order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery in San Antonio this Saturday!

January 18, 2017

The screenings for the sixth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival are starting up! Our first stop is in San Antonio, TX, this Saturday (1/21) at the historic Charline McCombs Empire Theatre at 226 North Saint Mary’s Street. It’ll be hosted by me and Texas author Nikki Loftin (Wish Girl, Nightingale’s Nest). She’s an amazing co-host—check out how we ripped up the stage last year!

Reservations are free, but get in while you can: we’re already up to 600 reservations! Reserve your seat here.

You’ll see many great movies, like the above animated version of Jacqueline Kelly’s 2010 Newbery Honor Book The Education of Calpurnia Tate, made by Allison Reyna of Alamo Heights High School. As the judges told Allison on the 90-Second Newbery blog, this is an “amazing animatic, very impressive! Calpurnia’s character in particular was very well done. I like how you were able to make her go through so many moods and emotions (for instance, watching her go from gleeful to disappointed when she’s trying to catch the grasshopper!) and yet she still stayed very much herself. The composition was very well done, and I liked how you varied it between close-ups, wide shots, and midshots, especially for the grasshopper-chase scene. You were able to get so much of the story across wordlessly–I love how you showed the difference between Calpurnia’s reaction shots when she is given the book The Origin of the Species vs. her reaction shot when she is given The Science of Housewifery. The part at the end when she wipes off her makeup and starts reading what she wants was very well done.”

But that’s not the only animated entry we received from San Antonio this year that we’ll be featuring at Saturday’s film festival. There is also this adaptation of Louis Sachar 1999 Newbery Medal Winner Holes, created by Mya Prado of Shepard Middle School:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “This is fantastic! I love this animation you’ve done! I’m really impressed by this! The art is really expressive and tells the story very concisely and effectively. The acting the the voiceover narration were committed, authentic, and accurate.”

That’s not the only kind of animation we are featuring this Saturday. We also have a couple of great Claymation pieces, like this adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver by Kyle, James, Elaon, and Adam of Kingwood, TX:

On the 90-Second Newbery blog, the judges wrote, “Great use of Claymation to tell the story! I like how you kept it in black and white for most of it, then switched to color at the end when Jonas leaves the community. The music was well-chosen and gave the movie a certain power… for example, the ‘releasing’ scene of the baby was unexpectedly affecting (I like how you switched to pen-and-paper animation for that part, to emphasize that this is something Jonas is viewing). A lot of nice little touches, like the way it looks when Jonas goes down the hallway to escape the town. Baby Gabriel was very cute, too!”

Here’s an adaptation with TWO twists, by Elijah, Vincent, Josselin, and Esteban. It’s of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux, and it’s also done in Claymation… but also with a horror-movie twist!

Judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog, take it away: “Inventive and fun! I love the idea of a horror movie version of Tale of Despereaux. I like how the ghosts flew out of the bodies of all Desperaux’s siblings at the beginning (with the ominous parting shot of ‘And you are next!!!’) and I thought it was ingenious for the princess to be a zombie. The music was well-chosen and effective throughout, and the dialogue-bubbles kept the story moving along quickly and clearly. The big castle Desperaux enters was a good prop, the terrifying red-eyed cat in the cage was great, and when he was released from the cage for the final fight, it was legitimately exciting! The goriness of ‘slice! slice!’ and the shot of the decapitated cat in the pool of blood would have been too extreme if done in real life, but somehow in claymation it becomes charming. Classic horror movie ending: ‘The end… or is it?’ I loved every second of this!”

We have one other Claymation that we’ll be showing on Saturday, and it’s of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, as adapted by Hiram and Jason:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog say, “The stop-motion claymation was so much fun to watch! I liked how this movie used not only clay animals but also paper cut outs of animals. The dialogue bubbles were a good touch too. And I like how Farmer Zuckerman rides Wilbur around as though he’s a horse! You got the story across vividly and entertainingly, and great choice of music.”

Wait! One more! Even though it’s not technically animation, but rather a series of drawings. It’s of Paula Fox’s 1974 Medal Winner The Slave Dancer, by Aaliyah M and Giselle S.:

On the 90-Second Newbery blog, the judges said, “Beautifully drawn! The spoken story is well told by the alternating narrators. The pictures complement the narration very well, not just reinforcing the meaning of what’s spoken, but also augmenting it, showing us the emotions that the characters are feeling. The speech bubbles throughout were a cool touch too. I like the dramatic orchestral smash when the ship crashes. Great work!”

All right! Stay tuned to the blog for more 90-Second Newberys from San Antonio as we approach Saturday. And get your free tickets for Saturday’s screening here!

Screening dates for the SIXTH ANNUAL 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, 2017!

January 12, 2017

It’s time for the screenings of the sixth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Six years? Has it already been so long?! It seems like just yesterday we were getting this thing off the ground!

We started out screening in just three cities. This year we will screen in TWELVE cities, from New York to San Francisco, from Chicago to San Antonio! And we have two new cities this year: Cambridge, Massachusetts and Asheville, North Carolina! Complete showtimes and locations below. Thanks especially to my co-hosts this year: authors M.T. Anderson, Alan Gratz, Keir Graff, Nikki Loftin, Kelly Barnhill, Charles Benoit, Dale Basye, Marcus Ewert, and Doug Mackey.

(Wait, what is the 90-Second Newbery? It’s an annual video contest in which kid filmmakers create movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about 90 seconds. Complete information about the 90-Second Newbery here.)

Here are the screening dates for 2017. (Want to bring the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to your city? Every year we expand into more cities! Drop me a line at kennedyjames@gmail.com.)

90-Second Newbery 2016 Schedule
All screenings are free.

Saturday, January 21, 2017
The SAN ANTONIO screening, co-hosted by me and author Nikki Loftin (Wish Girl, Nightingale’s Nest). At the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre (224 E Houston St, San Antonio, TX). 3 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
SPECIAL DEADLINE for submissions to the Asheville, NC screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

Saturday, February 11, 2017
The TACOMA, WA screening, co-hosted by me and author Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle) and Tacoma’s own hilarious Doug Mackey. At the Tacoma Public Library (1102 Tacoma Ave S). 3-5 pm, but come early for the 2:15 reception! Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017
The PORTLAND, OR screening, co-hosted by me and author Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle) and Dale Basye (Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go). At the Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR). Organized in conjunction with the fine folks at Portland Community Media. 4:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Friday, February 17, 2017
The OAKLAND, CA screening, co-hosted by me and authors Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle) and Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat). At the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library (5366 College Ave, Oakland, CA). 7 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017
The SAN FRANCISCO screening, co-hosted by me and authors Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle) and Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat). At the San Francisco Public Library main branch (100 Larkin Street) in the Koret Auditorium. 4-6 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, February 25, 2017
The MINNEAPOLIS screening, co-hosted by me and authors Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle) and 2017 Newbery Medal winner Kelly Barnhill (The Girl Who Drank the Moon). At the Minneapolis Central Library (300 Nicollet Mall) in Pohlad Hall. 3-5 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017
The NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY screening, hosted by me and author Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle). At the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (5th Ave at 42nd St, New York, NY) in the Bartos Forum. 3-5 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017
The BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY screening, co-hosted by me and author Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle). At the Central Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY) in the Dweck Auditorium. 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017
A special screening of the “Best of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival” as part of the Read-A-Thon for Rochester’s Teen Book Festival. Hosted by me and Charles Benoit (Snow Job). At the Barnes & Noble in Pittsford Plaza (3349 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY). 3-4 pm.

Sunday, March 19, 2017
The ROCHESTER, NY screening, co-hosted by me and Charles Benoit (Snow Job). At the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum (900 East Ave, Rochester, NY). 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, April 1, 2017
The CHICAGO screening, co-hosted by me and author Keir Graff (The Matchstick Castle). At the Vittum Theater (1012 N Noble St, Chicago, 773-342-4141). 3-5 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, April 22, 2017
The ASHEVILLE, NC screening, co-hosted by me and Alan Gratz (The League of Seven series). At the Pack Memorial Library (67 Haywood St., Asheville, NC). (NOTE: Special deadline for Asheville entries is February 8, 2017.) 1-3 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, April 30, 2017
The BOSTON AREA screening, co-hosted by me and National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson (Feed, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, and Symphony for the City of the Dead). At the Brookline Public Library (361 Washington Street, Brookline, MA). 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Episode 2 of The Secrets of Story Podcast: The Easy Way!

December 8, 2016

Here it is, the second episode of a new podcast that I’m doing with Matt Bird, Secrets of Story. As Matt mentioned in his own post about this episode, most of it was recorded before the disastrous election, so consider its goofy, antic mood as a “relic of a happier world, before evil triumphed,” as Matt put it.

Now, I’ve already explained the nature of my friendship with Matt Bird and my connection to his “Secrets of Story” blog in a previous post. Basically, in this podcast we try to figure out what makes for good stories. Usually Matt brings up some advice from the storytelling advice book he’s written (called Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readersyou should buy a copy right now!). I’m no story guru, but I am an author, and I sometimes disagree with his advice. I’m usually more practical and intuitive, he’s theoretical and analytical.

You can subscribe to the podcast here. Matt also put it up on Soundcloud, so you can listen to it above, too.

In this episode, we discuss Matt’s fourteen-point story structure and test it against the classic movie Silence of the Lambs. Every “story guru” has their own recommended story structure, from Aristotle to Joseph Campbell to Dan Harmon to FILM CRIT HULK. Matt’s fourteen-point structure shares some similarities with these, of course, but he also has his own twists that are entirely original to him. Some of them are quite brilliant . . .

. . . And some of them I disagree with intensely. One of them is a certain step of his fourteen-point structure. We debate it in this second episode of the podcast, and as far as I can tell, it seems I bring Matt around to my point of view. You can read more deeply about Matt’s fourteen-point structure in this series of posts on his blog (the posts are in reverse chronological order, though, so scroll to the bottom and read from the bottom up). Or you could just buy his book.

Now here’s something juicy. At the end of the previous episode, Matt and I launched a hopefully-recurring feature called “Free Story Ideas,” in which Matt or I “give away” story ideas that we’ve dreamed up, but that we haven’t had the time or inclination to actually write. Matt’s idea last time was a movie or TV show based on Laika, the Russian dog who was the first Earth animal in space in 1957.

Matt’s premise: what if, instead of Laika dying in space in the Sputnik-2 as we all concluded, she was picked up by aliens? And what if those aliens are watching all the planets with intelligent life, and the first time any planet sends a living organism into space, those aliens whisk away the organism (in this case, Laika) in order to test them, to see if that planet is worthy to be included in the Galactic Empire—and if they fail the test, the planet is destroyed? And so then Laika is put in the odd position of fighting for the life of the planet that only hours ago callously flung her up into space to die?

A view of Laika, Nov. 5, 1957, the female dog the Russians say is riding in outer space as a passenger aboard Sputnik II.  The Russians say the name is also the breed of a dog native to the far North, and is related to the larger husky and similar to the spitz or pomeranian.  The Laikas are known for their endurance. (AP Photo/NASA)

Well, unbeknownst to Matt, after he “gave away” his idea, I decided to do a writing experiment. I gave myself three days to scribble a not-necessarily-great, first-draft script of his Laika premise. I called it “Laika and the Blue Mouse” and it’s supposed to be an animated Adult-Swim sci-fi comedy in the tradition of “Rick and Morty” or “Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” You can download it here if you want to read it. Matt and I are going to go through the script in the next episode and he’s going to give his story-guru notes on it.

Not to protest too much, but the script’s not necessarily me at my best! But my role on the podcast is to represent the practical realities of writing, as opposed to Matt’s analytical theory of storytelling. So I wanted to open up the creative process, and give a look under the hood, and show how important it is not to worry about perfection, just to get out that crappy first draft, and not putting any ego into it. Polishing and editing can happen later!

Anyway, when forcing yourself to finish something within a deadline, you might find yourself coming up with crazy and fun ideas that you might not otherwise had if you’d taken a more deliberative approach. If you want to chime in about your own critiques of the script, head on over to Matt’s post and leave a comment.

I’ll see you in space! The script is here!


Newer Posts - Older Posts