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'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.

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


Michael Marius Massett

Special Thanks to:

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

search:  "The Baby Magic band"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Nature's Ways" script/story/narration

Royal Pain:  the love-starved Princess Tiberia (played by Lauren Hearter)

The "Nature's Ways" fairy tale short film is narrated by a British male voice.  As though you're listening to a Charles Dickens audio book or an old record.  Music (synthpop and classical) will accompany the film along with very particular, very specific, sound effects at certain moments (for example: the sound of a dinner gong in one scene, some clashing of swords in another scene, you get the idea).

The actors in the film are seen speaking to each other but, like the reading of a typical fairy tale, we hear the voice of the narrator speaking for them at key moments.  The action onscreen will be reminiscent of a silent film in certain respects.  We see the actors moving and talking throughout their drama but we don't actually hear them.

Again, the story is being told to us by a British narrator.  From a production standpoint, this makes things easier because we don't need to worry about recording sound and dialogue during the shooting process.  All sound recording/addition and music inclusion will be taking place afterward.  The fact that we're being told the story, having it spoon-fed to us in a certain respect, creates a sense of childish ease and timelessness while watching the drama unfold.  This is how I want "Nature's Ways" to be:  an extremely easy watch and something of a guilty pleasure.  It's designed for repeat viewings in the way that we can read/experience "Snow White", "The Three Little Pigs", "Goldilocks", etc. over and over again like favorite songs.  We know how the story goes, we know how it ends, but there's an addictive quality to it.  Simple, fun, delicious--let's do it again!

But this is still an edgy, creepy, PG-13 kind of film meant for adults and teenagers.  That becomes really clear within the first few minutes.  That vibe is established from the get-go.

The film is "disco-medieval".  Cars, cell phones, cameras, swords, skyscrapers, towers, crowns, jewels, gowns, drugs, ruined cathedrals, magic recipe scrolls.  Lots of gold and, also, some scary creatures.  It's 1987, 2017, and 1407 all at the same time.  Postmodern.  I'll be watching "The Wiz", "Xanadu", John Waters, and John Hughes films a lot while we're shooting this.

The film will probably end up being around 12 or 15 minutes long.  Fast-paced.

Here is the story that we're told for "Nature's Ways".  Feel free to read it out loud while doing your best "Masterpiece Theatre" host impersonation (or the "Little Britain" host for that matter)......

[NOTE:  I'm stilling working on the end section of the story.  Give me a couple of days, please.]


Once Upon A Time, King Mercatroy ruled a kingdom.

Because the history of this kingdom is so complicated, I don't quite know if it was 7 centuries ago, 7 decades ago, or 7 days ago but it's in the books that King Mercatroy was one of the most prosperous and powerful monarchs to ever wear a crown.

Although he reigned over countless castles and innumerable stretches of land, what he valued most were the two virtuous ladies closest to his heart:

His loyal wife, Her Royal Highness, Queen Moduli.....

.....and their daughter, the majestic, the imperial, High Princess Tiberia.  Or, as she was known throughout the kingdom, "Little Tibby".

Little Tibby was coming of age.

While many of her peers were trying on wedding gowns, Tibby was kept occupied with other, less serious, endeavors.  She always did her best to follow her parents' orders but, yet, there were times when she wondered when she would be allowed to put paint on her face......or to mist herself with her mother's perfume.....or to adorn herself with the kinds of embellishments that would attract admiring glances.

The clocks ticked.  The lonely hours became weeks.  The weeks became months.  And the months turned into solitary years.

The King and Queen lovingly provided their sweet princess with every luxury imaginable and, of course, Tibby was given company by the royal household.  Yet, in her private hours, the princess longed for a different sort of companionship.

The past had not always been kind to King Mercatroy and Queen Moduli.  They thanked The Gods for the peace and wealth that their kingdom was now enjoying but they still wore the scars given to them by invading enemies--fierce and cruel villains from the foulest corners of the earth that the royal pair had defeated long ago.  Mercatroy still suffered from night terrors.  And Moduli used a dark paste to hide white hairs gifted to her from traumas long past.  She had done so since the age of 22.  The kingdom had not been easily won.

The King and Queen wished for Princess Tibby to retain her blushing innocence, to luxuriate in a sort of prolonged bubble of youth, the kind of which they themselves had not been able to enjoy.

Every month, the neighboring kingdoms sent names and portraits of available, worthy suitors for Little Tibby but King Mercatroy was exceedingly difficult to please.

The princes were always "too ugly" or "too handsome".  "Too fat" or "too thin".  Other ones were "too stupid" or "too weak".  The rest were simply "too ordinary".

If he were to give the hand of the princess to any of these men, who would protect her in this dangerous land?  Certainly not any of them.  No, no.  The princess was certainly better off at home, under her father's protection.  The King had no interest in marrying his daughter off to any of these buffoons.

Mercatroy was much happier thinking about his power and good fortune.  The wars had ended many years ago but the king demanded frequent reminders that he was, indeed, the mightiest of all rulers.  It was not uncommon for him to require displays of combative prowess to be performed by the very best knights the treasury could afford.  He no longer needed to swing swords with his own hands but it pleased him knowing that he had the very best trained assassins and the most ruthless mercenaries at his disposal.

The King's most fearsome enemies had already been annihilated but there were still a few isolated creeps lurking about from time to time, hoping to bring a bloody finish to Mercatroy's reign.  In the end, The King always managed to eliminate these pests in one fashion or another but their lingering threats gave him pause.  Nothing could be taken for granted.  Nothing was guaranteed to remain perpetually.  No castle was impenetrable, no king's flesh was made of steel.  King Mercatroy was a man of constant worry and he felt comfort in often sequestering his family in a chamber beneath his favorite palace where they would oversee the knights in practice, make decrees to the kingdom, and separate his familial treasures from the threats of the world above.

Princess Tibby was pleased to view her father's knights for other reasons.  She understood her father's need to reinforce his own sense of iron-clad security but the princess felt that the spectacle of the knights' practices held a different kind of value as well.  The efforts of these brave individuals were certainly not lost on her since Tibby was gaining a deep appreciation for displays of combat.

The "clang!" and "bang!" of the knights' sport echoed within the underground chamber while the forlorn girl admired the skills, brute force, and craftsmanship flashing in front of her eyes.

"Hail, Hail to the kingdom of my father!" thought Princess Tibby.  "Hail to these glorious protectors!  Such riches!  Such bounty!"

The princess wondered when she would acquire a knight of her very own.

"The sooner, the better," thought the royal servants.  "May His Royal Highness find a suitable consort for Our Young Lady.  And with haste, please."

But the king was in no rush.  Things were perfectly fine as they were in his opinion.  But for the princess, life was becoming unbearable.

Mercatroy's kingdom, like all kingdoms, had it's fair share of scallawags and sneaky businesses.

Through one of the palace bakers, Little Tibby was connected to a merchant who supplied her with intoxicating substances, forbidden capsules, magic powders, and false identification cards.  No one noticed tiny bits of royal treasury vanishing because of Tibby's purchases.  "Don't worry, it's all just a bit of harmless fun for you, your Highness.  Live a little," the merchant told the princess.

In her desperation, Tibby began sneaking out of the palace in the dead of night, brilliantly disguised as a lowly and anonymous peasant girl.  She enjoyed pretending to be one of the common folk:  making jolly, participating in vulgar merriment, jigging like a wench, and sampling the nourishment of the serfs.  Although she hoped that some handsome cavalier would appear for her on a white steed, the princess--for whatever reason--would always return to the palace before sunrise, with limited experiences and no one to accompany her.  Even in her recklessness and foul moods, Little Tibby was careful that her nocturnal explorations remained in secret.  Or as secretive as possible.

Inevitably, more long, pure days came and went......followed by moon-lit amusements.  Back and forth, over and over.  But one thing remained the same:  The princess was alone.  Constantly alone.

After much drinking of ale and snorting of enchanted dust, Tibby realized that things would have to change.

How would she ever acquire a prince when her powerful father refused all marriage offers?

Perhaps she would have to find a knight to serve or maybe a squire to serve her?  How about a stable boy to hide beneath her bed?  Or another princess if thoughts steered her in that direction?  Or even a mad, old monk that no one had any use for?




After this moment of deepest despair, a glimmer of hope finally materialized.  A figure appeared in the lamplight:  a woman selling parchments and handmade scrolls.

"Would you like to buy some knowledge this evening, my lady?" inquired the Scroll Maker.

"No thank you.  We have enough scrolls in the palace library already," answered the princess.

"Perhaps you have room for more?" asked the woman with a twinkle in her eye.

It was then that Tibby realized that she had read every scroll in the palace library and that she could probably use some fresh reading material.

to be continued.....(I'm working on it, folks)......

Friday, July 18, 2014

stills from a cancelled film ("Secretly Crazy")

I'm doing some bits and pieces for upcoming projects and I just stumbled across stills from rehearsal footage that we shot last year for a cancelled film project that I was going to do.  It was a feature-length dark comedy, titled "Secretly Crazy", about a teenage drug dealer who gets sent to a sinister Scared Straight type of program.  Chaos, creepiness, and murders ensue.  The main character, Connie, was basically a really hard, grouchy Nancy Drew sort of archetype (or imagine Veronica Mars as a lower middle class, cynical, greedy, bisexual bitch who beats people up--you get the idea).  The concept was fun but I was concerned that it was just going to be too much like "Annie" (in some ways....) but with a lot of swearing and some gore.

I was worried that the story wasn't going to be funny or interesting enough to merit another long, drawn-out, time/energy/money-sucking major project in my life.  I wasn't sure if people, even a small indie audience, would enjoy it. The dialogue was pretty good, I thought, but the overall storyline.....?  Uh, I don't know.  I hate diving into projects and then just cancelling them because that's weak; I'm one of those guys that has little respect for indecisive people so I hate seeing that kind of behavior in myself.

The actors who were cast were terrific in their roles but I felt that the story that was written here wasn't beefy enough and that's the writer/director's fault (mine).

It's possible that the valuable elements that I do like from "Secretly Crazy" will be absorbed into other film projects (specific, little plot hooks, some good lines, some good character aspects) but, no, "Secretly Crazy" as a film isn't going to materialize.

I'm not going to upload footage snippets from "Secretly Crazy" (that would make me kind of melancholic--we did have a good time shooting the rehearsal footage but I'm still kind of mad at myself for launching and then abandoning a project) but I do feel comfortable posting some photos on this page and then finally shutting the door for good on this film.

Special Thanks to Victoria, Lauren, Michael, Brian, etc. for participating.  Everyone will be working together on current projects and, hopefully, on other films down the line.