Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Filming of "The King Who Sought Immortality", part two.

After spending most of the day in front of a blue screen, we broke for lunch and then headed off to a closed-down sand pit. The place was huge and worked out fine as a kind of quasi-desert. You could see some trees on the horizon and there were weeds growing here and there. It was here that we shot our framing story, where the king emerges from the dark desert night and joins the camp of two exiled princes. He tells his amazing, heroic tale of his journey to the underworld and his quest for the secret of immortality. So, in fact, it's never established that he is a real king. He may just be a guy who found the sword he's carrying in the desert, and he's telling a tall-tale. Though it does have a profound effect on the life of the two princes.

There was actually a fairly large pond in the middle of the sand pit. We used it for scenes when the king jumps into the ocean and comes out of it. When he is submerged he's shot in front of a blue screen. Dag's just done his bit of splashing about in this photo, and is trying to get his loincloth in order. Nothing of his leopard swimming trunks showed up on film.

The king finds the flower of immortality on the bottom of the ocean, but looses it to a hungry snake when he comes ashore. He is greeted by his dead friend who tells him that being dead is not all that bad. Olof, who's been in a few of my films, acted the part of the friend. He is also an old pal of Dag's and a very mellow dude.

When the king enters the camp in the desert he's carrying a huge dead lizard. He then proceeds to cut it up and roast it over the campfire. There are two parts of this lizard, an edible one and a non-edible.

The non-edible variant is a big latex lizard, with a foam interior and a wooden skeleton. It started life long ago as a stop-motion puppet. It was not very well put together, but it worked fine as a "dead" prop. I just had to make a few adjustments and repairs to get it in working order (new eyes, a new paintjob, etc).

The edible version consisted of three(?) chickens sewn together in a Frankenstein-like manner by Dag and prepared in my kitchen oven before bringing the dish to our desert camp. There it was placed on a wooden spit and allowed to roast some more. With added spices it was very tasty, though we did have to pick pieces of yarn from our teeth every once in a while.

Filming ended about 10.30 in the evening. We were all quite ready to go home. Dag, in particular had been active all day and truly given his all as an actor, cook and makeshift stuntman.

Though some of us were still on a high...

All in all, an incredibly good day. I got almost all of the footage I needed in the can. There's still some stuff to be shot with a ferryman in the underworld, and also a couple of scenes with the queen of the underworld. But compared to the rest of the footage, it's easy stuff. I think the finished film will turn out OK, as amateur productions go. At any rate, we had a hell of a good time making it.

Some last minute posing for the ladies before heading home.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Something about the props for "The King Who Sought Immortality"

For this film I wanted some really distinctive props, stuff that couldn't be bought or rented. This meant sculpting and casting quite a bit of stuff. I'll show you some examples here.

This very simple Chavant clay sculpture, with added pearls and buttons, was duplicated in plastic from a silicone mold. I added a big safety-pin on the back of it, painted it gold, and voila; A cape clasp. I made about eight different clasp in this way.

This neck piece for Ishtar started off as a clay sculpture. I made a plaster mold for casting latex, since I wanted the neck piece to be soft and comfortable. In this photo the latex piece has been painted with brown PAX paint. Below it's been dry-brushed with gold paint.

This Chavant clay sculpture was also reproduced in latex and used as a bracelet for Ishtar. The rounded arcs with their straight centerpiece are actually an old Sumerian symbol of divinity.

Now for some complicated stuff; the king's sword. I read that some of the very first swords ever made were made out of gold and copper. Bronze apparently came later. I wanted a short, simple sword that was also light and easy to use. I decided to cast the sword in durable plastic (SmoothCast 325 from I have an old African (?) spear head I bought long ago that was the perfect lenght and shape for the blade. I sculpted the grip in Chavant clay.

I brushed a layer of Dragon Skin Q silicone all over the sword and let that set. Then I made a makeshift mold brace out of cardboard and filled it with more silicone, and lowered the sword into the goo. After the silicone had set I removed the sword by cutting through the middle of the mold, almost all the way down.

The silicone mold itself is very jiggly, so I had to add some kind of support when casting the plastic in it. I simply duck-taped it up against a wooden board and that worked. The finished sword came out nice and straight. Maybe I was just lucky this time.

The plastic sword, with its thin blade, would have been to wobbly on its own, so before pouring the plastic I lowered a thin piece of coal fiber (the top piece of a fishing rod) into the mold. This added the needed strenght and stability. In this photo a coat of brown / green color is airbrushed on.

A mix of purple and gold has been airbrushed on to highlight the sword. Finished!

Well, nearly finished. The sword needs a sheath, of course. I made mine out of sturdy cardboard, reinforced with ducktape.

On the top and bottom parts of the sheath I sculpted clay fittings, later reproduced in plastic from silicone molds.

Before adding the fittings, the sheath was covered in leather-imitation PVC cloth.

And when finished and in the hands of a king, even a plastic sword can kill demons and chop of octopus tentacles.

The Filming of "The King Who Sought Immortality", part one.

We shot all of the live-action material for this film in one single day, most of it indoors in front of a blue screen. It was all a strange mix of strict discipline and a cavalcade of dirty jokes. There were three people in front of the camera; Dag, who played the king of the story, Liz, who portrayed the godess Ishtar, and Rolf, who played the one man in existence who had cracked the secret of immortality. I stayed behind the camera with Björn and Niklas, who were our grips. They later turned into exiled princes during our evening shoot in a deserted sand-pit. More about that in a coming blog.

My costume-maker Liz Matsson, this time IN costume as the godess Ishtar. If she looks a bit shiny here it's because she's covered in fine gold powder. When the film is edited she will have the color of her eyes changed to purple (probably) and a hazy glow will envelope her.

Our very simple set-up. My blue screen is a 4 x 4 meter long / wide cloth and hangs over a big screen, used for making temporary walls during stage plays. The blue cloth is lit by a couple of stage lamps and some lights on the cieling.

Rolf Berg; the man who's been in almost all of my film projects. I realized that this film is our 10th film together! Rolf turns 79 on January 1 2009.

Oh, the joys of adolescent humor! Björn, actor and grip, tries to impress the women with his big tentacle.

I had made a paper "flame drum" for an earlier project and I decided to use it again for a scene in this project. Basically, it's a paper tube with flame-shaped holes covered with red and yellow acetates. You turn the drum and shine light through it, thus achieving the effect of moving "fire" showing against your preferred background. However, we ended up not using it on this film and Dag decided to wear it on his head between takes. Don't really know why.

Dag is holding a tentacle of an attacking octopus. He just chopped it off with his copper sword (actually made out of plastic). He's also holding his breath and pretending he's on the ocean floor. We used a graden leaf-blower to simulate wind in clothes during the filming and we also used it for these faux underwater scenes, to make hair and cloth wave around a bit. It made a hell of a racket while we used it, though.

Niklas is holding the leaf-blower that provided a little wind for us this day. You can stop holding your breath now, Dag. We've stopped filming.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Mewlips

As a huge Tolkien fan I also became an instant fan of Colin Rudd's music, since I believe it's the closest to sitting in an Middle-Earth inn and listening to a bard as we'll ever get. So I contacted him in June 2007 and asked for permission to use one of his songs, which illustrated Tolkien's "hobbit" poem "The Mewlips", to make a movie. He heartly agreed and off I was to the workshop and animation room... And I was pretty much off for a long while. All sorts of other jobs and problems to solve popped up one by one, so it's not until last week that this project was finished and posted on YouTube. Happily, Colin was happy with the result and now I'm working on the next project, "Ent Song".

The Mewlips are nasty creatures that hobbit parents scare their children with, so the kids don't wander off with foolish ideas of adventure. I had no idea how the puppets would look as I started sculpting them, but here's how they turned out.

Armatures for the puppets were made in my usual, cheap-but-sturdy way. The joints are braided aluminum wire and the "bones" are melted and shaped Friendly Plastic.

One of the mewlips has been covered in latex skin.

But his butt and back still needs to get dressed. As you can see there's some simple muscle shapes made out of foam rubber. The yellow sort is the softer one.

The boys are finished and ready to get moving.

The castle of the mewlips does not suffer any rodent-infestation, but rather an infestation of mudskippers. This tiny puppet is about 8 cm long and was animated separately on a blue screen set, so I could shrink it down when adding it to scenes with the mewlips. Had I built it in scale with the mewlip puppets it would've been pretty difficult to animate.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dracula on the stage

I was contacted by my friend Lars Åkerlund in the fall of 2007 about making props for his stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I knew I wouldn't want to miss out on that, since Lars always manages to do clever, funny and thought-provoking stuff. This was not going to be any ordinary Dracula. And quite right I was. The whole stage is draped in black and the whole show is staged by candle light only. Lars, his daughter Maja and my friend Malin acts out all the roles in various ingenious ways. The play premiered in October 2008 and has been playing to great reviews.

My job was to make 23 vampire skulls, one for each show. This version of the tale ends with van Helsing smashing Dracula's skull after the vampire has disintigrated in the sun. The skulls were cast in SmoothCast 325 plastic from a silicone mold. Each skull was cast as thin a hollow plastic layer as it was possible to make it, without breaking the skull while wriggling it out of the mold. It worked most of the time.

A model of Dracula's castle. It can be seen in the background and originally the vampire's eyes were supposed to peek out through the gate as he welcomes Jonathan Harker. But that idea was eventually scrapped. The castle is actually made out of stiff cardboard, covered in latex skins for the stone-wall textures. It was done VEEERY cheaply and quickly, but it does the trick on the candle-lit stage.

Prince Dracula's dragon helmet, here modeled by my pal Martin. The helmet is also made in SmoothCast 325 plastic. The play starts off in medieval times, before Dracula was made a vampire and the helmet was meant to mirror the monster he later becomes. The real life Dracula was a knight of the Order of the Dragon.

I also made two stick-puppet rats with glowing eyes, the poster, the program and various other stuff.