Directed by: Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj
Written by: Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Mark C. Harris
Genre: Rites of Passage
Can a 6-minute animated short convey all elements of a Rites of Passage story? The award-winning Borrowed Time does so, clearly incorporating the 3 elements of this genre — life problem, wrong way, and acceptance — as the protagonist passes through Blake Snyder’s Transformation Machine.
Opening Image: A river runs through a deep canyon, blanketed in a cloudy gray sky.
Set-Up: A man wearing a sheriff’s badge stands near the precipice, forlorn. From the look on his face, it is clear that there are things that need fixing in his life, but he knows that some of them cannot be undone.
Theme Stated: The theme is not overtly stated, but it is clear from the subtext that time is a focal point, and we must decide how to live with events from the past.
Catalyst: The sheriff’s memories are shown in a flashback. As a younger man, he rides with his father, the former sheriff.
B Story: The relationship between father and son forms the B Story.
Debate: The young man hangs his head, possibly unsure of his role in life. But when his father hands the boy his timepiece, its bright metal reflecting in his eyes, it’s a symbolic passing of the torch. As the father places his hat on the young man’s head, it’s clear that this event in the past has had a profound impact on the future. In the present, the man takes tentative steps forward through the debris of a past accident, a life problem that he is recalling. Will he be able to face what had happened?
Break into Two: With a deep breath, he takes a determined step forward. He is about to face his past in the wrong way.
Fun and Games: A flashback shows the father and son being shot at by outlaws. The young man takes the reins of the horses, his father’s words clear: “You can do this,” at the same time a moment of encouragement and a nod to his future. The bright and sunny flashback, complete with the thrill and danger of the chase, juxtaposes with the man walking toward the edge of the cliff in the dark present day. But as the boy falls off and loses control of the wagon, disaster ensues, and the wagon crashes.
Midpoint: As the dust settles, the boy finds himself safe, with only a slight scratch on his cheek. But the stakes are raised as he realizes that his father is dangling from the side of the cliff with only moments to spare, time clocks ticking.
Bad Guys Close In: The boy cries out, wondering what to do. As the skies begin to darken, he grasps for his father’s hand but cannot reach. In a moment of desperation, the father gives the boy the handle of his shotgun, and the boy begins to pull his father up. But when the father slips, the boy must use one hand to grab his father’s shirt. His other hand slides down the handle of the shotgun, and his finger accidentally pulls the trigger.
All Is Lost: The barrel of the shotgun, pointing at his father, fires a blast, killing the man. The timepiece flies to the ground, cracked and covered with blood, and stops ticking. Kneeling in shock, the young boy is filled with the realization of what has happened.
Dark Night of the Soul: Back in the present, the sheriff kneels at the same spot. He stands at the edge of the cliff, about to throw himself off, but the sun begins to rise, and the old timepiece glints in the sunlight, hitting him in the eye. The reminder of his father is enough to distract him and cause him to rethink his choice.
Break into Three: He slips and falls, clinging to the edge of the cliff where his father died.
Finale: He glances at the timepiece and summons his strength, pulling himself up. Making his way to the timepiece, he takes it in his hands. Dusting it off, he finds the photo inside of himself and his father, and tears fill his eyes. He sobs, filled with remorse, but digs, deep down as he closes the timepiece, no doubt remembering his father’s words: “You can do this.” With a steely determination, he takes a deep breath, and the timepiece begins ticking to life again.
Final Image: The camera pans to the same scene as the Opening Image. Only this time, the sun is rising in the distance, a sign of brighter days ahead as our hero has found acceptance and has learned to live with his past.