Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fall Recap--- Life as a Production Designer and meeting childhood icons.

Before this October I dont think I had any clue as to what a Production Designer did. I could have taken a guess and been in the ballpark, but known nothing of the nuts and bolts. In early October a good friend of mine who I see as a standard of excellence in local projects (if she is involved then I know its worthwhile) asked if I would be available as an Art Director for an indie movie that was shooting in the area. Art Director I knew, I had been that on smaller scale stuff.

Imagine my surprise and brief panic when my contract said Production Designer.

So I googled.

Production designers are responsible for the visual concept of a film, television or theatre production. They identify a design style for sets, locations, graphics, props, lighting, camera angles and costumes, while working closely with the director and producer.

Turns out its mostly the same thing. On big films its almost more of an office job. They come up with color palettes, textures and the look of sets and all that goes in it. They are the big boss that set, props, wardrobe and all of that falls under.

With this being an indie, the crew was smaller and budget more limited. This mainly means I was more creative with ways to dress the spaces and learned the names of a few clerks at the local thrift stores (they have half price days once a month at the DAV, dontchaknow.) I also ended up creating a lot of art to dress the walls with on my own, rather than paying stock sites.

But, the big lessons learned for on set Art Department.

1) Ziplock bags of ice, opened and near the windshield helps to keep them from fogging over while actors are inside doing takes. Shaving foam wiped on then wiped off leaves a film that also keeps them from fogging.

2) Have multiple sets of license plates for the state and era you will be shooting in. Fake plates are always needed.

3) For props that will be handled by the actors, I found that small tupperware containers, each one designated to a specific character, saved me so much time and anxiety. I never had to dig for a fresh pack of cigarettes or remember which keychain I needed when I needed it.

4) Have on hand a broom, paper towels and window cleaner. You are in charge of cleaning up a set and making sure window smudges get cleaned between sets.

5) Unless they are supposed to be there. In which case come up with a way to do make it quick to reapply exactly the same every time. Our continuity supervisor was incredibly nitpicky, which probably prevented some issues in editing, but made our job a lot harder. For one scene we had a paper sign on a door. We only had the primary and a backup. Then the director decided he wanted the actress to plant a bloody hand right in its center. But then..."RESET!" We needed multiples to for each take. Luckily I had saved it on a jump drive and was able to send someone to print out new in the PO trailer. But this could have seriously messed with production and it would have been on me even though it wasnt in the script, discussed or planned in order for me to prepare. YOU MUST HAVE OPTIONS FOR EVERYTHING! The director wants the shot and if you are the only person who is keeping them from getting it then you either need to be able to think on your feet or be prepared to defend your position. Ultimately, this is why film budgets go so high. The Art Department must prepare for any eventuality, and if the scene requires building a cave, you had best make sure it can be shot from any angle. If its not, you can bet thats the angle he will want.

6) Actors who smoke in the scene do not want to try to smoke a cigarette each take. Second hand smoke hits the entire cast and crew. Use herbal cigarettes. They are all gross smelling, but the least gross were Ecstacy brand. However, any herbals proved impossible to find anywhere in Missouri outside of Kansas City or St Louis so I had to get them shipped in. Get lots.

7) Those 3m velcro hanging strips will be your saving grace to keep from angering the owners of the property you are in when you need to hang tons of new artwork and signage.

8) Because you need to fix/hide things fast, keep a pocket full of sharpies and several sizes of paper/post-its on hand. They hide logos or continuity mistakes quick and easy and if you are smart about what you write on them can add texture and detail to the scene.

We went through a LOT of Poloroids.

9)Take photos of everything, all the time. Label them in the shot if you can. If you think you only need the setup for one days shoot so you dont need to keep track, do it anyway. I guarantee you will need to match the prop placement. Plus, they will want it in the wrap binder.

Im excited for this film to come out. Its looking great and I got to work with some amazing people.


The lead is Clayne Crawford, who has been in a few incredible television series and next summer a movie called Spectral, which he described as Call of Duty meets Ghostbusters...as these are two of my favorite things Im super excited to see this.

One of my childhood favorites also had a role. Ken Hudson Campbell plays the local private investigator who is hired to find the aforementioned Clayne. Back in the day Ken was in a tv series called Hermans Head, which was like the Pixar film Inside Out, but 20 years earlier and for adults. Ken played Lust and while most of the jokes flew over this then 8 year olds head, the ones that landed rolled me every time. He was channeling Belushi for sure. He was also the iconic Santa Claus in Home Alone, he who helps set Kevin on his proper path.

I loved working with this guy. His subtle character ticks and little bits of business made him a joy to watch. Plus, he knows more dirty jokes and obscene Hollywood tales than anyone else I've ever met. Hire him for all the things. I want to see him on screen more.

Can you tell how much I liked working with this guy?


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Random ink----Mum-Ra!

I've been working on some traditional skills. This was just a quick play around with a new brush pen. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

I did a podcast!

And I swear I thought I posted about it here already, but...

I did an interview with @rosspayton on his fantastic Role Playing Podcast Radio ( I was cast as theLevel 7 jaded vfx artist). http://goo.gl/HKamUZ


Ross is a friend from way back friend who used to do a lot of local film work and has since moved onto mainly writing. He is one of the lucky few who get to earn a living doing what they love from the comfort of their home studio, a right hard won by a decade of work on his part. He was my assistant Art Director on the movie I worked on in the fall and many of the discussions had on the hour drive to and fro was the impetus for this interview. Check him out and if you love his work then please contribute to his Patreon!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The evils of Instagram.

I realized recently that since I downloaded Instagram I quickly quit blogging (which was already at a minimal state to begin with). Social media is so quick! Instant gratification! Then I realized how hard it was to find my own posts in my feed just a few weeks later. Social media makes you feel more 'active' but it's a dust in the wind scenario. Posts on projects and artwork quickly become hard to find. Sure, to those dedicated few they can all be dug up later, but we are lazy and distracted people. If it takes longer than twenty seconds to find then it may as well be Atlantis. 
So, with that said, I'm hoping that this blogging app will help me combine the ease of phone posts with the need to create a constant body of work. Cross your fingers and bare with as I do some catch up posts in between takes on set. 

Crew gift ---- life in 401st

When filming a movie in the deep Missouri woods during deer season, hunter orange is truly the best crew gift. 




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Instagram is the blog killer.

Ahoy!
 So, as the title suggests, I set up an instagram. It was mainly to be a toy nerd and follow designers...and then it became toy sellers....and then....well, its just so fast and easy to post photos up that remembering to do the same here became difficult. Plus, the app for blogspot sucks unless you throw down a little cash and how can I claim the life of a starving artist if I go around buying apps and whatnot.
 To recap since almost a year ago. We moved back to Missouri in order for our beautiful baby girl to be near family. Skyping with cousins and grandparents just isnt the same as being able to bite their noses in real life. An added bonus is how much our monthly bills dropped by moving back. Sad things we miss...well, thats a long list that goes from weather, geography, insects, events, produce, friends, etc.
 I've been working as a remote visual effects artist with a surprisingly heavy average workload. Im Mr. Mom during the day while Rachel is off educating young minds. So most of my work gets done from 9p-3a, which is kind of how its always been. For the first time in years I have a real office, with shelves and posters of the films Ive worked on and toys and everything! Its oddly exciting.
 As I mentioned in a previous post, in addition to the freelance work Ive also been trying to clean out projects that I have left behind. This includes 2 feature films, one short film and 2 concept paintings. I have notebooks full of ideas and things I want to work on, but as is the central point in the book Getting things Done, unfinished work (whether still relevant or not) hangs in your mind and weights you down. Im looking to lighten the load.
 Part of the new work is to push the illustration and sculpture side so that I can start selling castings and prints. Also, it will be nice to feel like an artist again as opposed to an overworked drone. Working in movies is awesome, but the hours can be gross. As  I have been reminded lately, to be a successful artist you cannot just post to your social media. It is transitory and hard to reference back to. But a blog, that lasts literally forever (whether read or not).
 So look forward to more regular postings!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Manticore Or cleaning out the closet

For this upcoming year I am trying to push myself more as a professional artist (and not part of a larger studio). So in order to clear out my head for upcoming projects I am trying to wrap up projects that I have started and left behind. This photoshop painting of a Manticore I started in June of 2012 and probably touched 4 times up until this week. My level of artistic skill has increased a great deal, so my work over the past three times were largely painting over my old work to make it...well...decent. Im wanting to do more card game style artwork, so this is my first step working towards building that type of portfolio. Comments, recommendations welcome. What is your favorite fantasy creature?

Claunch_manticore