The Shape of Life / by Sarah Kakusho

Recently, my dreams have given me rides back to my past. Small moments of my childhood highlighted in momentary flashes. This is the inevitability of the past. The unchangeable thing that shapes who we are right here, right now. It will never go away and will always be a part of you. As I started outlining character analyses for Project ON.FA.EL, I found myself staring deeper and deeper into the vacuous white space of Word. How do characters created from scratch have a past? Thinking back to my past musings on Beethoven and Miyazaki, what makes their lives so great to us is the fact that we’ve taken the time to delve into their experiences.

What makes life? As I took the time to really think about my characters, I imagined different scenarios and how these characters would react to them. As one example, if the protagonist were followed by a gang of people, how would she talk to them? How would she act around them? What would be her first move? I slowly began to see that this was a crucial process in storytelling. How a person reacts to a situation can already say a lot about a character and it definitely goes without saying that actions leave impressions.

Watching James Cameron’s making of Avatar, I was inspired by the dedication he and his crew put into creating the Na’vi. A linguist was on the project, just to create the entire language of the Na’vi, even though it was only for a 3-hour long movie. Cameron wanted the audience to believe the Na’vi are real, that Pandora is real, and one way to accomplish that was establishing everything from scratch.

While I may not be creating an entire race of people from nothing, I am still creating people from fiction, and fiction from imagination. How do I shape these characters’ lives without letting them fall trapped in a cliche. How do I make these people interesting and engaging when I myself lack this personally (lol). How do I make them human enough for us to believe, but extraordinary to inspire?

Since starting this project, I found myself knowing less and less about filmmaking. My mind is still filled with many worries and my confidence level wavers many times throughout the late hours I’m working on this. But, the show must go on. Through this process, the struggles of creating something, it’s becoming more eye-opening as I continue reflecting upon what needs to be done to let this project soar.


“If you wait until the right time to have a child you’ll die childless, and I think film making is very much the same thing. You just have to take the plunge and just start shooting something even if it’s bad.” —James Cameron