A More Common Flower at Solstice

Always uplifting. Irene Bernard’s “This Little Plot.”

This Little Plot

Somehow it’s already the Summer Solstice (in the northern hemisphere), when traditions prompt us to celebrate midsummer‘s fertility with festivals and bonfires. Earth’s rotational axis on this day tilts at its greatest incline toward the star that it orbits – our sun. It is the year’s longest day and shortest night.

Usually, fall and winter are where my sympathies lie: the cool, dark, and damp. But summer enchants me. The sheer gorgeousness of nature in its fecundity. The nonchalance of birds daily chasing down bugs and beetles. And such birds! Towhees, chickadees, white-crowned sparrows; the dance of cedar waxwings as they wait and swoop in turn down to the birdbath, wings fluttering amidst countless burgeoning blossoms. Every flower has beauty, but often I forget the startling forms of the more humble blooms sprouting from plants that feed us, like onions and artichokes. In the process of growing, these remarkable…

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DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy: Outline of Act One

Act One

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 2 © 2018The story begins when Dr. Jane, during her routine checkup on The Reenactor, is alarmed by the readings on the medical monitor. She follows him from section to section of the Space Bubble, as he wanders in a zombie-like state reciting monologues from Shakespearean tragedies (Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear). The Reenactor eventually disappears, merging through the Plasma covering an entryway at the of a hall. The doctor studies the readings for a moment, shakes her head and puts her instruments, gloves, mask and head covering into her pockets. She removes her jacket and begins to merge into Dermalian form. She comingles with the Plasma as the scene ends.

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 4 © 2018In the meantime, Captain Barack is at the helm reporting via IntraSpacial (the Dermalian communication system) to his superior at Dermalia Prime High Command, Sub-Commander Jacqueline Pearce who is Director of the Earth Archaeological Project. As he closes his communication, Dr. Jane enters the cockpit to make her routine checkups on Captain Barack and Plasma in the cockpit. Dr. Jane reports to Captain Barack that The Reenactor’s endless wandering is stressing the Plasma throughout the Space Bubble and possibly creating a life-threatening situation.

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 1 © 2018Captain Barack is in his ready room watching his IntraSpace screen. Sub-Commander Pearce appears on the screen.


It’s the end of a staff meeting with Captain George Méliés and his reports Medical Officer Dr. Jules Verne and Lieutenant Blondie. Dr. Verne is yelling incoherently and she is so out of control that she is phasing wildly from Human to Dermalian form. Captain Méliés is very startled and tries to calm her, saying, “You’ll rupture yourself!” Dr. Verne yells: “I already am ruptured – Earth has ruptured me. Noone has ever been as ever been as glad as I am that this is almost over.” Lieutenant Blondie quips: “That’s a lot of drama for a Librarian – are you sure you’re pure and not half-Creative.” Dr. Verne screams and runs out of the room. Captain Méliés admonishes Lieutenant Blondie: “Not empathetic, not at all.”


DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy – PROTOTYPE 1: Dermalian Base Command from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

THE CONCOURSE. In the grand sculpturally designed concourse of High Command, Dermalians are passing through, congregating in impromptu meetings as they encounter each other, and huddling at the windows to enjoy the magnificent view of Prime, the Dermalian capital city.

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 5 © 2018THE OFFICE OF SUB-COMMANDER JACQUELINE PEARCE. Captain Barack is on the screen as he and Sub-Commander Pearce end their meeting. Once the screen clears, the sub-commander sits thinking for a few moments. Then she opens the Empathy Pad of her desk, lays her hands palm down on the pad and closes her eyes. The three-Dermalian committee that governs Dermalian projects appears on the screen. Sub-Commander Pearce requests a face to face meeting, saying there is a matter of extreme urgency regarding The Reenactor.

THE CONCOURSE. Sub-Commmander Pearce makes her way through the Concourse. She seems to know everyone and appears to be quite a wheeler and dealer. She has a friendly manner and even briefly stops at the window to admire the view.

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 9 © 2018THE SOUL. (Backstory: though Dermalian culture is atheistic, true to the Dermalian love of history and culture, the Dermalians value and revere their origins, the symbol of which is the large cave named The Soul, an ancient habitat of early Dermalian ancestors. High Command was constructed over The Soul and The Soul was adapted to become the office of the Committee that governs High Command.) Sub-Commander Pearce enters The Soul, where the Committee is waiting for her. She tells them about the problem that The Reenactor’s roaming is causing on the Space Bubble. They tell her they will need to consult The Reenactor’s Guardian, since freedom of movement was at the heart of the Guardian’s granting permission for The Reenactor to go to Earth.

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 7 © 2018THE GREETING ROOM. The Guardian meets with Sub-Commander Pearce. He proposes a solution based on recent research and discoveries about Human exercise practices.

DERMALIAN by Sylvia Toy - ACT ONE 8 © 2018THE OFFICE OF SUB-COMMANDER JACQUELINE PEARCE. Sub-Commander Pearce is in her office watching her IntraSpace screen. Captain Méliés appears on the screen. The Sub-Commander grants him permission to communicate empathically. She informs him that his team is ordered to extend their time on Earth by eight weeks in order to assist Captain Barack’s team in their transition. She senses alarm in Captain Méliés’ reaction. He explains that Dr. Verne has become increasingly difficult. The Sub-Commander assures him that she will assist him any way she can in mitigating his difficulty.

#Animations #storyboarding #femalefilmmakerfriday #scififri #greenscreen #DERMALIAN #movie #preproduction #sylviatoyindustries

Some thoughts about jurying

I have just had the privilege in the past couple of months of being on a film festival jury. Once the awards are announced (I think next month) I am going to start workshopping a paper about my experience. But I want to share some of the things I learned with my artist network.

I already knew I am a freak about sound. I am not a person who will absolutely not watch your movie if the sound is bad; but I absolutely will write copious notes about what’s wrong with it and how you shot yourself in the foot.

Also – newsflash: wall to wall music in your movie does not make up for underdeveloped backstory, thin subtext or weak dialogue.

Also again: everybody else is using the same sounds that you are and likely for the same reason.

I have a new pet peeve: under-rehearsal of actors. One of the movies I watched had every damn thing going for it and it would/should have been nearly perfect. Attention, people: having actors run their lines with an AD or more likely, a PA, does not constitute rehearsal. They otherwise put so much work into that movie that I still get mad thinking about it.

My epiphanic moment, however, confirmed what artists already guessed was so: getting curated or juried into a show IS a crapshoot but not necessarily for the reasons we might think. What I realized is that as good as a movie might be, as well as it might compare with the other movies in its genre or otherwise, or even as not as well it might compare with the other movies, a movie either makes you care about it or some aspect of it or it doesn’t. Technically a movie might be exceptional and have enough marketability to get distribution. But that does not necessarily make it special or make a juror care about it. That “caring about it” is a very unpredictable, personal factor.

More later.

#filmmaking #filmfestivals #juriedcompetition

A Dermalian Speaks

Each of us often falls back on our “basic training” – math, grammar, exercises we learned in gym class – to help us solve problems. As a sculptor, I studied anatomy and kinesiology; and as an actor, my basic training included a lot of voice training that helped me think about just how a creature, whose anatomy and physiology I based on skates and cephalopods, could vocalize human language.

” … The production of speech is a highly complex motor task that involves approximately 100 orofacial, laryngeal, pharyngeal, and respiratory muscles. Precise and expeditious timing of these muscles is essential for the production of temporally complex speech sounds, which are characterized by transitions as short as 10 ms between frequency bands and an average speaking rate of approximately 15 sounds per second. Speech production requires airflow from the lungs (respiration) to be phonated through the vocal folds of the larynx (phonation) and resonated in the vocal cavities shaped by the jaw, soft palate, lips, tongue and other articulators (articulation). … ” Wikipedia.

Simply stated, speech requires vigorous muscular action and air. As I imagined how a flat, muscular creature could emit sound, I visualized the Dermalian body pulling itself into a shape that 1) could trap air underneath itself and 2) use its muscularity to push the air out, emitting sound and 3) create specific sounds and variety in pitch by controlling the fine movements of individual muscles and muscle groups.