Sculpture

Building a Bear Party

bear party2

 

Today was an incredibly productive day in the studio.  After a reworking of the timeline on the film project and a remade list of things needed to be ready to shoot, it was time to get cracking.  The first goal in terms of time and delivery for the piece is my midterm critique in March.  For this critique I am planning to have all the figurines finished and the mini films that are internal to the world of the film.

Part of the reassessment of last week was to abandon the live action portions of the film.  The logistics were nearly impossible and we were unsure if we could blend these two styles seamlessly, so it was decided the magic box films for the interior of each apartment would be filmed with ceramic.  This meant that I needed several bears in a hurry, not only to have them made by the deadline, but early enough that their films could be made.  I went back to techniques developed for teaching children to create a bear quickly and convincingly in a short amount of time.  They also needed to stay within the style restraints of the rest of the figurines.  The guiding principle here has been the doll house theme, so everything needs to be cute and a bit toy like.

while I built bears, Gabe has been focused on the audio portion of the project.  He spent a good part of the day composing the theme for the Stone Woman.  Part of this was to review the other existing parts of the sound track and ensure that when finished it will sound like a cohesive piece of music.

bear party3

 

In addition to the soundtrack, he worked on the sound for the announcer bear’s voice and layering in the song for the bear party with that voice.  A process that requires several different approaches to the original reading and then hours of listening and making slight adjustments.

Once this sound was acceptable we threw together a little bear party on the dirty table and made some quick proof of concept videos with the iPhones.  Though neither the bears or the sound is finished, I am posting a couple of clips here.  While the work is very rough and there is plenty of offensive language, it is worth sharing these because they are such a good look at our early process for video production.

We need about five of these mini films for the overall film, and production will begin as soon as squids and glazed and bears are painted.

Sculpture

Script and Squids

Once the body of the doll house was finished,  we needed a story.  Initially I wanted this film to center around gender identity issues, and the first characters were chosen as a vehicle for this idea.  The story of course has evolved beyond the first basic idea but Ted and Jeff, the couple up stairs, and Bob the unicorn made it through the editing process to the actual making.  I don’t want to say too much about the story because i want the film to speak for itself, but each of the characters is struggling with a desire that cannot be fulfilled.  This could have been done with a couple of any biological make up certainly, but leaving this a gay couple allows us to avoid a conversation about traditional gender rolls of men and women in relationship, which is outside the scope of this project.  More than that, and more intimate to the experience of life for me now, I wanted to include queerness as an integral part of this film.  Not simply as a concept of sexuality, because I’m pretty asexual these days, but as an attitude and baseline concept.  To me queerness points the way, it will let the viewer know to pay attention and that the subjects of the film will not be understood by a quick read.  We are communicating a feeling with this film.  To me, that feeling is the most important thing in the world.  For the characters of the film it is cloaked in sadness, but it is still true and redemptive and all creatures are granted its grace.  Especially dysfunctional squids.photo-8

From an emotional perspective then decisions were made easily and though the script was certainly not easy to write, one sentence led to the next and though I could not have imagined where it led before I got there, its end is complete and very satisfying (at least from the storytellers perspective).  Once the script was finished then, how to make a film, with such complex concepts from rigid ceramic figurines became the central issue.  When the idea was just an abstract floating around in my head, I though something like the play set for the previous video might work, with a single figurine to represent  each character.  As the script took shape, I realized that would be impossible.  All of the characters have a range of activities and motions.  In the end we needed four separate poses for each of the characters except one, and she is singular.

image-3

Jeff and Ted began as drawings, First I drew squid, trying to understand basic anatomy and then to consider anthropomorphization of the animal.  These drawings here are the final draft and are drawn to scale.  This was a critical tool in keeping each of the various forms of the characters similar enough to carry the feeling that each represents a single identity.

IMG_4565

the first character I focused on was Ted.  Again Ted is the hero and the mover of the story.  Not that you see this in any way from the construction of the figurine.  Although the figures were made to stand up right and seem human after a fashion,  I really wanted them to remain ceramic figurines.  Their life is specific for two things, first is the video, and second is our intention to display the doll house and its “dolls” in the gallery when they are shown.  It seems such a mad idea to want to make films that star ceramic, but thats the idea, so we’ll have to go all out.  We will rely on the script and the voice acting to convey the emotion needed to tell the story.  After making Ted in his entirety twice, Gabe suggested that I make a single head and interchangeable legs for the chatting and stair climbing Ted.  It was also Gabe’s design for the stair climbing sled legs, which will allow for the ceramic to get up the steps on camera.  The head slots over the stem  of the legs and reduced the making time for each significantly.

IMG_4571

Jeff is far less active but had to be seen sitting on the couch alone.  Of course the script was not finished when I made the first pair on the couch and they are fused to it, so a second couch and Jeff had to be made.  Here is that squid, the arm is raised to that he can also sleep on the couch.

IMG_4453

Here they are on the first couch, the second pair built.

IMG_4528

The title of the film is “Magic Box” and the activities of all of the characters center around this TV like device that serves as a sort of electronic life coach.  The Magic Boxes will be iPhones and iPods.  I didn’t want to show anything but the screens so a sort of entertainment center for a phone had to be designed and built.  There will need to be a total of 5 of these for the entire apartment.  The build on these is complex as it requires shrinkage calculation.

IMG_4584

Here is a grouping of some of the objects for Ted and Jeff’s apartment after the first firing.  Glazing ideas are hatching slowly, but nothing will be attempted until all the figurines are ready for glazing as surface will help unite the four figures as one.

The Limited Liability Insurance Company Play Set

Limited Liability Insurance Company Play Set Video

IMG_4102

Once the physical play set was finished we were ready to roll straight into video production.  For me that meant writing the script.  We had been laying out the story and direction of the video for months.  My job was to piece those conversations together and write something that was cohesive and communicated what we wanted to say.  Sadly this involved visiting a lot of insurance websites.  Gabe’s prep was no easier, but maybe more fun?  He focused on preparing props and equipment for the shoot.  Here he is shooting the play set for the poster that hangs in Teds room in the opening shot.

IMG_4140

Finding location and actors was a major challenge, but perseverance and good friends made all the difference.  A former student came through with the office and a local theater group provided our actor.  John Brown, who is associated with the Impossible Players provided the skill needed to play our boss.  For the rest of the cast we chose young friends and our kids.  This was perfect of course because it brought the feeling of toys and play to the front.

 

IMG_4252

 

Once the shoot at the office was finished we were ready to move on the the commercial portion of the shoot.   For this location we used a stall in the studio, emptied, lit and cleaned, it was ready for the shoot.  With out a doubt this was the most fun I had in the whole project, and I feel that it is the strongest part of the piece as well.

Our last location was at Raven Martin’s house.  Our Ted was well placed to provide us with an authentic teenage boys bedroom.

Once the filming was in place the footage was handed off to Gabe for editing and the composition of the music for both of the videos.

Here they are, enjoy!

Horse Installation

VIdeo Documentation

The next big project for the installations was to doccument them in video.  I have long wanted to get my work out to the world using video, and this project, because of its scale and complete non portability was a perfect place to start.  It also helped that there was a clear start and it finished within a super reasonable amount of time.  The down side of course was not having decided to make a video until the project was nearly complete.  Fortunately we take tons of pictures and video as a regular practice in our art making so there was more than enough material for the twelve minute piece Gabe and I put together.

As I said the video was decided on after the piece was finished so while there was more than enough documentation there were things that I just didn’t have. For some of that we staged shots, for the rest it was left out.  A process that wont be repeated since we now know that video production will be an integral part of our work form here out.

The film was make entirely with iPhones and my mac book.  The computer worked great but the limit with the phones is one that will have to be overcome, especially mine which has a very limited memory which required uploading all the pics and videos once a day to clear the memory to take more.  Despite all the difficulty we put together a great video.

Since the production of this video I’ve made one myself so that I might  learn the program and participate fully in the production of future projects.  This video documents the erosion of the images on the panels over the last couple weeks