The Journey of Truesong
(5 min, 2001)



Starring:
Ryan Bourne as Truesong and the Narrator
Brandy Bourdeaux as Daffodil
Carl Andrew Stone as the White Figure
Uche Akotaobi as the Demon Mollo Fang

Garrett Gilchrist as the voice of the narrator
Tim Carras as the voice of Truesong

Amy Melhorn, Jonah Phillips, Astrid Phillips, Brett Koonce and Garrett Gilchrist as the souls
Harry Pottash and Tim Carras as the dueling youths

Writer, director, production designer, sound designer, foley artist - Garrett Gilchrist
Cinematographer, editor, producer - Tim Carras

Hell Crew - Brett Koonce, Phil Broste, Ryan Bourne
Lead foley artist - Tyler Soper
Additional Foley - J.R. Arinaga
The Narrator's home provided by Patricia Hateley




Watch the movie online!

An ambitious 5-minute fantasy piece shot on 16mm black and white film, The Journey of Truesong tells the story of a young man who travels to hell and heaven in search of a way to revive his lost lover. A new tale told in the style of the storytellers of old. Written and directed by Garrett Gilchrist, photographed and edited by Tim Carras (Bonus Light Productions).

For photographs from the shoot, click here.




I had already taken CTPR 310 at USC, and made the film Beautiful Zelda. Although I was proud of that film, in early 2003, I wound up taking that class all over again, and realized I had no interest in making another film like Zelda.

The class requirements were to make a simple five minute silent film on black and white 16mm film. The amount of story you can tell in 5 minutes without dialogue is very minimal, and 310 films tend to be fairly simple.

I had been watching videotapes of one of my favorite TV series, Jim Henson's The Storyteller, a series I'd loved as a kid. (The show, written by Anthona Minghella, who would later win an Oscar for The English Patient, lasted only nine episodes and aired on HBO [and briefly on NBC]. John Hurt narrated the series, which retold old folktales with beautiful visuals and cracklingly well-written scripts.)

I was inspired. I decided to write the opposite of a normal 310 film - an extremely complex fantasy film with dialogue. I wasn't sure if the teaching staff would allow me to make it, but I knew that if I made this film now, I could put all my resources into it and make it well.

My other inspiration with the script was the Greek myth of Orpheus, the tragic hero who ventures into hell to rescue his lost lover, losing her when he disobeys his one instruction - not to look at her until they are back on earth. I had retold this myth in my playwriting class, as part of an assignment on myths, and although I had no interest in telling any story actually resembling the Orpheus myth, a new story was forming in my mind where the hero would journey to Hell and then to Heaven ... and my story would have a happy ending.

Forced to come up with a working title, I blurted out "The Sword of Mollo Fang." Having no swords or characters named Mollo Fang in the story, I tried random combinations of words until the next day I changed the title to "The Voyage of Truesong" ... which changed to "The Journey of Truesong" because a voyage is generally thought of as a trip across water, and there would be no time for an ocean journey in our five minute running time.

I wrote the script in the space of just a few hours and had quite a bit of fun doing it. My hopelessly sentimental side came into play as usual and in the end, love conquers all. The original script was slightly longer than the final film, and featured more (comical) dialogue from the Demon. We hadn't come up with the idea that the Narrator and Truesong were the same character yet. The Narrator also had a cat in this version ... and in one version of the ending, the cat suddenly talks!

In the end, most of the story was inspired by a conversation I had with Tim Carras, my partner on this film, who would do 50% of the work on it as cinematographer, producer and editor. I was describing my poor hero's journey to hell and to heaven. Tim brought up something I hadn't thought about, and hadn't wanted to think about. If our hero winds up in heaven, and his lover is dead, wouldn't his lover be in heaven too? I said, oh god, I don't want to think about that. That's not the story I want to tell ... that would be the "happy ending" of another kind of fantasy story, a sort of Romeo and Juliet ending where both our hero and heroine are dead, but they're together forever in heaven. I thought that sort of ending was stupid, and so did Tim. Because what's so happy about an ending where both our hero and heroine are dead? And an idea suddenly formed. Tim said I should WRITE that, write an anti-Romeo and Juliet ending. Where the hero and heroine wind up back together in Heaven, and the hero realizes this isn't a happy ending at all, because they're both dead ... and he does whatever it takes to get himself thrown out of heaven, and wind up back on earth. The words would eventually come into my mind, that became the signature of the film ... "It takes courage to die, but it takes even more courage to live." That changed the whole story. That became the story. It suddenly became an eccentric little tale about getting OVER grief rather than wallowing in it, about living life rather than living in the past, and about the healing power of the human heart. Which was, for me, much more realistic and better, as a story. Of course, since I'm a hopeless sentimentalist, I put in my happy ending anyway, and let our hero and heroine be reunited again on planet earth ... the happiest ending possible. A cut line in the script explained this by saying, "If demons can know love then the Gods can have a sense of humor."

There's something to that, I think. In most of my movies you can see an obsession with death, life and love - three cosmic forces colliding against each other. This is nowhere more evident than in this film, so in some ways, maybe this is the ultimate Orange Cow short film.

A DVD special edition of this film was later prepared by Tim Carras. It contains a specially remastered 24p version of the film, with two commentary tracks featuring Garrett Gilchrist and Tim Carras, and a 4-minute reel of behind the scenes footage edited by Garrett Gilchrist and entitled "The Journey of Truesong Goes to Hell."

The film is narrated by Garrett Gilchrist doing a bad impression of John Hurt, who narrated the series Jim Henson's The Storyteller. The narrator himself is of course played by Ryan Bourne, who also plays Truesong. Brandy Bourdeaux also appears at the end as an older version of her character. This was the last thing we shot, and we were out film and in a rush, so we weren't able to use age makeup - Brandy simply scrunched her face up and tried to act old. Oddly, it turned out so convincing that we were complimented on the age makeup by many people.



Picture from an unused scene - an early attempt at the romantic happy ending. Crammed in at the end of the shoot day, the sun had nearly gone down when we shot the scene, and the light was insufficient to shoot it. The scene was replaced the next day with Truesong and Daffodil lying down in a bed of grass.

Most of the exteriors were shot at Griffith Park. Tim Carras' knowledge of film and filters helped greatly, most of the exteriors being shot with a red filter. The Heaven and Hell scenes were shot on the Kurosawa stage at the Robert Zemeckis center, USC. The apparently white backdrop was actually a green screen, lit bright to appear white in black and white. Additional exteriors were shot on campus at USC.




Watch the movie online!

An ambitious 5-minute fantasy piece shot on 16mm black and white film, The Journey of Truesong tells the story of a young man who travels to hell and heaven in search of a way to revive his lost lover. A new tale told in the style of the storytellers of old. Written and directed by Garrett Gilchrist, photographed and edited by Tim Carras (Bonus Light Productions).

For photographs from the shoot, click here.





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