Visual Treatment for Lion’s Paw short film

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The following is a visual treatment for a proposed short film called Lion’s Paw, based on the song by the same name recorded in Berlin by local musician Zane Barratt. This multimedia project involves contemporary dance, animation and creative set design to meditate on the animalistic side of our social interactions. Lion’s Paw will use creative interplay between mediums, set and characters to playfully bring us into a colourful world of surreal interactions that parallel our social hierarchies with animal behaviours.

Set in a warehouse or studio space, four dancers are in the center of the room with five-foot-wide wood framed canvasses surrounding them. The four back ground frames are painted in a savannah scene and each is held by a dancer covered in Zebra striped paint matching the colour scheme of the savannah. The people holding the canvasses are visible to the camera because it ties in the idea of our creativity being related to the zebra’s “painted” stripes and would be a dynamic visual effect.

The opening scene is in a plain white studio, with sunlight coming in. The beginning of the song beckons the painted canvass holder to bring the savannah background into position. At the start of the bright guitar line another painted creator comes in and starts spraying paint in the form of a sun rise. This should coincide with the rising sunny feeling of the guitar sound.

The first dissonant bridge into the verse introduces the three dancers made up as animals: two lions with intricate masks and a zebra (Zane) with black stripes on his face. They each walk in as people who have distinct social qualities relevant to their animal.

Zane is filmed singing along to a slowed version of the song while someone paints his face live, so that when the film is brought up to speed, he is singing in time and the stripes come forth very quickly. The dancers emulate the animal qualities being described in the lyrics, with moments of human outbursts that reflect the metaphoric social qualities. The dance choreography will create a visceral back and forth between the “pure” animal moments and the human ego.

During the bridge into the chorus the lions will take turns acting out human and animal aggression towards the zebra without actually pouncing. The lions turn to attack and on the first note of the pre-chorus they fill in behind the zebra to form a line.  The three animals turn to acknowledge the camera, while the lions simultaneously take off their masks to expose their painted zebra faces.  They all sing the lyrics at the viewer: “We painted horses.”

The next dissonant bridge to the second verse is kicked off with a jolting lunge of two dancers away from the “lion” that just put on its mask. This lion turns to grab the mask on top of the other lion’s head and snaps the elastic onto its face while looking the other way, in a manipulative display of human control. The snap of the mask hits on the first beat of the verse and the newly reassigned lion then turns in reaction to this anger by jumping on the zebra, bringing all three animals just below the frame.  As the second verse is entered with the pouncing on the zebra, the savannah canvasses are pulled apart by their carriers, and the camera (already zooming forward) reveals animation in the style of Hayao Miyazaki or Gerhard Human. The animation flips the dancers’ roles, depicting the animals wearing human masks emerging from the bottom of the frame into a party atmosphere with meat hors d’oeuvres on tooth picks and glasses of red wine being tossed back in a careless and simultaneously aggressive manner.  These animals sway surreally from side to side, while the zebra remains the awkward character at the party. At the pre-chorus the three animals, which have taken off their human masks to expose zebra striped animal faces, run through white panels in the background that have opened up to expose a brighter dimension.  The background begins to alternate, in panels equivalent to the canvass width, between the savannah colour and white. The alternating background crossfades into the live canvass being turned around by the background dancers in the same alternating pattern. This leads to the three main dancers appearing on the opposite side of the canvass from the background dancers, as they cross through dimensions. They are joined by the background dancers who leave their canvasses free standing. The nine dancers now finish the last chorus of “we painted horses” and the song outro, in a piece of choreography that finds the tone of lyrical positivity. The resounding message is that we all paint masks and costumes, however the future may continue in a positive direction with generations becoming less competitive, using creativity to help overcome oppressive social hierarchies.

With Zane’s connection to several different dance communities, actors and directors, this video will quickly come to life and illuminate the words and music. It will be an achievement that Zane has been preparing for- with his film studies, editing projects, and work on set as an actor. The goal of the video will be to create a diegesis that pulls us into the animals world and shows the origins of our human social behaviour, clearly enough to provide reflection on personal behaviours and experiences with others.

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