Show don’t tell. This was the principle element of the narrative unit as I immersed myself into the world of 1984, the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, my own short stories (which included an imitation story of Vonnegut’s work), and a narrative film. As I explored Narrative, I learned the fundamentals of character and story arc, how to storyboard, and how to create a powerful story that leaves an impact on the audience. On the technical side, I explored a variety of equipment and applications: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Premier Pro, Avid Pro Tools, and Adobe Audition.When I reflect back on this unit, I feel proud. Proud of the work I produced, proud of the numerous skills that I learned, and proud of the risks I took. Learning to analyze a writer’s writing style and create an imitation story based on my study of Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House was a challenging yet satisfying project. Creativity excels when your given boundaries. Your mind stretches to fill each corner and look over each and every possibility. From this unit, I valued the space for creativity and the opportunity it provided for me to discover my love for storytelling.As a digital artist, I refined my skills in a multitude of applications. Specifically, I finally learned Adobe Illustrator and took the time to improve my skills in that application. Through Illustrator, I was able to create an album art for my voice recording of my short story which I created by learning Adobe Audition.
In English, the assignment was to write a short story. Simple right? No. It began with a Character Questionnaire where I fully immersed myself to become the character. You write down every detail of their life, where in the moment is now your life. You then “speed-dated” your character with fellow characters/peers in real life, before delving into ideas for a story arc, commencing a lengthy process of writing and revising. My inspiration for the story was from my recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal. The city’s small details stuck out to me. In Lisbon there are many abandoned spaces, and there’s small shops here and there that sell beautiful pottery. Moreover, the hilly neighborhoods, the trolleys, and the Ponte 25 de Abril made it feel like San Francisco. Lisbon felt strangely familiar to me, and I thought it would be interesting to incorporate such a setting into my story. In How to Be A Man, the narrator paints a focused glimpse onto Elio’s life, a perfectionist artist who hides away in an abandoned loft, struggling to find the secret of what will make him perfect.After How to Be A Man was finalized, I spent time in Digital Media to produce a voice recording. I recorded the story on a Tascam DR-40, then edited it in Adobe Audition where I spent time adding sound effects.Overall, I valued this experience because it taught me the process behind story writing and the ability to take a vague idea and transform it into a neat piece of work. It also allowed me to make the story more personalized by creating an audio version of myself reading my story.
How To Be A Man
Beyond the windows covered in layers of dust, like the rings of age on a tree, there stood the city and the marvelous Ponte 25 de Abril. Glinting and glimmering in the sun, its red arms and legs beamed, its limbs stretched to bring together the people of Lisbon. At every turn of a corner, one was sure to be greeted with a smile. A lively chatter never failed to cease. But this life was beyond Elio, a stiff figure curled up and limbs drawn in, who sat isolated from this colorful life and tucked away in an abandoned loft.
In absence of light, the darkness swallowed all sound and color into an empty void. But at the center of this dark universe, Elio was the big, strong Earth. It was only in this space that he moved about, never stretching outside his routine orbit. Yet, his pale, thin figure was awkwardly bent over, suggesting little of a man of strength. The cold air had shivers running down Elio’s spine. In the light of the dark was where he thrived. However, streams of light, with the slightest tinge of red from the Ponte 25 de Abril, trickled into the dark room illuminating the back of his curly, coffee-colored hair and the canvas facing him. To his right lay a paint brush and a tray of scarlet-reds. The air was silent and unmoving. Only the faint murmur of a sweet tune that left Elio’s lips brought about companionship.
Voilà ce qu’un pauvre type chantait A tous ses copains qui partaient Et lui et lui qui restait dans sa province.
Elio stood up and pulled his shoulders back. He was intently studying the shadow of himself casted on the canvas. He reached out his hand, feeling the rough cloth of the canvas, and tracing over the line where shadow and light would meet. Elio drew back his hand and resumed position. Shoulders back, chin up. Contemplating the figure, he admired its pose: the shadow emulated someone confident, intelligent. Admirable. But everytime Elio stretched to trace the shadow, its pose diminished in beauty, the shadow soon became one of a beggar, but not one for money. Rather his hand outstretched in search of a little value to make him a man.
So Elio pondered for some time, wondering how the statuesque man could be painted without the stretch of the beggar’s hand. How could vision become reality? Elio sat, he thought. The canvas grew a deeper shade of red as the minutes passed by. His thoughts grew restless, like moths trapped away from the light. Where do I start?
Elio whistled a breath of air, then, lifting his brush, dipped it in the scarlet. He pressed the paint into the canvas to mark where the nook of his chin and neck met in the shadow. Carefully working his way around the silhouette, Elio used gentle strokes to mark the twists and turns of his silhouette. One for the top of his head, one for the back of his neck, and one for the tip of his nose. Picking up more paint, Elio returned to the dot for the neck, and he began shaping its slender curves, followed by two long brush strokes to bring out the collarbones. Those shoulders, stretched back and upright, now this was a man of pride. And yes! A defiant strip of red drew at an angle above the neck, became a jawline in the blink of an eye. Elio hastily pressed more paint in an abstract fashion to rough in the curly hair. Soon after came an ear, and soon enough appeared some lips. Elio smiled to himself as he dipped his brush in the paint once more, and then painted in the cherry red lips. Now, it came time for the eyes, Elio painted in a pair of round eyes, why, the pupils glowed red as if it they were perfectly hit by the sun, and not to mention perfectly framed by a set of long eyelashes. With satisfaction, Elio lay down the brush.
Elio stepped back from the canvas, and those beautiful brushstrokes soon became an incohesive jumble. Like a solar system, each planet its own startling beauty, and far away only an indifferent compilation of dots and streaks. Though this work was far from indifferent, the fresh glance at his work was frightening to say the least. The eyes were not leveled, the contour of the jawline as thick as the neck. Not to mention the painted lips, a puddle of red so messy that it looked like melted lipstick. Elio face flushed. Somehow in this bleak void, his cheeks manage to turn red hot. He was mortified at the sight. Unutterable, one may say, who in their right mind could believe the painting portrayed a man of value? Unable to bear the sight of the man painted and his defeated shadow no longer, Elio turned away from the canvas. He faced the dark void momentarily, but the emptiness of it so intense that Elio couldn’t bear it no longer. He did not want to feel empty. Elio bowed down his head to avoid the stare of the dark. Instead, he focused his eye to the top of his shoulder, there the warm light from the window touched him, inviting him to turn around like a friend does to another when greeting them from behind. Intrigued, he began to turn his body to the window. He couldn’t explain why he was suddenly drawn to light, but he couldn’t resist the urge. For the lifetime he had spent here, not once had he taken the time to look beyond the window. Elio walked forward. He now stood before the square of red light. Reaching out to touch the window, he wiped away the layers of dust. Immediately, the red square transformed to every color imaginable to the eye. Pastel colored buildings filled every corner of the city, with bustling cafes and restaurants in between. The people moved about the street, hopping on and off the trolleys as they wished. The faint ring of trolley bells was music to his ears. He pressed his nose to the glass, only to feel more of the colorful warmth. Watching over the city, the glimmering bridge called to him; it was as if the light that had illuminated him and the canvas was never there to light his work, but had been inviting him to come out. So Elio gave the painting a final glance of recognition as he made his way to the door. He stepped out into the red alley, and greeted the woman turning the corner with a smile.
. . .
In English Honors, we were given the task to focus on a short story author. After reading one of their books and analyzing their short stories, we wrote a short story that resembled specific components of their writing style. I chose Kurt Vonnegut and read Welcome to the Monkey House. I love his blunt tone that incorporates dark humor so well, which at first gives you a good laugh at the oddity of the world he paints, but then leaves you critically analyzing the details of each metaphor as the larger commentary about society unfolds.
Below, I invite you to read Henry Yinkler. In a world where the color-blind live at the top of a social hierarchy, a color seeing man by the name of Henry Yinkler realizes (too late) that being an Unseeable should not be as miserable as the Universal Government makes of it.
“The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides” -KURT VONNEGUT
The time read 7:33 AM in neon green on the clock atop the nightstand, but 20/20-HY, otherwise known as Henry Yinkler to a few acquaintances, was unable to see the numbers shown on the clock a mere two feet away from his face. Despite the lack of detail he could see, his round eyes still managed to perceive a jumbled blur of vibrant colors, so saturated that he pleasantly awoke to a whanging headache.
Henry was in pain. Just like every other Unseeable at the start of each morning.
The Unseeables constituted the lower class. Their vision was usually a drastic 20/20, which required that each unseeable to wear glasses to correct their sight.
The glasses for Unseeables consisted of thick lenses which dulled color and blurred detail. Any Unseeable who was caught without glasses was taken hostage by the Universal Government and sent off to who knows where. There were rumors that they performed LASIK before sending the new and improved Unseeable into a lifetime of hard labor.
So Henry flailed his hand over the nightstand as a fish does on land, until finally he touched his glasses next to the clock. He picked up the painfully crisp-image of his glasses and draped them over his disproportionately large ears which immediately, to his relief, blurred the sharp corners of the room and dulled every color to ever exist to Henry’s eye. His headache began to vanish, but his routine struggle in the morning had prolonged, and the clock now read 7:50.
The day was Wednesday, routinely enforced by the Universal Government as “Dull Day.” This was a day off from work that included the Acuity, Average, and Unseeables. The government mandated that every individual was to leave the dormitories and enjoy nature. It was a law in effort counterbalance the stress from a week’s work and promote peace and well-being among the classes.
Yet, every dull-day in the park, the segregation between classes were distinct. The Acuity in large bunches, the Average in average-sized bunches, and the Unseeables in the in-between, dispersed like seeds.
When Henry arrived at the park, the chatter of the trees and the songs from the birds were indistinguishable from the rowdy chatter made by the groups of the Acuity and the Average. Henry’s humongous ears picked up every word from every conversation. The only thing that stopped him from doubling over in a painful headache were his glasses, which dulled everything to a disgusting, but manageable, brown. This was the usual dilemma for most Unseeables, whose senses were too in touch to handle the rowdy setting. Dispersed in the park, most Unseeables could be seen crouched over, comforting themselves from the chaos, and wishing they could be ordered out, or better yet, banished away by the dullies, as if they weren’t already watching the Unseeables like hawks on a mouse.
Dullies were government officials who who oversaw Dull Day. Masking themselves among the Acuity, they watched over the Unseeables to ensure they caused no frenzy during this peaceful, joyous day. The Acuity wore no glasses because their vision was perfect. Boasting a whopping 20/200 vision, in addition to being red-green color-sighted, they functioned well and suffered from no whanging headaches because they naturally perceived everything in pleasant browns. 99.99% of the Acuity also had ice blue eyes, due to a favorable trait called cataracts.
So Henry began walking into the depths of foliage, making his way to his usual spot by the Seeing River. As he walked past each group of the Acuity, Henry picked up glimpses of the weekly gossip. It was as if nothing more revolved in their life except what was the latest government action–usually propaganda condemning Unseeables or stories about the latest Unseeable drama. This particular Wednesday, each Acuity talked in circles of the subject posted this morning in the Universal Paper, a story about an Unseeable called 20/20-JZ, also known as Jon, who was to be sought out for removing glasses off of fellow Unseeables in public.
Henry finally found his spot, a clearing surrounded by bushes and the river. The rush of the river and the brush of the leaves droned out the rowdy chatter. But as Henry pulled back the branches, he found it occupied by three Unseeables.
This was an unusual sight, an unusual day.
So Henry was forced to find a new spot. Under a tree, facing endless groups of Acuity and Average, Henry sat. Endless chatter ensued. Henry’s headache lingered, growing stronger.
. . .
It was now 2:00 in the afternoon. The Universal Government enforced that everyone must remain at the park until at least 3:00. By this hour, the chatter had quieted, and there wasn’t much moving about as no one was exiting or entering the park.
From Henry’s peripheral vision, he saw the figure of a man approaching him. Peculiar. Henry refused to turn his head to avoid awkwardly meeting eyes, but he continued to watch in the corner of his eye. The lens of his glasses did not stretch to cover his peripheral, and his concentration resulted in a rush of pain from the bright colors. The headache whanged and panged at his skull. Henry winced, shutting his eyes in attempt to dispel the pain, this headache even more unbearable than the daily headaches that he awoke to each morning. But curiosity overcame him, and he forced his eyes open, watching the man get closer, and closer he came.
See, if this man were a woman, Henry would have gotten up to report her to a group of Acuity immediately, with the hope a dullie was among them, and with no question because a woman was sure to be apart of the Average or Unseeable class. But this was a man, and Henry was unable to see if his eyes were brown or ice blue. It would be a notorious act to condemn an Acuity, so Henry stayed put. His heartbeat ran as the man’s shoes shuffled to stand before him, and before Henry could act, he could feel the man’s presence bearing down to meet his eyes.
Henry faced the man, relief flooded over his body to see a pair of warm, kind eyes which met his gaze. The frightening thoughts that had stirred in Henry’s mind – of being taken hostage and killed, or even worse, sent to who knows where by the Government – fled. The two men stared at one another for a moment, uttering no words, only studying one another. The man’s eyes were a dark shade of brown, his skin sickeningly pale, his body dressed in an oversized, creased Acuity suit, and he wore no glasses. Henry attempted to turn up the corners of his mouth in a smile to avoid a look of shock. How peculiar. Why, this was a crime! Standing right in front of him! Yet, no Acuity or dullie came to approach this man before him. Henry’s mouth opened in wonder, gaping like a fish. But before Henry could utter a single word in question, he felt the man’s hand grab at his face. Every shade of brown flashed into a whirlwind of vivid greens and reds. The rowdy chatter had ceased, and the only sound to be heard was the patter of the man’s footsteps. But for Henry, this moment was louder than ever. The colors were loud, the whang of his head hitting the ground was as loud as a gunshot.
From the view from the ground, Henry could see the blurry body half-walk, half-run away. The man’s arms awkwardly and vigorously pumped back and forth in an attempt to quietly speed away, which only drew more attention to himself. Hearing heightened by his immense ears and a sudden lack in sight, Henry could hear the scream louder than any other. An Acuity had screamed out that the man with no glasses was Jon! From the perfect circles of Acuity, men in black suits and ice blue eyes emerged. Half of the dullies ran to grab ahold of the flailing arms of the man in the crinkled suit, and the other half grabbed Henry. Too disoriented by his unsuppressed vision and the whanging pain at his temples, Henry struggled to put one foot in front of the other as he was dragged away from the park by the dullies. They trudged through the streets, past the busy roads, and into a cold, vast building with a bold, 5 letter logo that Henry was unable to read out.
. . .
Henry awoke to a lingering headache. He turned over to glance at his clock, only to see a metal tray with shiny surgeon tools. He didn’t know what they were meant to do, but they were oddly crystal clear. Henry reached to feel his face–no glasses. Henry sat up, and looked around at his surroundings: machines with lights and mechanical arms, a swiveling chair opposite the side of surgeon tools, the walls which were hideous shades of neon pink and yellow with windows that looked out into an empty hallway, and the surgical bed that he was strapped to. Suddenly, the neon pink door swung open, and a group of men in surgical masks walked into the room, with the man forefront wearing an odd contraption that covered his eyes, and the rest with ice-blue eyes. The men advanced towards Henry.
“What have you done to my vision?” said Henry.
No answer. One of the men without the odd contraption began to inject a needle into Henry’s neck. The other began turning on the machines, an electronic buzz cutting the silence. The man with the contraption seated himself on the surgical chair, staring at Henry.
Henry began to grow drowsy. At cold, metal contraption was placed around Henry’s eyelids, prying his eye open. The men huddled around the table to look at Henry.
“Hold still, Jon.” said the man with the metal contraptions.
And before Henry could utter another word, a cold object was touched to his eye. He felt a slight tug at the surface of his eyeball, and the bright neon yellow and pink of the walls and the ice-blue stare of the men’s eyes faded to a blurry brown.
So, what’s Henry Yinkler about?
An Explanation- discussing race, patriarchy & politics
If Kurt Vonnegut was to describe Henry Yinkler in one sentence, then this sentence from Harrison Bergeron would have done just fine: “The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides” (11). Fond of his works that are commentary on a destructive political state and stagnant society, I employed his techniques of a satirical yet casual tone, occasional use of metaphors that utilize objects that go against the rules of the world created, and symbolism of glasses. Content-wise, I was greatly inspired by Harrison Bergeron and Welcome to the Monkey House when writing Henry Yinkler.
In Welcome to the Monkey House, Vonnegut introduces the odd rules of the society he has created by casually pulling away from the story periodically. He starts with, “So Pete Crocker, the sheriff of Barnstable County which was the whole of Cape Cod, came into the Federal Ethical Suicide Parlor in Hyannis one May afternoon–and he told the two six-foot Hostesses there that they weren’t to be alarmed, but that a notorious nothinghead named Billy the Poet was believed headed for the Cape. / A nothinghead was a person who refused to take his ethical birth-control pills three times a day” (29). Vonnegut continues this method in the beginnings of Welcome to the Monkey House, switching between setting the scene of the particular moment and inserting definitions and rules when needed. Note his usage of the word “so” when picking back up on the story, which conveys a conversational and slightly detached tone. I mimicked this style in the beginnings of Henry Yinkler, breaking off from the story in this delayed manner to inform the reader of crucial rules and definitions.
Vonnegut’s style is often delayed in crucial detail and oftentimes blunt, creating a satiric tone. In Harrison Bergeron, Vonnegut writes, “It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen—’” (10) It isn’t until the latter half of the sentence that it is revealed that the announcer has a serious speech impediment, and that all announcers, as absurd as it happens to be, have serious speech impediments. I employed this blunt style of syntax, for example: “Henry awoke to a lingering headache. He turned over to glance at his clock, only to see a metal tray with shiny surgeon tools. He didn’t know what they were meant to do, but they were oddly crystal clear. Henry reached to feel his face–no glasses.”
Despite his blunt tone, Vonnegut occasionally includes metaphor of subjects contradictory to the world created – such as nature or rebels – to deepen our understanding of the restrictive rules. In Harrison Bergeron, “A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm” (8). In Miss Temptation, Susanna is described as, “She was forever as startling and desirable as a piece of big-city fire apparatus…the villagers on the street would grow as restless as beagles with a thunderstorm on the way” (75). The comparison of burglars amidst the strict regulations of Harrison Bergeron, or the juxtaposition of industrialized versus natural diction in the comparisons of Miss Temptations shows how Vonnegut’s uses contradictions to create emphasis on what good a restrictive society lacks. I did the same by juxtaposing the setting of nature and metaphors of fish and hawks on mice to the lack of natural instinct unpreserved in a controlling society, similar to how the nature of sexuality is diminished in the society where Susanna is described in a sexual manner.
Vonnegut also relies on symbolism in order to create outlandish stories, but profound meaning behind his work. In Where I Live, about a sweet love story, the school for the blind in the Catharine and Newt’s hometown is repeatedly brought up. The idea that the school has always been there is symbolic of how they have always blindly love one another. When its bells ring, it symbolizes how Catharine and Newt are running out of time to declare their love. In Harrison Bergeron, the bags of birdshot, the ear radios, and the masks, all weaken the individual’s mental and physical strengths. However, this symbolism of objects is meant to show that equality cannot be achieved, and is dangerous in achieving when heavily desired by the government. I attempted to do the same in this satirical piece Henry Yinkler, by creating a colorblind society that is ruled by the red-green color blind (the purpose of this was because most red-green color blind people are men) to comment on widespread excuse that “I do not see color” is not a valid statement in defending one’s stance on inequality issues such as race, especially in a patriarchal society. Finally, both Harrison Bergeron and Henry Yinkler end in society winning over the individual. I wanted to create a story that focuses on a moment where an individual could have made a lasting impact of change on the controlling government and stagnant society, but is unable to, resulting a feeling of defeat for the reader as they realize what the individual succumbs to for the benefit of the government.
Below: A glimpse of the behind the scenes process of creating the audio-version of “How To Be A Man.”
The Illustrations on this page were created with Adobe Illustration. Using a Wacom Tablet, I created these pictures. The first picture of the window is related to my Short Story. It is a metaphorical play on the endless possibilities that come from one’s imagination, as well as representative of the significance of the window in How To Be A Man.
“Mesh” explores the technique of line and shapes. It simplifies a portrait of a face into vague contours, creating an abstract work of art. It leaves the audience to question and interpret, then reflect onto their own existence.
Originally a concept from the artist’s sketchbook, this piece was drawn digitally with Adobe Illustrator.
Below: A look at the process of creating these Illustrations on Adobe Illustrator.
Stemming from our work in English class, we pitched potential stories and learned about character and story arc in terms of film language. I learned how to make stories come to life in film by exploring Griffith’s pattern, chase and suspense scenes, and storyboarding. Eventually, we partnered up to work on a narrative film.
Pre-production focused on learning the language of film. Griffith’s pattern, knowing how to bring tension to a scene, exploring chase scenes… We analyzed Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and numerous videos that explained film language. Then came time to pitch. We each pitched stories and peeled it back to its core to find if there was a character and story arc present. I valued this process of learning the various components that make an effective narrative film. After pitching, we partnered up on stories and began our journey with a story. I decided to take on a story later to be called Take a Hint, about a guy who is stalked by a girl at the office. My partner, Eric Rustum, and I began revising this idea to create a comprehensive film. We began with a synopsis, and then moved into a process of storyboarding the film. The storyboarding was the key process of Pre-production. It allows the directors to visualize each shot and put film language to work.
The story is set in an office building, about a socially awkward guy who is being stalked by a girl. As we see in the beginning, the guy is not one with many friends–the people in his office have their own cliques and he doesn’t talk to anyone. He goes about his usual work day, until he notices a girl is oddly staring at him. There’s this back and forth of the girl staring at guy and the guy attempting to subtly confront her about it by looking back at her; however, the girl darts her eyes away from him whenever he looks up. Frustrated and freaked out by the situation, the guy decides to go to the break room, and it just so happens the girl follow him there. She does even creepier things (for example she may mimic him by eating the same thing he does) all while continuing to stare him down. Again, she averts her eyes when the guy attempts to stare back. The build up of all these creepy things this girl is doing is scaring him, we can see him becoming anxious but he is scared to really confront her, so he does the only thing he thinks he can do to rid of her—hide in the men’s bathroom. When his nerves settle, the guy comes out again and to his luck the girl is nowhere in sight. The guy decides to go out for lunch, bringing back his lunch cautiously. He feels relieved the girl is nowhere in sight, or as it so seems, because suddenly the girl appears. This scares the guy to drop his lunch and run. There’s a chase scene, but the guy eventually loses her and returns to his desk, appearing exhausted. Once again the girl appears to stalk him, and the guy finally confronts her. He lashes out at her, making her cry. The girl runs away with tears in her eyes, and we see the guy feeling bad about what he just did. Eventually the girl returns, but this time to hand him his lunch he dropped. The guy takes this opportunity to apologize to the girl, and this moment teaches him to be sympathetic and less socially awkward. The two are now on good terms, and the guy now has a friend at the office.
In the second phase, we entered production. After our storyboard was green lighted, we had many shoot days. Production was a lengthy and difficult process, it helped immensely to have our storyboard with us, in order to know exactly what we wanted for the next shot. Production involved lots of planning. The process consisted on location searching to casting to shooting.
In the final stretch, we began taking our raw footage into Adobe Premier Pro. Roughing out scenes, we could began to see the film come to life. There were many rounds of feedback for a rough scene and rough cut, as well as lessons on color grading that proved helpful in the editing process. I valued the feedback from peers, it helped to see a project I had worked on for so long in new light.
Above: A look at the process of creating the short. Adobe Premier Pro was used to layer clips and audio.
Take A Hint Trailer
Take A Hint
Directed by Eric Rustum & Katherine Sun
I’m so thankful for Eric for giving me the opportunity to collaborate on Take A Hint, and our amazing lead actors Aiden & Shannon.
Learning Film Language
Before diving into the big project, we learned Griffith’s Pattern, chase scenes, and suspense scenes.
I learned the importance of planning shots before, and applying film rules such as the 180 line and continuity.
A big takeaway from this lesson was learning the fundamentals of establishing shots and the order of shots and framing.
I learned how to stretch out a moment and bring in emotion and tension.