Sets like this require a lot of detail. After days spent building staircase spindles, picture frames, door knobs, liquor bottles, chairs, tables and countless other bits and pieces it felt like very little progress was being made. Quit often though there comes a moment when you start to assemble all those little bits and the set suddenly comes alive. It’s hard to know when that moment will arrive but it’s easy to spot when it does and let me tell you … it’s a great feeling.


I’ve started work on the interior of the saloon. I expect it to take 2 to 3 weeks although that time frame may be a little optimistic. I’ll be honest I’ve hit something of a wall. This film has been ridiculously complicated when it comes to the sets and as much as I am incredibly pleased with how the entire film is coming together, it’s been a struggle this past week working up the enthusiasm for yet another build. The fact that the massive, 100+ shot climax of the film waits for me on the other side of this scene does little to lighten the mood. These moments happen at some point on just about every project and are neither unique nor unexpected. It’s like the athlete who’s lost their scoring touch; you need to keep working and sooner or later the goals will come.


Another two weeks of intense work. I’ve been burning through Scene 10 and hope to have it completed in the next couple of days. I’ve also retired a third puppet which makes half the cast. This set allows me easy access to the puppets which is a welcome change. Beyond this scene are a couple of quick turnaround throwaway set pieces before I attack the last major interior; inside Whistler’s Saloon. I can see about 4 more months of animating before I reach the end which means the temperature in my little workshop will start to drop before too long.


There are 4 separate gunfights in FROM HELL HE RIDES. I’ve just completed the first of them and the resulting scene is really quite good in my humble opinion. The striking of the blacksmith set also means I’ve past the half way point of shooting. Looking at the underside of my animation table you can see that my cowboys have done a lot of moving around. The painters tape is so I can find the right hole when I’m animating. So many more holes to be made before the ride out of town.

72 HRS.


Because you’re starting from scratch, the first major set always takes the longest to build. As you work through each scene you start to accumulate props and set dressing which hopefully can be used moving forward so when it came time to rotate the blacksmith shop I was able to do it in just a few days. This is the same set wall from two weeks ago and as you can see I didn’t bother finishing it to the top. I waited until I had it on the animation table before adding the boards. I set up my camera to the widest shot I would need, made some marks and filled in what I needed. By the end of the week this scene will be done.



The puppet cast of this film is not without its challenges. I chose this scale because I knew I was going to need to produce some fairly subtle animation. The bigger the puppet the easier it is to do that but it comes at a price. The puppets are heavier which means some of the joints; mainly the ankles, knees and hips need to be very tight in order to hold the puppets weight which makes things like walking much more difficult. I knew that would be the case having dealt with 2 large puppets on FILTH. The difference is the whole cast is at that scale this time around. Each film has its own set of challenges and hopefully you can take what you learn, make some sort of educated guess and apply it to the next one.



There is only one scene in the blacksmith’s shop. It’s made up of 57 shots and runs about 2 minutes. 14 of those shots face the inside of that forth wall I mentioned last week. During the storyboard phase I usually think about things like, is it worth all the trouble to show all four corners of a room or can I make the scene work by just showing three. FILTH is a great example of avoiding the forth wall but in this particular scene I really wanted to illustrate the point that someone was outside the room and my cowboys had no idea where. I usually build set walls on the animation table but seeing as I’m still animating over there I had to move to my work bench. This film is really pushing the limits of my work space.



I needed a couple of shots looking through the window from the outside into the blacksmith’s shop so I made this little set piece. I salvaged the wall from the cabin set, cut the window opening a little larger, added new trim and rebuilt the window frames. It took a day and a half to build and mount and another day to light and shoot. Shots like these really open up a film, give it scope and help create the feel of an outside world.



I’ve competed 15 shots in the last 8 days which is a pretty torrid pace even for me. Animating characters that are so human in appearance has been a challenge. As with all things, as I do more of it I’m getting better (and faster) but it also means when I look back at some of my earlier shots I see things that I might do differently now. Those sets are long gone so there’s no going back. I’ve been down this road with every film I’ve made and it’s all part of the process. With unlimited resources you may have the luxury of working on each shot until it’s perfect but I have neither the time nor the inclination for that. I’d like to make a few more films will I still have the stamina.