I had been grueling away at the small visual effects in my upcoming film 3 Keys when I was approached to participate in the Shared Visions Exhibition at Chico Art Center. I knew I shouldn't have said yes but the idea was so great - artists collaborating with children to inspire the community to be more creative with their kids. This would be an opportunity to work with my two year old son Jonah on something special that we can always look back on. It also fits in well with some of the themes I've been exploring in my films and illustrations. The catch... I'd only have 10 days to finish it. This kind of pressure was really a gift and has reenergized me to trust my creative instincts, push aside the "what if's" and just let things happen how they will happen.
First I created some very basic storyboards and developed a concept that used what I already had available in my studio. A big challenge was figuring out how to film Jonah efficiently and effectively so it was an enjoyable experience for him that allowed him to collaborate and contribute.
I created a small box full of old, broken action-figure pieces from my childhood. The box was full of colorful lights, and objects that I could later animate. I prepped all of the lighting and discreetly set up the camera, allowing me to capture his natural reaction to seeing these toys for the first time. I then had to direct him in order to get some connecting shots. Throughout the week we filmed four times in small sessions. I then took the action figures he was playing with, animated them, and built the story around it.
Some days I found myself grabbing anything I could find to cobble together a set. After collecting random objects, miniatures, pieces of plastic, and cardboard over the years it wasn't hard to do.
One of the final steps was composing music that felt like childlike wonder. I decided to use a toy music box, and two different ukuleles with digital instruments of a flute and clarinet to create the playful but sentimental score.
After many late nights and long days TOY BOX is now finished and will be premiering on August 11th at the Chico Art Center in Chico, CA. Until then, here are some behind the scenes photos.
This paper stop-motion animated music video was created for the band Severance Package and their song "Scissors Gonna Cut Ya". It was created by filming the band and dancers, printing at 12 fps, cutting them out and compositing in the computer. Additional stop-motion animation of my hand, scissors, and scraps of paper were used, along with paper sets and a 3D printed retro TV. See the behind the scenes images below:
A few years ago I heard about a Kickstarter project looking to fund a horror movie called Dolly Deadly. The movie was to be in the style of the classic Troma films; very disturbing, lots of blood, and lots of fun. I had seen Director Heidi Moore's previous short films and decided to contribute to the campaign.
Lucky for me, she contacted me the next day because she had seen my previous stop-motion short film Wormholes and wanted me to be involved in adding some classic stop-motion effects to her film. Over the next few years I animated doll parts, guts, eyeballs, and a scarecrow. The movie is now touring the country and being distributed through Legless Corpse Films.
Check out the video below to see some of my stop-motion highlights from the movie:
Once again, I had the pleasure of working with the talented puppet maker Richard Whillock. This time he helped me create a stop-motion puppet as well as an identical rod-puppet so I can film in real time with the actress during some important shots. Check out the puppet photos below.
When I was 6 years old I rushed out of my bedroom to share a funny story with my mom. She was talking to her friend in the living room and the TV was quietly on providing just enough background noise to block out the chaos of us kids. I don’t remember what was so hilarious at the time to cause me to run to her, but I do remember the moment that followed. I remember it so vividly because it would traumatize me for the rest of my life.
Before I could say a word, something caught my attention on the TV and within 30 seconds I was curled up in a ball on the couch, clinging to my mother’s arm in utter terror. The show was Entertainment Tonight but the thing that would haunt my dreams for decades to come was the infamous doll Chucky.
The thought never even occurred to me that my beloved teddy bear or any other toy could possibly come to life and kill, but from that day forward I saw the world differently. Though I would never actually watch the Child’s Play movies until I was 19, those 30 seconds of footage along with the image of Chucky on the VHS tapes at the video rental stores, fueled my imagination with terror.
At first Chucky would appear in my nightmares each week until eventually he only showed up when I had internal turmoil. By the time I was in high school I figured out he represented whatever my current problem was and how well I was handling it. If I was running away from my problems in real life, I found myself running away from Chucky. If I was ready to tackle a problem head on, I found myself stabbing him, or setting him on fire. Eventually, we even became friends and would sit on the couch together watching TV… I still don’t know what that means.
Everything changed when my family took a trip to Universal Studios and I saw how movies were made. I’m not sure if it is in my imagination but I remember our tour bus driving past a glass case with chucky dolls on display and I became fascinated. By the time I was 9 years old, I began checking out books from our local library on film techniques and became fascinated with the practical effects in Star Wars, and Jaws.
In 2012 I started to focus my artistic exploration towards stop-motion animation, essentially building dolls to animate in my dark home studio. Last year it hit me… I was overcoming my fear of dolls by controlling them through my art. While doing research on animatronics for my movie The Spaceman, I watched the making of Child’s Play and found a new respect for these filmmakers who unknowingly tortured my childhood. The creativity and craftsmanship that went into making this classic horror film was remarkable.
Next month I will begin filming a new short film about Nightmares called 3 Keys. Through filmmaking I am exploring this concept more directly and have even commissioned a terrifying clown doll marionette along with other puppets to try and conquer this fear once and for all. Maybe that’s what the creators of Child’s Play were doing back in 1988 or maybe they just wanted to make the scariest movie possible. Either way I hope I don’t send another kid down the same terrifying path Chucky gave me.
I’ll be posting behind the scenes stills and concept art for my new movie soon. Keep checking back for updates.
I am in my 12th month making a living in the Arts. The purpose of this blog is to keep myself motivated, on track and to provide knowledge for those looking to make a similar decision.
August and September left me feeling overwhelmed, and overworked. I realized I hadn’t posted in far too long so this will have to cover the last two months. I’m sorry for the delay but here we go…
Internal and External Struggles
August and September left me doubting myself for the first time all year. I brought in the least amount of money due to long term projects that pay out when finished, had to wait on slow payments from the University systems, and a few clients decided to take their time sending those checks. On top of that, unexpected car repairs came up, and I caught a cold for a week.
Despite these setbacks I have been working very hard. Having a month where I struggled financially was the kind of kick in the ass I needed. It helped me understand how I need to prepare in the future.
In a way I feel like the more I accomplish and the closer I get to achieve my goals, the more my internal resistance tries to hold me back. I found myself on multiple occasions thinking how ridiculous it was for me to leave a steady job to make art out of puppets (it sounds even worse when I type it). However, I am being true to myself, I am working every day, and people are taking notice of it.
I am so thankful that my film The Spaceman is still taking off and finding its audience. The puppets, sets, storyboards, and more were featured in the September issue of Videomaker Magazine. They have over 50,000 subscribers across North America and an amazing online following. It will be playing at the SciFi Festival in Australia on October 31st and screened last month at the Shortz Film Festival in Chico, CA. My participation in Shortz also brought in interviews from the Chico ER Newspaper, Weekend Showcase radio show, and KRCR TV.
In August I animated a short promotional video for Animation Chico, was hired to create a very stylized beating heart for Norwegian singer/songwriter Annie Woodward’s latest music video, and had a few great production shoots for the film The Last Foxhole which I am producing for director Joe Batt.
In September I finally made time to start writing the script for my next live-action film, found the actors, and started planning the budget.
My favorite moments over the last two months were spent working on the stop-motion music video for Michelin Embers, which required building a wagon, backdrops, and miniature bridges, a drive-in movie theatre, and more. I can’t wait to show everyone!
I’m finding that my graphic design work is getting smaller to make room for film projects but I’m still maintaining monthly retainers. In September I designed event flyers for The University of Alabama, Georgia Southern University, and Allegory Bellydance.
The End is Near…
Next Month will be my last post about my life after leaving my day job. I will recap the year’s highlights and explain the lessons I’ve learned in my first year as a self-employed artist. I’m not sure if anyone reads this but it really helps me process such a big decision and navigate through this crazy first year. Thank you for all your support!
I'm really excited to share these behind the scenes photos of my latest project for the band Michelin Embers. The guys asked me to create a stop-motion music video for their song "Diggin' On" that will also incorporate footage of the band playing.
The puppet was based on the illustrations of Rick Barnett who also created their album cover. It was made with a metal armature and clay head and the clothing was created with the help of artist Aryn Fisher. The backdrop was painted on a 10 foot piece of paper.
The vehicle is made from wood, metal, 3D printed parts, and found objects.
In the opening shot of the music video, we will start underground and come up to the surface before meeting the puppet. Here is a photo of me and artist Heather Bennett designing the underground layers using pieces of cardboard. I later 3D printed dinosaur bones and glued them on the surface.
Keep checking back for more behind the scenes photos.
I am in my ninth month of making a living in the Arts. The purpose of this blog is to keep myself motivated, on track and to provide knowledge for those looking to make a similar decision.
GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE
July quickly became my most stressful month yet but I kept reminding myself that this kind of stress is so much better than having the general public yell at me on a daily basis for things I can’t control. The cause of my stress came from my inability to say no to projects and for the first time in my career I overbooked.
In order to meet all of my deadlines I worked longer hours and created a production schedule from July through December to stay on track. I also decided not to take on any new work unless I can finish these early.
FINDING AND PROMOTING TALENT
My ultimate goal is to start an animation studio and I took the first big step in this direction last month by hiring two freelancers to help me build sets, and puppet clothing for a new Michelin Embers stop-motion music video. I love collaborating with talented artists with skills that I don’t have and thought this was a great opportunity to test out their talents. When you work with people who are passionate about what they do, it brings the production to a whole other level. I will post behind the scenes images from this video very soon.
I also finished editing the rough draft of the feature film Dolly Deadly, organized my upcoming animation festival Animation Chico and found most of our judges (I’ll be announcing them soon). I booked a small stop-motion animation job in a music video for director Morgan Barajas and continued to maintain my graphic design jobs on the side.
My short film The Spaceman was mentioned at best-horror-movies.com and won the Honorable Mention Award at the One Reeler Short Film Competition. It was also accepted in the Village of Brewster Film Festival (Brewster, NY) and will be screened there on September 5th.
There are only 3 more posts in this series and then I will write a yearly reflection of my jump into self-employment. If you have any questions, suggestions, or specific things you’d like me to talk about, write them in the comments below.
I love working with foam core and decided to create a miniature replica of the El Rey Theatre and film it against green screen. Every other piece was illustrated and painted by hand. The marquee was printed on transparency paper and illuminated by lights I purchased at IKEA. Finally, everything was animated together in the computer.
A lot of work went into this 20 second animation but it was tons of fun.
Music by Dana Hocking.