guy who travels from place to place; in many ways, it’s all about the environment – that the art direction and painting were absolutely crucial.

Our show is very similar to Samurai Jack in that our three characters are travelling to new places every episode, so of course we need to make sure that the art direction for the environments is as beautiful as possible too!

I didn’t know that the artist Dan Krall contributed to a lot of the line work which Wills would paint, so both of them should technically be credited with the art direction on Samurai Jack. Wills loved the direction from Tartakovsky who would push him to be “much more inventive with color…be crazier”. He also cites the graphic designs of Charley Harper to be an influence.


Charley Harper

“…real isn’t necessarily better, he says: ‘I like design. I like reducing things to their essence and simplifying things – stylization and design'”

“I can paint totally realistically, like photo-graphically – and then, totally on the opposite side, is full blown UPA-type stylization. I try to combine everything that’s good about realistic painting and feature painting, and everything that’s good about stylization, and bring it together…..have cinematic lighting, with mood and depth, but at the same time have it feel stylized.” – Scott Wills

Wills was also influenced by Bill Wray who was a mentor to him while working on The Ren and Stimpy show and he also cites Hana-Barbera and Japanese prints as influence.


Backgrounds from Samurai Jack (2001 -2017)

Mike Mignola’s work on Hellboy also incorporates the sharp line work that we like in Hewlett’s work. Alec shared this 3D model of Hellboy by Alexandre Collonge which I think has nicely translated the sharp line work into hard edged modeling of organic forms. The shading and texturing is great too. We’ll have to decide how much of the black ink we want to translate to 3D.


Images from Alexandre Collonge’s tutorial

Going on Yuan’s advice, we also need to consider how our style and story work together.

Writing Excuses 1.14 Magic systems and Rules of Magic Systems

In my head I’ve been struggling to allow Nami to use magic to solve her problems as it seems like too easy of a way out. This podcast gives a good indication of why this is the case and how to overcome it.


Sanderson’s First Law: Your ability to solve conflict with your magic is directly proportional to how well your reader understands your magic system.

Your character can only explore the magic once you’ve laid down concrete rules so that the reader knows what’s going on. If you can just do anything, then there is no tension. If you know the mechanism beforehand, then the audience can put 2 + 2 together and say that this problem is going to be solved this way! Don’t just let the solution surface at the last moment or it will be a cheat.

Make the magic feel like a strength in your world. Make it believable.

Not all books have magic rules laid out. It depends on who’s perspective we see from. E.g. in Lord of the Rings, the characters solving the problems aren’t always those who use magic but when Éowyn kills the Witch King it is only after Tolkien has given us the 2 + 2 of how this can be done.

You can purposefully not explain the rules so that you’re tapping into the collective unconscious of being a fish out of water and feeling like you don’t understand how things work. This means that the hero is not going to be able to solve conflict with magic. Lord of the Rings is about normal people, the hobbits, trying to make their way in a magical world.

The Harry Potter series lies somewhere in between. It is not always rule based (which gives ease of access) but certain books have their own rules e.g. the rules of the time turner play a large part in The Prisoner of Azkaban, (portkeys, polyjuice potions, the floo network etc. in others) but elsewhere it is just like they’re shooting magical guns at each other.

What do you gain by explaining the rules? Knowing how the magic works is world building. Explaining the rules is a separate decision you need to make. In X-Men, the mutant gene is world building. The rules of what wolverine can do is explained so that he can play a role as a shield. Similarly Superman has certain rules and limits to what he can do (depending on which comic). Gandalf on the other hand is not explained but it is established that he can’t destroy the ring.

By explaining the rules early on, you can use magic to solve problems. You can make your character seem clever by manipulating the tools that you’ve given them in ways that you would not expect. Capture the imagination of your audience with your rules so that they can imagine what they themselves could do with them. This also allows for foreshadowing – the surprising yet inevitable.

Explaining the magic also gives you the opportunity to create an apprentice character. This can let you show off the magic system and create a sense of wonder. Let the audience think “wow this is cool, I can imagine myself doing it!”.

Once the rules get very solid then your start to appeal to another audience by taking on another form of the fantasy genre – hard fantasy.

Week 04 Animatic, Feedback and Planning

Week 04 reflection on planning and team

It’s still tricky trying to find a balance between team work and individual contribution to the team, especially with story development. We seem to have a tendency to want to do everything together so that we all have an input and have our opinions heard. Over the summer we were writing scripts separately and then tried to sit together and write a script from the best parts. It made the process a lot more lengthy, and while everyone’s opinions were heard for every sentence, it also resulted in some important exposition being left out. For our second story idea, Alec suggested that we start with a less detailed skeleton of the story beats. We were able to do this relatively quickly as a team and then Sorcha was able to take responsibility of fleshing out a full script with character actions and dialogue.

Build a team skeleton —> one team member is given time to think and flesh out the skeleton into a script —-> the team gives feedback —> refinement

This is the script, wrote by Sorcha:

From the script, Sorcha made out a shot list with a list of boards for each shot and the progess. This made dividing the shots between us a lot easier. It also seemed better to divide the boards this time around as shots rather than backgrounds and characters.

Screen Shot 10-17-17 at 10.29 PM


We didn’t get to include the voice over dialogue for the intro section of the animatic, which maybe makes the opening a little redundant. The purpose of the opening with dialogue is to give a comedic retelling of the backstory but also to give a flavour of how it’s a nerdy fantasy show.




  • The characters need a lot of developing. Both Púca and Nami seem silly, Púca is not likable as a mentor and both of their actions are too unmotivated.
  • The characters need to create a harmony.
  • Give more purpose to their journeying. Why are these characters together?
  • Know the backstory of everything and create the illusion of a huge world. Look into post modernism. Research how the audience augments the story with their own story.
  • Give the audience enough knowledge about the rules of the world that they can make guesses but always be one step ahead of the audience.
  • Is a spirit possessing an object the common type of monster in this world? If not, then we need to establish the context for this to be a mimic with a lure that would be uncommon in this world. Otherwise Nami is silly to rush into danger.
  • Does Tato function as the translator of the knowledge which Púca is trying to pass down?
  • Know what you’re trying to say. Research symbolism.
  • Research cinematography more and apply it better!
  • Archetypes should emerge in the dialogue.
  • Reiterate the lines of dialogue continuously and be careful not to get attached to performances that aren’t working.
  • Go beyond just applying mechanical story structure/the hero’s journey. Make us care!

These are the boards that I contributed. Kerry edited all the boards and sound together along with drawing boards too.

Definitely need to research more cinematography and think more about what each frame is saying.

Story Development and Monster Sketches

We came together to take our Cassandra Cottage episode idea into a new direction. In the old episode the characters were trying to steal an amulet that would help them contain the stranglings/monsters. We felt that the concept of the amulet and the curse twist were weak in the plot and required a lot of exposition. We’ve decided to do away with Cassandra and instead are aiming for a more general example of an episode where our characters have to overcome the perils of encountering and capturing a monster. We tried to focus on Dan Harmon’s story structure 101 while going along – you, need, go, search, find, take, return, changed.

An overview of the plot: (witch – Nami, creature – Puca, potato – Tato)

  • A young witch is practicing her capture spell on a dummy. Her mentor creature gives guidance and her potato friend cheers her on. She messes up the spell spectacularly and the dummy explodes.
  • (Title) Nami – The Last Witch
  • The witch, creature and potato are walking along the moors. Creature is lecturing her about how she should study when they happen upon a tree shrine with pictures/offerings to missing people at the edge of a forest.
  • They see a glowing light in the forest and have reason to believe that it’s the cause of the disappearances. The witch rushes ahead, chasing it on her hover staff with potato in tow.
  • The witch pursues the light into an old house on a cliff side. The door slams shut and she sees that the light is part of the house. The floorboards turn into teeth that try to eat her but her hover staff saves her.
  • Creature turns into owl outside the monster house and tries to save the witch but is struck down.
  • The witch tries to do a spell while dangling from her broom but it fails. The potato falls into the monster floorboards. The witch throws her books at the creatures uvula causing it to gag and spit the witch, book and potato out.
  • They land on the creature. The witch takes a breath, concentrates and manages to do the spell. The house monster gets captured.

Sorcha wrote a script using these beats and also added an opening monologue which gives some context to the story.

I’ve been trying to develop what the monster house might look like. We wanted to keep the house-on-tall-stilts idea from the last episode. I started with some thumbnails to explore house shapes and how these could combine with monster features. The challenge is to make architecture that belongs to a fantasy world, make it recognisable as a house and then create a mimic and monster form.

I think that doing more architecture research will be of benefit. We thought of using medieval European stone houses as influence but this might a be a bit too traditional/overdone in fantasy. Sorcha and Matthew also suggested looking at more real world predators for influence, like the gelada baboon who peels back its gums drastically to reveal large teeth. I’m also considering how a shark’s mouth is designed.

Link to our Pinterest board Monsters Character Design

We also need to develop the mechanics/muscle movements of how the teeth floorboards work. We want the inside of the monster house to be fleshy.

Writing Excuses Season 12.31 – Monsters

12.31: What Makes a Good Monster, with Courtney Alameda (link to podcast)

This episode of the Writing Excuses podcast raises questions that we’ll need to consider for our project. Considering our world is full of monsters, this podcast highlights how useful it will be to:

  • do more research on our chosen mythology.
  • know enough about our monster so that we can subvert expectation.
  • research more about symbolism and how the monster relates to our theme.

Notes from the podcast:

What makes a good monster?

“Monsters are the best when they subvert the status quo and remind us that we are not on the top of the food chain.” The Xenomorph from Alien is a great example of this – it’s almost impossible to kill. 

Hannibal Lectre is a good example of subverting expectation. His introduction is about how dangerous he is. Then once you descend into the dungeon cell and see him, it’s not what you were expecting, he’s calm and well kept.

The monster is only frightening if it poses a threat to your character or society.

Great monsters surprise, they subvert the status, your expectations. The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth subverts the zombie trope. He is inspired by the tenome, a Japanese monster.  The Pale Man is also a metaphor for everything else that is happening in the film. The monster reflects other angles, ideas and themes of the story. When Ophelia takes from the monster, the monster fights back. This is reflected when Ophelia takes from her father. Be cautious with too on-the-nose parallelism.

A knowledge of folklore is necessary for creating great monsters e.g. Japanese folklore, African, European. How do we construct our fears? Find patterns and universal, Jungian fears.

Always look at the monsters’ roles. Consider the monsters’ symbolism within mythology.

Start with asking – what type of things frighten me? e.g. being alone and incapacitated in such a way that something could eat me.

“I like the character to be super competent but I want their super competence to have no effect on the monster… the monster is powerful in another way.”

“The monster targets their weakness.”