Friday, December 18, 2009

Who are my main protagonists?

I wanted to be able to come away from some videos I recently watched describing what a character is having learned something. So... another rewrite of the prologue is in order.

In the mean time, here's some insight into the man Mulvey is.
  • Curious about the world.
  • Self assured. He knows he's smart, which can a liability.
  • Wealthy. Despite trying to remain class blind, his upbringing makes those efforts difficult.
  • Affable. He's very friendly and very, very loyal. Also a liability.
  • Confident. He believes he is a good judge of character. He's not.
  • A little misogynist. Also part of his upbringing- he's completely unaware of it.
  • Adventurous. This trait defines him more than any of the others, and his wealth and genius allow him to have many adventures.
  • A genius at inventions.
All of these main traits make him a likable snob. His character arc will break down his worst bits.

Fanny, on the other hand is very different.
  • Curious about the world.
  • Ahead of her time. A suffragette with ties to Susan Anthony.
  • Educated. She went to Wheaton Female Seminary. She speaks Chinese and Russian.
  • Passionate. She falls in love with her father's Chinese manservant against his wishes.
  • She wants what men of the Victorian era have- comradeship, freedom and acceptance.
  • Confident. She knows she is good judge of character.
  • Independent. Much to her fathers dismay.
  • Strong. Wu has taught her some fighting skill.
All of these traits make her intractable and distant to people she doesn't know. Once her shell is cracked, however, she is very much in the moment.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More snaps of the mooring dock interior

I'm trying a new rendering style, and I think I'm pretty pleased with it so far. I am going to continue to tweak these shots as I go, but I'm rather pleased with how it's looking.
Here's a closeup of the boxes and barrels I've made, with a cool overhead light to punch it up a little. The only thing missing now are the signs.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mulvey's character arc

  • Mulvey and Grimmauld fought for the Union in the civil war.
  • Despite the master/servant relationship found in so many Jules Verne stories, Grimmauld is constantly reminded of the difference in class.
  • Mulvey signs a contract to invent for Glowerston Industries. His first task is to design and oversee the construction of the Hypatia.
  • He falls in like with Coraline. They make plans to wed.
  • Mulvey and Fanny are childhood friends. He's happy to see her and doesn't understand her cold shoulder.
  • Glowerston has no interest in going to the moon. His contract demands he begin the next project at Glowerstons whim, which happens to be a trip to the ocean floor.
  • He is told that Glowerston has found the location where his fathers ship went down which peaks his interest and gives him initiative to build the bathysphere.
  • Once at the bottom of the trench, Glowerston shows him in no uncertain terms he is nothing but a tool. He is there to recover a mystical artifact and is expendable. Fanny intervenes, saving them.
  • After recovering the sword, he voids his contract with Coraline's help, and secures funding to go to the moon. They marry. He builds his moon ship.
  • Once on the moon, he is assaulted by Grimmauld- it turns out Grimmauld was paid by Glowerstons second to kill him. Mulvey honestly did not see it coming.
  • Mulvey accidently kills Grimmauld.
  • On his return, a bomb that Glowerstons second set goes off, killing Coraline and disfiguring both Mulvey and Glowerston.
  • Fanny shows up. Finally, he realizes that he's been a boob and with Fanny's help, they plot their revenge against Glowerston and his second.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fanny's character arc

  • She and Mulvey are childhood friends. When they meet again after a number of years, he's kind of a pompous jerk.
  • She falls in love with a Chinese warrior named Wu in the employ of her father.
  • Her father has made a deal with his second in command for her hand in marriage, which she puts off as long as she can.
  • After a wedding date has been set, she and Wu escape together to China. They live there for a number of years.
  • Her father, in an attempt to salvage the contract with his second pays an assassin to kill Wu and their boy and bring her home.
  • Wu's bodyguards fail to protect him, but are able to save the child.
  • She returns to Boston on the down low, contacts Mulvey and together they hatch a plan for revenge.
  • She and Mulvey are able to be friends again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another greenscreen test...

Well, it's rough. The matte on the foreground element looks pretty lame- I've got to figure out the settings to get an alpha channel into FXHome.

Nevertheless, I am pretty excited about this test for a couple of reasons. It looks pretty good. Once I get that fg matte looking better, it will look real. The train holds up. At the distance I shot it at, and the lighting system I used (an overhead 1k and a side diffused 1k) it blended pretty nicely in color with the image.

One other issue- I'm still not completely sure that the output settings I'm using from FXHome are correct. I am choosing the same output (HD 1080i60) but it plays back choppy. Weird.

Well, I hope you enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My first greenscreen test!

This is the official first test of computer, software and camera used together to composite an actor into a background. We learned some things tonight.
  1. The greenscreen has to be more evenly lit. Part of the problem may be that I painted the garage wall and I'm getting some weird highlights on the wall, despite the fact that the paint is flat, not glossy.
  2. I'm not sure my garage is big enough. Initially, I thought that it would make a cool little studio. Trouble is, the ceilings only eight feet off the ground. And it's only about fifteen feet across. Not wide enough, damnit!
  3. Can't do totally dark clothes and composite over a dark image.
Regardless, this looks promising!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A grand experiment...

I'm just trying to do some old film looks with some footage we came up with. It looks promising, but I really have to learn this software. I'm using FXhome and Final Cut Pro... And I've never used them before. Should be interesting!

I bought the train down at the Train Shack in Burbank. Nice guys. The train totally looks like something that's running at Disneyland!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The mooring dock is almost done!

This is where the picture of the entire cast is taken at the end of the prologue.
Well, after several days of modelling, I've finally finished the mooring dock interior. Now all that's left is filling it up with stuff. You know. Stuff. Like big wooden crates, signs, a Glowerston Industries logo, and some other stuff to make it more... Lived in. Regardless, I'm pretty proud of this image... I've never lit anything before and this is looking pretty real-

Monday, November 2, 2009

The bathysphere interior... Very rough.

I thought I had a more detailed drawing. But alas, I do not. Ideally every rib is the same, and styled in a Harper Goff Victorian shape. This interior is not "Steampunk" in that it is very utilitarian, since Mulvey designed the thing under duress. There will be a lock box under one portal which, when opened, will provide access outside of the vehicle to bring the treasure inside. On the opposite wall, a bunsen burner to heat water for tea.

For though his location may change, a gentleman remains a gentleman.

I will be doing a more detailed drawing tomorrow.
And here it is...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Glowerston Coat of Arms

In case you were wondering, the Latin reads: Power, Control, Perseverance. Glowerston was a war profiteer, hence the crow and the cut up snake. (Which, incidently, is the design Ben Franklin drew for his infamous Unite or Die cartoon!)

The evolution of a matte painting...

This was a picture of Boston I found online. It's perfect for one of the establishing shots for my film, but there's a couple of problems. First, there's still people in it. Well, people AND a horse and carriage. In order for my shot to work I need to remove them. Here's what that looks like...

Second, because it's going to be an alternative version of Boston from the 1870's, I will be making the buildings taller by at least one floor. It's the Fourth of July, so I'll also be adding those red, white and blue bunting to some of the windows and adding some Victorian signage to the shop there on the right.

Eventually, I will be compositing people and digital vehicles on top of this to give it some life.

Fixing pictures like this is tricky, no doubt about it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some rough costume designs for Fanny...

These are some designs I drew based on a Victorian costume I found (I love the hat with the feather!) and sort of a neo Victorian pirate I've been doodling for the last year or two. The first picture is Fanny in the prologue and the second is Fanny in the third chapter. Quite a difference, but she ended up living in China with Wu for fifteen years until Glowerston found her and had Wu killed. So, she's a badass.

Gauge design for Huzzah the Moon!

So I will be printing this out and putting it in the gauges for the backpacks. I've bought a bunch of old water and air pressure gauges from the 1900's on Ebay, which I have to take apart to clean anyway, and this inserts quite nicely.

I love steampunk!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A lot of rewriting, a lot of time spent with my son.

Haha. So, I think I finally have all the plot points nailed down.

  1. The prologue is much more argumentative and Mulvey is no longer a reactive geek; he's more of a character with a spine, although he is still pretty innocent of the way those in power use people. He's also more of product of the Victorian period so that's where his character arc will go, in an attempt to discard it. Fanny plays a bigger role here too. I also removed the mother in law character.
  2. The Descent should be a lot more exciting now- and the ships graveyard will be much more of a central location. It's here where Mulvey realizes he is expendable, but he's got an ace up his sleeve.
  3. Huzzah the Moon is simpler. Grimmauld is paid to kill Mulvey on the moon and Farnsworth sets in motion a backup plan. We also learn that Glowerston had his daughters husband murdered and Coroline is now killed at the end, which makes the third chapter all the more tense.
  4. In Revenge, now Fanny and Mulvey team up to destroy Farnsworth and Glowerston. Originally, the entire story took place in the sky where as now, I will be showing more plotting going on which makes the effects I have to do a little easier. (Less shots to worry about...) In addition, the endgame was Fanny's to play, and now both of them have their hand in it- A friend of mine hated that Mulvey disappeared in the third act.

The viking ship!

Here is the third ship. I based it roughly on a model ship I found online. One of the great things about cardboard and hot glue is how easy it is to change; I realized my initial attempt was too wide and the rear of the boat was too thick. So, I just took out the scissors and chopped it up, re hot glued it and then put more paint on it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The one sentence description: part 2.

I've been thinking about this one a lot over the last several days.

One of the comments I got early on was that Mulvey was too passive. Once I heard that, several other people agreed and so I started thinking about this journey. What happens after revenge is gained? What does revenge cost? And how can I make this story interesting with a complete character arc while still maintaining a four chapter film where each chapter can stand on it's own?


My friend Karen was instrumental in helping me get over that hurdle.

So here we go.

The story is about a relative innocent who tries to follow his dreams, loses everything to conspiracy, vows revenge and only after achieving it discovers he was following the wrong ones.

I retain the right to change this again!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The first two ships from the graveyard...

Well, here they are. In the graveyard of lost ships, there will be thirteen of these things from different ages of nautical expeditions. The more complete one is almost two feet long! I'm building these models out of cardboard and hot glue, plus some more aging with wet moss and of course bits of sail.

It will all be set in a miniature cliff eight feet wide, eight feet long and about nine feet tall. I still have to figure out how to shoot it- Make a harness cable rig with a motor on it that will descend the camera at a constant speed, build some kind of boom setup... There will be tests.

I'm hoping I can come up with some cool lighting with these things backlit- I'm afraid they won't really hold up to a clear closeup, but since I'll be transferring them to sepia toned old film, I should be able to get away with a lot!

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The one sentence description:

Adventures in Science is about a naive inventor who is wronged and vows revenge, only to realize the price was his innocence.

At least that's what I *think* it's about. I'm still working on it. The goal needs to be immediate AND obvious.

Friday, September 25, 2009

And the critics say... Fail.

So a good friend of mine who dabbles in the entertainment industry recommended that I get some complete strangers to read my treatments of this film I'm making.

She says that since the thing is gonna cost a lot to make, and it will take some time away from my family, that I should strive to make it as good as possible right from the start.

I sent out some email a couple of days ago and got a lot of great responses telling me where I can find readers and critics and so now, I have several people I don't know reading my stuff.

It's a little scary. But you know what? Pam was right. Friends are a little biased.

The first response came in today:
On a technical note, I had a little difficulty following your Prologue script since it’s not written in standard screenplay format. You might want to consider fleshing this out further in standard format for several reasons – 1st off, it’ll make things easier for a producer to break it down for costs and scheduling, and secondly, it’ll be much easier for others to read and follow. It will also allow you to see how long the piece is more accurately on the page. As written, it’s about 4 pages, but I would think in standard format, this would be at least 6 to 8 pages or so.

In the actual writing, many times you refer to what characters are thinking and feeling, but I’m not sure that those ideas come across on the page. Obviously, having a character wring his hands and stare with daggers accomplishes this to a certain extent, but this comes across as a bit cartoony, though I’m not certain that is what you are going for.

And that brings me to tone in general. As written, much of what is described in both the Prologue, and additional episodes feels somewhat cartoony and melodramatic. (in particular, the scene with Fanny and Farnsworth at the beginning where he is pawing her.) BUT, if this is part of the steampunk genre, then that’s something I am not qualified to judge. To me, this has the feel of an old silent movie, where the bad guy twirls the ends of his moustache to underscore how evil he is. I’m not sure that this is what you are going for, but that’s my gut reaction.

I am also trying to imagine all of the dialog spelled out on cards as you indicated. This device is difficult for me to fully grasp however, because there are times where several lines of dialog are spoken. This will require the audience to read quite a bit, and will probably slow things down overall. I realize that this is something of a “period” piece where people spoke in a particular cadence, etc. I think you accomplished this just fine, but some of the dialog sounds a bit too “on the nose.”

As far as story structure goes, I understand that the Prologue sets up the characters and character dynamics, but for me, it felt somewhat voyeuristic in that I was watching things happen, but never really felt a part of it. I didn’t ever get a sense of who any of these people are, other than their function in the story.

In my opinion, Fanny and Wu are the most interesting characters, but the focus isn’t really on them. They seem to be the only characters that show any real emotion, or have any real storyline – true love separated by class. But their story takes place in the background, and is only related to us much later in dialog when we learn that Wu was killed, etc.

Mulvey and Coraline’s story seems to be more the focus of the piece, but not much really happens to them, nor is it paid off in the end. The opposing forces against Mulvey are only indicated as an afterthought, but we never really see anyone plotting against him, other than Grimmauld. I like the underwater sequence with the octopus, and this could look really cool, but much of the drama happens within Mulvey’s head, and not really on the page. I know in the Prologue we see that Grimmauld is in love with Coraline, and that he has issues with Mulvey, but I never get a real sense of what anyone is really after.

I know I’ve jumped around quite a bit here, but I’m not sure that the through-line of your story is as fleshed out as well as it should be. In the Prologue, we meet the characters; in the Descent, we develop Mulvey and Grimmauld’s antagonistic relationship; in Huzzah, that relationship is resolved when Grimmauld is killed; then in the Revenge, the story is less about Mulvey and more about Fanny where things come to a close. Mulvey is brought back in at the end in that the dirigible belonged to him, but he himself had no hand in defeating the “bad guys.”

Overall, I’m not sure who’s point of view the story is really being seen through. I guess what’s lacking for me is a central main character with an identifiable goal, and an opposing force that stands in the way of that goal. You have the beginnings of this happening here, but for me, it’s not fleshed out enough, nor does it come to a satisfying ending because there hasn’t been anyone to really root for in the story. Yes, at the end, Mulvey and Fanny get their revenge, but thematically, I’m not sure what the piece is really about. The story is basically resolved, but I don’t get a sense that any of the characters really achieved what they were after, mainly because I never knew what they were after in the first place.
Yikes. I'll tell you, I found myself wanting to get defensive when I read this, but the thing is, he's right.

I have a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the first chapter of my film, the adventurous Jack and his unfaithful manservant Dick descend in to the depths of the ocean to recover a mythical artifact in this thing. This is a pretty rough design, and thanks to my friend Dr. Grymm, those gloves you see will be able to retract into the hull so they actually can recover the sword.
This chapter will be done primarily with practical effects work- I'll build a miniature bathysphere, a full sized interior set (gah!) a forced perspective miniature of a graveyard of wrecked ships from many different eras, a cliff and finally the wreck of the Valeria, a Nordic ship that was transporting the Roman artifact when it mysteriously sank.

You see, Jack discovered this prize when he was able to get a copy of a map from Professor Arronax, the man who sailed with Captain Nemo onboard the Nautilus a few years earlier.

I will also be animating a cg octopus.

Cross posted from Infidelicacy

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This is an early-in-the-process shot of the lunar breathing apparatus. I started with one of those twenty dollar respirators from Lowe's, replicated the plastic holder in brass and added some leather bits- I even learned how to sew leather. It's actually pretty easy.

There'll be a leather strap wrapped around that vent in the front, and a hose coming out either side of the mask (where the black attachment points are...) and I still need to add some leather to the sides there. All of this goes on the face, under a pair of brass goggles my friend Dr. Grymm has offered to help me with and a nice bowler hat to round it all out. There'll be a second one coming along with different leather trim- the idea is that Mulvey built these things himself given what the Victorians knew about the moon.

Of course I realize there's no way in hell this would actually protect adventurers on the lunar surface- their blood would boil if they got out of the spacecraft, but it makes for a unique look, and the story is fun.

So why the hell not?

Cross posted from Infidelicacy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

As some of you already know, I'm embarking on an interesting hobby.

I might be crazy, but still. I have to do something creative to feed that effusive muse that I've tried locking away for the last two years, and Teresa gave me a mandate: Whatever I start, I have to follow it through to the end.

That being said, I'm a huge fan of Jules Verne, who is about as Steampunk as you can get. I've written three treatments and have started the scripts for making them into short films. The trouble is, as I've been brainstorming with friends and designing props, vehicles and costumes, they have all sort of evolved into one longer film made up of a prologue followed by the three interrelated chapters.

So, the entire thing will be wrapped in a title called Adventures in Science. The prologue sets the era and the characters that will act out their destinies in the following episodes. The Descent tells the tale of an intrepid inventor and his manservant as they search for a fabled treasure in the Atlantic Ocean. Huzzah, the Moon is the story of the same pair of adventurers, who, well, go to the moon. The manservant proves treacherous and his jealousy spells doom for those left back on Earth. And finally, The Sky Pirates Revenge is about a wealthy industrial tycoon and his right hand man engaged in an aerial dirigible battle against one another over the mountains of Kentucky.

I'll be doing the first two as practicals with only a little bit of computer animation and the third story will be almost entirely digital- only the actors will be real. It's going to be an interesting experience, that's for sure.

I'll be posting updates, designs and pictures as they come in.

Cross posted from Infidelicacy

Monday, June 1, 2009

Welcome to Adventures in Science

This is a blog about the film I am working on.

Decidedly Steampunk, it's an homage to one of my favorite authors, Jules Verne. My wife told me that if I started it, I would have to finish it.

Despite it's low budget, it's going to have high production value and hopefully a clever combination of practical miniature, full sized sets, and a lot of computer graphics. I have been in the visual effects business for almost eighteen years and hopefully some of that will rub off in this film.

It's going to be a silent picture. That is, there will be a soundtrack and sound effects, but the dialogue will be displayed on cards. It will also be a sepia toned picture.

This is a diary of sorts, to showcase the work that will go into it. I hope you enjoy.