It’s been a couple of years since I last sculpted a new character. It always takes a bit of time to get my hands to do what my brain tells them to but I’m starting to settle in. Although the scope of this production is scaled back I still need to create 4 new puppets along with some miscellanies close up appendages. And even though one of these characters has only 1 minute of screen time, they all require the same level of detail. The sculpts and moulds should be ready by the fall but it’ll be spring before the actual puppets are camera ready. There’s a whole mess of storyboards to be drawn, armatures to be machined and sets to be built. There’s no shortage of work at the beginning.
My next film was inspired by legendary animator Ray Harryhausen’s It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955). It’s about a giant octopus that destroys a city. Mine is the story of a mild mannered home owner who is attacked by a monster that bursts out of his kitchen sink. You won’t see the Golden Gate Bridge torn down in my film but it’s the spirit of the thing that counts. The reason I animate at all is because of the enormous impact the films of Ray Harryhausen had on me as a kid. It may have taken 40 years but I’m finally going to make a film that pays tribute to the man.
Early indications are that I’ve made a film that will fall through the cracks on the festival circuit; too violent for animation festivals, not horror enough for the genre festivals, and too unique to fit in with traditional short film blocks. I base this on the early reaction I’ve received from each of these groups. For this reason I am strongly considering forgoing festivals altogether. To be perfectly honest, I’m not as enthusiastic about them as I used to be and the financial investment is not one I’m ready to make anymore. I’m already pursuing short film hosting sites to see if they have any interest. Regardless of their position the result is you may be seeing FROM HELL HE RIDES much sooner than expected.
I’ve completed the first draft for my next film. It’s much shorter than may recent work; I’m guessing it will run about 8 minutes. It’s also completely different in that it’s more comedy than horror which may be one of the reasons it’s coming together so easily. I needed a change from all the violence and coarse language of the past 5 years. I won’t be rushing into production any time soon but it’s nice to be working on something different.
After two and a half years and untold hours … I am finally ready to share a first look at FROM HELL HE RIDES.
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.