A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Daughter of God, Doughnut foreshadows Episode 031, which is not obvious at all.
A link to the video as an alternate to the media player above.
What a delicious surprise! We’re all still here, doing what we do so well, jabbering and pondering, lying and appreciating, loving the loss and pointing at the moon.
Episode 030 and entering 2012, that year of profound transformation, the end of the Mayan calendar. Another age, not the new age but the now age, our enhanced human presence on Earth. So subtle a start, only a few of us knew, could feel the flutter of fresh wings freed from countless chrysalises. From then until now, only 5 years but so much awakening, the global bloom.
Perhaps you might not know what the heck I’m talking about, maybe you’re walking a rough road, and pain is yet prominent in your experience. Overloaded with the All American Anti-Christ, or whatever thorny topic is big and bright. I applaud your persistence and stubborn tenacity, your love of adventure. Making the movie of your life, your very own post apocalyptic romantic comedy featurette, for isn’t that what so many are living RIGHT NOW? Hey 2012! That’s when we got the news that we can make whatever movie we want.
When you’re ready for a break from reality production, there’s brisk organic lemonade and fresh syntho doughnuts at craft services. This is called foreshadowing.
Episode 030, Doughnut
In this episode, we’re going to touch 2012, those halcyon days, and awaken all over again. Remember what we weren’t and then wonderfully were. Through my little lens, the Dan Kelly ride, which of course isn’t a ride at all, or even a river. A me-ing, that I reconstitute imperfectly; which is the only way a story can be told, for flawless recall would mean an alternate immersion, and you’ve already got your very own sparkling river.
Though I’m an oddball, a kook, a freak, a terrorist, a wonder, a wizard; I offer myself every week as a placeholder, an every man, the guy next door who mows his Chemlawn® and drinks Sanka®. For what we imagine to be our here and now comes from backlots and prop houses, you can plug into my script as well as another. We are all big celebrities playing at being adoring fans.
2012 was focused, inspired, reinvigorated. Crashes and launches, overings and openings. The bulk of this episode is the usual pragmatic nuts and bolts reportage and philosophical fireworks. Also starting this week we’re introducing selections from the Daughter of God Deep Development Archive, static streaked fireballs flung from the swirling vortex. Just a taste, a test really to be sure your ready. After 30 episodes, you ought to be.
In Episode 029, 2011 Dede Alder and I had teamed up to do minimalistic music videos. In January 2012, she showed up to do a concert at the Artist house. Patrick made a quirky video of the after party which snagged an award at the next Micro Movie Marathon. Erin Louise Hoag (the ice dancer from Episode 027) is playing Dede’s vibes and Dede, Lena Maude Wilson and I are on vocals. Brad Kinnan plays a confused dude from the sticks, perhaps he’s the greek apostle Luke or John Lilly. I play Jesus, of course.
Visually, not much is happening. Imagine a dissonant stage musical with cowherd gopi maidens lavishing a reclining Krishna in Jesus drag. Then Krishna / Jesus stands up. That’s all there is to see.
I kept my eyes open for other creatives doing interesting things. In mid January Lena Maude and I shot music videos of her singer songwriter-ing. Lena is another card carrying polymath with hypothetical animation projects in her creative queue. She sent me an animatic for her project Sungold a week after we recorded.
Lena also turned me onto superfoods and David Wolfe, with her witchy concoctions of mud, or raw cacao superfood fudges.
Michigan Movie Makers espoused the concept of a production ecosystem. In an ecosystem, the entire complement of creative expertise is important, from transplanted super celebrities like Micheal Moore, to our own homegrown Ed Wood sans cross dressing, Rich Brauer all the way to starry eyed high school interns and rabid film fans.
If experienced movie makers got in the habit of mentoring younger folks, the community would be constantly hatching out new talent. Our regional movie presence would expand and eventually this would help get us on the map as a production destination for all kinds of projects.
My first intern Louise would turn 18 that July, but still hadn’t gotten her driver’s license. She was too busy finishing high school to intern in 2012, we kept in contact via email. Louise, like Lena is a diversely gifted woman, back then an emerging writer, painter and musician with a courageous curiosity.
Lena and Louise were just beginning to tap their artistic power and I wondered how they would contribute to DOG and collaborate on future movie projects.
Wanting to build a team of autonomous artists, I was encouraging creative potential everywhere I could. In late January I activated two and half interns at the TBA CTC Film and New Media, taught by Scott Tompkins. Eventually, only Micah and Cameron persisted. I wrote a comprehensive intern handbook, set them up with tutorials, their own WordPress blogs for documenting progress and online timeclocks to log their hours. I took these internships very seriously – establishing a track towards becoming VFX professionals with my company(s).
After live action is filmed or recorded, it’s cut. That’s editorial. Diverse shots and audio are strung together and maybe meaning emerges, feelings. VFX is supposed to support this. Or so I thought. I began to suspect that editorial / post production could go way farther. Several of my heros seemed to be hinting at this too.
“But one thing is certain-the technologies and techniques that we think of as being primarily a part of “visual effects” are really becoming the tools that will be used for any kind of sequential-image storytelling. Image manipulation has become the heart of post-production, and knowledge of these concepts will benefit anybody who wants to work in that industry.” Ron Brinkmann, The Art and Science of Digital Compositing
"As a VFX artist, you are primarily creating motion graphics or visual effects. A thorough knowledge of rotoscoping and roto tools is vital to solving a vast amount of problems in VFX: rig removal, stereo conversion, greenscreen compositing, hold out mattes, split screens, and even object or feature-based color grading. It is perhaps one of the [most] widely used tools in visual effects." Mike Seymore from fxguide.com (one of the dudes from FXPHD.)
Rotoscoping isolates elements of live action. For several scenes in DOG, I wanted to add props that weren’t present when the actors did their thing. I also wanted to fix the mistakes I had made on location, and short of reshooting roto is the only way to do that. Roto involves tracing the outlines of actors and objects as they move, with luck less than 24 outlines per second. An involved process that requires patience and training.
Along with my two official interns, I was preparing to hire experienced professionals. I gave priority to regional talent, with outreach via M3. Then in March I started inviting international contractors through CreativeCow.net and my New York connections.
In March James Weston Schaberg forwarded an email he had gotten from a student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, who wanted to find an internship through M3. I thought I might be able to find this guy an opportunity, and then I realized •I• needed him. We corresponded and I found out his parents lived on Platte Lake, 5 minutes drive, just over the hill from my place. I invited him to come work for Artist house in May. This was how I got to be pals with the incomparable and most excellent Ben Woody.
Meanwhile, I conducted try outs for contractors from Creative Cow. Some were over priced and others lacked basic competence, in spite of their demo reels.
I wanted a specific workflow, vector masks I could import into After Effects. Some roto artists using Nuke couldn’t easily support that. After going through 20 or so, I found a couple who could. Eventually I realized I needed artists fluent with the application, Silhouette.
I also started working with the company Trace VFX, and they did a great job for a couple of scenes. I sent them more work and was looking forward to significant progress. Unfortunately a bigger budget client soaked up all their resources and DOG got back burnered. By June they were MIA.
My first pass at building a roto team coincided with a truly rigorous reorganization and reinvention of DOG. In post after post at holyboners.com, I sculpted the project concept and workflows.
And so, DOG
[snip] I started out with a 10 minute script but when the ship came into the picture, I welded on a wad of backstory and business that took it way over 10 minutes. Ask for pensive and slightly hesitant performances and the whole thing sort of stretches out. Now we gotta make those choices fly. I accept that it’s gotta be long, if the blueprint specifies a motorcycle, I can’t very easily build a bicycle instead. I’ve gotta accept that DOG is a motorcycle and just move forward. I thought that making it shorter would mean less VFX hours, but it’s a much bigger hassle to slash away chunks of dialogue and still have something coherent. [snip]
And so, DOG introduces the idea that 26:40 is closer to feature length (40 minutes) than a short (11 minutes) – and that’s where I want to be eventually anyway. I want to make features.
I critiqued the elements and themes that worked and those that didn’t, finding where the story is. The story I was itching to tell. For instance, I had been adding squeaky, creaky sound effects at every opportunity to give a feeling of rustiness, disuse and this really worked for test audiences.
Creaks The creaking cabin [door] when Christina open[s] for Joe is great, the squeaking bed, every moving thing could have an over the top squeak, there’s nothing slippery any more, end of oil. Maybe folks like the creaks and squeaks because… Add squeak to PKD drawer.
I loved this feeling of intense dedication and focus that became characteristic of my analysis and blog posts. In 2012 I was enjoying fresh energy AND a crisp sense of what was essential.
A brief aside. One of the great tragedies of 2011 was Apple’s decision to completely replace Final Cut Pro with a version that was backwards incompatible – could not open legacy files. Conceptual reimaginings combined with gotcha archival strategies and orphaning of previous projects, that was Final Cut Pro 10 or X. I started with Final Cut Pro version 2.0 in 2002, blissfully satisfying my editorial urges as related in episode 006. 9 years later, Apple changed course, leaving us devotees in the dust. I attempted to drink the Kool-aid® of FCPX, continuing to cut short projects as late as 2013. I had already decided to master DOG in After Effects back before leaving New York, Apple’s bridge burning wasn’t a huge snag for my core project. Just annoying as heck. And a little sad.
The morale of the story is – don’t take 10 years to do anything digital, somebody is going to obsolete your workflow. Adobe’s competing editorial application, Premiere was pretty close in functionality with the original Final Cut Pro and had decent integration with Adobe After Effects. Moving on.
In DOG – script revisions February 13, I annotated the scenes with details about themes, characters and execution – every nuance and insight I had discovered so far. Great new ideas bubbling up. Crazy fabulous ideas.
I revised the rough cut, tested with trusted collaborators and recorded their feedback in Testing version 1.0 2012 script revisions, March 18. First Dede and then Jonathan and Patrick. Tons of fascinating little problems revealed, even more inspiration. I love to do test screenings! Thanks to Jeff Gibbs for emphasizing this and taking me to those test screenings at the State Theater back in Episode 028.
I even took a closer look at my credits and chain of title to determine whether there were any problematic shots and if so what to do. Could extensive VFX (remixing of original imagery) negate the need for releases? Is this like the sampling conundrum in pop music.
In Here We Go Again, March 25, I critiqued my previous attempt at organizing the VFX tasks with spreadsheets defining the task inventory AND the availability and skill of my roster of roto artists – essentially creating a VFX dashboard. At this point I was working with the idea of hiring contractors by the hour, which was a little crazy. A few months later, thanks to the advice of Michelle Yhan, I mostly switched to bidding.
I was establishing an online footage archive for my distributed VFX team. Contractors could pull down footage associated with their roto assignment, log their hours as they worked and then upload their completed roto file. This significant chunk of infrastructure was deployed by March 30. Being a lover of clear communication, I posted a comprehensive Artist reference, following the precedent of the intern handbook.
In Roto Ramping Up, April 8, I reported on the results so far. Due to a huge family fracas, my nephew Jonathan dropped off the roto team. There was also ongoing miscommunion between myself and another local movie maker who insisted he could fit my roto in along with the 10,000 other pots he had simmering. I wasn’t expecting FNM interns to be productive right away and they certainly weren’t. Trace VFX would be promising for a few weeks, but eventually tank. All this attrition eventually left me running solo, again. Ben was coming in May, but that was still weeks away.
On April 12 I screened the revised rough cut / preliminary final cut for interns Micah and Cameron and got their feedback. They were a bit confused in the first act and bored in the second. Too much talking and not enough explosions, I guess. Teenagers. Their notes were super helpful actually, I learned that the second act needed more sine wave action. Even more fundamental tho, they gave me a deep appreciation for the maleness factor.
Oh, the project energy was fast flowing. I was riding the surge, enjoying insight after insight.
Gender based test screening
It occurs that separate test screenings for men and women would be good. I am especially interested in what women think about the Christina character, if they relate to her as a more elegant cut emerges. Is she despised by some women? What sort of women despise her and which like her? Certainly some men do… Keeping the genders separate for a couple of tests is worthy because I wouldn’t want female feedback suppressed by negative male reactions. I don’t know why Faisal was so adamant about cutting away Christina – She was working for me then and even more so now that I’ve chipped off the dross. I suspect she rubbed him the wrong way not because of Carmen’s lack of experience as an actor (or my lack of experience as a director) but because the character of Christina might make some guys really uncomfortable. Faisal kept going on and on about minimizing her, she made him itch in a place he couldn’t scratch, [snip] Whether Christina actually has life and power for anyone else but me can only be discovered through rigorous testing. I’m guessing Christina will be vindicated. If Faisal is right and Christina is just a poorly conceived and realized presence then DOG is dead – it’s pointless to minimize my main character, the spine of the narrative. The position he seemed to be taking was one of salvage, ‘there’s some good stuff here in spite of your terrible actress so make that work’. Basically – abandon my vision. If I am right then there’s several important lessons… 1) if Christina triggers intense reactions it’s cause she’s working as a character, 2) I can trust my vision even in the face of scary critique 3) I’m destined to wrangle with some people even though I love them, not *because* I do. Come to think of it, this could be the explanation of why I lost Peterson, huh. I’m reminded of Box, when that guy got up in the middle of our performance and started calling my character an asshole. Wow, that rocked. Maybe that’s exactly what’s happening here. Now I’m really excited to find out.
The next major breakthrough was the theory of roto-welding, which is an advanced roto scoping technique that I am assuming I either invented or independently discovered. At a critical moment in the second act, Christina had a distracting head move on an otherwise solid line delivery and performance. I wanted her re-perform this move, in other words could I create new frames between her starting and ending head position, replacing the problematic frames and merge that into the existing shot seamlessly? A little more After Effects fluency was needed before theory became practice.
On April 21 I had completed a final cut that I could upload in chunks for the distributed roto artists. I was also way more savvy about how to hire them. Progress!
By May 7th I had finalized the final cut further, upgraded the VFX Dashboard, uploaded the footage and revised the Artist reference. Ready for new contractors.
From: Dan Kelly <doorbell@> Subject: it's 5/15! Date: May 15, 2012 at 6:53:30 AM EDT To: Benjamin R Woody <benjamin.r.woody@> B You're coming to 4077 Crystal Drive about 5 miles from 31 on the lake side look for white and blue hobie cats across the street see ya round 10:00 am D
Ben Woody arrived on May 15, soaked up the roto training and went to work. By June we had a daily routine firmly in place. 6-8 hours of roto while listening to SomaFM, 2-3 hours of swimming and sailing, and at least an hour of Japanese burritos or Ben-wiches, depending on what was in the pantry.
Did you notice that the Hobie Cats was plural? I’d been collecting vintage Hobie 16s under the auspices of finding a spare hull for Hello World, in case repairing the damage was beyond my skills. Or was I secretly amassing a fleet for the next iteration of Around Lake Michigan? Those Hobies kept showing up, one after the other, and then… Rosie.
I been thinking about buying an Airstream trailer for use as a spare bedroom. This would allow more options for party guests over nighting, rather than always heaping them up on the floor of the main room in a tipsy lasagna of people and blankets, or a family of gerbils.
Patrick had noticed Jim Clapp’s 26 foot blue water boat was for sale. I hadn’t planned on buying a big boat, a single hull boat but she was so cute, looked like a little green tugboat. Her interior was about the size of a tiny Airstream, but wood and brass. I did some research, consulted with master sailer Kai Schwarz and on June 8th, I gave Jim a check for $4000. Mike Murphy helped me bring her home. With all these boats parked across the street, the neighbors really had something to WTF about.
Maybe Around Lake Michigan could feature a fleet of Hobie Cats crewed by visual artists with Rosie acting as supply ship. She’d be much slower than the Hobies, of course, hmmm. An intrepid sailor would have to step up for each Hobie Cat, maybe Patrick, Ben, Lena… and Kai could captain Rosie. Super simmery on the back burner. After Daughter of God, of course. In the interim, sail training for prospective cat captains.
DOG deep development archive
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Enlightenment is only the cypher by which we encrypted our existence. Shri Shri Fugi Spilt Once we break the code, we can no longer pretend not to know. That is why enlightenment is often preceded by arduous trial and practice – we designed the scenario to be difficult to break. It’s easy to be god, its very difficult to distract divinity for more than 100 years or so. The holodeck has a well engineered lock
You’ve been listening to the Daughter of Godcast Episode 30. DOG is so back, with a solid foundation of protocol, infrastructure and helpers. The waters have been brimming over, sloshing over and grasping the concrete ramparts with drizzling fingers. The sluice gates crack ever wider, tomorrow’s torrent into the empties, all becomes water, tao, abrading soil and rock, sucking at the roots of ancestor trees, at the feet of you and me. Get your rafts into the shallows people, the ride is biggering!