Dupe - The Making of a Short

More Work

Welcome to the making of Dupe, my short film about singularity. I usually wait until the movie (animatic in my case) is done before posting about it. But I made this page to show what kind of prep work goes into a 90 second short. I plan to document my progress and share my storyboarding method. I'll continue to update this page as the story progresses, so check back here weekly.


What is singularity? Basically, it’s the fear that we’re making super artificial intelligence so smart that someday we’ll get to a point where
a mistake is made, or machines will self-learn their way to an uprising against humanity. 

Do I have this fear? Well, I’m fascinated with technology and I don’t think there’s any doubt that the rapid development of tech is changing the way we live our lives on a daily basis, but will technology someday go rogue? I don’t know, but it does stimulate my imagination. I’m a big fan of Black Mirror, Ex Machina, Terminator, etc. There’s a great episode of Black Mirror called Metalhead that inspired me.

Stuff I’ll be writing about:

+research/character design
+beats breakdown
+thumbnail pass
+tie down pass
+animatic/editing/sound FX

1. Ideation/Script

I kicked around the idea of doing some kind of man vs. technology story for quite a while. When I was ready, I made it official by giving myself a deadline and production schedule. 

That’s hard to do when I have a full-time client on the books. My client work always gets the first 8 hrs of the day which usually means I work weekends on a project like this. 

I estimate this will take around 40 hrs. I believe in Parkinson's law where a task will take as much time as you give it. So I’m estimating a 40hr time budget. However, I always underestimate these things.


When I got the general idea nailed down, I wrote up this premise and shared with a few of my close collaborators. I left the ending ambiguous and told my mini writer’s group that I wanted to go rather dark with the ending. 









































Writing is about making decisions. So after enough gabbing about the idea, I had to commit to how the ending was going to play out. Here's a snippet of an unformatted draft of the script that was enough to get me going. It will change as I get into the storyboarding. I gotta start somewhere and this makes a 'good enough' version to jump into. You'll see that I change the dog to a pig very soon. 

Ext. A cute, San Fransisco townhouse. Morning. 


A drone delivers a package to the doorstep. 


Int. House. Beth, (late twenties, bookish) is running late for work but stops at the sound of the doorbell. She smiles at her dog, Pug. He cheerfully bolts toward the door.


The door opens. Beth offers the drone her hand. It scans it. Verified. The drone flies away. 


Int. Close on the box. A carpet knife slices it open. Pull out. Pug excitedly watches Beth carefully lift something out of the box. It’s a robot that looks a lot like Pug!


Pug cautiously sniffs the robot’s butt. Beth checks her watch. Gotta go. She plugs in the power cord. Close on a small screen on the robot that reads: CHARGING… She hustles off, blowing kisses to Pug on her way out the door.   


Pug watches her through the window. Beth drives off. Pug and his new friend are now alone. Pug settles on the couch, one eye on the robot.  


Int. Office building. Beth’s workplace. She sits at her computer, wakes the screen. Clicks on her home security camera. We see Pug is now right next to the robot, waiting for him to do something. 


Beth smiles. On her computer screen we see her open a window. She clicks a button ‘activate.’ 


Int. Back at home. The robot comes to life. Pug is curious. Cautious. The robot grabs a ball with it’s mouth and throws it. Pug fetches. Pug bounces the ball and the robot tries to catch it. They chase each other around the living room. They’re having fun! 



Full script will be updated when it's ready.



2. Research/Character Design


There wasn’t that much research other than reading up on the latest articles coming out of Silicon Valley. Maureen Dowd wrote an excellent article on this subject. Elon Musk is always a good starting point.  

I follow a lot of great character designers on IG, so there’s no limit to inspiration there. For Beth, I wanted to make sure she looked like a whip-smart, hard-working twenty-something who’s in the world of tech. Kind of a geeky but cute look. Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest. This can be a WORMHOLE of imagery. I ended up finding this incredible artist who has an uncanny way of simplifying his characters.  I narrowed it down to two a will post these soon.  

Toot  the pig

He was initially going to be a pug dog, but at the last minute, I changed it to a pig because it feels like there are a lot of pugs lately in the animation world. Plus, pigs are cool. Also, there’s something slightly evil about a pig, which is where this story is headed. 

3. Beat Breakdown

It's not pretty, but this is what I do right before drawing. A simple bullet point list of the scenes that need to unfold. I get a sense of pacing and am always looking for ways to trim and condense.

















4. Thumbnail Pass 

Coming next. 

5. Tie Down Pass


 Coming soon.

Check back weekly to see where this story goes! And feel free to leave

any comments, ideas, or suggestions! 

September 05, 2018  By Tom LaBaff

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