Voicing CSA – Producing a Treatment & Synopsis for an Animated Charity Film
When we were originally approached to make an animated film for the charity Voicing CSA, we were able to sit down and talk with a victim of childhood abuse and to hear him tell his story. Our job now is to tell that story, using the the images and metaphors that he used, to help give that man, and people like him, a voice at last.
We see a scurrying little mouse who found a road and grew as he scurried without noticing he became a lion.
Or he became the boy he should have been whilst he escaped. He is a mouse; getting beaten, scared, snared but as he keeps on running the beatings get less and less and he finds he became a boy in a field calling all the other mice and you see them all scurrying from their hidey holes and finish with a field of children altogether. A reverse of pied piper of Hamlin. The great escape.
There is the mirror too in which the mouse sees his reflection and realises he’s been duped. That’s why he runs
There are many mice – many hear me scream when they realise it’s not a mouse when shards of a broken mirror scatter and the mouse sees his reflection and screams. Others hear the scream and come out of hiding and they too see their reflections. We are all in hidey holes, under a bed, in a wardrobe, a cellar (that kind of thing) . We start to run towards a chink of light. It gets brighter and as we run toward you can see we have rucksacks on our back. The mice change to the children they saw in the reflection as they run to a building named ‘Truth Project’ the backpacks are evolving into the same child that carries them and the running child becomes an adult. They are carrying their inner child the childhood they lost. They are dressed the same as they run into the building and the building morphs into the face of a lion and the doors the mouth. The mouth roars loud.
I love a lot of the ideas in this synopsis, and in working up a treatment for the film, I’ve tried to incorporate them as much as possible, while perhaps simplifying a few of the metaphors and trying to come up with creative solutions to keep the animation production time realistic. Multiple mice transforming in to people as they run in different directions across a wheat field is probably not realistic, but so long as we understand the purpose behind the metaphor, we can find other ways of bringing it to life.
It’s also important that both the abuser and the victim are kept as non-specific as possible, so that as many people as possible are able to see their own stories, or that of their loved ones, in the lives of our characters.
- We start with a mouse, running around a pair of hands. The person whose hands they are is talking about the power they have over the mouse – the mouse can’t escape, is trained to do what the hands want. Is trapped.
- The tone of the narration gets darker and darker, as the mouse is put in its cage. It scurries around, and eventually comes across a mirror/ pool of water, which it looks in
- From the reflection, we realise that the mouse is in fact a small boy – aged about 11.
- No, not a boy – it’s a teenage girl
- Now it’s a baby
- Now a twenty year old boy (etc)
- The voiceover continues its monologue about control. Power.
- But the mouse has realised it’s the victim, and squeaks – feebly
- ‘What was that?’ asks the voice over, mockingly
- The mouse looks cowed, but behind it in the reflection, the other voices start shouting out
- The mouse morphs in to a lion and roars
- The voiceover is finally silent – the victim has the power now. Perhaps handcuffs appear on the hands. Either way, we don’t hear from him again. The cage melts away
- The lion morphs back in to the small boy, the first victim we saw in the reflection. He curls up in a ball and cries – and then he grows older, in to an adult, but the crying child is still there too. Always there.
- When the adult is ready, he picks up the crying child, and walks towards the Truth Project. They go inside. The other victims are waiting for him there.
- The building morphs in to a lion and roars