Mannequin Head

I rescued this mannequin head from a Katrina house that I gutted for a friend of the family, I'm always trying to find spare mannequin parts for movie play, and evetually would like to build a life-size puppet to animate, but thats a tale for another day....hell, decade :)
I have my heart set on turning this 70s looking lassie into a life-size Jenny head, fully armatured for expressive close-up....I actually don't know for sure if I'll need the animateable face, I kind of tend towards the Czech-puppet-static-face style, but I could use it for a shot I have in mind, of a fish wriggling out of Jennys left eye socket....it'd be cool to go extreme closeup on that....anyway, my plan is to sculpt a Jenny face/head on the mannequin, after shaving its fuzzy Michael Myers looking head....then mold it, and cast a foam latex version, which I can cut up and armature onto the mannequin head....not sure exactly how I would cast that, slush? I've got a mask-making site somewhere in my favorites...if I have time I'll sculpt the face in Feb too, so I can use up all of my foam on the Jennys.....

I did a little photoshop test to make sure everything would line up alright, and ended up with this creepy pic......I think its the human eye that weirds me out, or maybe the shackle around her neck....


Jenny Sculpt, Update and Lighting Tests

'Jenny Greenteeth' Lighting/FX Tests on Vimeo

I'm about to get back to work on my Jenny sculpt, the official final clay Jenny which will be molded and cast in foam latex. I've decided to mold/cast only the body, I will use the rubber latex heads that I've been using, or if possible I'll cast a foam version of the head from the original plaster mold for Jenny one, the boobless wonder...in any case, I'll be casting by the end of February, as my foam supply expires around March...today I unbagged her, cleaned her up a bit, got my table all set up, my tools ready to go, and then did a few live-action lighting tests, like I did with the Tree Beast a couple of months ago...I used that most recent painting as a backdrop, its been sitting on the easel untouched until now, and its beautiful here....I'm thinking after seeing this that all of the underwater shots should be 'painterly', with layers of painted backdrops instead of an actual set? Sometimes there are so many options that my mind reels.....how can I possibly test them all out? ugh.....anyway, this test has quite a bit of color manipulation obviously, and the last segment has a few of the water effects I plan to experiment with in post, some bubbles, a shimmery water surface, and wavy effects. I cannot wait to get this old girl movin' :)

The music here is Rachmaninoff's 'Isle of the Dead', one of my favorite classical tracks.


Camera Choo-Choo

I won't be experimenting with camera movement until I have an underwater set to play with, which won't happen until I have a pier to play with, which won't happen until I have a Jenny to play with :) But I thought I'd post my theoretical camera tracking system now, since I mentioned it in the comments section. Since everything underwater (Jenny/Nola) will be rigged and 'floaty', I have no tie-downs to worry about, which means I can place the underwater set elements (seaweed, bones, pier posts) directly onto the floor, which will give me a chance to experiment with a tracking/dolly system for my camera. My original thought, back when I was planning on using the digi still cam, pre-framegrabber, was to use hotwheel tracks, but one day I was rummaging through the spare room and found a couple of cars from an old train set. The wheels/axels removed from the train will be perfect....

...All I need is a few pieces of old track, which I can lay down as I need to, to weave the camera in and out of Jenny's front lawn...The camera itself screws on using the bolt from an old tripod...hopefully by the end of the year, I'll have a better camera so I can finally retire the old Sony clunker, seen here strapped on and ready to roll :)


Water Test - Paint on Plexi

Water Test - Paint on Plexi on Vimeo

I had a piece of plexiglass laying around and decided to try out green oil paint on plexi, lit from underneath. I even rigged Jenny under the 'surface', hoping to animate her a bit, but the paint, mixed with some vaseline, was a little too viscous and opaque to really show anything (until I wiped away the paint at the end)....I think glass will work much better, the plexi was cloudy to begin with....In this here clip, I've put the unedited raw footage, then the fx'd footage (slowed it down, looped part, added a zoom, sound fx, some color adjust and a glow), and last I've added a tiny clip of how I plan to capture the sound of Jenny's hiss...Enjoy!


Me Doing Water Test

Me Doing Water Test on Vimeo

I thought my wife was shooting pics, but apparently there was some videoing going on :) Some folks have asked for more info on how I did the vaseline water test so here's a little peek behind-the-scenes....


Water Test - Vaseline

Water Test - Vaseline - QT version on Vimeo

For this water test I painted a piece of foamcore black, and spread vaseline over it, which I pushed towards 'shore' each frame with a piece of cardboard, trying to maintain the shape of waves. The result is definitely promising, though way too choppy here, like stormy seas. I want the lake's surface to be a bit smoother, but that can be worked on, maybe by sculpting tiny wave shapes that can be pushed through the vaseline, so there's more control. I can also see this done on glass with a light underneath, I should be able to cut a piece at work that has 'trap doors' so Jenny can rise up :)

I cut this with my earlier 'reflective-light' test, just to jazz it up a bit.


Katrina Greenteeth

Shelley Noble of Halfland fame sent me this pic last week, and I had to share it, a quick little photoshopped image that perfectly nails down one of my dilemmas....

How will I balance the opposing aesthetics, the 'realism' of the set and Jenny versus the cartoonyness of Nola? Why is Nola 'cartoony'? On the surface I think its my reaction to the media's portrayal of the city during the disaster, the way we were sort of caricatured, filtered through the media circus, which is I suppose how anyone feels when they are broadcast to the world through Fox News and CNN. Edited. Drawn. On a deeper more personal level, I think it has something to do with me not dealing with the events of the storm, that the events were very real but the damage inflicted, the effect on us and our city, hasn't become real for me yet. Post traumatic stress or denial, I'm not sure, but I think emotionally I'm still a cartoon...
Here are a few other reflections of Katrina in Jenny:
*Jenny herself with her spinning eye, obviously Katrina, the source of destruction, the storm on the horizon
*Nola is NOLA, New Orleans LA, the embodiment of the people
* pier=levee, rickety man-made protection from the waters
*Jenny at one point, in an overhead/birds-eye-view shot, will swim her way to the pier following Katrinas exact path to shore through the Gulf of Mexico, and the shore will be shaped like the gulf coast with the pier jutting out from where New Orleans would be on the map
*Jenny's behavior echoes the behavior of a hurricane, immensly powerful on water, deteriorating on land as she lacks the water's support....I see her movement on land as skeletal, broken, like Kayako on the stairs at the end of 'Juon The Grudge'
*the broken down fishing shack, painted a bright blue....at the time, I thought, 'Blue seems strange, but the film will be b&w, or at least highly desaturated, so it should have some subtly different shades of grey' Now I look at the shack with its blue roof and all I see is a run-down Katrina home. At the time I painted the bait shop piece, nearly every roof in the city had a bright blue tarp over it, a sign of roof damage. Subconsciously incorporated.
*there will be an old rotten fridge taped up outside the bait shop
*there will be a water-line on the shop showing the level of a past flood, another sort of surreal thing to see here, to stand on the corner of a neighborhood and scan down the block, it looks like a giant has taken a rust red crayon and drawn a straight line down the front of all the houses...

Don Hellboy

I mention from time-to-time that I have aspirations of working in film, making monsters, designing, creating, and ultimately directing. Sometimes I feel like it will never happen, that I have so much to learn and I'm running out of time, or that I keep missing out on my 'big break'. And there's general life stress at play too, the family dream, the pitter-patter of little feet. How long do I hold out for one dream or the other? My one and only experience creating art for a Hollywood film left me feeling used and abused. I want to create for film, I want to afford a family, and I want artistic integrity.
Which is where I segue into Guillermo Del Toro. His knowledge, love, and passion for art, and the way he treats the artists on his films, is inspiring. If I could choose a mentor, it'd be him. Just looking at the list of films he is attached to right now makes me wet my pants....Lovecrafts 'Mountains of Madness', Roald Dahls 'Witches', 'Tarzan'....Hellboy 2 is officially in production, and in an interview, GDT mentions a likeness to the Godfather, which, naturally had to be visualized :) I did this little piece for webmaster Parker over at DelToroFilms.Com, you can see it there on the main page.


Andrew Lang, H.J. Ford, and the Books of Fairy

Ivana Baquero, the young actress playing Ophelia in Guillermo Del Toro's new film 'Pan's Labyrinth', spoke in an interview in 'Rue Morgue' about how she prepared for the role. She mentions a series of books sent to her by GDT, which I had never heard of, and promptly began to research. Little did I know I was about to stumble upon a treasure trove of fairy tale beauty, perfect inspiration as I work on my own little fable (coming soon.....)
At the turn of the last century, a writer named Andrew Lang compiled fairy tales from around the world, and published them in a series of books. They are all here, the big ones ("Hansel and Gretel") and the small ones ("The Headless Dwarfs"....."Like a swarm of midges, a host of tiny headless creatures seemed to spring straight out of the ground, and every one was armed with a club. Although they were so small, yet there were such numbers of them and they struck so hard that even a strong man could do nothing against them." ....great stuff). Tales from Hungary and Russia, Asia and Africa and Europe, and they are all online!! From 'The Blue Fairy Book' to 'The Rose Fairy Book'. I'll be collecting hard copies of these compilations, I must own them...I could easily see myself spending the rest of my stop-mo life adapting these tales, a la Harryhausens 'Mother Goose' shorts....only creepy :)
Here's PBS' little bio on the author--

Andrew Lang 1844-1912--Known primarily as a historian, literary critic, and translator (he put out "new versions" of the Arabian Nights and of the Iliad and the Odyssey), Andrew Lang collected and adapted dozens of fairy tales in a veritable rainbow of books between 1889 and 1907, including The Blue Fairy Book (with his wife, Leonora Blanche Lang), The Red Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, The Orange Fairy Book, and The Red Book of Animal Stories. As an influential critic with a column in Longman's magazine, Lang advocated romance over realism. In this critical capacity, he championed Robert Louis Stevenson and H. Rider Haggard, with whom he collaborated on The World's Desire, a "sequel" to The Odyssey, in 1890. While the bulk of Lang's output was for adults (and highly educated adults at that), his interest in fairy tales and other childhood mythologies represents an important strain in Victorian thought, in which fantasy and imagination were recognized as important seats of learning and education.

'Hansel and Gretel'

All of the artwork in the books was created by an artist named H.J.Ford, beautiful work.....learn about both men, read tons of fairy tales, and enjoy......here.....



I said I'd try to be more regular, including small posts like this one, just to give a heads up, discuss baby steps....Over the last few months, inspired by a grand rereading of Lovecraft, I've been dabbling with the history of the pier, and Jennys lake, creating an origin story for the land, not necessarily for Jenny...Last night I started writing, and ended up with half of a storybook tale, telling of the discovery of the lake and the building of the pier, which cracked the earth and freed Jenny...The intro fable will be told in some other form of puppetry/animation, probably 2-d? cel? maybe cutouts? shadowpuppets? It will bleed into the 3-d world in some way, probably with a transition directly from a hand-drawn still into the first live frame of stop-mo....Storyboarding is slightly begun, but led me on this fairy-tale-intro-tangent.....I'll post the tale when its ready (not completed, cause I'll want feedback :) I worry about being too obvious with the Katrina metaphor. We know that Nola=Nola, that Jenny=Katrina, now we've got Pier=Levee...Nola's man-made protection from the murky depths, to keep her on dry land.....its destruction leads to her death.