Monday, October 31, 2011

Where The Lines Overlap

I'm assuming that the kind of people who read this blog are already aware of our Halloween shenanigans. If not, please click here to head over to Youtube and watch the clip before reading ahead. Because I'm going to spoil every aspect of it. And while you're checking stuff out, head on over to the Witchified version of the website. Sean and I put a lot of work into that.

So there haven't been many blog entries lately. The majority of my Oz time has been spent working on all this Witch nonsense, and Sean and I wanted to keep this all under wraps until it happened. Which meant I was left unable to talk about the majority of what I was doing. But you're all in the loop now, so I can just go nuts. You're about to embark on the first in a two part adventure that will shake your worldview. Or like, a really little portion of your worldview. The small bit of your worldview that you devote to our film.

Believe it or not, it took a number of years for those two minutes to come into existence. And while our independent nature may leave us lighter on the crew side than your typical Hollywood production, it still took a load of people to bring this thing to life. Here in part one I'm going to outline the pre-production and production processes, with a focus on the many talented people involved.

It begins in the late 1890's, with L. Frank Baum. Oz fans already know how the book came about, and there are better sources on the internet to find that sort of information, so I'll refrain. But without his imaginative story, we obviously wouldn't be doing this at all. By that same token, there's W.W. Denslow, illustrator on the original version. While our Witch design doesn't owe much to his own, our Dorothy costume surely does.

The military used to be so much more glamorous...
Fast forward to the 1950's. An abridged version of the book is published, with illustrations by Anton Loeb. Sean grew up with that version of the book, and our Witch design certainly owes a debt to Loeb's.

Let's hear it for CHINA, everybody. THEY'VE got the right idea...
Speaking of Sean, he's next up, here. The original script was written by him long ago, in the time before there was even God. Before we ever met. Which is good, because I would have been twelve, and that would have been creepy. He's chronicled his own screenwriting process on the website, so I won't get into that here. But he was responsible for adapting the book, and making a version of the scene that paid respect to Baum but was also his own.

We'll jump ahead again to 2009, now. Sean and I had hatched this crazy scheme, and were planning to shoot some of the film in the summer. Which left us struggling to put together all the props and costumes we'd need in time. The costumes were more his thing, since I not only have zero fashion sense but zero fashion interest. He designed the Emerald City bell dress, based on Denslow's illustration, and figured out where and how to get it made.

Which brings us to our next important person, the quirky Barbara Miller. After a little snafu with a previous costumer, Sean managed to find Barb, who was willing to do the work for free, provided we bought the fabrics. So Sean and Barb went on a cloth shopping spree (SO fun...), picking out all the right materials. Barb had the costume ready in time for us to film the sequences that required it. You can see us going to pick it up in this video.

So we had the costume, but a costume is no good without somebody to wear it. And when that person happens to be the lead in your film, they also need to be talented with the acting. Which brings us to Mariellen Kemp, our Dorothy. It's her fault that we're shooting this film in the strange way we are. As we've said before, her audition so impressed us so that we wanted to make sure we could get Dorothy filmed before Mare outgrew the part. Based on our (lack of) success with fundraising so far, we were right to handle things the way we did. Because Mare's in high school now...

We filmed the Dorothy half of the scene on June 29th, 2009. That's over two years ago, that's crazy. It's not a scene where Mare has a lot to do, the Witch is doing the villainy and getting her monologue on in front of a scared little girl. But just because there's no dialogue doesn't mean there's no acting. Mare had to look credibly frightened by something that was meant to be in front of her but was not, and in fact would not become a physical reality for two years. All we had to show her was the one piece of Witch concept art from our pre-viz gallery. We didn't even begin Witch auditions for two more days, so we had no idea what to expect from the Witch's performance.

There's a reason they never made a movie about zombie Bob Marley...
And yet Mare did her best, reacting to absolutely nothing while sitting in a silly dress on a green cloth. And she friggin' brought it, I'm totally sold on her terror. And I need to stress this, I was not helping her in any way. Sadly, a few days before this I'd discovered that I could make Sean laugh by doing a poor impression of Caddyshack Bill Murray, and so whenever he and I were together I was saying ridiculous things in that voice. And it's a hard voice to ditch. As I went over the raw footage I was embarrassed to hear the faint traces of Caddyshack Murray penetrating my direction.

It's actually not acting, she's just wrinkling her nose at me. Because I'm an IDIOT.
Luckily, there was an unsung hero there to give Mare whatever help she needed. And that's Mare's mother, Amy. Who was there EVERY day, and yet for some reason we haven't really mentioned her at all. But she was crazy instrumental in making the whole film happen, not just this scene. She allowed her daughter to be involved in our crazy project, she helped Mare memorize her lines at home, went over them with her in between takes, read for other characters so Mare had something to play off of, provided eyelines, etc. Plus she drove Mare and herself over on time every day, and was really flexible with scheduling. Amy's important, is what I'm saying. Got it? Alright.

Our A-Team reboot was doomed from the start. I pity the fools...
July first was Marie's audition for the Witch, and while we had other people to test, it was pretty obvious that she was going to be the one. She nailed it first time, and was very receptive to direction, asking if we had any notes or anything for her. We didn't really... We officially gave her the part not long after.

Because we were afraid NOT to...
Marie was a pleasure to work with. A very nice, conscientious person. She was very understanding of the trial and error process of filming the Witch this year, and endured a lot of stress to make it happen. Not just during filming, but leading up to it as well.

I was going to make a Diamonds Are Forever reference, but I think I may be the only one who remembers that movie exists...
The primary source of stress being that damned mask. Prosthetics were always the plan for the Witch. Where would we ever find somebody that hideous? And would we REALLY want to look...? Luckily for us, Sean's friend Darek was friends with the delightful Norman Rowe, and hooked us up with him.

I've gone on before about how freaking awesome Norm is, and Sean did likewise in his most recent article. We love Norm, he's a great guy, and very talented. He did fantastic work crafting the appliances necessary to bring this character to life, and he lost a lot of sleep figuring out how to make it all come together. He did it though, and the Witch turned out better than I could have hoped for.

A scene from our sequel to The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The make-up is only a part of the look, though. You can't have a successful character without a costume. At least not in a children's film... We needed a Witch costume, and since nasty Victorian isn't in this season, we couldn't find it on the shelf. Or off the shelf. What we needed was just nowhere near the shelves. Sadly, Barb wouldn't be able to help us out with the Tri-Dubs. This time Marie hooked us up, with her friend Marina Cherry.

Yeah, they're good drawings. Sure... Let's just avert our eyes from the chin on the left, shall we?
Sean went through the same process as he had with Barb, only way more expensive. He drew up designs for the costume, picked out fabrics with Marina, and handled any back and forth necessary with her. The result was pretty witchin'. And there it is, pun allowance met.

Our last crucial individual is a Mr. Drew More. I stumbled upon Drew quite by accident, in June of 2010. I'd posted on a forum looking for critiques on the then in-progress teaser trailer, and he not only helped out with some very helpful critiques, but expressed a love for the book and volunteered to help with effects work, if we'd have him. And of course we did. The shots of the teaser that hold up best are all him. His talent and experience secured him the position of our visual effects supervisor. Since then he and I have been working together a lot on some stuff that you all may get to see someday.

Obviously, having met him after she was wrapped, Drew had no input on the Dorothy material. More on that tomorrow. But while he could not be present (low budget film, remember?), Drew was still on hand for VFX supervision when the Witch photography was underway. He masterminded our improved tracking set-up, and through video correspondence tested and approved what we went with. We consulted with him before up and moving to Norm's air conditioned shack. And he and I did a lot of tests with shutter speeds. I'll outline the rest of his contributions in tomorrow's entry.

This is just here to prove that there's still more friggin' creepy left in this character... You've not even seen the best of it yet.
I've detailed in more than one entry the process of filming our Witch, and those entries still exist in the archives. All I really have to add is that the Witch footage contained in this scene was shot across three different days. The first day, the costume only day (gunslinger keys, baby!), and the last day, August 21st. My personal favorite shot, where the Witch steps into the light and begins her little speech, was nabbed on that last day. The Banner Elk convention goers got... something else... on the 17th. Someday soon I'll let you all in on that joke.

So there you have it. A substantial number of people working on this across two years. And that's just to make everything happen in front of the camera. Obviously when we capture a character in front of a green dropcloth we're not ready to send the footage straight to the theater... Check back tomorrow for an in-depth write-up on the editing and visual effects work. Or don't, if technical details bore you. I'm gonna get SERIOUS!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Frame For Today

Woof. Got this one in just before close. Forgot that I have a blog...

Seriously... I just forgot...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Frame for Today

"But now you're what... cooked?"
"If you like..."

Apropos of nothing, was anybody else absolutely crazy for The God Complex?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

This is a frame. And it is raw. Whether or not it makes it into the film is another matter entirely...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

According to fan (and writer-producer) reaction, apparently I was wrong, and it was not fun. They can't all be the phonograph though, amirite, Edison?

The Kalidah bridge sequence is one of the bits I'm most looking forward to working on. I get really excited about the bits of the book that have never really been brought to the screen before.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

I thought it might be fun to pick a shot totally at random and then do a screen capture with my eyes closed. Was I right? Was it fun?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Anybody else never understood that expression at all? Wouldn't the friend who helps the friend in need be a friend indeed? Why would somebody who either needs or has requested my help be indeed a friend? Han Solo called to those stormtroopers for help right before he murdered them and took their clothes...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

So I'm curious. There's been a joke between Sean and myself about how screwed he would be if I died before we finished this. Because I'm the only one who knows the purpose of all these random shots of Mare doing random actions against green-screen. I want to see how true that holds. Based on your knowledge of the books, and maybe there are other raw frames that contain clues... what's going on here? Something nice may happen to the person who guesses, I don't know, I haven't decided yet.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

This isn't the first time you've seen our stand-in Munchkin table, but it IS the first time you've seen it... standing in for a Munchkin table... Chillin' with Boq. Dude's a downer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

In my mind there's only one scene that this makes sense to be in. Who can guess?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day Revisit Redux

Some of you may remember our very first raw frame. You may also remember that we revisited that frame with a composited version of the shot in our very first raw frame of the day revist. Well, as I said I might, I went back to that shot and tweaked the ever loving hell out of it. I think this is unquestionably the best version to exist thus far. Your mileage may vary, but I hope it doesn't.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Glimpse at the Future

No raw frame or one of its variants today, folks. Instead, to honor our 100th post, I'm going to give you all a glimpse at the future of the blog. I've been working for a while on something cool, but it must remain shrouded in secrecy until we're ready to reveal it. This has meant that I couldn't really do any journal entries about my progress, because it would all be irritating, vague half-details. Irritating, vague half-details with which I could provide no images. But once I've wrapped up that work, the Iron Curtain can be lifted!

I'd talked a bit in the past about editing various pieces of the film. I've had to take a break from that for the past few months, but starting in November I'll begin putting together a rough-edit of the film in its entirety. This will let us know if the material we've shot thus far is working the way we need it to, and what we still need to shoot. It will serve as a blueprint both for future photography and future effects work. The creation of this edit will be chronicled in a daily feature currently called "Tales From the Rough Cut." All stupid feature names are subject to change between now and November...

In these entries I'll describe what piece of the film I worked on that day, and any challenges that may have been faced. I'll also post either images or video from that particular portion of the edit. Here's a little sort of trailer for this feature, using bits from scenes that have already been edited for one reason or another. This will give you a little idea of what you'll be seeing in the new feature next month.

Raw frame fans take note, as mentioned previously, the raw frame will be retired in favor of this new feature. But it will continue at least until the end of October, and we'll still be getting revisits of these raw frames as they become available.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

Awwwww, you shouldn't have... No really, it's awful.

Tomorrow's the 100th post 'round these parts, so expect a big celebratory blow-out. Well... Don't get too crazy with the expectations. It'll be something different, at least.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

Here's a frame from the scene Sean mentions us cutting in his latest Adapting Oz column. So this is more a preview for the super special collector's edition Blu-ray than it is for the film. Or perhaps a preview for the special extended edition we'll do in 2032 while we slowly try to erase the theatrical version from history. The Wildcat swings first, ladies and gentleman...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

I was enjoying For A Few Dollars More while I worked on stuff today, so I thought today's frame should be another one of many Leone rip-offs... Or homages, depending on your level of generosity.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day Plus

Another scene I'm excited for, with again really ridiculous raw footage. Especially in motion, Mare's supposed to be dragged by this branch, and she's just laying on the screen, moving her own leg as if it's been tugged... silly as hell.

Here's the raw:

And the test composite (emphasis on test, ladies and gentlemen):

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

You all know WHAT she's doing, but only Baum knows WHY she's doing it...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Raw Frame of the Day

I can't believe she waits until the very end of the movie to get rid of that ugly thing...