Trenton Thompson

Animator. Illustrator. Author.

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21

THE ABSENCE OF ALL OTHERS

MODULES 1, 2 AND 3 - RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

I'm currently in the research and development phase but I've noticed I'm somewhat obsessed with two things: Space/Time and Loneliness.

My personal experiences on the subject:

On Loneliness... Everyone always perceived loneliness as a bad thing. But it wasn’t loneliness that I disliked, it was exclusion. Loneliness was fun for me. I could just be, without being judged, observed or looked at. I could interact with the world and my surroundings, hear my own thoughts, and let myself be fascinated by exploring new and empty places. It was great to see what a normally crowded environment looked like when empty – it had a whole different vibe to it. I like loneliness in terms of space/time, but I don’t know if I like true loneliness – which I would describe as “the absence of all others”. Loneliness has many interpretations, and as a result, can be good or bad – both terrifying and liberating.

On Space/Time... I remember being able to appreciate singular moments of childhood, realizing at the time that I wouldn’t be a child for long, and should therefore appreciate how I felt and where I was at that time.

More to come. And thanks Julia for arranging such a lovely course!

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MODULE 4 - LAYOUT

Alrighty - I have some more work done! It seems the story is definitely starting to go in it's own direction at this point...

Title: THE ABSENCE OF ALL OTHERS

++ Main Themes ++

-       Primary Theme: Loneliness and Solitude

-       Secondary Themes: Death, Void/Universe

-       Setting: Grand Central Station, New York City. It’s a place that’s usually so crowded that it’s rarely seen empty. That rarity is what makes moments of solitude in a given location so precious, which is why I felt it would be the perfect place to juxtapose “busyness” with “calm”.

-       Genre: Drama

-       Trying To Say: It's okay to be alone. And if the world gets bad enough, turn loneliness into solitude.

-        Plot: After meeting a handsome stranger, a young woman is strangely encouraged to deal with her intense fear of loneliness.

++ Other Headings ++

 - Tone: Melodramatic. Contemplative. Somewhat funny at times. Charming.

- Keywords: Memory, Alone, Societal Pressure, Technology, Distractions, Attention, Existentialism

- Pacing: Story takes place over a 3 day period or so.

- Aesthetics: 2D anime style

- References: “Baby Blue” short film by Shinichiro Watanabe, Makoto Shinkai films.

- Imagery

 

 

++ Dream List/Brainstorm ++
Empty field of white snow
Train station
Winter
Humor
Wittiness
Thoughtful, innocent romance/friendship
Sound of the universe
Horse and carriage
Street performer

++ Devices ++

Empty Field of White Snow - I feel like it's so symbolic, a field of white. Just because it's snow doesn't mean it's pure and innocent. Ice is slippery, snow comes as blizzards and it's difficult to walk in once it stacks up or hardens. If you're trying to rely on your tracks to find your way back, you can easily get lost if the snow is falling heavy enough. Not to mention, an empty field of white snow is the perfect match and contrast with the infinite darkness of the night sky and universe overhead (see next point below).

Sound of the Universe - I've always wondered if the universe's vastness had a sound to it. I can clearly imagine what it sounds like in my head and it's absolutely terrifying. I'd like to try and illustrate this sound as if it were a vast, beastly presence yelling at you from all angles.

Street Performer - I feel as though they must have interesting lives or might be really lonely. I always wonder about who they are, where they're from and why they're performing. If they're performance is they're escape from reality, what is their life like after the show is over and they're alone again?

Buddies/intimate Friendship - I'm curious to explore what it can mean to be a true friend to someone, even if they're practicaly a stranger.

++ ACT BREAKDOWN ++

*All of this is a general draft that lays out the basic story. This will certainly be tweaked and perhaps minimized henceforth. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!! :)

ACT ONE
A New York City winter. We meet Kotone - a soft-spoken young girl married to an incredibly wealthy CEO. She’s accompanied him to New York City on business and is constantly left alone. She’s utterly miserable and pleads for his companionship, all the while being kept from the fact that her husband is a cheating louse. She’s suffering from loneliness, imagining herself in an empty field of white snow in the dead of night, completely by herself and staring up at the empty night sky above. The night sky in all its glory, produces a terrifying and paralyzing sound to her – the sound of The Void. The Universe.

At night, she decides to go outside and drown herself in a lake in Central Park. She climbs onto a small bridge when suddenly a passerby greets her with excitement as if he knows her. She informs him that this is a case of mistaken identity but he insists that she’s Christina from high school and rambles on about old times before Kotone can get a word out. He says she has to say hi to Louie and the gang and won’t take no for an answer. Kotone shoves him away and says to leave her alone, but the stranger sweeps her legs out from under her, catches her in mid-air and swiftly carries her off fireman style saying that Louie is at a café down the street and will be blown away to see her.

The stranger bursts into the café and tells the manager “Louie” that he’s found Christina from high school. The manager shakes his head and says to the stranger, “Jun, what the hell are you doing?” Jun asks if he remembers Christina from high school science class. The manager, Steven, asks why he’s being called “lLouie”. Jun puts down Kotone and plays dumb. “Wait – you’re Steven, the manager of this café?” Kotone bites Jun and away from him, then shouts that she’s not this Christina person. Jun acts confused, “Well if you’re not Christina, then who are you?” She says she’s Kotone Kadoya. Jun smiles, grabs two cups of hot cocoa that Steven just prepared, and has a seat with his feat up on the table. “Well then, Kotone Kadoya – it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Jun and this is Steve. Would you like some hot cocoa? It’s freshly made.”

Steve tosses the keys to Jun and turns the store sign to “Closed”. Kotone angrily stares at Jun and realizes that he was lying the entire time. Jun nervously laughs and says he had to think of something quick and apologizes. Kotone yells that it’s polite to let someone kill themselves in peace. Jun agrees, then asks why she’d want to do that in the first place. She says she has no obligation to tell a complete stranger, then asks to go home. Jun says sure, but under two conditions – one is that she must finish all the hot cocoa Steve made, and two is that she must allow him to walk her back home. She objects, but Jun reminds her that he has the keys to the cafe and they’re locked inside at the moment. Kotone then angrily sips her cocoa. Jun sips his with a warm smile.

ACT TWO
They leave the café as Jun locks the front door as Kotone tries hailing a cab. Jun says that part of the deal is that he’d walk her home. A cab stops and asks “Where to?” but before she can respond, Jun says hello to the driver, a friend of his – then tells him to go on since they’ll be walking, and to tell all dispatch to not pick them up. The driver takes off. Kotone wonders who Jun really is as he walks off in front of her asking if they’re going the right way.

As they walk home, they pass by an open area – a field of bare trees and clean white snow. She stops in her tracks, staring up at the sky. He looks behind and notices that she’s stopped walking with him. He walks over to her and thinks she’s admiring the field and night sky, saying, “A clean sheet of snow. Not a footprint in sight. Man, the kids will be stomping all over this tomorrow-“ Kotone interrupts. “Can you get me away from here?” Jun looks slightly puzzled and sees that her hands are shaking. He courts her as they continue walking.

At the hotel, Jun drops off Kotone. Before she can go inside, Jun tells her that even if she jumped, she wouldn’t have gone through since it’s solid ice in the winter. Kotone says it doesn’t matter, “she’ll find some other way”. Jun says that he supposes he can’t stop her, but he can’t imagine what she’s hoping to get out of it. She says he could never understand how lonely she feels. He says that she’s pretty naïve if she thinks that nobody else is capable of feeling so lonely. And also, “Loneliness has a cure – you just haven’t figured it out yet. But one thing is for sure – the only thing worse than living alone is dying alone.” He says it was nice, to have met her, and walks away – but not before getting greeted by the doorman, who Jun asks how the kids are doing. Doorman says they’re fine and waves goodbye. Kotone looks on, puzzled as the doorman walks back in saying, “That Mr. Takeda is a swell guy, huh? Have yourself a good night, Madam Kadoya!” She confusedly walks over to the elevators.

The next day, Kotone is in a limousine getting driven around in circles throughout Manhattan by her driver. He informs her that it’s been an hour and whether she’d like to continue riding around town. She checks her watch and says that he (husband) will be meeting her for lunch in another hour or so, then asks him to continue for just one more hour. He agrees politely.

While driving around, she sees a strange man in 50’s Elvis style dancing on the corner of Central Park. She tells the driver to pull over. She gets out of the car and curiously walks over to the crowd that’s gathered and sees a Japanese Elvis impersonator dancing to some Elvis tunes for money. A few children up front particularly enjoy the show. She smiles a bit as the kids dance too. The music stops and everyone leaves. Elvis has a seat, takes off his glasses and wig. Kotone’s mouth drops as he and her lock eyes – it’s Jun. He nervously smiles.

[Later] Kotone stands outside a public toilet impatiently. Jun comes out in his normal clothes and apologizes for the wait. Kotone says, “What did you mean with what you said yesterday?” Jun looks confused. “When you said that loneliness has… a cure. What did you mean?” Jun replies, “Hmm… I honestly can’t remember. Did I really say that?” Kotone doesn’t like that answer very much.

As they walk through Manhattan, she berates him about forgetting their conversation and asks if he seriously forgot it. From this point on in the story, Jun finds a way to make excuses to take Kotone to small places around town that force her to be alone for brief moments. She starts out being creeped out when she’s alone in these places, but Jun doesn’t probe into why. He just moves onto the next spot he randomly wants to show her, hiding behind the excuse that it’s her first time in NYC and he wants to show her the town. But each place he takes her to is more isolated and empty/bigger – he’s using it to work against her monophobia without her knowing, helping her see something beautiful about the experience or location.

The sun sets and night approaches. He takes her to a part of Grand Central Station that’s closed off for construction. They sneak inside and have a true heart-to-heart – she opens up about why she tried to kill herself when they met and how her marriage is super lonely. In return, he finally opens up and tells her the truth about his backstory, revealing that he used to be an Elvis impersonator for a living until one day he “came out” to his family back and Japan and they disowned him. He left there and came to the U.S, completely alone and homeless. But over time he made some friends and found a way to survive, thanks to the kindness of his friends and the fact that he realized the key to curing loneliness is to learn how to embrace it and be okay with being alone. And that he survived by turning loneliness into solitude. Loneliness is the absence of all others. Solitude is a rare moment to appreciate being by yourself and enjoy the company of yourself. He goes on to say that’s how he realized he was never really “alone” because at the minimum, he always was with himself. “And at the risk of sounding conceited, I realized… I’m a pretty fun guy to be around!” he says as he laughs about it.

After saying his part, he says he has to take a phone call and will be right back. Kotone sits alone and processes what he said, and that maybe she’s never been alone after all, if that’s the case. Maybe she can find a way to turn the sorrow of her loneliness into a joy for her solitude. Meanwhile, Jun makes a phone call to someone and asks if everything is ready to go. He confirms and gives his thanks.

By now, Kotone starts looking for Jun but isn’t afraid to walk around by herself like she usually would be. Suddenly he pops up and scares the shit out of her. He slaps him and says WTF. He asks if she’s scared. She says of course she was – he left her in the middle of an abandoned train station. He interrupts and reiterates – “That’s not what I meant. Are you still afraid of… being alone?” She slowly realizes that he was “training” her the whole time. She gets upset and storms out.

ACT THREE

Jun tries to stay with an angrily-power-walking Kotone as he apologizes, saying that he just wanted to help. She says he hasn’t (denial) and that what he did was cruel and manipulative and that she doesn’t want to see him anymore. They both stop walking and just and stand in silence. He says in spite of everything, it’s been great knowing her. He asks her for one last favor, promising that he’ll stay out of her hair forever if she accepts.

She has her cover her eyes and walks her over to the vast empty snow field she passed earlier. Steven from the café sneaks over with hot cocoa and a wooden chair. Jun tells her to count to 20 and then open her eyes. She does, and when she opens her eyes and turns around, he’s gone - nothing is left but the chair with warm hot cocoa on it. She quickly realizes where she is, and gets afraid for a brief second but then comes to – she sees that she doesn’t feel anxious anymore about being alone. It’s beautiful, in fact. She can hear the tree branches blowing, the wind howling, and the open sky – which no longer has the daunting, overbearing sound it once did. The noise of Manhattan faintly remains behind her, but where she currently stands is in a place of pure silence, bliss and finally, solitude. And for the first time, she enjoys it. She sits down in the chair and sees a folded piece of paper under the cocoa cup.

It reads: “For You and Yourself”. She smiles and narrates, “It was in that moment that I finally realized why everyone loved him. He came here not knowing anyone but now, he’s not alone. He never will be… and neither will I.”

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++ CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS ++

Kotone Kadoya (Age 28) - Main Character

Goal: to not feel lonely
Need: to learn how to embrace loneliness as solitude
Flaw: Monophobic. Resistant to outside help/stubborn.
Arc: from being afraid of loneliness to embracing it as solitude
Description: Kotone is a slightly closed-off, monophobic rich girl that’s afraid of being alone. She has a wealthy, cheating CEO husband who travels a lot and never spends time with her.

Jun Takeda (Age 32) - Supporting Character
Goal: to help Kotone be happy somehow
Motive: can’t bear to see someone else going through the loneliness he went through
Flaw: Manipulative and deceiving methods
Description: Crafty, witty and good-natured, but has a strange and funny way he goes about showing it. He helps without saying that he’s trying to help – he’s not obvious about it. He’s a trickster the whole time. He enjoys pranks and being goofy. He’s a very handsome man who can be smooth and cool with everything he says and does, except when he’s caught off-guard. He’s one of those people that can befriend everyone he meets. He’s gay, and wanted to hide the fact that he’s a street performer.
Backstory is that he lived in Japan and worked a boring job, had a boring life and always felt alone. He realized he was gay and his life turned upside down. He came out to NYC as a safe-haven with nothing and found freedom through turning loneliness into solitude, made friends and used loneliness to his advantage. He’s poor and practically homeless, but it beats being repressed and feeling hopelessly alone.

Steve Moss (Age 41) – Side Character
Manager at the café Jun works at part-time. He was one of the first friends Jun met when he arrived from Japan. They hit it off well and Steve helped Jun get on his feet. They’ve been friends for a few years now and are very close. Steve has gotten used to Jun’s shenanigans by now and knows that he’s a good guy no matter what Jun tries to portray otherwise. Steve has complete trust in Jun and his wacky ways. Both Jun and Steve tend to “take in strays” every once in a while.

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