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The Order of Oddfish


Get Crackin’ on those 90-Second Newberys!

October 8, 2014

Just got back last night from Minneapolis / St. Paul, speaking at schools about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Next week, it’s off to Phoenix for more school visits! Have YOU made your entry for the 90-Second Newbery? If not, get cracking! The deadline is December 20. Consult the events sidebar for dates and info for screenings in New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Tacoma, Portland, and Minneapolis.

I’ll also be doing a “best-of” screening of the 90-Second Newbery at the Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St, Oak Park, IL) next Monday, October 13, from 3-5 pm. Check out the fantastic promotional art they made for the event, above, by Tom Deja of Bossman Graphics! It’s beautiful!

Speaking of movies, if you’re interested in screenwriting or even storytelling in general, you owe it to yourself to head over to Matt Bird’s essential Cockeyed Caravan blog, which is a treasure trove of storytelling advice. I never miss a post! And this week I’m honored to be the “guest expert” on the blog, answering Matt’s question, “Why do we love Luke Skywalker in Star Wars when he just seems to be a petulant, whiny farm boy?” I take exception to Matt’s characterization and break down why I think the beginning of the movie works so well. It’s a three-parter, so here’s Part 1 of my response, followed by Part 2, and finally Part 3 (followed up by Matt’s response to my points). Warning, this is for folks interested in the nuts-and-bolts of storytelling and/or Star Wars only—even my own mom couldn’t read through all of these.

Bringing it back to the 90-Second Newbery . . . let’s check out a few of the entries I’ve already received for this year’s film festival! These four come from old favorite Jacob von Borg and his sisters. Jacob & co. have made some great Order of Odd-Fish fan art (here, here, and here) and they are also some of the masterminds behind two marvelous 90-Second Newbery movies I’ve received (Frog and Toad Together and The Old Tobacco Shop).

First, Charlotte’s Web as a puppet show:

I particularly dug how cute Wilbur looked when Fern was feeding him from the bottle, and all the great voices, especially the weird Germanic-voiced judge. The truck scuttling back and forth made for a nice structural touch, and “all of the animals acted of their own free will” made me laugh. Jacob says, “This film took a lot of floss. The most difficult part was that puppeteers had to be laying on the ground right outside the shot the whole time. The set was at ground level because the animals had to rest there. Also, did you catch Templeton’s cameo?”

Next, Frog and Toad Together:

I love how Toad willfully flings the list away from her as she wails, “Oh no, my list!” And how Jacob got a large tree and a dog sound effect so he wouldn’t have to invest in a snake, a hawk, or an avalanches. I’m impressed at how the shots are so well-composed, the editing so crisp and assured! Jacob writes, “We filmed this last fall, and finally edited now. My sisters and I went for a walk in the forest and I had just happened to bring a camera!”

Next up is (Sedimentary) Shiloh:

Jacob writes, “Yes, I enjoy geology jokes. And that wig that my sister wears to be Marty? You’ll be seeing more of that in future videos.” As for me, I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to have the dog played by a rock. Every time the camera cut to a motionless rock, automatic laughs. I loved the melodramatic way they all played the “I couldn’t lie to your Pa” line and the absurdity of the doctor confidently saying, “I can sew up this rock!”

Next up, Ella Enchanted:

I liked the “Oh, fudgemuffins!” and the star turns of Hattie and the Stepmother, and the hilarious exchange “I broke the curse” “That was arbitrary” “Wanna get married?” “That was my idea!” Jacob writes, “Since we’re working off a borrowed Public Access laptop for its editing program, and I had it out for two extra days, I said to my sisters ‘what other Newbery books have we read?’ It took us so long to actually record a usable shot of the suitcase scene because Alex (who was filming) kept cracking up and shaking the camera. And yes, that wig again.”

Great work on all of these, Jacob and Co.! I’m looking forward to seeing you when I come around to Portland in just a few months!