Sunday, April 30, 2006

Behind the scenes

Some folks have asked me to post some behind-the-scenes shots from my productions, and every time they do I think to myself, "I've GOT to remember to take some behind-the-scenes shots on the next one!" It's clearly an area I need to be trained into doing more regularly, but I did manage to find a couple, posted here today for your viewing pleasure.

The first two are from FROM BEYOND, and give a pretty good idea of the scale of the models I'm working with.
The next two are from VALLEY OF GWOMBI, Episode 2 and really show what kind of visual trickery is necessary to pass off a 9" deep staging space as a vast, primordial jungle. Marshall Gwombi is almost as tall as the tree that is supposed to be several yards behind him, and you can just barely make out the tiny model of Wes Gwombi clinging to the sheer cliff face in the "distance"...actually just a few inches away.

Remarkably, I don't think any housecats are visible in these pics. Here's a shot of them, too, so they don't feel left out:

Friday, April 28, 2006

For the love of Lovecraft

Over the last few weeks I've had the great fortune to e-connect with a genuinely cool and enormously dedicated fan of H.P. Lovecraft, Craig Mullins. In addition to being a filmmaker himself, Craig is the man behind what has to be, bar none, the most thorough compendium of Lovecraftian cinema anywhere on the web, There you will find news, reviews and articles about all things Lovecraft, though his focus is mainly on cinematic adaptations of HPL's writings. Naming his site "Unfilmable" perfectly captures the difficulty faced by most filmmakers (including myself) who have attempted to transpose HPL's cerebral brand of chills into the medium of film.

I sent Craig a copy of FROM BEYOND upon its completion and his feedback gave me a definite and much-needed boost. While I was very happy with the finished film and the reviews of my inner circle of friends whom I force to watch and critique my work, I was really anxious to hear what a hardcore Lovecraft fan would have to say. Craig's response was overwhelmingly positive, and if ANYONE is qualified to speak about Lovecraft-based cinema, he's the guy. I hope Fate someday conspires to make me a visitor to Craig's house, because I'm dying to look thru his video library!

I've also been contacted by another filmmaker whose work I'm now anxious to see: Sven Bonnichsen of Scarlet Star Studios wrote encouraging me to enter FROM BEYOND into the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR and included a link to the preview of his own upcoming HPL-inspired and wicked-cool-looking film, LET SLEEPING GODS LIE, which you can see here. It's skedded for a 2007 release and I can't wait! The preview made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up...a testament to Sven's bold use of color and sound.


I had the great joy to revisit one of my favorite childhood films on Wednesday, April 19th when Gary and I went to see a 25th Anniversary Screening of CLASH OF THE TITANS at Graumann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. Anyone even remotely aware of the name Ray Harryhausen is probably familiar with this, his last and greatest film.

The epic story of Perseus's rescue of his lover Andromeda from all sorts of mythological monsters is the kind of film any self-respecting 12-yr-old kid growing up in the early '80s drooled over. On the day I went to see it I made my mom drop me off at the 10 AM screening and sat thru it four--yes, four--times. Each time it ended I slunk down into my seat and avoiding the cleaning crews, so that I could watch Perseus, played by Harry Hamlin, do battle with Harryhausen's animated goddess of reptilian cool, Medusa the Gorgon, just one more time.

In addition to the thrill of seeing the film on the big screen again, we were visited by the man behind the monsters himself, RAY HARRYHAUSEN. Mr. H has always struck me as the most gracious of gentlemen, which is so charming in light of the fact that most of his work is the depiction of gigantic beasts wreaking havoc on civilization in one time period or another. It was his 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD that first infused me with a love for stop-mo, so he's really the guy responsible for everything that followed.

There was a controlled Q & A after the screening, and though the entire audience was asked to fill out cards with questions for Mr. H, they only selected four, giving out free DVDs of COTT to the lucky writers of the chosen queries. Mine was the last of the four selected questions, so I walked home with one of the coveted prizes! I just love it when things go my way...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


It's been a couple hectic days since my tour of the ROBOT CHICKEN Studios courtesy of animator-extraordinnaire, Tennessee Reid Norton, and since then I must have watched my copies of the RC Season 1 DVDs about fifty times. I am constantly finding new bits that I missed, and learning great techniques that I want to attempt in my own work. I just can't get enough of this show! It's like an animator's own "tips 'n' tricks" series, and more helpful than most of my animation-related books combined.

The tour itself was everything I'd hoped for and a whole lot more. My own workspace is little more than my kitchen table, a jerry-rigged animation "stage" and an assortment of storage compartments for art supplies, props, and puppets strewn around my tiny apartment. Now imagine that scenario times about A HUNDRED...props, puppets and sets crammed into every corner of a ginormous warehouse/studio. "T" Reid was really patient with me as I stood there, mouth agape and clearly wishing to be adopted. To say it was overwhelming is a gross understatement. After the tour I got to join the crew as they watched the weeklys and one almost-finished episode...I can't believe how much the show has grown in one season. The visuals have expanded so much, and the animation is just so kinetic and joyful. This family of artists is receiving a lot of attention these days for their work, and let me tell you they deserve every ounce of it. I left elated and inspired, but not before giving T. copies of all my films to review for feedback, and also as a huge THANK YOU for letting me take a peek inside the Magic Kingdom :) ...

Friday, April 14, 2006


Today is a red-letter day for me, because in about an hour and a half I'm going to get to meet one of my stop-motion inspirations, the talented and utterly SICK genius, Tennessee Reid Norton! Tennessee has been involved with some really high-profile projects over the years, from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS to television's THE PJs and now the show that has captured the hearts of anyone who ever possessed an action figure, ROBOT CHICKEN! There is one film of his, however, that has had a more profound effect on me than any other: 1996's stop-motion splatter masterpiece, THE LIZARD WHOMPER! TLW was one of the inspirations behind my first stop-mo effort, VALLEY OF GWOMBI, and if you check out TLW here at Atom Films I'm sure you'll see why! I almost lost my lunch when I first saw it, which is about the highest compliment you can pay to another artist, IMHO...

In addition to being super-cool about some random Hollywoodite contacting him thru his website, Tennessee has invited me over to visit the ROBOT CHICKEN studios for a tour AND to watch the weeklys with the crew! I've been practicing my shallow-breathing technique all morning, so I don't hyperventilate. On some level, tho, I'm sure Tennessee and the rest of the RC crew are used to this reaction from their fans :) . Be sure to visit his website here and prepare to be amazed by this guy's talent...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Red Hatchet website gets a new 'do

Check out the awesome new design of the Red Hatchet Films website! Webmaster extraordinnaire Gary Green hasn't let the conclusion of his recent producing gig on "I've Got a Secret" for Gameshow Network curtail his productivity. Ever the perfectionist, I'm sure he's got a mental checklist of tweaks a mile long, so it may change several times in the days to come!

In other news, FROM BEYOND is officially in the can. I am really happy with the way the editing process worked for this film, and have to give much credit to my inner circle of critics who gave me invaluable feedback in tightening up the story: Gary Green, Behn Fannin, Anthony Caruso and Brad Carter. Your input was so essential to the creation of this piece which I am very proud of...a million thanks. I plan to enter it in a number of festivals in the coming months.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Just when I thought getting to see a live performance of "It's Raining Men" by the legendary Martha Wash HERSELF this morning was going to be the highlight of my day, I received an email from a producer requesting a copy of VALLEY OF GWOMBI to review...and that's all I can say at the moment. Of course, I'm not celebrating anything yet, but I'm unapologetically THRILLED that somehow word of my little films is filtering out into the universe. It makes all the long, obsessive hours worth it. Not to mention that it counteracts the official "THANKS BUT NO THANKS" letter I received from Sci-Fi London--confirming my status as one of this year's rejects--very, very nicely indeed.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

City of Los Angeles gets long overdue bath

I love the rain. Not only because it's such a rare occurrence here, but because it's all the justification I need to stay inside and work on animation. Driving in the rain here is suicidal. A light shower can turn a trip to Trader Joe's into a scene from DEATHRACE 2000. It's just not worth risking it, especially when a hot pizza is just a phone call away.

My friend Anthony dug FROM BEYOND, which makes me happy. He had very specific notes about what wasn't working, mostly sound-related issues. Sound is always the last element I add, so I have to be especially vigilant about it. I love sound design...I used to design the soundtracks for all my stage productions in my former life, but the actual engineering is something I'm learning by doing. Hopefully I'll join forces with an amazing sound designer someday who will take all these woes out of my hands and I'll never have to deal with it again.

So a few more tweaks to sound and FROM BEYOND will be ready to be released to the world. I'm planning to submit it to a few select festivals and see what kind of response it gets. The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR, definitely, since they were the inspiration to tackle a Lovecraft story. Then Screamfest here in L.A., which looks like a LOT of fun.

I'm thinking about doing a much smaller, shorter film for my next project...something fun that won't keep me up nights the way FROM BEYOND did. I'm leaning towards another horror topic, which I'll divulge more of soon as it takes shape.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sci-Fi London Proves Lack of Taste

Looks like I'm not going to London.

The Sci-Fi London Film Festival posted their program today and it looks REALLY impressive...except for the fact that neither of my two submitted films are on it. I'm ok with this, as my finances are gonna be a little tight for the next few weeks. Besides, I've already got three trips lined up in the next few months--Athens, GA, Disneyland, and a Carribean cruise(!)--what you might call an embarrassment of riches, at least for me. To add the United Kingdom onto the heap would be just plain piggy, not to mention fiscally irresponsible. So, well done to the selected short-film makers who were accepted (all 15 of you). Your work looks amazing, especially the animated entries...

Been doing some animation tests today and drinking way too much coffee, the animator's best and worst friend. Best, because it keeps you awake and focused as the click-click-click of the shutter becomes like Chinese water torture, and worst because after the fourth cup your hands start to shake and you have to go to the bathroom every five minutes, which can make you forget what you were doing.

Going over to my friend Anthony's place this evening to show him the rough cut of FROM BEYOND. Afterwards, a few more tweaks, and maybe it will be ready to launch...

Finishing touches

I've never understood why it takes so much energy to finish things. Probably because after so much time and energy spent getting 99.99% of a job done, you're just sick of it, or bored with it and ready to move on. My most recent project, FROM BEYOND, is at that 99.99% stage, and I'm so tired of looking at it that I'd rather make a movie about my cats sleeping on the couch. It's looking good though, and I'm really happy with it. I screened the rough cut for my boyfriend, Gary (check out his site at and my friend Behn (, both of whom gave me some invaluable critiques. Thanks guys!

Still no word from London, so I can only assume that my films weren't selected. This is probably a good thing, because if I was picked I'd HAVE to go, and right now I can't even afford nosebleed-section tickets for the upcoming Madonna concert that Gary's given me until 2PM to decide upon purchasing.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

London is NOT calling...

As some of you know, I entered two of my films, VALLEY OF GWOMBI and A WINTER'S TALE, in the Sci-Fi London International Festival of Fantastic Film (I think that's the whole name). You see, I decided earlier this year that I really want to go to London in 2006. Going to Ireland last year to run in the Dublin Marathon to raise money for AIDS gave me an acute case of itchy feet, I guess. I figured getting into this fest would be a breeze, since I had TWO films that I thought would just blow their socks off. Well, they were supposed to announce their selections yesterday and so far not a peep. It's really no big deal since it has been pointed out to me that I can travel to London WITHOUT being an internationally recognized filmmaker, but what's the point?

Anyways, I'm really proud of my two little films. GWOMBI was the first, and I worked my tail off on it, learning by doing from the ground up. A WINTER'S TALE was an experiment--I wanted to learn more about digital compositing before I leapt into a larger project that would use it more extensively. I was able to adapt several of the puppets I'd built for SHORT ENDS so it came together pretty quickly, and turned out better than I expected.

There's a link on my website if you want to watch GWOMBI online: . It's being hosted on my friend Behn Fannin's site, along with his devilishly funny repertoire of shorts. Check out his work--the guy's got the goods!


Welcome to the Red Hatchet Films blog!

Well, here it is, that blog I've been meaning to start to keep all my friends and loved ones abreast of what I've been up to. As a stop-motion animator, I tend to go AWOL from time to time, locking myself in my tiny apartment/studio, rarely venturing out except for food, barely seeing or speaking to anyone, even my nearest and dearest. It's difficult to explain the kind of focus and concentration this work requires, but most people find it pretty fascinating.

Red Hatchet Films is my film company, created just over a year ago. I'm proud to say that since then RHF has produced five films: VALLEY OF GWOMBI episodes 1 & 2, SHORT ENDS, A WINTER'S TALE, and most recently, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's FROM BEYOND. Having been a fan of stop-mo all my life it's such an incredible feeling to finally be creating these films using this method. It pulls on all your skills as an artist: designing, sculpting, painting, puppetry, composition...especially when your workspace is limited.

In the days to come I plan to post pics and talk about the films in general. If anyone has any specific questions about my work, feel free to ask...I love talking about this stuff. And check out the official Red Hatchet Films site for more pics, slideshows, synopses of the film, etc...

More to come!