Sirens Script Notes


This is the first time I’ve seen some of these scenes. Some of the comments involve timing and pacing; I know we are not at that stage yet, but since I noticed it, and I was asked to be complete, I’m noting it here. I’m hoping Keith comes up with something pretty special for sound design.

I think this is really coming along well, look forward to your input and comments!

0:14/:15: We need more of an establishing shot before the sailors hear the sirens. It happens too quickly, seems like almost instantly they hear it and look up. These sailors are supposed to have been drifting listlessly for hours or days… that’s one reason they are so intrigued by the sirens. We need more listless floating, maybe not ten seconds’ worth, but more than what we have now…maybe an extra two or three seconds, make the audience wonder what’s going to happen, it’s the anticipation. (Like when you see your cousin with some drunk girl at a party, and you don’t want to watch but you are wondering what’s going to happen, especially since you know one of his nuts was blown off in Baghdad, and you wonder if she’ll freak out…)

In my storyboards, 5A and 5B show a significantly tighter shot on the sailors. I suggest that once we close in on the frame, we don’t stop at the edges of the illustration, but instead smoothly go in tighter, probably 30% closer, maybe to the boat edge (left side) and where the sail’s rope meets the boat behind Blacky (right side). We let them drift listlessly for 2-3 seconds, then pull back as we have now (except slower, see next note). This will make the transition from bored to enchanted much clearer (as it is now, the heads are very small as they raise them, hard to notice, plus we can make better use of art we already have.

0:25: slower pull back to reveal the sirens maybe twice as long, I feel like we are rushing the reveal, I want to make the audience wonder, along with the sailors, where it’s coming from instead of them seeing it so quickly.

1:11  The librarian’s arms are too short and her hands look like little paws, she’s blobby as she walks away

Also the first of the boy’s “head shape changes” starts to happen here.  It’s noticeable and distracting and gets worse. Either he has a round head as in the closeups or he has a long thin angular head as he has in many of the longer shots….It’s esp. noticeable just before and as he looks up to the librarian. Since this is the first time we see billy, we need to make sure it looks like him.

1:21- we should open on a still shot of the sailor; wait about one second, then start the animation slowly (maybe slight stutter?), showing that Billy is “getting into” the story

The “wings” are on the old sirens, and as we discussed, will be discarded. The “scary Sirens” (still to come from Brian?) will be in.

1:46 the static shot of the Beardy is in the wrong place, see below. The boat is already sinking….

1:47 when the sailors hit the rock, they should perhaps change expression, or at least move their heads around in concern. I know that we don’t have an alternate expression for anyone but Beardy, but perhaps we could flop the faces on the other two to simulate head turning?

1:48: cut back to boat sinking; maybe other faces have changed too (e.g. flopping, mentioned above)

1:50: Beardy sailor’s face changes to panic; cut this in after the boat hits rocks and starts sinking (1:45)

1:58 make the scene slightly longer (1-2 seconds more), and have the Sirens morph into the Scary Sirens about 2/3rds of the way through

2:12 ish… the guys just sink and sink and sink…. too long…. not enough “content” Animation looks great, though.

2;17: the scary sirens stutter morph to rocks

2;24: sinking takes too long, but you knew that…

2:35: longer hold on the full pullback, 2 seconds more maybe, we need to let it land before cutting to Billy

Comment from Ed: 2:39… ummm who is the kid in the MLS from the rear? Not the same one as in the closeup… their heads are not the same shape.It’s really apparent when it cuts back to the closeup around 2:44…

2;45: I know the sound design and timing haven’t been worked out yet, but we will need much more temporal separation between the siren song ending and the mysterious (truckish) siren sound starting. Right now it’s only 4 seconds, that is much too quickly. I know the audience won’t forget the siren song, but I don’t want the association to be that clear or obvious.

2:49: Billy head and face are off-model, looks different

Ed comment: 2:56… close up doesn’t match…

2;58…  when the head turns & throughout the running… face shape doesn’t match….  It takes you out of the story because it is so noticeable.

2:49/ 2:50 slow the pullback

2:56: this scene needs to be longer; he should keep reading (we can just loop it once or twice), then, after a few seconds, he turns the page to the dragon. Again, we need temporal separation.
3:00 ish… the kid doesn’t have to run totally across the frame from R to L…   he could be in frame on the cut

3;03- hears the siren sound too early. See comments at 2:56

When billy brushes past the old couple, something seems weird; the overall old folk shape is fine, but the faces look weird especially the old guy, it’s hard to make out his facial features. It’s like Johnny Knoxville in old age makeup in the Jackass movies. Also, what’s with his left hand? It seems to be on an invisible cane or something, or on the bookshelf, or staying in midair while he pulls the book down with his right… in any case it’s unclear
Ed comments: 3:10ish.. the long run past all of the shelves seems very long… maybe cut down

3;16 the library exit looks too sterile; maybe a figure reading, or some books or small items on the desk?

3:18 or so: the library door seems to be an odd dimension, no locj/key hole, the handle or push pads seem too big and low.

3;25: the doors pause for Billy instead of starting to slowly close; maybe have them already starting to close as the 3:24 scene opens?

3:33: the door behind billy looks very hand-drawn, not smooth, it’s distracting, especially when we see the crisp lines of Billy’s face in the foreground.

3:39:  the dog seems missing from a few of the wide shots, he just appears when Billy looks down the street

Ed comments: 3:45  He looks absolutely delighted just as we cut to the fire engine hitting him.. What is he seeing or hearing or thinking that makes him so happy just as the fire engine whacks into him?  It doesn’t make sense unless he is hallucinating … what?  a dragon? a naked babe?  should we see whatever this is and have it vanish only to be replaced by the fire engine. Not a bad idea.

Discussion topics & issues for comment and consideration

Problem: One person was confused about what the sirens were. People into mythology and other stuff will probably get it pretty quick, but while the opening scenes tell the story of the sirens, not everyone will get it. They may wonder who the hell the three naked chicks are…


1) On the opening page, below the title, we could have a very short (one sentence) definition, as though it’s written in the book. We wouldn’t have to show the whole thing, we could just linger long enough for people to read, “Sirens were mythological creatures whose beautiful song lured sailors….”

(If we go with this, we might do the same for the Dragon; we could use exactly the same animation—hand turning, etc.–, except it would be a blank page and say “Dragon” and have the definition of a dragon on it; this would also help with the “temporal separation” issue, so the flashes of light/siren don’t seem one right after the other.)

2) On the second page (the one with the art) we could have a picture of one of Brian’s sirens, up close to the heading. Instead of, for example, the winged sphinx art at the bottom of the page. This would at the very least clue people in when they see the siren women again that that’s what we’re talking about.

3) Sort of a combination of 1 and 2 above, we could perhaps have “Sirens were mythological creatures whose beautiful song lured sailors….” In larger print as the first paragraph under the Sirens heading on the second page, to the left of the sailor art. So once the page is turned, we would instead close up on the heading and definition first, then pan right to the sailor image and go from there.


One problem: if we do have the sirens morph to rocks, we will have a continuity issue for the pullback/wide shot at 2:35, since we have the sirens (not rocks) drawn 3/4ths from the back in that shot. One solution would be to ask Brian to do a small sketch; since it will be a wide shot, it shouldn’t be difficult to do.

Problem: One person who saw it was confused at first where the siren sound was coming from; we later see that the sirens’ mouths are open and singing, but remember that that comes in kind of late in the story, until then we only see a small drawing of what looks like three women from 3/4 back. The concern was that audiences may think that the siren song is background/incidental music, and not realize it’s coming from the three women, since that’s not 100% clear from the story.

There are a few ideas: one, when we do the sound design, we make sure that the siren song is coming from the left channel, the left part of the screen where the sirens are.


Problem: The original idea was to have the body position of the last drowning sailor echoed in the body position of Billy as he dies. This has been a wholesale failure, almost as much a total failure as George W. Bush’s presidency. It doesn’t look right, doesn’t work, is just a clusterfuck. Some have not been keen on the slo-mo ending we have now.



1) leave as is;

2) cut to black, cut the slo-mo scene totally;

3) have a siren figure as a hood ornament coming toward him, then (2) above;

4) truck fades away after hitting kid; or

5) we have one of the “scary sirens” (or all three, if it’s too difficult to separate the elements) rushing at him in a quick, near-subliminal shot, then cut to the fire truck, then to black.

I personally like (5) best, I think it hits the right tone.

Animatic 12 Notes                     9/28/07

Overall it’s looking great, really coming together. You all did a great job addressing the previous points.

Still have some pacing issues; we don’t need to address them right away, seems more a task for notes on final run-through once we’re sure what’s where, but both Ed and I think it feels rushed in a lot of places (one example: at 2:01, it transitions too quickly from Billy in library to white to Blacky in the boat; the fade in at John 3:16 is closer to what I’m looking for). Overall, I’m looking for more of a deliberate, almost fable-like pacing, more or less the opposite of Clicker Clatter’s fast-beat pacing. That said, we could tighten a bit in the last third, we want to build suspense but not bore the audience watching Billy read.

:52 to :54 and 1:00 to 1:04- I showed this to a new person, who did not like these close-ups and shots. Her main complaint was that the drawings look like they were done by a totally different artist in a different style because (compared with the sailor at :55, for example), the sirens’ lines are so much thicker and the sailors are drawn with the shading and hatch lines. As a result, the sirens at 1:00 to 1:04 and 1:09 to 1:13 look much less realistic, much more like flat drawings on a piece of paper and not necessarily inhabiting the same sailors’ 3-D (illusion) world.

Obviously in these close ups we work with what we have, but I do see her point. When she pointed it out to me, that problem jumped out at me. Having said that, the question is 1) what do you think; and 2) what we can do about it if we wanted to.

One idea might be to not have such an extreme CU on the face where it looks a bit like a Keith Haring sketch with the thick black lines. I don’t know what size drawing we have to work with but we might consider pulling out a bit to reduce that effect.

I assume we can’t add detail to the sirens at this point, BUT I had another idea that might go a long way to making the sirens pop off the screen. I realized that (besides the level of detail), one thing that makes the sailors much more interesting is CONTEXT; they are not just black on blank white, they also have the ocean in the background, the clouds in the sky, etc. Obviously we’d have none of that in the extreme CU at :52, but perhaps we could add a hint of sky or waves behind the girls in 1:00? (In fact, it’s a continuity issue: the shot of the sirens at 2:13 does have clouds in the sky, and it looks much better.)

1:57- is that a fade cut? I don’t necessarily dislike it, but it looks a bit odd because the action stops before we fully fade out.

2:01- as noted, please slow fades somewhat; ALSO: sound design note: sound comes in a little too early, please bring in in measure with image.

2:19 to 2:25: the impossible rowing shot; I figured out why it doesn’t quite look right. The boat’s forward movement (which will soon be synched to rowing sounds) don’t match in the two sequences (2:08 to 2:16 and 2:19 to 2:25). In the 2:08 sequence, Mike did a brilliant job simulating the view from the boat as it slightly lurches forward and up when Blacky rows. It really does look fantastic. But the amount of forward motion is clearly much less in that sequence than in the one a few seconds later, where the side view shows the boat zooming ahead in big lurches with each row. I don’t want to make a big deal of it, because I know it’s a difficult shot and I’m not expecting perfection, but it does stand out. Other than aesthetics, there’s a more practical reason we need to make them synch better: it will save us headaches later on. When we slug in the rowing sound F/X, for continuity we will have to use the same sound for both sequences, and making them match both a longer visual row and a much shorter one may be difficult. In fact, we may want to consider selecting that particular sound sooner rather than later, and making them both match that (or at least more closely), instead of trying to make them match each other and then later making the sound match both.

2:27- does Beardy’s tongue pop out? It almost looks that way, at least on my small screen, like he’s a panting dog or something. Maybe it’s just the scale or something, to feel better about it I’ll check it on DVD version.

2:30- as noted before, Beardy’s facial expression has already changed at this point, on the boat in the previous shot; also, as noted, a second or so earlier we saw him sinking on the boat, but he’s static with the clouds in the BG. (Compare that with shot at 2:49, where he sinks away from clouds). I’m not 100% sure how to handle this…it’s a good facial expression change, and helps with the character, and I don’t want to lose it, but I’m not sure how to fix. Any suggestions welcome.

2:37- Blacky’s face oddly changes from alarmed to a near-smile at the last second or two

2:39- 2:45, very nice change, I think it’s much better and more dramatic with the flash and sudden closeup. Thanks. Still not 100% sure about the pacing on this and the other transformation scene, the rhythm may need tweaking later (a longer hold or something), but I think all the elements are fine and I like it a lot.

3:24- dragon issues; we discussed some changes here; are there outstanding questions you had for me about that? I think I answered them, but if I missed them, please let me know and I’ll do it ASAP.

3:33- red/blue f/x: looks better, I suggest going even more subtle on color (though it’s a little hard to tell on small screen)

3:46- a flash of a book page accidentally scene cuts in

3:55- red/blue f/x—as noted, suggest subtler color shifts

3:56- Great facial expression, but Billy’s neck is too long, he looks like an ostrich, it almost looks cartoony, and it’s distracting. Can we easily fix by framing the shot up a bit?

4:07- I agree, we don’t need a title on the book she’s holding, might be distracting, leave it as is

4:36- red/blue, slightly subtler in color

4:41-think we need a slightly longer hold on the Siren before we pan right down the street OR: SEE NOTES AT 4:45

4:43-4:44: there’s a stutter in the pan shot instead of smooth; was that intentional? Or will that be fixed? It’s distracting because your eyes are following the pan, and then it jars as it skips ahead to the frame of the siren woman and you can see a quick fade…

4:45- the cut to and away from the Siren after the pan is too quick; we don’t need to linger on her because we saw her as Billy approached the street, but just a split-second longer. If we do that, we may not need the longer hold I suggested at 4:41.

4:47- sirens vertigo shot—looks great, good editing job, really improved it

4:51: I’m liking where this sequence is going, but I’m not totally sure about this final shot, it’s not quite right yet, something’s missing. I think part of it is that the last thing we see is his excitement at the truck bearing down on him. Maybe a reaction shot, something recognizing his situation, like the reactions we have of the sailors as they realize they’re Fucked with a capital F.

One idea that might help: if we make Billy’s head turn faster, that might serve two things: 1) reduce (but not eliminate) the need to create, find, or fudge a new, scared expression; and 2) make it seem more like he’s startled by the truck to his left, instead of curious and intrigued.

The art we have now is a remnant of the original idea that he gets hit by the truck as he is looking for the source of the sound. But now that we actually have a Siren in front of him (who, by the way, is NOT singing, which is a clever touch), he’s no longer looking for the source of the sound; now he’s trying to get across the street, but before he can do that he’s startled/distracted by the firetruck. His expression now (as he turns) is of happy, curious excitement, NOT startle or terror…

I’m NOT suggesting we need to re-draw anything or create a new scene, just asking if you agree, and if so, do you see any shots we could edit in or tweak slightly that would achieve that effect. Or maybe we could freeze his face at 4:50, a split-second before the cut to the truck, and have a shocked look. Ed suggested maybe he could scream, which isn’t a bad idea, but I don’t think it would cut in well with the last shot (Billy’s expression won’t match a scared shout), unless we did a scared/startled shout over the firetruck. Suggestions, opinions, comments, and especially solutions welcome.

4:52: is it my imagination, or does the firetruck slow slightly just before the cut to black?

ALSO; sound design notes: 1) To my ear, the truck horn comes in a little after the shot starts; I think it should cut in right away when the truck appears onscreen; also, 2) the sound siren sound should be somewhat fainter in the library and street scenes than in the sailor world (though presumably we’ll have some ambient library & street sounds to help mask them); this is partly to add mystery and partly to make the blaring truck horn that much more dramatic. I’ll provide more detailed sound design notes when you ask for them, unless you want them sooner (I assume you want to nail down the animation first).