In my process, the story and characters developed around each other. A basic storyline came first, a single sentence — a world renowned jewel theif seeks to redeem herself and finally goes after the one that got away. Then questions like, “what’s the time period?” Or “What’s the fashion fad of that time?” help in building the characters. I get a feel for how they would interact with their world.
Developing this story was not unlike other stories I’ve come up with. I often draw my stories from life and this one has an interesting background. I was doing what I do most weekends — numbing my mind with television — when I came across a cool story with an even cooler lead.
This is Doris Payne. She is a real life jewel thief.
Long story short, Payne lived most of her adult life traveling the world, making off with thousands of dollars worth of jewels that she would steal from the most expensive shops only to sell them to pawn shops. She’s also spent a lot of time in jail for her crimes.
But one of the most interesting legends that came from the life of Doris Payne and the tale that inspired my story, was when she had pulled off a heist in Paris. The heat was hot on her trail and followed her to her hotel room, demanding that she answer their questions about a $500,000 diamong that had went missing. By now, authorities weren’t finally catching up to her but even then she managed to keep her cool, even as Parisian police tore through her luggage. Payne claims that they even demanded that she disrobe, so they could check her dress— her well known hiding spot. Payne abided but the jewel was never found.
Payne had cleverly hid the jewel in her mouth. She even describes how it cut her cheeks as the police searched her person. She left Paris, pawned the diamond and it has never been seen again.
That is where I came up with the title of my mock movie and it’s lead— Diamond Mouth.
Of course my story is more fantastical than the real life dramas of Doris Payne, but choosing her as inspiration has really allowed me to explore themes I never had before, one with dealing with an elderly lead. In terms of animation, how do old people walk? How do they talk, how far can they run and jump? What are their interactions with young people, how do they sound. As a younger person it’s simple for me to imagine how someone like me would deal with all of those things.
More on Doris Payne. Totally real, totally BAMF: