I am back in Regina after a whirlwind week in San Francisco (and yes, I took the above mandatory Golden Gate Bridge shot on the trip).
It was a fantastic week! I got to work with Don Wood again (the actor playing Tom Sukanen), as well as David Cramer and Stephen Pocock (actors from the bar scene we shot last year in San Francisco). They're all good friends so it's always a treat. I also got to get back on set with Sisu DP Andrew Schlussel, which is always super fun, and audio engineer Brian Webb, which, as it turns out, is also always fun. I also got to work with Sisu Visual Effects Supervisor Brian Andrews in person for the first time; all of our collaboration so far has been through email and other internet technology. Brian's great too. The wonderful folks at Expression College for Digital Arts are helping on post production in many ways, from visual to audio.
an untextured render of the CG ship modeled by Nic Dunbeck and tricked out by texture artist Luke Graves
First, Brian Andrews, Andrew Schlussel and I met to go over the shots we needed to get. We spent about an hour in the Ray Harryhausen Lab at the Expression making sure we were all in agreement about what needed to be done on the green screen. Because our dolly shot was the mirror movement to the actual animation, it was kind of an abstract brain puzzle, and we had to talk it through a few times. Here's where my background in mime comes in handy...
l to r: Visual Effects Supervisor Brian Andrews, Director of Photography Andrew Schlussel, Writer/Director/Producer Chrystene Ells
We were trying to match this shot of Don from the summer 2007 shoot in Saskatchewan, not only in how Don was posing, but also in terms of lighting and even the costume. We spent some time getting the asymmetrical suspender clips just right...
... while Brian measured out the green screen and made gaffer's tape marks for reference markers that will come in handy during the match move work later.
The scene is one where the CG ship banks to the left and then sails off with Tom on board, so we had a dolly move that went straight back from Don on the green screen, then veered camera left away from the action.
think it's going to work. Of course ultimately the green will be removed and the footage of Don, as well as the animation of the ship, will be composited (superimposed) over an actual environment. Sneak peak of the raw footage below; check it out!
We also did a very nice pick-up shot that we never quite got satisfactorily on set, of Tom out on the prairie against a black evening sky, which we cheated by shooting against black duvateen (thanks, Roy).
Night sky, right? Right! It's movie magic!
Other friends dropped by as well, and is often the case on shoots, empty hands were given work, so Roy Miles, Cat Foster and Brandon Foster all carried gear and helped with shots. And those who stayed long enough got burritos! Sorry, no pictures of lunch. We were all too busy devouring Mexican food. But here's what they looked like (mmm...):
We needed to re-record the dialogue from the bar scene we shot last year in San Francisco, primarily because of the fire trucks that were doing drills on the half-hour down the block.
l to r: Stephen Pocock (bartender), David Cramer (old man), Don Wood (Tom Sukanen), Brian Webb (audio engineer extraordinaire)
It was great to see Brian Webb again, who ran the audio on location, and to meet Justin, who I hope will be continuing to help out with the audio over the next couple of months.
The actors did a great job! ADR is not easy; you have to match your onscreen lip movement, as well as the timing and performance, as precisely as possible, but if anything I think we have some line interpretations that are even better than the originals. Justin and Brian W. are terrific to work with and even took over directing Don's ADR work when I went out with Stephen to get -- yes -- our second meal of the day of burritos.
It was a long day, and by midnight I was pretty exhausted. Don had to be twice as tired as I was; he was performing all day long.
In addition to the green screen shoot and the audio work, Brian A. and Andrew sponsored a pizza party for students at Expression, both to give those who are already working on the project an idea of what the whole film is about, and also to recruit a few new students for the final push on the visual effects side of things. I did a 30-minute talk on the film and screened a few scenes, which was a little painful for me because the sound is rough and none of the effects shots are plugged in yet, but we got a good response and a few new digital artists came on board, which is terrific.
The rest of the trip was great; even though this is a production journal and not a personal one I just want to mention that I also got to see many wonderful friends who I really miss a lot, including my old pals from those lucrative puppeteering days, Howie and Mark at ILM (George Lucas' effects house in San Francisco, Industrial Light and Magic), where I took a few obligatory photos...
Now it's back to Regina and full throttle back into post production. Audio and 2D animation, here I come! Meanwhile, the CG work is going full tilt at Expression College, Dave Lawlor and friends are working on the score here in Regina, and I am in the process of lining up some audio voice recordings of Russian and Finnish native speakers. The Toronto Finnish Theatre Company very generously prepared some voice-over auditions that could be heard online, and will be contributing airfare to the film to fly an actress to Regina for the recording session. Brian Webb and Justin Valerio have graciously offered to help with the surround sound audio mix, which is incredible news and a huge weight lifted, and Roy Miles has ideas about color correction when the time comes. This is also a big piece of the puzzle and something I know nothing about.
As usual, Team Sisu continues to grow and I can only be in awe of how Tom Sukanen's story has inspired so many people to contribute to this film. If anything it has become much bigger than my own personal project and is a true collaboration, as well as an interdisciplinary and international art project. It's a new way of looking at it for me and I feel ever more humbled by the amount of love and energy and money and time that has come from so many different people and places.
I just hope that in my final job of tying everything together I can produce a film that everyone will be proud to be part of.
Until next time, SISU!!!