Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Featured Project


To watch the "Danse Macabre" short film, click HERE.

To read about this project, view credits, and to see still images, click HERE and HERE.
.........................

It's Halloween time again and, just one more time, I'll have the "Danse Macabre" short film as the Featured Project.

Will "Danse Macabre" always be up to watch online?  Well, yes, of course.  You can watch it whenever you want.  

But it's an older film of mine from 2010 that we've talked about on here plenty of times so I don't want it up as the Featured Project year after year after year.  Even at Halloween time.  Because there will be other creepy films to feature coming down the pipe.....

But I love "Danse Macabre" and it's an excuse to show the silly, new official poster image that I created for it (almost 4 years after the fact....hahaha).  And, so, here we are.

In honor of "Danse Macabre"'s final twirl as a Featured Project on this blog, let's serve up 13 Spooky Facts about this short film:

1.)  As far as I know, this is one of the very few film projects ever made (whether studio or indie) that has Count Dracula and his brides speaking in actual Transylvanian dialogue (with English subtitles).

2.)  I had planned on having this film online on Halloween morning in 2010 but there were some technical hiccups and I had to post it up a few days later instead.  And, yes, I was pretty pissed off about that.

3.)  Amber Morrow, who plays the beautifully vampiric Red Bride, did double-duty as the makeup artist on this film as well as playing one of the main characters in it.

4.)  Although I loved working with all the actors and artists who were part of making this (everyone handled the chilly weather and watchers well), "Danse Macabre" was a stressful film to make and, after shooting it, I was considering not making films anymore.  One of the reasons was.....

5.)  This short film cost three times as much to make as I thought it would (whoops).

6.)  I went into debt for a year and a half after it was made (double-whoops).

7.)  We shot it, on and off, over two weeks in Chicago.

8.)  The entire film is an allegory about inspiration.  Count Dracula is saved from an oppressive, dark trap (the coffin, the kidnapping) by muses (the Brides) representing a spectrum (The Red Bride, Blue Bride, and Gold Bride combine to create white light).

9.)  I considered doing "Danse Macabre" as a longer, possibly feature-length, project but we ran out of time and $.  There were even story hooks put into place in case we attempted to pull this off.

10.)  There is major Frederico Fellini and Aleksandr Ptushko influence smeared all over this film (especially "Fellini Satyricon" and "The Tale of Tsar Saltan").

11.)  There was a small crowd watching the scene in which the Brides save Dracula and off the Vatican Agents.  I had to cut the footage around the moments in which condo residents and little kids could be seen in the background.

12.)  The sunrise cathedral was shot at 5 in the morning, almost a year later, miles away from where any of the action takes place.

13.)  No permits were used when shooting any of the scenes and I was constantly worried that I'd get a ticket or we'd be kicked out from the various locations.  One of the reasons that we actually shot during Halloween itself was so that cops would take less notice of costumed weirdos running around with chained coffins.  They just rolled their eyes and kept on keepin' on.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Used To Be An Illustrator

......a while back.

Sometimes I do illustration work but these days, when I do it primarily, I do it to sketch out image ideas (character design, costume concepts) for films.

I did illustration work for book projects, music events and bands, restaurants, and websites.  It was not a bad gig!  When I was in Los Angeles, I got tired of working on other peoples films--I got tired of films in general which may or may not have had to do with me feeling "out of sorts" when I lived in L.A. because........because I do have a love and appreciation for Los Angeles but......it's just not my thing.  It's just not a place where I felt comfortable living for an extended period of time.  The weather, the culture, it's just not my thing.

So when I lived in L.A., I started doing professional illustration work.  It taught me a lot about running a small business, deadlines, dealing with clients, etc., those sorts of things.  It was nice and it was a good break from working on sets (where I usually was part of the art dept.).  My work got featured in some galleries in Los Angeles and Chicago (I continued to do illustration work for a while after I moved to Chicago) and in some group shows.  I sold some work and made some money.  Overall, my experiences doing illustration work were very positive.  There were a few clients who were pills but, whatever, that's life.  I look back on my "illustrator period" very fondly.

I don't do professional illustration work anymore so I don't really have an outlet or website at this point to display some of my old favorites.  Is it completely cohesive to put up a page on here--an indie film production blog--to show old illustration work?  No, not really.  But where else should I put them?  Where else could they go?

So I figure "what the heck", why not?  I might as well.  Just for the fun of it and those who enjoy my film work will be able to see visual/thematic circuits between my old illustrations and the kinds of work that I do now through the medium of film storytelling.

As you can see, I like to explore a certain range of subjects.  Although the mediums through which these ideas are expressed (from illustrations--whoosh!--all the way over to moving images) are quite different, these kinds of visuals will probably not surprise you (lots of darkness but camp and color and all that kind of stuff--I'm very predictable in my tastes and offer no apologies!).

Some of the work here is really weird (well, of course) but, believe it or not, I was just going with what the clients requested because they wanted a specific moment of a story visualized or they wanted to feature a certain kind of tone, etc.  So, yes, a lot of the strangeness is my own fault but I can't take the blame for it entirely (I worked for some very cool and unusual people).

These illustrations (my favorite ones) were made at various points between 2003 and 2010 depending on the project for which they were created.































Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Much Is Enough?


.......in order to have a "Selected Works" if you're someone who puts out creative work (whether you're a musician, painter, filmmaker, whatever)?

I guess that that's up to the person.  3 years?  5 years?  A decade?

Well, I've been making films for a while now.  Since I was 15.  It's been.....a while.  Let's just go with that.  More than half my life at this point.

I'm ready to have a Selected Works now.  I've done enough.  I've earned it.

And, also, because not all of my stuff has turned out good........

haha

But, I think that any creative person could say that about what they do.  I think that we all, after a while, can look back from a bit of a distance and see "Well, that one was pretty good!"  "That one.....was not so good."  "I thought that that one was alright but no one else liked it."

That's just how it goes.

But there's more projects coming up!  Hopefully those upcoming projects will end up on the Selected Works page at some point.

As of now, though, here's the Addovolt Selected Works.

Selected Works

Here are some of my favorite projects that we've done so far based on audience responses and my own personal preferences.  Not that you shouldn't watch other projects from our Complete List of Films page--please do!--but, yes, these tend to be the works that best represent what we do.

We've done a fair number of films by now--some of them didn't turn out the way that I had hoped, some of them came out well, some of them have been and continue to be enjoyed by a small audience, and other ones get thoroughly ignored (ouch!).  But, hey, that's indie film.  Quick shooting schedules, not a ton of money, limited tech, and limited promotional reach.  We've worked with some actors who, thankfully for us, go back and forth between doing grungy little indie projects (like mine) over to studio films and television (Ryan Murphy shows, Christopher Nolan productions, etc.) which is really cool.  Thank goodness for them.  They've got grit and experience and I've been very fortunate that these actors have been--and continue to--rough it for a few days (or weeks in some cases) with me in order to bring these narratives to life.  Addovolt Productions is not a subdivision of the CBS corporation, we don't do Kickstarter stuff (I can't--I just can't do it!  It's just.....ugh.  No.  I can't.)  Some of our projects get a decent little audience while other ones simply don't.  We are true indie--humble, punk rock, no-nonsense, and we like to do our own thing.  A real life dog-and-pony show at the State Fair.  That's Addovolt.  But that doesn't mean that we can't whip up something unique, gather some folks around the electronic campfire, indulge in some strange and wonderful images, and--most importantly--tell a good story..... 

Click on the images to watch the films of your choosing and to read more about them in-depth.

short films:



















"Salome" (2009)

"Salome", adapted from the Oscar Wilde play, is not perfect (there's all kinds of things that I wish that I would have done differently) but it's a true mood piece, the aesthetics are unnerving, and it's an art film that I'm proud of.  Say whatever you want about it but the casting is perfect, no argument accepted.  This project was the first film that I did after not doing film for a long time and it's special to me.  Chad Nini's orginal score for this film is gorgeous.




















"Second Star" (2010)

My friends know that this is a sensitive subject because this film doesn't get watched much.  But I like this one!  To me, it's an emotional and effectively haunting, run-down, gothic little pebble of a film.  If you can't get into evil fairies, lost youth, glitter, gutters, and drugs then, fine, don't watch it!  But, secretly, I'm hoping that you'll give this project a chance.  If you feel like experiencing a quick and surreal dive into snowy, urban melancholia, this film should do the trick.




















"Danse Macabre" (2010)

I wanted to make my own Halloween Special so I did.  "Danse Macabre" looks, feels (and tastes?) like Halloween.  A romp centered around Dracula, his brides, and some grouchy Vatican assassins.  A recipe for trouble if there ever was one.  Set to and inspired by the delightful classic composition (1872) by Camille Saint-Saens.  Different languages with English subtitles.  Fun, silly, cool costumes, beautiful vampires.  Best-looking gang of blood-suckers?  Probably.  Before I shot this, I asked myself:  "Okay, if Dracula and his brides really existed, what would they actually look like?  What ages would they choose to be?  What would they really sound like?".  As far as I know, this little short film is one of the very, very few (only?) vampire films that features genuine Transylvanian dialogue.  So if you ever wanted to get an idea of what Count Dracula and his brides sound like when they're bickering, here you go......


short documentaries:



















"Baptized In Weirdness:  an unauthorized journey through The House On The Rock" (2010)

It kind of bothers me that this project gets watched more than some of the other ones that I wish got more views but, oh well, that's just how it goes.  This is a short, quickly made visitor's video about a flabbergastingly expensive art installation/destination in Wisconsin created by eccentric architect and collector, Alex Jordan Jr.  I did this video casually; there's nothing fancy about it.  It's quick-paced, interesting (and awkward), but rushed.  Definitely worth it for the merry-go-round scene towards the end section of the video.  You'll see what I mean.




















"The Spirits of Detroit" (2012)

A paranormal ode to my hometown and a nod to "Unsolved Mysteries".  Rain, cemeteries, costumes, and crumbling structures.  And you'll even learn something just like I did (a lot of historical research went into this).  The narrator, Chris Chavez, did a really beautiful job.  An enjoyable, atmospheric ghost documentary.  (I'm not sure why the poster image says "Fall 2011" at the bottom when I didn't put it out until 2012.....Maybe, at one point, I had planned on putting it out a year earlier?  I don't remember that.  Maybe I fell into a time warp.  I don't know.)


music videos:



















"Take It From Me" by The Baby Magic (2014)

Garage rock ridiculousness with dancers, an odd nurse, and a pizza genie.  The lead singer, Mary Beth, goes to the arctic to find a rare serum.  Along the way, she drinks and contemplates death.  The song is peppy.  I love The Baby Magic because they remind me of The Ramones and The Dead Milk Men but they're totally unique.  Terrific guitarist, drummer, and frontwoman.  The video that we did together for their single "See Means Yes" is also a lot of fun.















"Fleeting Moments" by Where The Embers Fall (2012)

An icy (but pretty) black-and-white music video featuring this Midwest-based darkwave duo.  Hypnotic and multifaceted song, an easy and pleasurable watch.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Baby Magic "Take It From Me" music video



First of all, to view the music video, just go ahead and click right HERE.

It premiered online on September 15th, 2014.

To enjoy more of The Baby Magic, simply web search "The Baby Magic band" to visit their Bandcamp page, connect with them on Facebook, etc., etc.  There's also, on this blog, a main hub page for the music videos that I've collaborated with them on and that's right HERE.

Now, on to "Take It From Me".......

Lots of footage for such a quick clip!  But that gave me a plenty of editing options so I think that that worked out well.

Per usual, it was a really fun and surreal shoot with Chicago indie band, The Baby Magic, along with Laboratory Dancers (who are awesome) and a memorable cameo performance by one of my favorite actors, Michael Massett.

The story within the video can be summed up easily:

Mary Beth (the lead singer) finds that the guys in The Baby Magic are sick with some kind of illness (the flu?  a cold?  the plague?  nobody knows) so she goes off to the North Pole to find an extremely rare botanic serum and saves the day.

There is also a nurse, dancing muses, a magic pizza, and possibly some time travel involved but it's all, perhaps, within the lead singer's head (which, in the story, is filled with stress, paranoia, and an alcoholic haze so the imagination angle may be the bet to place your money on).  Or maybe not.  It's a campy, silly music video (but absolutely ROCK without apology) so I guess that anything could happen.

At first we weren't sure what the concept was going to be but then I stumbled across an article about that historic Balto medical rescue story that happened in Alaska (Google it) and I thought to myself:  "Maybe we should do something like that but ridiculous?".  And then the Polar Vortex happened here in Chicago in early 2014, along with some big snow falls, so I contacted Mary Beth and proposed the basic concept to her.  There was a point where she was going to get driven to the North Pole by a team of Tonka trucks or something along those lines but the snow was melting fast and I couldn't figure out how to pull that off in time.  So, instead, she cross-country skis it (with busted tiki torches as poles and Hot-N-Ready boxes for snowshoes).  When your band is sick, you've gotta do what you've gotta do as quickly as possible.

This music video was originally going to have some gruesome aspects to it (a mean frozen Snow Queen, a perverted Santa, and an out-of-control abominable snowman were going to attack Mary Beth after she squeezed out the elixer) but the band reeled me in on those ideas (that was probably wise of them).  So we had the Arctic adventure/medical rescue concept which was soon joined by a performance in (what I think was?) a former warehouse foundation on the west side of the city, some footage within the band's practice space, and--last but definitely not least--Mary Beth had the idea of asking Laboratory Dancers if they'd be willing to perform in the background while she's masked and singing.  Which turned out to be a fantastic idea.

We shot all over the city (the "North Pole" was an ice-encrusted Montrose Harbor) which--if you're doing something with a contemporary setting--makes things much more interesting than a studio.  I like a rough, retro aesthetic.  I'm not a huge fan of studio spaces and perfect lighting--they make me crazy for some reason--I like to feature interesting images and beautiful people but in imperfect situations/scenarios; ultra HD images turn me off too for whatever reason.  I don't think that anything should look evolved over 16mm film but that's just me.  I've always had a taste for that for whatever reason, probably because my entire sensibility was shaped by cult films and weirdo indie cinema--many of which were never too pretty to look at.  Luckily, The Baby Magic "get" me so it's nice working with them on projects when we get the chance.

"Take It From Me" is a very multifaceted indie music video and I'm happy that it turned out fun and bizarre and gritty; a genuine collaboration with everyone involved.

Some stills are below along with the credits.





The Baby Magic
Take It From Me
from their album, "Rent a Place in Hell"  © 2014

video by Derek Quint, Addovolt Productions






featuring performances by

Laboratory Dancers
Ally Subak
Cheryl Cornacchione Nowlin
Emily Lukasewski
Sarah Chmielewski

and

Michael Marius Massett




Special Thanks to:

Tracy Burnham (North-Pole Elixer poster design)
and
James Summers
Frederick South
The City of Chicago






search:  "The Baby Magic band"