I realize there's been some off topic posts, apologies for that. It was my goal when I started this blog to stay on target.

This is the production blog for my upcoming short film, "Mutwale." (Moot-wall-ay) It is based on the true story and folk legend of an elephant whose life is irrevocably altered by the events and circumstances surrounding the Hundred Days genocide in Rwanda.

This film will be animated by my hand, with the help of a few and the support of many. It is a fiscally sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts collective based out of NYC. Donations in behalf of this project may always be made via the offical site, or through whatever means is most convenient.

The film started as a sort of blip on my creative radar; my sister came home from a six month stay in Kigali with a brilliant story about an elephant that befriends a fisherman. From there the idea simmered for a while- years, maybe- before it finally opened up in my brain and presented itself as The Next One to tackle. My sister and I broke it down into plot points and research. She dove into the history of the story and locale, and I read up on elephant behavior and started rough thumbnails of the story in summer/fall of 2008. After an intense stint as a jack-of-all-trades freelancer at design firm Plus et Plus, and an even more intense relocation from NYC to South Carolina, I finally sat down to hammer out the story into complete storyboards. I'm still working on storyboards as we speak.

It seems like preproduction is taking forever. It's coming up on a year since I started preproduction proper. But I'd rather get it done right from the start so that there are fewer surprises when animation is underway. Nothing's worse than having to redo a scene or fix a big error during production itself. So the boards are being done digitally for the first time in my workflow- I'm literally putting together a full-length, fully-edited animatic (complete with camera moves, layers, all that) simultaneously with the boards. New territory for me. And while it's meant to be a time-saver (so far it's been a fairly successful one,) there have been plenty of necessary distractions to keep my from my film. Everything from designing tee-shirts to working as a Production Assistant on Bridezillas (Season 6 if you must know- and yes, reality TV is so produced it might as well be scripted,) have kept my hours a bit too divided.

So that's where things stand. I may put a few scenes of the animatic online for feedback and whatnot. Certainly all contributors will be getting a look at the whole thing. I look forward to animation starting- the film is my most ambitious to date, and a regular flow of pencil tests would help liven up this production blog as well.


An Open Letter to The Hadidas, Roger Avary Regarding Silent Hill 2

Gentleman. Congratulations on moving forward with a sequel to Silent Hill, a labor which produced perhaps the most faithful video game adaptation to date. I can't say that I agree with all of the creative choices made for the film, namely restricting the main character's need to kill in order to survive. But you probably don't care what I think, after all- who the hell am I? Well it doesn't matter who I am, that's argument ad hominem. We aren't talking about me, don't change the subject! We're talking about Silent Hill. Most importantly, the upcoming sequel being written by you, Roger Avary and produced by you, one or both of the Hadidas.

In 2006, immediately after seeing Silent Hill in theaters, stuck in an hallucinatory state brought on by flu, torn between what was right with the film and what was folly, I sat down and in six days produced a first draft of Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams. After a second revision it's still admittedly a bit rough around the edges. Some of the dialogue is rocky, there's far too many parentheticals and ellipses, it sometimes relies too heavily on the details of ammunition count or status... You get the picture. But it also contains some real gems- original action sequences motivated by character and location, creative use of lore to tie together films one, two, and three, and most importantly- a few really affecting scenes that are straight out of a Lynch nightmare. Of course having one of the most cinematic game stories ever told to build upon was a big help.

I contacted the CAA in 2006 to see if they would put me in touch with you. As I expected, they sent me a nice big middle finger disguised as industry lingo. I have enough experience to understand the screenwriting business, and why I'll probably never be a contributing professional on the industry's terms. That's why I'm self-employed, setting my own terms, animating my third film with my bare hands and making sure no punches are pulled. Regardless of you, your status, your skills, our industry, our economy, I am here to kick ass. I am here to produce things that push boundaries, challenge the mind, and I will no longer stand for tepid tripe stuffed with fake, forced universality.

It is evident through what you attempted with your adaptation of Konami's first Silent Hill title that you have this fire in you as well. I want the sequel to be great- hell, we all want it to be better than great, and we all want to see it smash [video game adaptation] box office records with a great opening weekend and a long, smoldering wide release that brings steady ticket sales. I don't want to hear most of the crowd booing or japing about how they want their money back as they did after the first Silent Hill at the UA Court Street Stadium 12 in downtown Brooklyn. So I want to offer some additional fuel for your fire. There is good stuff here, and it's stuff you don't have. How do I know you haven't got it? That's easily answered: because I'm currently the only person on the planet that does.

I know you don't need this per se- that's why you're here, Avary. A Hollywood staple and proven screenwriter, WGA member (presumably) and all-around industry workhorse. I don't presume to stick my foot in your door like a vacuum salesman. I certainly don't want to undermine this process or in any way replace anyone. But I do presume to know when I'm sitting on art because I'm an artist. Classically trained, time-tested, industry-approved. And, sirs! Gentlemen! There is art in this script. It's not ready for shooting. Hell, it would need another revision or two to stand on its own. I wanted to do this but in 2007 I put the spec down because there's just no way for me to get it into hands that give a shit. That is the travesty of this broken industry- collaboration is squashed, new talent is crushed, original ideas are squandered for no good reason. None of that matters for your purposes, though. I understand this.

So make your sequel! If you do it without any of the scenes or sequences in my script (US Library of Congress Copyright dated 2006,) then you are missing an opportunity to imbibe some really inspiring Silent Hill material. I daresay your film will be poorer for it, but then I don't know exactly where you're headed after the first one so don't take that as hubris.

If you are even slightly interested in these fresh ideas, I would be happy to put inexpensive exclusivity on the table. I'm not unreasonable, but I know enough about the industry to know that I shouldn't be the one offering any deals as of yet. Just know that I require hardly anything at all from you if it means making a better Silent Hill experience possible. I know something like this is outside of the industry standard but so long as it doesn't violate union rules I fail to see the harm in something unorthodox if it promises to be mutually beneficial. After all, nearly any deal can be made provided the proper documents be drawn. In any case, you've probably got paperwork or scheduling to do. I've got an original animated short to get back to. All the best.

Jeff Martell


In light of Roger Avary pleading guilty to drunken driving leading to the death of one and the severe injury of another (his wife) it looks like this will most likely suffer a delay.

I may not be in the immediate position to screw up another Silent Hill feature, but at least I'm not in jail for vehicular manslaughter.


Modest Milestone III: Not-so-modest

Today brought shot 300. This thing is quite a beast- thankfully it should still clock in at under 20 minutes, which would be nice for the workload. For now, though, it'll be as long as it needs to be. Can always trim things down after the whole story is in place. Or not.

It's excruciating to hit road blocks/ little snags in the story that I hadn't anticipated. But it's wonderful to get past them. Now to get these boards finished... Looks like October may actually bring the animation. Fingers crossed.

I'm not one for pride but this is going to be quite a film! More soon. Next post will be a recap of everything to date, and hopefully the post after that, well- it should be a good one.