Jan 9 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #4: Immersion

Whenever I start work on a new VBS, I try to immerse myself in in the theme, especially if I feel I am not sufficiently familiar with it to do it justice. Last year when working on our Wild West themed VBS we watched a lot of westerns. Not just any westerns–since we were going for more of a classic, white hat, western we watched a lot of Roy Rogers and an old John Wayne movie where he and a couple other cowboys wore tall hats and big scarves. One of the cowboys was nicknamed ‘Lullaby.’ No-one got hurt on-screen, but in the course of the story an old man and a little girl got killed in a wagon wreck.

This year in order to get a better flavor for he story we want to communicate I have been immersing myself in Chinese culture: I’ve watched a lot of kung fu / wuxia movies, I’m learning to eat with chopsticks, watching documentaries about China, and looked at hundreds of pictures of clothing, hairstyles, armor, architecture, and the Chinese countryside. I’ve also tried to look up some cultural taboos to watch for.

I don’t have any illusions of becoming Ang Lee before August, but I at least don’t want to make something offensive to Chinese people and/or do a sloppy job for having based a VBS story on what i have learned from American pop culture.

I’m really enjoying it. I’ve seen a lot of terrible movies (Butterfly Swords, World of Drunken Master), discovered a couple of excellent ones (Red Cliff, Little Big Soldier), and seen a couple that were kind of a mixed bag (House of Flying Daggers, Wing Chun).

Anyway, one day I discovered wushu, a Chinese sport derived from martial arts. I was watching a video describing the different styles, and saw an athlete perform a demonstration of Drunken Style Kung Fu, and it gave me an idea. I changed the master tinkerer/archer to a swordsman, gave him a motivation, and came up with a character that I believe will be both interesting and humorous.

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Jan 8 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #3: Refinement

The story and script are constantly refined through every stage of the process. The greatest refinements are earliest in the process, and the finer ones later–providing no glaring story problems are discovered.

When we first plotted this story we had three villains, each with specific attributes. I had an idea for one of the bad guys to be kind of a really intelligent, master tinkerer who had made his own clockwork/steampunk armor/exoskeleton, kind of an ancient China version of a cross between Iron Man and Kroenen from Hellboy (wihout the massive crewpy factor). Then we played around with him being a master archer, armed with a drum-equipped repeating crossbow.

However, the character wasn’t so much a character as he was a gimmick–he had no personality, no motivation, and he wasn’t interesting at all.

Then, immersion made an impact.

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