Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Georgie's Wish" Part Final


At long last, here's my much-delayed final report on GEORGIE'S WISH, featuring what may be my favorite character in the film: The WATCHDOG!
Watchdog was the only character that was built from the ground up for GW, not recycled from another film, and I seriously debated having him in the film at all, since he presented a major design challenge. In my head I envisioned a doberman--sleek and muscular canine torpedo--which didn't leave a lot of room for hiding tie-downs and such, but I'd just had some practice building and animating a cat for the "Punding" video (glimpsed at the very beginning) so I decided to go for it.

A wire armature was constructed with super-sculpey used for the pelvis, ribcage, and skull. The bones of the legs and feet were made using sculpey-flex, which I've had mixed results with, but it worked in this case. Other moving parts included wagging tail, ears, and lower jaw. After baking the joints were filled in with a latex-cotton mixture and the whole thing painted to give it that instantly identifiable dobie-look, and on camera he went.

Animals are always a challenge, though I have to say I'm pretty proud of how this one turned out. Instead of recycling him, Watchdog now resides in my stop-motion shrine of coolness, where he guards the loot and drives away any pesky cat-burglars...

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Brown Jenkin" and the Artistry of Arkham Studios

Today's post goes out to Jeffrey Roche of Ubatuber Productions, who asked for a better pic of the Brownie Award I collected in Portland last weekend. Ask, and ye shall receive!

The Brownie is based on the character "Brown Jenkin" from the short story, "Dreams in the Witch House" by H.P.Lovecraft, and was sculpted by Bryan Moore of Arkham Studios. Bryan's work is so uncannily realistic that you can get lost in the faces of his characters...like a 3-D equivalent of comics artist Alex Ross. In his catalog of works you will find (in addition to Brown Jenkin) representations of H.P.Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Anton LaVey, and a very art-deco version of the Great Cthulhu itself.

Bryan began his career as a sculptor working on such projects as the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and television's Tales of the Dark Side, meaning that his artwork was influencing me long before I had a piece of his work sitting in my Stop-Motion Shrine of Coolness (and getting along famously with the creature cast of FROM BEYOND, I must say). Check out Arkham Studios to see some really inspiring character sculpts (complete with rotating 360-degree views) that'll make you want to stay up way too late working on your sculpting techniques!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fun times at the H.P.Lovecraft Film Festival!!

After many months of excited anticipation, I've just gotten back from my first ever H.P.Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR! It truly was everything I'd hoped it would be, and founder Andrew Migliore and his staff were by far some of the most gracious hosts I've ever met. To see how beloved this festival is by the sold-out crowds that attended (many of whom travel from all over the country, year after year) and the celebrity guests he manages to attract, well...Andrew and his crew seem to be doing just about everything right....

An added bonus to this festival was actually getting to meet some folks that I've become huge fans of over the last few months, including artist/animator/filmmaker Sven Bonnichsen! I've been a fan of Sven's ever since I saw the teaser trailer for his film-in-progress, LET SLEEPING GODS LIE, which still makes my hair stand up after untold number of viewings. He and creative partner, Gretchin Lair, run Scarlet Star Studios, a place for all-things creative in Portland. In addition to his filmmaking skills, Sven has become my new hero for building metal ball-and-socket armatures for animation. I look forward to the day that I can follow in his footsteps and move away from the simple wire armatures I currently use.

I also got to meet Craig Mullins of UNFILMABLE.COM, which is THE place on the internet to learn about all things connected to Lovecraftian cinema. Craig gave me invaluable feedback when I first finished FROM BEYOND and needed a hardcore Lovecraft fan to tell me that I was either on the mark, or off (he assured me that I was on). For such an afficionado of horror films, I have to say that Craig seems like one of the most down-to-earth, genuine guys and if you saw him on the street you'd never suspect what horrors lurk on his dvd shelf!

Speaking of lurking horrors, if you plan on attending the Lovecraft Film Festival I recommend renting your hotel room waaay in advance. Otherwise you might wind up at the notorious PALMS MOTOR HOTEL. This was the tenth place I called for a room a MONTH before the festival and it was the first one to have a room available. I called them based on the suspiciously high rating of 9.1 listed on some Portland Hotel-Finder Guide. Having seen it firsthand, I'm pretty sure those numbers were reversed..or maybe I stumbled upon a Hotel-Finder for crystal meth addicts and prostitutes. Boyfriend Gary had the worst time of it, since the wireless internet access we were told was available (which he needs for his job) did NOT work unless he was sitting out by the office manager's door, shivering in the cold. I will say this for the Palms, tho--they got one bitch-ass cool sign:

Later that night it was on to the screening of Shorts Block 3, in which I got to see DREDD MANOR and FROM BEYOND on the big screen at last! It was so exciting to see DREDD MANOR in a packed house...it got LOADS of laughs! There's a lot of humor in DM, but I think horror film fans know it's cool to laugh and non-horror fans are just, well, horrified. The crowd on Saturday got all the jokes, and it was so much fun to hear all that laughter.

A few films later, FROM BEYOND hit the screen, and I got really nervous. FB is one of Lovecraft's best-loved stories, and here it was playing for the first time in a room full of die-hard fans...INCLUDING my favorite actress/scream-queen of all time, the impossibly gorgeous BARBARA CRAMPTON, who starred in horror maestro Stuart Gordon's Lovecraft-based films RE-ANIMATOR, CASTLE FREAK, and, of course, FROM BEYOND!

After the Shorts Block we reconvened for an awards ceremony, hosted by Festival Director Andrew Migliore, along with special-guest presenter, Barbara Crampton!
The awards, sculpted by Bryan Moore of Arkham Studios, are really something. The "Howie" awards, representing Lovecraft himself, are given to those whose work has furthered the understanding and appreciation for Lovecraft in some way, either thru writing, film, or similar scholarship. The "Brownie" awards, representing the character of Brown Jenkin, the evil human-faced rat character from Lovecraft's story, "Dreams in the Witch House" are awarded to filmmakers:

WAAHOO!! FROM BEYOND takes home a Brownie!! I didn't actually make out with Barbara Crampton as this picture might suggest, but I couldn't get that near one of my favorite stars without getting a hug. "I LOVED your film!" Barbara gushed to me. "I love YOUR films!" I gushed back, having such an extreme case of fan-overload I almost forgot to say something at the podium. Andrew made the observation: "Isn't it ironic that the star of Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND is giving an award to another version of FROM BEYOND?" Ironic, yes, and sooo sweet!

To all the folks at the H.P.Lovecraft Film Festival, I have to say congratulations on doing such an amazing job of making everyone feel welcome and creating an atmosphere where we can treasure our excitement about genre films. Thanks to Andrew Migliore for being such a great host...I look forward to attending future festivals when I can spend more time enjoying the full experience. But the guy who made this weekend the best ever was, as always, my beautiful man, Gary. It was no easy thing for him to jet out of town with so much work on his plate, but he did it, and if he hadn't been there I'd have totally fallen apart since I came down with a FREAKIN' PERITONSILLAR ABSCESS and by Sunday couldn't even speak! I thought I was getting strep throat, but this was way worse, tho I've been to the doctor and am on the road to recovery. Gary took care of everything, and gave us both another adventure we can look back on fondly and laugh about. I LOVE YOU, GARY!!!!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Georgie & Company, Part 4

To the left are my gravediggers, whose appearance in GEORGIE'S WISH that makes me smile every time I see it. Originally, Grandpa's resurrection was to be a big solo number, with no witnesses. But as I kept thinking about what sort of transition I was gonna use from the cemetary to the street-crossing scene, the idea came up to use these guys as a cutaway. I like the contrast of Grandpa's dramatic entrance with the quiet, incredulous "WTF?" look on the guys' faces...a throwback to VALLEY OF GWOMBI humor where characters say the most when they say nothing.

The short gravedigger was built over an old stop-motion model that I picked up really cheap on eBay. I think he was constructed for a TV commercial but never completed or filmed. He had no head or hands, has an aluminum wire armature, and the body was covered in rapidly dry-rotting foam rubber. I decided to recycle him since he wasn't much to look at, gave him a head, hands, and some new duds, and cast him as the driver in DREDD MANOR that takes Adam Wellsbrook to his doom. He will have a larger role as DM progresses, if he hasn't been recycled into a hundred other things by then.

The tall chap is "mini-Steve", built to complement "mini-Gary" from the previous post. Steve Eliot is real-Gary's co-host on FOR THE BOYS, their outrageously politically- incorrect talk show. Since the animation for that show was never done, mini-Steve, like mini-Gary, was just hanging around here unfinished, waiting for something to come along to give his life some meaning. I'm really glad I had him for this, as I think these two guys make an awesome visual pair:

Monday, October 02, 2006

Georgie & Company, Part 3

Continuing with the "Behind-the-scenes-after-the-fact" thread, today's post will focus on some of the supporting players of GEORGIE'S WISH to show just how deep Red Hatchet's motto of "Recycle Everything" actually goes...

Granted, it's not the first time I've heard my better half utter these words, but his little stop-motion counterpart never had pants to begin with. Several months ago I was set to do a stop-motion intro for FOR THE BOYS, boyfriend extraordinnaire Gary Green's hilariously politically-incorrect talk show, but other projects came up and it was never filmed. He'd been sitting around the house in his half-finished state since then (mini-Gary, not real-Gary), making a brief cameo as a homeless alcoholic (no foreshadowing intended) in the PUNDING video, and now serving as the driver of the SUV that almost runs Grandpa over. This meant that mini-Gary got to share screentime with real-Gary's favorite character:

POLLY GWOMBI! Since first appearing in VALLEY OF GWOMBI, Episodes 1 & 2, Polly has waited patiently in the fridge with the other Gwombis, anticipating some future day when they would once again bring joy and laughter into the world. Several sharp-eyed scouts recognized Polly, even with her slightly different hair styling. This is a good example of one of my earliest attempts at making stop-mo puppets...the construction is mostly clay with too little supporting wire and some sculpey for solid sections like the head and those barge-like feet (to keep her from falling over).

Lining up the actual shot (which is less than 1 second of screentime) involved cutting the toy SUV apart and lining up the sections around the characters so that it looked like they were riding in the car...a ghastly experience that took about 4 hours to set up and 30 minutes to shoot. Anything for a laugh, though!