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.


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.

Daughter of Godcast 056


A podcast about movie making and the science fiction featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Daughter of Godcast, Episode 056, Toys. Discovery of the Unified Field Theory for DOG Visual Effects.

Hello, my most excellent collaborators, friends, strangers, family. You are all of those. In my meandering way, I want to tell the story of the early 2016 epiphany about what I’d been up to with this movie, Daughter of God, all along. This is a kind of unified field theory of DOG visual effects, revealed over the next couple three episodes and which we’ll continue to develop together as we start screening in 2018.  Coming up this week on the Daughter of Godcast, episode 056, Toys.

A podcast about movie making and the science fiction featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Daughter of Godcast, Episode 056, Toys. Discovery of the Unified Field Theory for DOG Visual Effects.

Before we get into the grist, a bit of house keeping.

We’re preparing to screen in 2018, which starts with test screening, trying out images and scenes from the movie and getting feedback from all you all.

Here’s my rough idea of how the podcast and the screen testing fit together. The podcast is primarily a conversation, arguably one sided, a flow of stories and increasingly contemporary reportage, and as such emphasizes the audio content. The excellent challenge is to somehow talk about what’s behind what we see, describing the experience of seeing and of being in words, without relying on pictures.

The test screening of the movie will happen on a separate channel, perhaps many channels, wherever feedback is easy and immediate, and we can track views. This could just be Facebook and Twitter, but I plan on evaluating whether Vimeo’s video review implementation is a good fit. Or I might come up with something of my own.

Test screening is going to be very interactive, and whatever we learn there will be subsequently summarized here on this podcast. So that’s what the future looks like. Lots of testing, pondering the results together and then making adjustments. We’re going to have so much fun!

Models, Miniatures, Toys

In May of 2007, (episode 018) my nephew Jonathan completed a 3D cruise ship model, the first of DOG’s megaprops. In 2008, (episode 021) he set to work on making cars for a abandoned highway scene. The tracking on the shaky live action was problematic, but we kept the scene in version .09 of the Trickster Pictures demo reel anyway, (episode 027). Jonathan resigned as DOG’s 3D artist around 2013. He explained that making 3D models and getting them to render realistically were two very distinct disciplines, and his creative path didn’t include becoming a render master.

If I wanted realistic megaprops, I either had to hire another 3D artist or come back up to speed on 3D rendering myself. Or was there a 3rd alternative? What about miniatures?

From 3D to RL

Post production should not mean sitting at workstations, endlessly staring at screens. The sedentary life is associated with severe happiness risks including rapid aging and flabbiness, failing eyesight from invariant focal distance, hair loss, genital shrinkage, spiritual devolution and social media habituation.

The prospect of taking a major chunk of VFX into the real world was suddenly very attractive. I had gotten pretty good at building plastic  model kits as a kid. I could revive and expand my model chops and perhaps even get some stop frame animation going too. I’d be using my hands, my whole body, power tools, delicate little tweezers and actual paint brushes. Screens would still be significant, but only for matching live action on set and final compositing. I could be manifesting mostly in RL.

The first major VFX scene fleshed out with miniatures would be the opening shot, an abandoned nuclear waste repository where we meet Uncle Joe for the first time. He’s biding his time in a secret lair, surrounded by oddly persistent carnage from a long ago battle.

The opening begins with three shots, each moving closer to the battle scene and his hideout. A wide highway leads to a tree covered mountain with a concrete structure inset into the base. Moving in, we see the concrete frames a tunnel with giant vault doors blasted open. There are hints about what happened here, wreckage, signage, bodies. A fierce skirmish involving armor and infantry, with an inconclusive outcome, perhaps lethal to all involved. Rusted weapons, skeletons in tattered uniforms, charred tanks and humvees with mediatronics still flickering. Above the tunnel entrance are machine gun emplacements, M50 barrels poking out from behind sandbagged windows of the mountain bunker. The tunnel opening below is a blackness, leading deep into the mountain.

Then the black of the tunnel expands out and swallows the frame, fading into a surveillance shot of a young woman. She seems to be popping bubble wrap. A massive thumb appears over the woman and an interface, with icons and text. The thumb selects from a menu and the scene shifts to a scruffy dude dozing. There’s a sperm count widget that accidentally gets activated when the dude appears, with a microscopic view of sperm wiggling, the giant thumb whisks that widget away. We pull back to see the surveillance image and interface are wrapped around a device, being held in a hand that is sticking out of the sleeve of a business suit. Cut to a far shot of a man looking down at a device, he’s wearing a dark suit and fedora, Uncle Joe. In the background we see the machine gun emplacements in reverse, he is inside the mountain bunker.  He finishes and puts the device in his jacket pocket. Suddenly we are rushing up a dark tunnel towards the light, and Joe explodes out into the carnage outside the tunnel… riding a creaky bicycle. We see him from the vantage of the machine gun nests as he pedals away, swerving around the debris and bodies as best he can.

Nuclear Waste Repository

Way back in 2007, Patrick and I had filmed the live action at the PA turnpikes tunnel ventilation complex. In a high shot from inside,  we got Uncle Joe swerving his bicycle crazily away on the empty highway below. Was he swerving because he was drunk, having fun, or was there shit he was swerving around that would come later? I left my options open, but I really did want to have some shit there, horrific shit that could be a strong contrast to a snappily dressed fellow on a rusty bike.

I was pretty sure I wanted to turn the highway’s tunnel location into something more epic, and a nuclear waste storage facility seemed to fit. Years back, I had followed the demise of Yucca mountain site, (1987-2011 RIP), a proposed underground vault for storing all the USA’s spent nuclear fuel. There’s lots of problems with consolidating nuclear waste, not the least of which is generating it in the first place.

Another issue would be the beefy security, and in my version of  repository a significant military presence had been established, perhaps after some catastrophe. I imagined fighting vehicles and the means to transport and maintain them, and troops.

In 2014 I started researching and acquiring detailed plastic models for this scene and all the megaprop scenes in DOG.

For the forgotten battle scene I bought a Abrams tank outfitted for urban warfare and a tank carrier, a Humvee and a Stryker NBCRV (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle). I found skeletons, weapons and action figure uniforms in 1/6 scale, which is GI Joe size.

during research I stumbled on Phicen‘s very realistic 1/6 scale anatomically correct female action figures… and erotic photo shoots with them. Talk about the uncanny valley.

The weird thing about model building and action figures nowadays is they aren’t so much for kids anymore. The model building market seems targeted to adults. What kid of today would bother with plastic kits and dolls when they could be fully immersed in 1st person software simulations? Plus these kits are expensive. Kids from 1970s and 80s are more likely able to indulge their playfulness sans budget constraints.

I also stocked up on models to replace the other 3D megaprops, including several versions of cruise ships and the world’s largest passenger Airliner, an Airbus A380.

Daughter of God is the most apocalyptic movie ever because of all the different apocalypses. Dinosaurs definitely stage a comeback, just like Godzilla and the Jurassic Park franchises. I wanted a still life of flipped cop cars near the carcass of a giant saurian, perhaps with a crushed police motorcycle in it’s jaws.

I bought a 3 foot long T. Rex skeleton, a rare Japanese kit of a cop Harley configured for NYC and several diecast police Crown Victorias without markings, one in 1/24 scale by the company Motormax.

Actually, I really wanted my Honda XR-650 motorcycle to be clamped in the T. Rex’s jaws! I even emptied the gas tank and laid the Honda down to get some still shots for testing.

The bigger diecast Crown Vic arrived at the end of 2015. After unpacking, I opened the driver’s side front door and placed the model car on a sheet of flat black set paper with an open incandescent bulb above and to the left.  I took a couple of iPhone snaps. The images were stark and gritty, mundane. A surplus cop car sitting under a lamp post at dusk on some generic American street. I texted the picture to a few friends with the message, “got a deal on this at auction.” Everyone assumed it was an actual cop car. Proof of concept successful, miniatures were easier than 3D.

I bought tons of different model kits, most in 1/24 scale or larger and reference books and vids on technique. Even if I didn’t end up building all the kits for DOG, I’d have options for kit bashing, stealing components from one kit to add detail to another or to totally improvise, if an off the shelf model didn’t exist.

and so we go, December 2015

December 1, 2015, Deep Archive

Indeed, there are so many areas I can’t wait to explore as a cinematic artist, miniatures galore and so on. I know that completing DOG will provide more than enough fun and will lead to an avalanche of wondrous new experiments and adventures. So we look to what’s currently on bench.

We’ll need a workshop. We’ll need precise tools including airbrush, compressor, paints an spray booth. First, we’ve got to assemble models since that seems to be what’s next, coming up soon. We’ve got to prep for model building, get everything assembled.

At the start of 2016 I was doing a lot of inner work, reminding myself what living fully might feel like, recording dreams and assessing what they reflected about my deliberate presence. I had been getting help with chain of title and financial catch-up from Kaitlin Matesich and Brianna Mathias. Daughter of God was becoming ever more vivid, I was catching on fire all over again.

You’ve been unboxing a T. Rex skeleton, a diecast car, a detailed styrene model kit, some assembly required, perception, participation. Episode 056 of the Daughter of Godcast, Toys. Your imagination is more powerful than the slickest console game. Together over the next couple of episodes, we’ll find out how the vault doors got blown open. And the inky black of the tunnel, did something enter, or escape? Is a breached nuclear waste repository a smart place to hang your fedora? How valuable will bicycle repair skills prove to be after the end of oil, black gold, Texas Tea? Find out next week, same black time, same black channel.