If you’ve followed along for the last year and a half, you know that I’ve been chasing a dream: a dream in which Olive the Woolly Bugger stars in her own animated feature film. With the Academy Awards just around the corner, it seems a good time to delve into this subject again.
I’ve written a bit about this endeavor before. Most of my musings were simply an outlet for my thoughts—nothing was set in stone. In fact, since I first started down this path nothing has been left unchanged. The reason you haven’t heard me talk much about it in the last year is because there hasn’t been anything to report. But that doesn’t mean nothing has been happening. Au contraire, there’s been something very important taking place over the course of the last 12-14 months: script writing.
I don’t know much—if anything—about making a film, but I do know that it starts with an idea. I had the idea. In fact, I wrote an outline that was a very broad concept of the film’s plot. But I had no idea how to put that into the proper format for a script. Fortunately I had previously established an association with a very talented fellow by the name of Simon Cornish. At my request and for a far-too-modest fee, Simon had previously rendered Olive and Clark in 3D. I wanted to see how my characters might make the leap to the big screen as Computer Generated Imagery and I very much liked what Simon produced.
But back to the writing thing…I knew I needed help with my outline. Again, enter the Renaissance man, Simon. He offered to help structure my concept into the proper act structure needed for a script. But then he went one better and took it on himself, crafting what is known as a script treatment. For the uninitiated, a treatment is essentially the first draft of a screenplay—a framework for a script, without in-depth scene descriptions and character dialog. When Simon sent me the completed treatment I was blown away. My basic story remained largely in tact, but Simon brought a whole new perspective to the project and the result was absolutely amazing—so much more than I could have ever imagined. Approximately 13 pages of creative goodness, the treatment made me realize that the film could very well be more than just a pipe dream of mine. Despite that Simon hails from the UK, I registered the treatment with the Writer’s Guild of America to protect the work.
Next up was to contact a film production company in Los Angeles where I thought the treatment might be met with favorable reception. My line of thinking was based on the fact that the production company is owned by a couple of highly visible people who happen to also be passionate fly anglers. It took many months before I was able to establish a meaningful dialog with the production company, but the result was that they loved Olive. However, they just could not take on the project at that time. I’ve been told this was a “Hollywood No”, but I refuse to take no for an answer until it hits me square upside the head. With this in mind, back to Simon I went with the news. He agreed that whether or not this was a “no”, the script needed to be written. If it were meant to be, we would find a home for the script.
And so Simon went about his craft, juggling this speculative project with his paid work and a very busy life. I left him alone and made a promise to myself not to obsess over the project. I’d be remiss if I said that I forgot about it, but I pushed it back into the dark recesses of my conscious thought and went about my day to day life as well. 14 months later I received word from Simon that the script was done, as in the first draft was written. Literally written. By hand. Simon’s words:
“You’ll be pleased to know the first draft is finally finished.
Now to crack on typing it all up, and tweaking as I go.”
A smile spread across my face as I imagined Simon hunched over an ancient writing desk, quill pen in hand, writing by the light of an oil lamp.
As you might imagine, I’m rather eager to read it. Stay tuned.
It’s been a while since I shared any news about Olive’s quest for Hollywood. The silence may suggest that there’s been no progress, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth—I’ve actually been quite busy.
Now before you jump to any wild conclusions, let me state for the record that I do not have a film deal (yet). I have not been speaking with any animation studio executives or film producers (yet). I have not landed a Big Fish (yet).
So, what have I been doing that constitutes any sort of progress?
Working on a screen adaptation, that’s what.
An animated film featuring Olive the Woolly Bugger will not be simply an extended version of the stories from the Olive books. Certainly the film’s script will be based on the characters from the books and perhaps some elements from the stories, but an entirely new story must be created. And then there’s the matter of actually writing the screenplay itself. You see, I’m a writer, and an author, but a screenwriter I am not. That’s a specialized vocation all its own. One thing I did not want to do was dabble experimentally in screenwriting on a project so important. Remember, I need to sell this idea to someone. This is no time for a hack.
A writer doesn’t just sit down and begin scribing a screenplay. Before the script is crafted, the plot of the story must be outlined in what is called a treatment. A treatment is in fact an outline of the story’s structure, but a treatment has very specific requirements in order to be effective. It must be written in an act-based structure. Characters must be introduced. There must be a character arc showing the character’s growth over the course of the story. And it has to be compelling, without all the detail of an actual screenplay. The treatment precedes the first draft of the screenplay, so needless to say the treatment is a VERY key element in the film’s development.
Before any film development has begun, the treatment will be a critical sales tool in pitching my concept to a producer, so the treatment has to be exceptional. As I said, I’m not a screenwriter, so what am I doing about writing the treatment? I’m working with a brilliant writer who knows what they’re doing. I first contacted Simon Cornish about creating 3D versions of Olive and Clark several months ago. Turns out Simon is a rather great person to know, as his talents seem limitless.
I sent Simon PDFs of the Olive books so he could gain a sense of who Olive is. Then I sent him a lengthy outline I had written with my ideas for the film. What Simon has fashioned, using his immense creativity as well as what I provided, is mind-boggling. We’ve shared overseas Skype sessions (Simon lives in the UK) and back and forth emails. We’ve worked through 3 iterations of the treatment, and with each revision I am only more and more pleased. We’re getting close to being finished, and have set a deadline of two weeks to have things wrapped up.
I believe that Simon is perhaps the perfect person for this task because he is not a fly fisherman. I didn’t want someone smitten by or even familiar with fly fishing to work on this. It’s best that the writer have no experience or knowledge of fly fishing because in order for a film like this to be successful, fly fishing needs to be down-played. The film must have mainstream appeal, and the writing must not be influenced by a certain affinity for the subject matter. In my opinion, what Simon has created is exceptional. I can’t wait until it’s done.
Well, then I go about trying to pitch the treatment to a producer, animation executive or other interested party who I am cautiously optimistic will see that an animated film featuring Olive the Woolly Bugger is worth the time and money that will be required to bring the film to the public.
Anyone who has seen the Olive books knows that the illustrations which bring the stories to life are of a traditional, 2D style (the way all animated films used to look). Thanks to Pixar’s 1995 groundbreaking Toy Story, the first feature-length 3D computer animated film, the majority of animated films are now being done in 3D CGI (Computer Generated Imagery).
I’ve been itching to see how Olive might look in a “Pixar-ish” style so I sought a 3D animator to interpret my characters. Through the Animation, Media & Entertainment group on LinkedIn, I contacted UK-based animator Simon Cornish to inquire about his availability to render Olive and Clark in 3D. When I saw his website, Itchy Pictures, I thought, “This is the guy for the job.” It seemed my destiny to connect with Simon since Olive is a brand of Itchy Dog Productions, my freelance business. Great minds, or at least itchy ones, think alike.
Other than classrooms of elementary school kids, I’ve never had anyone draw Olive before, so I was a bit worried about how another artist might interpret characters that are so near and dear to me. My trepidation was for naught as I was thrilled when I received Simon’s renderings. Now that my itch has been scratched and I know how she might look in this computer-generated medium, it’s time to forge ahead…
Thank you, Simon, for doing such a wonderful job with Olive and Clark. I’m hoping your work will help launch Olive and Clark toward big screen stardom!