Saturday, January 16, 2016

House, and Sand, and Fog

The above image was one of the first ever pieces of concept art done for the film. Sean did a Photoshop composite using seven different images in an attempt to convey to me his idea for the opening shot of the film. Inspired in equal parts by real world Dust Bowl photography and the film The Searchers, the image is our attempt to instantly set our film apart from what has come before by grounding it firmly in the era in which the book was written.

Almost three years ago now we filmed the interior and partial exterior of the Gale farmhouse itself, but we never had the resources to locate or build a full-scale 1800's farm. In the past six years various CGI and matte painting approximations have appeared in clips and trailers, none of which we were completely happy with. We wanted our Kansas to feel real and tangible, like the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood Westerns we drew our inspiration from. So Sean built us a farm.

And then seasoned it to perfection.
A miniature farm, that is. In the last entry here I showed off the farmhouse model he'd spent countless hours perfecting. Since then, he's built a barn, a windmill, an outhouse (you will probably never see), a fence, and placed them all on an arid terrain, perched atop a large wooden table he, Scarecrow performer Steven Lowry, and myself built. Yesterday, with all the pieces finally in place, we filmed the last elements needed for the beginning of our movie.

Steve's always been our biggest cheerleader! Wait, I'm being informed "biggest fan" is funnier in this context.

It took three guys, one finicky fog machine, two industrial fans, three studio lights, four bags of play sand, and about a half of a tub of coffee. We shot several stationary establishing shots of the model, and then had a lot of fun simulating the tornado's onslaught. After the better part of a day, our epic Western was complete.

To the surprise of no-one, things didn't go exactly as planned, but it wouldn't be our movie if they did. Turns out it takes a lot more wind to blow sand around than you'd expect. There will be many hours spent cleaning up the not insubstantial mess, but it's not nearly as bad as we were expecting. A lot of precautions had been taken to contain the airborne sand, precautions which proved to be almost entirely unnecessary because we were lucky to get the sand to even blow across the table top.

We got it all working in the end, and shot a ton of footage I'm very excited about. It's leaps and bounds better than anything you've seen of Kansas so far, and it's going to give the film exactly the kind of intro we've always intended.

"When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great grey prairie on every side."