SilmFilm Talk at MidMoot

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Nick!

My 'prepared' remarks looked like this, and I managed to more-or-less say what I intended to, though I did not use the Vairë example and probably could have said more about Tulkas and Nessa. [Brackets are for what got left out]

One of the really cool things about the Silm Film Project is that it gives us the opportunity to get to know characters who are mere names on the page in the source material. Círdan might seem rather elusive in Tolkien's stories, always being just beyond the edge of the action, but we will see him in multiple episodes across the seasons, playing a role in many events of this unfolding story. So, who is he? What is important to him? Is he happy about his role as the gatekeeper of the road to the West, or does he feel abandoned to have to stick around and wait for all the other elves to go first? We are just starting to develop his character in Season 2, and already we're giving him some wisdom and insights that his fellow travellers lack. He has a rather mystical sense of purpose, rooted in dreams from Ulmo that allows him to make some choices that will impact his role for Ages to come. It introduces themes of destiny and free will, and sets him up to be a wise elf who views the bigger picture in later conflicts. This kind of invention allows us to explore the characters and stories in a new way, and is really a lot of fun.​

But if you think Círdan is obscure...we also get to have multiple seasons of Gilraen, mother of Aragorn in the Frame. Season 1 involves a 10-year old Aragorn learning the pre-history creation stories from Elrond in Rivendell as a framing device, and Season 3 will return to this Frame with Aragorn now a teenager as we delve into the rebellion of the Noldor. For Season 1, we portray Gilraen as a grieving widow who is concerned that her son is being raised a bit too elvish. Over the course of the season, Gilraen and Elrond have to learn to work together a bit towards the common goal of raising Estel (young Aragorn). While Tolkien only gave us a glimpse of her character (seriously, she's in like 3 paragraphs), under Corey's direction, we hoped to base her rather strongly on Andreth, the wise woman who debates Finrod in the Athrabeth. That was when we ran into a problem. While it is all well and good to set the tension in the frame between the young Dunedain widow and the wise old elf lord, in practical terms it becomes *very* difficult to portray her in such a way that the audience will be sympathetic to her viewpoint, rather than write her off as a bitter and suspicious helicopter mom, always ungratefully complaining about the efforts of wise Master Elrond to educate her son. And so, in an effort to make her point of view seem valid, we dialed back a lot of the bickering/complaining...which eliminated some of the tension we were aiming for. It turns out that it is tricky to find that balance without falling into cliches, or writing one character as always right all the time!​

We were also challenged to avoid the pitfalls of cliched stereotypes when the Hosts requested a scene in the early days of Arda in which Nessa (the Vala of dance) would be kidnapped by Ungoliant and rescued by Tulkas. The 'damsel in distress' trope shows up in many stories, of course, and there's nothing really wrong with it (depending on how it is handled), but it happens not to be particularly...Tolkien. In Tolkien's stories, he never plays this straight, but always has the rescue orchestrated in some other way. Aredhel arranges her own escape, Lúthien rescues Beren, and Maedhros is saved by his cousin Fingon in much the same way as Sam rescues Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Lord of the Rings. We *never* see a woman rescued from a villain's captivity by the man who loves her in any of Tolkien's stories (do we?) So....why would that happen here, in the archetypal world of the Valar in the earliest days of Middle Earth? What are we 'setting up' by telling that story? That was our challenge. We decided to meet it head on by focusing on Nessa's role and her unwavering trust (estel) in the will of Iluvatar. [That conviction happens to be what gets Tulkas' attention, so he does arrive as more-or-less an answer to prayer. But we subverted his strength by making him get hopelessly lost in the darkness and webs, and required them to work together to escape. In the end, yes, it is a stereotypical rescue on the surface, but we see that Tulkas views it as he almost missed out on the opportunity to come to Middle Earth, and Nessa saved him from that. Rather than setting up their wedding as a 'reward' for him rescuing her, it is more like a reunion of old friends who thought they would never see each other again.] Even though this sequence was an addition to the story, it did seem to fit with some of the important themes we were tying to develop in Season 1 and therefore 'fit' into the broader world we are creating.​

One of the challenges of this project is keeping track of the decisions that are made, and being flexible enough to adapt everyone's story ideas to fit. The Silm Film Team doesn't always make decisions - sometimes they postpone and kick the can until later. And occasionally earlier ideas are changed as the story moves further along and earlier ideas aren't workable. But once the decisions are made, we on the Script Discussion Team do try our best to stick to the timeline and ideas they decided on...unless we really don't like them. Then we rebel and do our own thing. (Save the Lamps!) But for the most part, we work within the structure that they've set, and try to make the story fit not only the source material provided by Tolkien, but also the Silm Film sessions. As the project goes on, avoiding contradicting ourselves is going to get harder and harder. Seemingly innocuous details can catch up with you.​

[For instance, when the elven Ambassadors Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë visit Valinor, we wanted to have Vairë interact with Finwë. The Hosts decided early on that Vairë would always remain silent and never speak, just weave images on her loom. So, naturally, she would make a tapestry for Finwë. So far so good. BUT, would her giving Finwë a tapestry depicting him and Míriel in Valinor impact his decision to bring the Noldor to Valinor? Or his decision to marry Míriel? The question of fate and whether or not the Valar would take a 'non-interference' role immediately arose. Keeping Vairë's action here consistent with the Valar's actions in later events seemed important. Another (fairly minor detail) was setting. Would the meeting of Finwë and Vairë take place in her workroom? And is that....in Mandos? Wait....can living elves enter the Halls of Mandos? Is there, like an ante-chamber where the living can go, but further in a 'none shall pass' doorway? We moved the meeting to Lorien, as that avoided the question of whether or not Finwë would be able to visit Míriel after her death - the answer should be 'no.' ]​
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
That's pretty much how we saw our mission in this. I figure the more folks involved (to a point), the more we can do without taxing our meager time and resources. I would love to see more artists and musicians attracted to the project, especially. Bre, Phillip and several others have done a fantastic job, but I do know that what they've taken on is a lot more labor intensive than just story blocking.
 

Phillip Menzies

Moderator
Staff member
Fantastic Nick and Marie. You both did well. I can't believe there are still people in the Mythgard community who don't know what SilmFilm is. We should have loads of people lining up to be involved now (feeling estelful)
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Fantastic Nick and Marie. You both did well. I can't believe there are still people in the Mythgard community who don't know what SilmFilm is. We should have loads of people lining up to be involved now (feeling estelful)
Actually, when Marie posted the above video above on the Mythgard facebook page (and somewhere else), we got a record number of views for the next hour, so ... maybe.
 

ouzaru

Well-Known Member
Awesome job, you two, I'll listen to it on my ride home (if I can get decent enough reception).

Edit: I gave it a listen, and I think you both did really, really well. You gave some awesome back ground, and then got specific about some of what we tried to do in Season one.

Can I ask, what were the parameters of what you guys were asked to do and say? I'd really love to maybe go every year (or was it every 3 years? I forget the schedule for MidMoot) and have a well-defined agenda, maybe get into the specifics about what we tried to do with maybe one very well known character, or how we adapted a character from whole cloth from nothing more than a name, or highlight some of the original characters we've developed to service the adaptation.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
We were told to prepare 15 minutes of material, to be followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. This is an academic conference, so maybe half the presentations were people reading a paper. Ours was, naturally, a bit different, both in scope and purpose. We basically just wanted to advertise the SilmFilm project and then to try to showcase some of the creative stuff going on as part of it and invite people to participate. The content was selected by Nick and I - we agreed that he would give the overview, and I would speak about some of the specifics of character development (since we were ostensibly talking about script writing). We each prepared ~ 7 min. of content.

I should point out that not only was Corey Olsen there, but Verlyn Flieger was in the room, and had just given a presentation on how one goes about editing Tolkien's work (hint - you keep the words he wrote, not the words you wish he would have written). So, ummmmm, yeah.....

MidMoot has been a yearly occurrence, but the next event will be Mythmoot in June. We can plan to have a follow-up presentation there. Karita has a good idea for getting input from those who can't be there for that one, though, so I'll let her spearhead that idea.
 
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ouzaru

Well-Known Member
Exciting stuff! I would have loved to hear what Professor Flieger had to say after the fact. Hope you guys had a real blast, maybe we should get together and discuss with Professor Olsen about developing beyond just pitching the project to interested parties, I feel like there's some fun, good stuff in really analyzing our process and getting specific about contrasting the Silmfilm versions of the characters with the Published Silmarillion.
 
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Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Indeed. We should definitely take more time in discussing preparations. I think that perhaps next time we go for more than one talk, so we have more time to discuss details like, how this thing is structured.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Presumably Corey Olsen will want to do something with the SilmFilm Project for Mythmoot; he introduced the idea at the previous Mythmoot, so an update is almost expected. So, yeah, maybe a panel discussion all about SilmFilm, so we get 3 timeslots back-to-back or something. It would give an opportunity to explain the point of the project, showcase the artistic contributions, and also get into 'case study' adaptation questions.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
That's possible. Definitely something that we should address with him as Mythmoot approaches. Bear in mind that despite the rather awkward question after our talk, and the afore-mentioned blog post, there was a huge increase in interest in what we've been doing. That may not be evident without having the numbers in front of you, but I'd be willing to bet that the forums had a sharp increase in traffic as well. If we are a bit more organized in June... Maybe even a live session _during_ the conference (in the evening after talks, obviously; I don't want to take 2 hours away from that.)

To me, it all attracts additional contributors to the project. Artists and composers are in particular short supply considering how much work could be done. Bre and Phillip in particular have done a lot, but they are only one person each compared to the many who are interested particularly in scripting, or most especially, casting.
 

ouzaru

Well-Known Member
My head is basically in the same spot, Nick, and I'm really interested in doing more around the project beyond just doing the work on it. Maybe we can talk to the professor before or after the live session at the end of the month and see what he says.
 
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