As I work through the final days of mixing, watching the film over and over I’m reminded of how difficult the animation process was for this film. There were a number of reasons for this (which I will not go into here) but I remember becoming seriously frustrated by it all on several occasions. Not exactly the frame of mind you want to be in when you’re animating. It can really sour the whole process if you let it get to you but you have to take the long view. The overall quality of the animation in FROM HELL HE RIDES is, I believe, the best I’ve ever done and those difficult days seem distant and irrelevant today.
I don’t actively seek out new projects. I don’t sit back in my chair, hand on chin and think about what my next film will be. Scenarios pop into my head all the time and if one of them stays with me for a while then I’ll start developing it. This past year I was sure I knew what I was doing next on several occasions. One idea made it all the way to an outline, sort of. I spent two months trying to write it down but I could never land on an ending that satisfied me. I felt I could work it into something but sometimes when you begin investing time and effort it’s hard to let an idea go even when you know it doesn’t work. This past week I was standing in my kitchen and had a completely new, fully formed idea. Within a day I had the whole story. By the end of a second day I had a written outline and clear ideas for characters and sets. I won’t definitively say this is my next film … but the simplicity of it is so self-evident that I’m shocked that I never thought of it before.
It was exactly 2 years ago today that I began work on the storyboards for FROM HELL HE RIDES. I found this out by chance just a few moments ago when I was preparing for this post. And now here we are…pushing through to the finale. I put the finishing touches on the score last night simultaneously locking the picture as well. While I had hoped to complete the film by the end of April, as like every other aspect of this production, the music proved more challenging than I anticipated. Still, at some point in May the film will be complete. I find that hard to believe.
It’s been awhile since I last posted … mostly because I took a few weeks away from the film. This has been a very challenging production and I wasn’t ready to jump into composing the music the day after I packed up the camera. So now … after that much needed break serious work has begun on the score. I’ve completed 6 cuts to date with another 10 to 12 to go. I have all my major themes, which are the biggest challenge and have been slowly making my way through the film. This would go a lot faster if I wasn’t such a hack on the guitar and keyboard but the process has been very enjoyable and the results are exceeding my expectations.
The camera is packed up. The last set has been dismantled and the animation table is empty. It took just over 13 months to complete the animation on FROM HELL HE RIDES. There’s a sense of disorientation that comes with doing something for that long and then going cold turkey. Stop motion is not something that can be done in little bits, especially when you’re trying to shoot a 15 minute film. Blocks of consecutive hours need to be allocated and now that it’s over, the days feel very different.
I’ve completed animation on FROM HELL HE RIDES. You might think a moment like this would be met with celebration but truthfully it’s with a sense of relief and mental exhaustion that I power down the lights for the last time on this production. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of the last 2+ years it’s this … westerns are hard. This film was a massive undertaking but I have to say I’m extremely pleased with the results. I will take the next few days to relax and let this all sink in before starting work on the score and sound edit. In 2 months I hope to have a finished film.
There was any number of ways I could have staged this gun fight without crossing to the other side of the street but I decided almost 2 years ago that this was how I wanted to stage it … which makes this set something of an extravagance. Sometimes present day me thinks past me really didn’t know what he was doing. However, now that the scene is starting to come together I’m beginning to think that past me was right. It’s a strange feeling knowing that there are no more sets to build for this film.
Those hard days when progress felt glacial seem very far away now. As I start work on the final set I can’t help but recall everything that I’ve made for this film and shake my head. The evidence is all around me as I trip and stumble around my crowded work space. I’ve accumulated boxes and boxes of props, set pieces and just all out junk and can honestly say I am counting down the days to when I can finally purge myself it all.
I think I’ve taken the violence in stop motion as far as I intend to. That’s not to say FROM HELL HE RIDES is some kind of blood bath because it’s not. FILTH holds that honour but FILTH was over the top which helped take some of the edge off whereas FROM HELL HE RIDES is not. It’s played straight … which has me thinking about the future and what I might do next. While I have made no concrete decisions I can say there is something on my mind.
Back in December 2019 I did a shot of one of my guys entering the Sheriff’s office. As I was putting the exterior of the set together I thought to myself, “…what did I do with that door?” I’ve made a lot of doors this past year and they all have a slightly different pattern so it was kind of important that this particular door match from one shot to the next. Those little bits of continuity are incredibly important if you’re trying to make something at least half way professional. I did find the door. It had been repainted several times for use on other sets but was still in good shape. A quick touch up and up it went. I love the idea that a year will separate those 2 shots in the final film.