A podcast about movie making and the science fiction featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Daughter of Godcast, Episode 054, Next. Return to the Primary Narrative.
Roll on up and drop your kickstand, lean that gleaming paradigm you’re straddling right over over and stretch those legs. This is the Daughter of Godcast Episode 054, Next.
Return of the Primary Narrative
We’ve been jumping all around the last 8 episodes. Watersheds, Crowd Funding, Swimming, Ayowaska… Last week we enjoyed a visit with DOG’s music producer Ndong Essinga, easing back into the primary narrative. Let’s continue where we left off back in Episode 045, Park, as in Theme Park, sping / summer of 2015 right after converting girlfriends to motorcycles.
The end of romance and the beginning of true love. Much appreciation to her for reminding me of what I already knew.
During that summer of fun working with Ben and Bri on the doom raft, Rosie, Hobie Cats and cribs, I was inundated with unexpected inspiration about an idea I’d been thinking about since early 2011, maybe my next feature project… after Daughter of God and the third expedition of Around Lake Michigan. The working title for this next feature? The Science Fiction Musical.
With a decade plus project already active, how could I entertain the possibility of starting another? You might ask. I am pretending you might ask, so I can offer my snappy response. Is jumping around from one project to another inefficient, even irresponsible? Depends on what motivates the jumping.
Inspiration is peak experience, possibly the reason I exist. That and offering worthy women orgasms. I love sudden flashes of insight, creation flowing. I feel extra alive in the translation to words, painting, song or screen. The making of the Daughter of God has been nothing if not a delirious entertainment of such delicious epiphanies, raptly attended to.
The Science Fiction Musical is an amorphous emergence, a hodge podge of story snippets and rambunctious world building. There has been cross talk between Daughter of God and the Science Fiction Musical. Here’s a snippet of a monolog by Thomas Socks, once lead researcher aboard the exploration vessel Oceanea and consort to a dolphin princess, now recruited for a desperate cause.
Fair warning, this could be utterly incomprehensible. Just let this wash over you and see what happens.
July 13, 2015, The Deep Archive
[snip] They were very straight up about it. A desperate cause, chance of return very slim, your family’s cared for, financially secure. Chance of victory and safe return is under 30%, but for those who return wealth beyond avarice. Only the most gifted are chosen. Now I know plenty of dudes and gals who left their kids in charge of spouses, brothers or grandparents and made the trip. The dregs of society were welcome, if they could pass the aptitudes. Lots of folks washed out after the initial interview. We were never told why. Those that passed the interviews were asked to play games. If you could play the games, then you disappeared into the real training, never to be heard from again, except the occasional letter and video post. If you couldn’t play, you washed out. The games were pretty simple, and shelves of books were published offering the lowdown on beating the games but no one who actually [passed on] <played came> had come back to tell whether the books were worth the silicon they were instantiated on. Then I made it through. I passed the interview and could play the games. And I was asked to keep this record of what happened to me after, so that I could eventually pass the history on, in case we actually survived the melee and came home. What I found out was that 30% wasn’t exactly a lie, but it might as well have been. We were up against superior funding, firepower or as the Jirs say, over magicked, and far outnumbered. Actually, the Jirs themselves had beaucoup magic, far more effective magic than their opposition, but the practitioners were lacking, hence recruitment off our rock. But we truly are primitives, hardly able to wield the most rudimentary of their tech. Only the most gifted of us get the basics and we are already a population of the select. .05% of the best earth could offer. They say that if they had 20 years to train up some kids, they would be near primo, but the ethics of that would be very tough to parse and even with time bending they can’t scrape together an extra two years, let alone 20. So… a year of intense immersion for teens and young adults, plus a handful of oldsters then off to the far dark we go, to stand against gods. We're basically absolutely fucked, but hi ho, that’s not <the> [a useful] thought for the cultivation of magic so I will unplug it’s power and think of it no more. Instead, the audaciousness of becoming 100 times more of the man I so far am, finding the wealth that’s right here spread before me and mine and ALWAYS has been. That’s where we start and to even have a week of near to full awakening would be worth another 20 years of fog and groping, so a whole year awake is wealth beyond avarice indeed. I’m gods, we go to die, but what a life we’ll have until then and death itself a reboot only, no ending. And maybe, with a biggish smile we’ll pull off a miracle and emerge whole and hearty, to return. What will we be to our families and friends then? Something unfathomable. but we can return. That’s the 30%. A inferior but cunning force making a desperate gamble automatically has at least a 30% chance of victory, according to cosmic statistics. The universe smiles on fools, drunken with the righteousness of their cause. If we were slightly better equipped and prepared, our chances of victory would plummet. That’s the news that we got after playing the games and passing through the training event horizon. Goodbye Earth, for now or forever. Yeah and the ethics of recruiting mercenaries from a backward half evolved gravity trap? They were scrupulously honest, i mean they did their best not to glamorize the scenario, just offered the incentive and told the bleak truth in detail so there was no chance of misunderstanding. Even so, folks who signed on just couldn’t possibly make an informed decision, we were missing fundamental concepts, great holes in our paradigms. So was that ethical to recruit us? Hey, they came asking for help, they offered an alliance. It’s an age old trope, we loved the romance. Like living a Kirosawa movie. Humans basically operate on the fuck it principle, so the recruits as a rule felt like it would have been unethical not to ask us. Maybe that’s why we could play the games, the games were intended to sort for ethically appropriate cannon fodder. Out of an entire planet, so few of us. I guess there’s not so many heartsick dreamers running around as one might think.
Did any of that make sense? Sounded cool though.
Daughter of God imagines the gruesome finale of global consumer culture, that’s why DOG is the MOST apocalyptic movie ever. In contrast, the Science Fiction Musical extrapolates what might happen if currently available paradigms and practices for thriving proliferated and prevailed.
Wim Hof has nudged the horizons of human physiology. Right this moment, folks are moring their health and presence with breathing and cold water immersion. Marshall Rosenberg rediscovered a language of compassion, NVC, which facilitates the essence of equitable and satisfying human interaction, rapport. Abraham Hicks continues to sketch a working map of the cosmos and provide pragmatic guidelines for true autonomy. Ayahausca is a transubstantiation of US, a ritualistic reminder of who we really are.
We’ve touched on these specific thrivings in previous episodes. In March of 2015 I did my first formal NVC training at the Neahtawanta Center in Traverse City. We discovered Wim Hof and Ayohuasca together in 2017. The Science Fiction Musical will be a huge mashup of these and many more thrivings, an exploration of our most excellent opportunities and potentials. Would there be challenges for the characters in the SFM universe? You bet, but nothing like the boring cliches coming out of contemporary consumer culture.
Hollywood keeps making the same movie, telling tedious stories of good and evil. What communal adventures would a conscious human presence undertake? What would we do, if we could do almost anything?
From Episode 035, a futher excerpt from…
November 29, 2013 Deep Archives
[snip] Science fiction is dead because so many contemporary stories are just mild soap opera supported by technological novelty. It feels like NOW. Who is writing the paradigm transforming epics? What could be weirder than right now? In fact, the best science fiction <still> shows us how weird right now is.
By immersing the audience in an enlivened culture, the SFM will demonstrate how bizarre and contrived current mainstream culture is, how alien to human nature. This immersion will require some turbo boosted exposition, and maybe that’s why… a musical.
In October of 2015 after a sauna at Tim Burke and Barbie Stowe’s, I outed my plans to write a musical. I asked if they knew a vocal coach and Barbie was super enthusiastic about Linda who had previously been in their band. Tim and I talked extensively about music and musicals.
Talking to Tim
October 14, 2017, Deep Archive
[snip] We talked musicals generally with some fascinating revelations. Musical numbers are natural exposition, character development and motivation in tight intuitive transmission, without <any of> [breaking] suspension of disbelief because well, if you’re ok with characters spontaneously breaking into song and dance, then almost anything goes. 🙂 Or perhaps because they do so, the audience is super receptive to the everything that comes with, the content is supercharged. For example, in Guys in Dolls, “Fugue for Tinhorns” (I Got The Horse Right Here) there’s some fairly technical information being offered about [horse racing] tracks, jockeys, odds on betting and the understanding is inherent in the song, somehow it all just gets instantiated in the audiences’ brains. With this tune especially, it’s a fugue so that multiple streams of content are running concurrently, which without the music, would just be crowd noise.
I wasn’t really thinking about the expository power of musicals when the SFM showed up in 2011, I just wanted to write a musical. As the SFM universe started to become an exploration of what a thriving culture might look like, I knew the audience would need help coming up to speed with such an exotic concept, and the musical aspect made even more sense. Amazing how the cosmos fits together!
Last week, in episode 053, Music Producer we had a conversation with Ndong Essinga, who produced the theme for DOG. The day before he went back to Brooklyn, he sounded a cautionary tone about my ambitions to write a musical. He was concerned I might be underestimating the scope of work. I told him I was building a roster of accomplished musicians to provide guidance, including Dede Alder and Josh Holcomb, Abby Alwin and maybe John Driscoll and Tim Burke. He argued I would need way more firepower than just a few virtousic players to pull off a musical.
That night we occupied the Airstream and I sang him some of eclectic covers I’ve been expanding my chord palette and vocal chops with, everything from 20s honkytonk, crooner tunes from the 40s and 50s, hippy love songs from the 60s and even 70’s disco. Listening and jamming along, Ndong had some sort of epiphany, though I am still unclear precisely what that was. He seemed simultaneously sobered and intrigued by my choice of songs, like he learned something that surprised him, more compelling than my words earlier that afternoon. Though the Science Fiction Musical is very much on the back burner, his reaction to our Airstream session shifted the energy for me. I’m feeling confirmation.
By the fall of 2015 SFM inspirations were archived and I was groping for a comprehensive approach to Daughter of God’s visual effects. Since we’ve jumped around so much in the last 8 or so episodes, here’s a summary of progress on the DOG in the fall of 2015. We had an intermediary cut with extensive rotoscoping on the live action, even re-performances of the live action through a technique I developed, roto-welding, Episode 030. The VFX shots were mostly refined placeholders and detailed sketches. I had decided to switch from 3D to miniatures for mega props like planes, ships and such like.
I was poised on the edge of discovery…
November 22, 2015, Deep Archive
There are several approaches to completing the DOG project 1) organizing all sequences and comps into a current working cut, 2) making a detailed breakdown of every task to estimate how much time remains until completion and now 3) describing clearly and specifically what’s happening on screen and the experience we intend to evoke. This is a zooming out, going more general. In describing the experience we intend to evoke, I realize there is yet another level of zooming out that seems necessary. I want to articulate MY vision for VFX. Accepted Practice, What Most VFX is About Typically VFX either adds an object or process that didn’t or couldn’t occur in camera, (muzzle flashes, spaceships, etc.) or subtracts what did occur but isn’t wanted (visual distractions, copyrighted material or trademarks, errors, recognizable talent who didn’t or won’t sign a release). Knowing how to achieve convincing additions and subtractions requires technical prowess – fluency with tools including software, cameras and workflows, and cognitive finesse – a passionate curiosity about reality. Real reality in contrast to screen reality or the rehashing of accepted practice in VFX, however trendy. Research into reality could include perception, language, optics, photography, drawing, painting, live performance, psychoactive drugs, extreme physical endurance, mediation, near death experience, etc. to develop a working theory or at least guidelines about what reality is and how it can be compellingly implied or suggested on screen. Whether the typical VFX artist is satisfied with whatever her physics engine cranks out or is informed by her direct inquiries into the nature of existence is not clear, nor does it matter. What matters is how our own inquiries incite a fascination for VFX. My deep and adventurous relationship with reality seeks a robust channel for expression, and VFX is promising. So Beyond, Art Beyond addition and subtraction is a deeper virtuosity, a triggering of rapture. Enabling or facilitating a state of receptivity and then offering a nugget of mystery, a content rich burst of sparkling whoa! I want to infuse the movie with story, I want story to leak out all over the place. Moments chock full of subtle but absolutely relevant detail. Even if only lightly assimilated in the first viewing, still enriching the vibrancy and authenticity of the experience subliminally, subconsciously, maybe through magic cinematic osmosis. Tolkien invented entire languages for the various races in the Lord of the Rings, his universe was dense. VFX can offer unprecedented relationships, resonate with the non physical, initiate a journey beyond name and form and be a finger pointing at the moon. VFX can activate core knowing and convey radiant clues, perhaps under the guise of a relevant artifact / process or completely independent of accepted causality. Enough ranting, getting specific. The humble straight cut between shots is the simplest example of transcendental VFX. Juxtaposition of diverse content creates new meaning – usually to convincingly convey the commonplace, like a conversation between characters. A cut can either weld diverse shots into a seamless moment, jangle the audience catastrophically back into their mundane theater seat (if done without wit) or facilitate a bold epiphany – blast beyond the incidental imagery and audio. The act of cutting can make more meaning than the sum of the two chunks have apart. Now imagine infinite editorial possibilities within a single shot – color, composition, movement, elements – altering almost imperceptibly to convey a precise feeling or mood, reveal specifics about a character or situation, anything. I want to wield VFX with emotional virtuosity, playing with subconscious, conscious and super conscious perception, blending editorial with archetype. Staying relevant In some sense this is ambitious, a step beyond suspension of disbelief. Maybe sideways more than beyond. Moores law will eventually democratize the realization of the hyper real, but art is much more than hyper realism. Art is not only where the fun is, but it’s a gambit to stay relevant regardless of when our current technical prowess is obsoleted by advancing technology. That’s the potential I see in VFX, where I ultimately want to go. Rather than discoursing further from an abstract theoretical perspective, I am now ready to describe the DOG VFX scenes in detail, including all the nuances of story that will only be offered visually. Like echoes of dialogue spoken before the movie ever started.
You’re poised for discovery with the Daughter of Godcast, Episode 054, Next. We’re wrapping up 2015 and heading into the home stretch of DOG history, 2016. Just 1 year from the present. In episode 055, we’ll have a peek at the delicious epiphany unifying the Daughter of God aesthetic. Until then, much love, welcome once again to year 2 of this podcast, the year of screenings, of rubber hitting roads, of more wild surprises. In this second year of the Daughter of Godcast, we’ll switch from talking about history to the mostly right now, weekly reports shading from the gentle release to watching and feedbacking. Together dear audience, dear collaborators, we are going to give this crazy movie to the whole wide world.