Daughter of Godcast 057

 

A podcast about movie making and the science fiction featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Daughter of Godcast, Episode 057, Universe. Toy that is, where you and I play the human game.

Howdy cowboys and cowgirls, astronauts and cosmonettes, campers and compadres, together we’re running out of yesterdays on the Daughter of Godcast. This is episode 057, Universe. The second installment describing DOG’s conceptual breakthrough, the light at the end of the tunnel… of love.

In last weeks episode, o56 Toys, we talked about the weird hideout of Uncle Joe, and the strangely persistent carnage surrounding same. Battle vehicles and corpses. How Joe’s swerving bicycle in 2007 presaged epiphany in 2016.

Process

Borrowing from Alan Watts, we don’t dance to get to a certain spot in the room or listen to music for the final crashing chord. We are not trying to get life done.

So, am I trying to finish a movie or am I squeezing every last drop of amazingness and joy out of the movie making process?

I think a worthy process has smooth completion built in. Finishing is not an outcome, why do anything… just to get it over with? Sex? Raising a kid? Eating a kick ass stack of pancakes?

I was intent on getting this movie done when I started, before fully appreciating the scope of the undertaking. Why was getting it done so much more important than getting it great? Making my own movie was after all, a means of blooming myself, deciding to be more than any I had ever been. A decision to unblock 40 years of stagnant chi, to light up the darkest rooms of my rambling palace. Finally, to do that gently, so the cosmos doesn’t ignite in a fireball of cataclysmic fury.

So far so good, tho the Earth has warmed a bit since 2006, my self illumination has stayed within the margins of safety. Apologies to the polar bears.

Finding the fun

So life is about living, and making a movie is about having a blast. A rip roaring adventure. In early 2016, the fun was SO found, swirled with insight.

Back to the nuclear waste vault and the long ago battlefield.

Sequence 1-3 An Ancient Monster

December 1, 2015 Deep Archive

Approaching over a series of still shots, passing tangled and obscure military wreckage in the foreground, we see what seems to be the ancient aftermath of a fierce battle with military transports, an M1 Abrams tank configured for urban combat, Humvees and lots of skeletons in moldering uniforms, with breathing gear (air cylinders, regulators), dosimeter badges, mostly black or gray overall-ed contractors (mercenaries). They may be wearing reflective mylar overalls which have shredded and tend to flutter / float in the light breeze. [1]

The tanks and trucks are covered with mediatronic advertising that is still somewhat functional, flashing insipid propaganda and kitchy commercial advertising, (God Bless This Mess, We come in Peace, Thank You for Your Full Cooperation, Liberty and Justice for All, regardless of Cosmic Resonance, Gender Identity, Genetic Variance or Net Worth). Massive vault doors have been blown partially from their mounts, exposing a gaping black entrance. A rather dim and kiltered strobe is flashing atop another sign near the doors, visible only in the closest view (Severe Radiation Exposure When Flashing). There’s a big sign, (Nuclear Waste Repository), that is mostly lying on the ground atop a mangled support structure. Big sign is placed to be visible facing towards tunnel and away for reverse later. Above the tunnel and excavated into the hill are bunker windows possibly with machine gun nest. There might be fluttering remnants of uniform up there or flag, all supporting a solid reverse shot later as we’ll be looking back from this vantage as Uncle Joe rides away.

The scene is so cluttered with death and the promise of death that it almost seems a little over the top, as if someone with a sizable set budget got a little carried away. Almost a haunted or cursed castle feel, events too terrible to imagine hang in the air, unspeakable horrors lie in the shadows, napping.

I hadn’t yet built any of the tank or humvee models for the battle scene, but I had a 1/6 scale skeleton and M2A1 . 50 caliber machine gun, a 1/24 diecast Crown Victoria cop car and a huge Nuclear Waste Repository billboard executed in Photoshop. Enough elements for a rough proof of concept. With a bit of miscellany thrown in for diversity.

Out in the greenhouse, I made a mound of sand and soil a couple of inches in diameter and used a macro lens to take a high resolution picture.  This would become a 12 foot crater in the shot, venting intermittent plumes of flame, a demon hole. Sandbox, see what I did there?

This was a kooky digression from the original concept, but the idea was to find out whether Joe’s swerving could feel purposeful, authentic. Merging live action with a collection of odd props, toys really, into a unified whole.

I was making a sketch, being careful to suggest rather than convince, inviting the audience to enter the dream, to make the magic with me. I skipped the uniforms and weapons for the dead soldiers and just posed bare skeletons. The Crown Vic cop car would be the only vehicle in the scene, door ajar, forlorn.

As we are looking down from the machine gun emplacement within the bunker, the M2 is a prominent foreground element, the massive gun barrel slashing the across the frame. I amped up the backstory with a mug of stale coffee perched on the sand bags and a yellowed PKD paperback draped over the rust speckled weapon.

So, looking past the domesticated machine gun nest, we see a four lane highway, covered by a labyrinth of skeletons, a crashed cop car, toppled signage, and a smouldering crater. There was a lot going on visually, verging on clutter. Since the camera doesn’t move at all, I was confident Joe’s bicycling would cut through the clutter and focus the audience’s attention.

I was using every tool in my toolbox – on location, live action cinematography, high resolution still photography, rotoscoping, plastic models, diecast metal models, lighting, mattes, sculpture, particle effects for the fiery crater, graphic design for signage, digital painting to rust the .50 caliber machine gun and bang up the cop car and compositing everything in After Effects.

Finally, subtle but crucial foley to lock everything together.

Joe is swerving around the skeletons but there’s too many and he runs over an outstretched arm. There’s a loud crack as the arm is popped out of the shoulder socket.

Until this moment, the whole scene is just a bunch of random toys and junk slammed together, but seeing Joe ride over the arm and hearing the crack of the bones separating, OMG. As real as it gets.

The epiphany

How do experiences become immersive, intense, visceral, engaging, ensnaring?

Uncle Joe Bike Ride

January 24, 2016, Deep Archive

[snip]
The toy universe approach, that the VFX has a sort of toy feel to it, that there’s a wink and a nod toward the audience, you can see that this is real but what about that, could that be real too or not? If not {this}, then what is real? [snip]

The toy universe, there’s many levels. First, there’s the kid playing with army men. On the external world there’s just the kid and his plastic little guys. Then there’s the level in his head, what he is seeing, what is happening for him. In that universe much is alive but there are significant details that are missing because the kid just doesn’t have experience with those things, so he either makes it up or just leaves it kinda blankish. Then there’s the experience of the character he’s giving life too, because they have to be alive and engaged for the adventure to be worth enacting. What do they see? Their experience must be even more lavish, because let’s say he see’s a dangerous tank that he’s gotta take out, you can’t be really scared of a plastic tank or even a CG tank, that tank has to assume an almost super natural power if he is going scared of it, he has to project reality and intensity into the tank. So there’s that level of the toy universe, the level humans experience.

Oh my god, and that’s the Dick reference again. Out in the universe all these bits of paper being blown about – demonic forces, flying saucer invasion, tank, .50 caliber M2, return of the dinosaurs and that’s all that people need. The threats manifest in rich technicolor and sensurround or shlocky wires and clay depending on the person’s beliefs. On the darkness they themselves carry. Now this is an old trope, but we’re exploring Dick’s tropes specifically and that’s because Phil left behind some fascinating clues about being human. The toy universe is an approach to the VFX or perhaps some future VFX that sounds fun.

Plus I love find[ing] whatever is lying around the house to make that shot work approach. Bits and pieces, kit bashing the cosmos.

Fire could jet out of the demon holes, when Joe rides by. Theme park-y. Theme park VFX. He’s on a track weaving out of the skeletons, breaks the arm of that one, maybe that’s a trigger to deactivate the landmines or masers or whatever. But the ride he takes might as well be on rails, like a rollercoaster, so that sets up the idea. Other hints too, like the sign board inside. Stop the fucker and read. This is taking the technology into consideration. Any movie can be paused, so why not pause and get more information, it’s like the hilarious opposite of games. Making a movie into a game, let me pause that and really see what the fuck that says. Real life isn’t composed, it’s messy. There are clues everywhere for those that have eyes to see.

OMG, this is brilliant. Seeing movies in a theater is one experience, watching with a crowd where it’s on rails and if you get up to go to the bathroom you’re going to miss something. Then there’s watching with a group of friends a movie you’ve already seen. Hold up, pause that. The fucking picture freezes perfectly. What is that? [snip] People watch movies over and over and see more, now with Youtube, DVDs and Blueray the freeze is perfect, so why not pack that freeze with detail and clues? What’s brilliant is my flashing on the perfect still image, this reimagines established technology into another media, the only thing I need to do is hint to the audience.
[snip]

Let me opine on what doesn’t work – for me. So called photo realistic imagery is boring, impoverished, sterile. In RL, the brain is constantly filling in details, even making up stuff. We perpetuate stories that determine what we see and hear. On the other end of the spectrum, deep awareness is more than light and shadow. When we listen with all of what we are, every sound is supported by the resonance of OM, the mantra of the universe.

So what is real? Entering REM state in sleep, a switch flips in our brain and kicks in authenticity circuits. Doesn’t matter that the physics of our dream is topsy turvy, or that personalities are constantly swapped out, or that time bends. When we are dreaming, we believe. We sweat, laugh, kick and sometimes scream.

I am interested in activating those circuits for the waking.

A photo-realistic painting might be executed with precision, but leave us cold. So too with the VFX in Hollywood movies, glittery but lacking in emotional oomph. Pristine recreations of reality do not necessarily feel real. They don’t leverage the mechanisms driving theme park Earth. The wiring under the dashboard.

Think about the impressionistic painters, there’s something there that’s more than flowers.

A podcast about movie making and the science fiction featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Daughter of Godcast, Episode 057, Universe. Toy that is, where you and live. Monet's lilies, more than flowers.

“The subject is not important to me; what I want to reproduce is what exists between the subject and me.” Claude Monet

Through my myriad explorations of hallucinogens, forays into the wilds, near death experiences, fierce love making and general yessing to life, I’ve glimpsed what’s under the hood of magic bus, I know something about reality creation. That’s why I can make lightly photoshopped toys redolent of mystery.

There’s also the Scott McCloud factor. He proposes that the simple drawings of cartoon or comic characters allows us to easily fill them out with our own presence. That we can participate in their experiences and become them, whereas with live action movies we’re more likely to see the characters as other, not as extensions of ourselves. Perhaps that’s the way with toys, we see them as placeholders for our idea of car or tank, and flood them with our own presence. We literally enliven them.

On Joe’s bike ride, that fortunate combination of tiny movement of the dislocated arm and corresponding crack! showed the way.

And so was born the Toy Universe. Daughter of God is a Toy Universe, instantiated in my imagination, that I get to play with. Going meta, our universe is also a toy universe, Theme Park Earth, a venue for aspirations and adventures, an exploration of contrast and firing off desires. For insinuating the divine into every nook and cranny of the vasty void, for expansion.

Plenty of big thinking muckety mucks believe that we are living in a software simulation, a matrix, perhaps programmed by our descendants in some far flung future. A typical suicidal perspective, dismal and deadly dull. Yes this existence could be called a simulation, but our descendants aren’t responsible, we are, from the ground up. Angels in brown paper sacks, slogging the mire, surfing collapsing wave functions, rollercoastering, pretending there’s a thing called time, and good and bad. Tripping on mortality.

Meanwhile back in Daughter of God, I realized I could fill up my movie with scraps and trinkets and the result could be compelling, seductive, potent. This was the VFX breakthrough, the built in conclusion, inspired by the most elaborate and hilarious sandbox ever, real life.

We’ve been flipping on the authenticity circuits, listening and maybe watching episode 057 of the Daughter of Godcast, Universe. In the last two episodes, we’ve dropped the epiphany for the auto completion of Daughter of God, I could just kick back and let the cosmic elves mop up now. That is, if I wasn’t so way in to the process, this movie makery. So the elves can just chill, stand down, take a powder. We’ve got a chunk of 2016 yet to explore. Next week we’ll take a tour of the model shop, where movie magic happens. Thanks for stopping by this dream rant, and when you wake up, you might wonder if my words actually meant anything at all. Hang in there folks, there’s going to be pictures soon.

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