The Ant and the Grasshopper

a modern twist in a classic fable

 
 

The Ant and the Grasshopper

adapted from The Ant and the Grasshopper by Aesop

Crew: Casey, Elaine, Hui Shan, Xin Hong
 
 

artistic statement

The classic tale of The Ant and the Grasshopper from Aesop’s fables is still relevant in our lives even up until today. Everyday we can see diligent ants who worked without any breaks in preparation for the difficulties to come, and lazy grasshoppers who dilly-dallied until the last minute before panicking and trying to finish up what was needed to be done.
 
In our short film, we have reinterpreted this fable into something all of us, as art students, could relate to: catching up on deadlines. But no, of course we did not only retell the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper in modern times – in fact, we added our own twist in the story. Call it a sequel to the original story, if you want to. The world, after all, is too cruel and unfair. Just because you spent so much more time preparing for the winter than any of the others did, didn’t mean you would be enjoying watching the cold white blankets from your window. This is what we are trying to convey in our version.
 

story

Original story adapted from here.
While the grasshopper spent the summer singing and dancing, the ant worked to store up food for winter. When winter arrived, the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger and begged the ant for food. However, the ant rebuked its idleness and told it to dance the winter away.
 
A modern take.
By using deadline as a symbol to represent the winter, Xin Hong (ant) works all day long on her assignments even way before the deadline approaches, while Elaine (grasshopper) enjoys her days without paying any heed to her assignments. When deadline arrives, Elaine finds herself in deep trouble with the enormous amount of unfinished work. Elaine asks Xin Hong for help, but Xin Hong rebukes her idleness and tells her to dance the deadline away.
 
But here’s the twist.
Elaine does not lose hope and manages to complete her assignments before the deadline. In the end of it all, the teacher prefers the playfulness in Elaine’s work as compared to the rigidity in Xin Hong’s work.
 
The moral of the original story is

“It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.”

However, in our twist, our moral is similar to a well-known saying,

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

…hence the words Don’t be Jack at the end of our short film. Our take on the story shows that the world is simply unfair. You only live for so long after all, so it is better to play as hard as you work.
 

process

Storyboard

Storyboard 2 pg 1-minStoryboard 2 pg 2-min
Storyboard 2 pg 3-minStoryboard 2 pg 4-min

 
Inspiration
After drawing out the storyboard, we found that our film resembled much like comical Japanese and Taiwanese dramas. In those dramas, they used a lot of cuts and less panning, and made use of comical background music and sound effect. The drama which we took a lot of our references from is a Japanese drama called Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen Paradise which inspired our film to be as lighthearted and comical as this (as well as some serious, sad scenes).

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As you can see, Japanese movies often use close-up shots of characters’ faces to capture their facial expressions and create a comical atmosphere to them. And, if you would watch some of the episodes, you can see that at times they would fast forward scenes and add quirky background music to make the scenes more hilarious.
 
Challenges during filming
We planned our shooting location beforehand, noting down every detail such as the time at which we were going to shoot, as well as the props needed for each particular location. However even with enough preparation, after our first attempt at filming most of the scenes, we literally had to retake every scene for the second time as we found that the angles we worked from didn’t fit the overall mood we were trying to convey.

These set of pictures show the initial shots we took, and a second version.



We decided to take a shot of the whole room, to show the comparison between the messy space of Elaine (grasshopper) and the organized side of Xin Hong (ant). The lighting in our second take came out much better, which helped in the lighthearted atmosphere we were going for. Aside from that, we made use of the two cameras we had to take some of the scenes from different angles, allowing us to have more perspective. We also discarded the idea of panning the camera and instead made use of cuts, which are more common in our reference Japanese drama.

And of course, the setting of the locations we chose weren’t exactly the same as what we imagined when drawing out our storyboard, so there were bound to be minor (and some major) changes.
 
Challenges during editing
After long hours spent on shooting the raw footages, we didn’t think that the editing would require even more time. As our story does not have a lot of action involved and we discarded the idea of panning, we needed to cut the clips frequently and avoid having one video clip play for too long. If you notice, our clips would rarely last for more than 3 seconds before it would cut to another scene or a different perspective. We also made use of fast forwarding for the running scene to add more action and comedy into those scenes.

The second challenge we faced was the music and sound effects. There were some music that just didn’t fit the atmosphere we were looking for – some were too mellow, some too happy. The most difficult one of all was the last scene where Elaine consoles the devastated Xin Hong. The scene was not awfully sad, but it wasn’t particularly happy either. That made things harder as there weren’t a lot of music that fit into the category of sad-but-not-sad. We changed each of the music at least twice before we were satisfied with the outcome. The sound effects were just as difficult as background music. While some of them worked nicely and added a dramatic effect to the scenes, others did not fit in with the whole scene so we had to discard a few of them and just had to make do with pure silence and dialogue.

And lastly, the most annoying difficulty during editing was the dialogue themselves. The quality of the sound we got from the cameras weren’t the best, leaving a static noise behind every scene we took. Some of them were fine and dandy as we covered them with background music, but our film had a lot of dialogues so we could not mute those ones. I had to remove the static with Audacity. Although it did help subtly, there was no denying that the quality was still not the best. We thought we would not have enough time to record and voice-over the dialogues, so we ended up deciding to add subtitles instead.

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This was what it looked like in the end, with all the music, sound effects, and subtitles we had to insert.
 
 

reflections

As none of our group members were that experienced with film-making, this was quite a challenge for us. But at the end of the day, we all learned a thing or two with the roles we took in this project. Xin Hong and Elaine both experienced the difficult art of acting and getting into character; Hui Shan was able to explore more with perspective and angle in film-making; and as for me, it was a tiring but fun process for me to learn more about editing – especially since this is my first time editing such a huge project (yes, 4 minutes is considered long okay).

Overall, we all learned to appreciate the works behind films. What we usually see is the outcome, but now that we had the experience of film-making, we can recognize how much grueling hours and effort are put into making them. I was also thrilled to see my classmates enjoying the short film we made! They showed more reactions than I could ever expect, and it’s always nice to know that our work put a smile on their faces πŸ˜€

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