ANIMALS SKINS was the February 2016 Winning Short Screenplay.
Watch ANIMAL SKINS by Bryan Ott:
Get to know writer Bryan Ott:
1. What is your short screenplay about?
In writing Animal Skins, I didn’t consciously start with any specific theme in mind and attempt to explore that idea through the narrative and characters. I usually uncover the central idea as the story is evolving and the threads and connective areas surface and I begin to pull them out. The ideas and areas of human experience that I am interested in and most affected by myself in my own life are in the flaws and shortcomings on the central characters that I am developing through the natural progression of the world of the story and the structure. My stories tend to focus on ideas of separation and loss (most often of a family member) and the central characters inner struggle to reconnect with people they would rather not have in their lives. The idea of being comfortable when the key relationships in your life are broken and not seeing the need to fix them in any way. Animal Skins explores these ideas in a genre setting but, in this 20 page short script, doesn’t try to solve them. Pim, the central character, has a long road ahead of her.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
The story was written to be made into an animated film. Working with an Animator friend of mine, we began some early character design work and a general concept for the look and techniques we would use to tell this story. The landscapes and set pieces would all be practical, shot live in camera, with the characters animated in 3D. It is still possible this is how the film will end up. So when writing the short, I always had practical considerations in mind, like the number of sets we would need to build and how I could maximize locations by using them repeatedly in different scenes. This short would be very costly to make as a live-action film, but it was never intended to end up as one. But as I continue to develop these characters and the world of this film, I see it now more as a graphic novel, where I can expand on some of the fantastical elements of the narrative.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
The Searchers – John Ford
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
Off and on for about a year
6. How many stories have you written?
I have written 4 features and a handful of short films. In graduate school, I directed a feature I wrote and have written and directed a few short films since.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
The idea for the film came from the title of a song I really like by Dry the River, a UK band that has recently broken up. The song lyrics have nothing to do with the finished script, but I found the title Animal Skins evocative. It generated images in my mind and a general tone that sent me to the keyboard.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
This script taught me the value of feedback and accepting criticism. It went through various incarnations. Even when I thought it was done and I was proud of it, I sent it out and it got chewed up and spit back at me. It forced me to keep attacking the story and keep rewriting.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I need to watch a film a day and have been doing that for many years. The day doesn’t feel complete otherwise. My two kids though are who I give most of my energy to.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I was very interested in the prospect of hearing the script read aloud. Feedback is invaluable. It is up to the writer to decipher what is constructive and useful and what is subjective and maybe not necessary to dwell to much on. But when you hear the same criticism from different people, it is probably a good idea to rethink things.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
There is this amazing buzz I feel after writing. After spending hours inside your own head, exploring the “what if’s” of story and character and when little things start to connect and ideas lead to more ideas, it’s hard to re-enter the real world again for a few moments. Everything is a bit off. Like the moment when you exit a movie theater and the sun hits your eyes or that dizzy, light headed feeling when you stand up to quickly and you need to hold onto something. My students always as me where do great ideas come from. I don’t know. But I feel, a great film story is a writers exploration of original ideas structured in layers of unexpected nuance and familiarity of form. Form is learnable. Great ideas are not.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson