Visit: The London Aquarium

After deciding to design the forest for my studio project as a living character, I started to realize I had left out the visual aspects for this concept. I was thinking in terms of animation: how the character would move, how it would sound. What I hadn’t considered was how it would read as a still image, before anything moves. I thought back on a screenwriting class I did earlier this year: how do you give clues to your audience? How do you keep them anticipating?

The idea of having an underlying truth, or something special below the surface, developed in accordance with my script and story concept. I figured it would be pretty simple to show an underlying truth for a tree, as its branches, -its origin-, lay buried deep down low. I thought of the symbolism behind a plant bud growing into a majestic tree, and its symbolism in connection with life and creation.

Image source.

Image source. A plant’s roots, to me, communicates an origin and an underlying character, truth, or story. I also like the contrast in colour and appearance: how the visible could symbolize putting on a pretty face for its more dirty, rough truth.

Me and my annual pass have had frequent visits to Sea Life aquariums around the UK for the past year. The underwater life fascinates me, -and terrifies me-. Manchester, Blackpool, Chessington, London, and Alton Towers: it never gets old. I went to the London last June, armed with a sketchbook and pen. As I was drawing jellyfish, I kept wondering if I should do an underwater theme for my graduation project, like an under-the-sea theme park or a sic-fi film. I really wanted to work with the jellyfish, but it slipped away with time.

Sketches of jellyfish. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Sketches of jellyfish. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Once I had a slight idea of how my forest would look, I started thinking about how I would communicate the monster’s loneliness. There was also the issue of Lumi being blinded, an event that is only revealed in the middle of Act 3. But I still want the audience to know that this is something that happened recently, and that she used to be able to see. I tried working this out through storyboards, which was where the jellyfish came back into my thoughts.

Because my story plays on the contrast of light and darkness, I want this to be communicated visually too. I found fungi that could glow in the forest, but what I needed was something mysterious to glow underwater.This is when I remembered how jellyfish reflect light. What if the jellyfish are not lit up from the beginning, but light up from Lumi’s (my protagonist) ‘inner light’? -> Her light reflects through them, but because she can’t see it herself, it’s very vague in her own character.

A small, lit-up jellyfish at Sea Life, Manchester. All rights reserved.

A small, lit-up jellyfish at Sea Life, Manchester. All rights reserved.

Jellyfish development sketch. Trying to achieve perspective with a central point for  Lumi.

Jellyfish development sketch. Trying to achieve perspective with a central point for Lumi. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Development sketch: jellyfish re-viing Lumi, "switching her back on".

Development sketch: jellyfish re-viing Lumi, “switching her back on”. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Jellyfish reflecting Lumis light.

Jellyfish reflecting Lumi’s light. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Collage of research for presenting the islands underlying truth: it is not inhabited my a dangerous monster, but by a creture slowly dying of loneliness and heartbreak of losing its family.

(From screen left to right) Image sources for photographs used:  1, 2, 3. Collage of research for presenting the islands underlying truth: it is not inhabited my a dangerous monster, but by a creature slowly dying of loneliness and heartbreak of losing its family. Black & white sketch and large background image by Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.