a story of Discworld
(the unauthorized adaptation)
Wow! So you made a kind of movie of my book without asking me and now
some damn university thinks they own all the rights to it? Really?
Sounds like a great day in court!
It sounds like fun, but even so, I don't want to see it. You'll
probably look back on it in years to come and wish you hadn't shown me.
Let it remains to glitter unseen.
- Terry Pratchett
An animated film with the voices of:
John McCulloch as Mort
Garrett Gilchrist as Death
Jamie Odum as Ysabell
Cori Haisler as Princess Keli/Kitten
Harry Pottash as Old King/Old Priest
Daniel Arbuckle as Mort's father Lezek and Alberto Malich
Steve Martin as Bartender Steve
Art Balteria as Harga (scene never finished)
26 min., 2001. Adapted, animated and edited by Garrett Gilchrist.
From the novel "Mort" by Terry Pratchett.
Watch it at Youtube
Garrett had shot one student film with dialogue in it (Stripped Away), and for his fifth and final student film, Garrett would have to go back to telling a story without dialogue. That was the plan, anyway. He wrote something called "Of Sound Mind" about a sound technician on a Hollywood film that is having so many problems the technician begins to lose his mind. Well, the script sucked and the lead actor didn't show up, and it looked like Garrett wouldn't be able to make anything at all before the deadline hit.
Now down in Troy Hall 105, Harry Pottash's dorm room where a lot of friends hung out and Garrett had gotten the ideas and cast for all his student films, Discworld had happened. Discworld, the popular series of humorous fantasy books by British author Terry Pratchett. The apartment was filled with these books. Discworld RPGs were being run. Which is why, very late at night just days before his assignment would be due, Garrett decided to adapt a favorite Discworld book of his, "Mort."
He didn't worry about copyright. As USC would own the copyright to the film anyway, its student filmmakers were urged to use any copyrighted materials they liked -- a talented classmate was even working on an excellent adaptation of "The Catcher in the Rye." As for "Mort," the script was written hastily. It was VERY true to the original novel, and nearly as long ... even with major cuts, when performed, it would run over 35 minutes. The film, like all Garrett's student films, was supposed to be about 10 minutes long (Garrett had run over that quite a bit on both his two previous works, but not by that much). There was no time to think, no time to rewrite and cut the script down. (Since the film was animated, it would not feature live actors speaking dialogue, so dialogue would be allowed.) A few more cuts were made, and the voices were recorded exactly as scripted, in a marathon evening session that lasted all night up to 7 in the morning. Luckily, the cast was up to it, and John McCulloch made a perfect Mort. Many many DV tapes were run through, and sadly as the cast ran out of tape, the raw footage from some earlier student films was taped over (though not Stripped Away). Garrett recorded his own voice work as Death last, trying hard to achieve an appropriately gravelly tone, very critical of his own performance. He was very tired, and wore his throat out quick. An echo would later be added to the voice in post-production, as stipulated in the original Discworld novels [where DEATH SPEAKS IN ALL CAPITALS]. After all that, Death remains one of Garrett's favorite characters he's ever played.
Still, there was no time left for Garrett to shoot all the animation he wanted to create. He was, however, able to animate a 5-minute demo scene (the assassination of the King of Sto Lat) using a borrowed camera. This scene introduced Mort and Death (it is the opening scene of the film), and screened in class as Garrett's 5th student film. The class loved it, and so Garrett was able, in the remaining few weeks of class before summer, try to put visuals to all the audio he had. As Garrett worked, "Mort" got longer and longer, more and more epic. He kept adding scenes. Well, school ended, and Garrett never did finish all of "Mort" that he wanted to. But he finished a lot of it. Mort was actually released unfinished, but the next semester Garrett returned to it, slapped on an ending and called it finished. This ending scene was created entirely on the computer - no actual shooting was done for it. Voice tracks remain for many scenes that were never animated.
Note: USC owns all the student films, so they are not distributed to the public, shown or sold. Nor do any of these pages contain any actual images from the movies or their production (all the artwork on this page is taken from my collection of art I did for the film - photos taken just for this page, not from the movie).
There is no music in the film. Garrett considered using Greg Nicolett's score from "Excaliburger" and actually tested out one scene this way, but decided against it, as it would slow down the already intensely-complicated editing process.
There is an edit on practically every other frame of the film. Footage was reedited so that the lips would match the dialogue. Some scenes, like the garden scene with Mort and Ysabell, were edited from very little footage (as the sun was going down). Other scenes, like Death in the bar, were actually edited down, as Garrett overshot. Garrett says the scene with Death and Albert looking over the books was created with "no shot footage at all, just special effects." Each character's dialogue was recorded separately, and edited together later.
Although not entered or shown in the fest itself (because it's owned, like all the student flicks, by USC), Mort nevertheless scored an honorary nomination for Best Sound at the 2001 Rewind Video Awards in Rapid City, SD. Odd as all the sound was recorded with the camera mic. Hehheh.
The bartender character is drawn to resemble Steve Martin, who played him. Art Balteria's character "Harga" was drawn to match him as well, but the Harga scene was never shot or edited into the film.
"Real world" backgrounds and clay bodies were used to speed up production time, and give the movie a gritty, organic look.
The cheap clay used to make characters' bodies hardened after the first day, so their bodies don't move much in later scenes. New arms were created each day of shooting to give expression.
While designing the characters, Garrett looked at Paul Kidby's Discworld art, but since he doesn't draw like Paul Kidby, he eventually just said "screw it" and drew it all his own way.
"I was only able to see an unfinished copy of this movie, but what I saw was complete enough to review. The style of animation utilized in this movie will impress some and make others laugh. I have seen both reactions with MORT.
In "Mort", director Garrett Gilchrist uses paper cutouts for his animations--sometimes full paper setups and sometimes the paper heads sit on oddly shaped clay bodies. Some computer animation is used. Sometimes there are backdrops and other times there are real life backgrounds (like sidewalks, flower beds, etc.).
This movie is great. I've watched it at least seven times, and I still haven't tired of it.
Like with the other movies I've seen where Garrett uses animation, the people he chooses as voice over artists are excellent. All of them have great voices. Garrett does the best in his role as Death. The character of Death is drawn wonderfully, and he gets into some hilarious situations. Ever wondered what a skeleton would look like drunk? Well, you'll find out with this movie in one of the funniest scenes I have ever witnessed in my amateur movie-watching "career".
If you ever have the opportunity to see MORT, take it. Take it right away."
- John Simpson, The Amateur Movie Database
Watch it at Youtube
Back to the Shorts