If somebody were to ask me what I do, I'd say, "Who's ASKING, chump!?!?" If it were somebody I KNEW, I'd tell them that I freeload. While I'm the director of this film, I don't really FEEL like a director. Because everything about the way we've been making this has been so unorthodox, and I'm not getting paid for it. So to me "director" feels like the sort of label one applies because the truth is too wordy to fit on a tiny sticker.
There are times I DO feel like a director. And those are my favorite parts of this project. Not because director is my desired profession (though that's part of it), but because these moments always make me a little giddy. I'm referring to the occasions when somebody puts something for the film in front of me, and whatever this thing is, a prop, a visual effects element, it's completed, or nearly there. And I didn't have to do a damn thing on it. I just told somebody else what I wanted, and some time later it appears before me. Most of the time, on this film, that's not how it goes (more on that later). But today it was.
Towards the end of the story, our intrepid gang make the journey to Glinda's palace. And being a palace, she's got guards. And it's kind of a progressive aspect of the book, because the guards are also pretty ladies. But it's also quite... not... progressive... because they're wearing glorified Girl Scout's uniforms, and their weapons are... feathers.
So Sean and I knew we wanted something different than what Denslow had drawn, and since Sean is way more into costume designing and ancient warfare than I am, and he had a vision, I let him tackle the design work. And he came up with something that's got quite a Greek flavor, little bit of the Spartan, little bit of the Athenian. But with ladies instead of dudes. And more clothing. Damn you, Puritans.
Apparently that's like a thing with him... Ladies in Greek armor. Seriously. I know, it's weird.
We didn't want to buy the pieces of the costume off the shelf, both because we couldn't find something that was exactly what we wanted, and because it was prohibitively expensive. We wanted something made specifically for our production. Sean didn't know anybody, so I turned to one of my oldest friends, who I've known for almost fifteen years. He's a LARPer, or Live Action Role Player, if you don't speak nerd. It's basically real life Dungeons and Dragons. His family started one of the main LARP communities in the state of Maine many years back, so he's sort of been ensconced in that world since childhood. As such, he has a great love for history, particularly the medieval, and a lot of skill building weapons and armor for these LARP events.
I went to him with the request, and after we talked over the logistics he agreed to help me out by creating all the armored pieces of the costume. I sent him the measurements of Ms. Madeline Lovegrove, the primary lady who will be wearing the armor, and left him to it. Last weekend I asked him if he was in need of any supplies, and he said not yet, as he was only in the planning stages.
So I was quite surprised to receive a call from my friend this afternoon, telling me that he was on his way to my house, and he had the helmet. As you can see by comparing it with the design, it's not quite finished yet, but it's getting there. And looking Wonderful. We're hoping for Marvelous too...
But, as I alluded to earlier, it's not always this delightful. The fellow helping us out with our environments for the concept scene had to remove himself from the project due to personal reasons I won't delve into here. He was our second helper in that department, after we had to let another lovely gentleman go simply due to software incompatibility issues. Drew and myself were quite keen to have aid in that department, as neither of us felt particularly comfortable in the realm of terrain, but after this second setback, we both decided it would be best for us to proceed ourselves. I know I've personally grown as an effects artist while working on this project, last year I wouldn't have been at all capable of the stuff I've completed most recently. I hope it's the same for Drew. That's part of the fun. Anyway, we figure we're up to the challenge of at least attempting it. If we're wrong, nothing happens, we go to jail peacefully, QUIETLY, we'll ENJOY it. But if we're RIGHT...
Ever since this all went down last weekend, we've had a rather rapid back and forth with regards to this environmental work. It was decided that I would model and texture the terrain and Drew would handle the trees. So Monday I got started. First, I went back to a quick diagram of the location I'd whipped up in Paint to help me edit this scene without the aid of the scenes that bracket it, and to help me sort out what the environment needed to be when I did the animatic. Dorothy and Scarecrow are taking a shortcut to the Yellow Brick Road from a little stream when they accidentally stumble upon our favorite rusty robot. Okay, I know he's not really a robot, but I like to be alliterative sometimes.
Based on that, I did a quick mock-up of a terrain mesh. The key here is two hills. I figured the rest of the terrain ought to be fairly flat, to match our greenscreen stage. So I threw together a mesh to test out shape, scale, and to make sure that the kind of geometry I was planning to provide Drew with would work for him. Here are those unspectacular results:
Drew, as always, had a lot of helpful suggestions on how to improve the overall aesthetic value of the terrain. He showed me some (quite bizarre) video reference of a dried stream-bed, and suggested that be the path Dorothy and Scarecrow are taking through the woods. Something that branches off the main stream Dorothy's just had a drink from, and which would ITSELF be a stream in wetter weather. I liked this suggestion, and did up a new MS Paint scribble, just to make sure he and I were truly on the same page:
The most important bit in that sketch is the varying shades of grey, the darker the deeper, the lighter the higher. So we have our level ground, the two hills, the stream, and the Yellow Brick Road, all there in relation to the frozen Woodman and his cabin on the hill. Drew was agreeable, and so tonight I modeled up this new terrain, this time with the intent of creating something that was actually worthy of being in the film. Here is the much improved result:
And here it is over top of the Paint diagram, to help you place it into the bigger picture:
I was fairly satisfied, so I sent it off to Drew. Shortly after I did, I realized that the stream-bed was much too deep for the scale. Drew's rapid response confirmed my suspicions. So tomorrow I'll be adjusting the mesh accordingly and beginning my texturing.
So that's where the project is, and that's what the "director" is up to. It's not ideal, but then what IS?