A Very Bloody Howard The Duck

Last night I had a series of very odd dreams.

One involved one of my younger ex-girlfriends (that one was fun), another dealt with a friend of mine trying to sell me modified “shell piercing” sniper rifles as a home-security measure in the face of recent attacks in the neighborhood by tortoises, a third found me in Mime Jail (don’t ask) and a fourth one had be trapped in a collapse bridge near a river with rising water.

Sadly I drowned I drowned. Slowly, too. Not recommended.

The fifth dream, however, was rather odd. Having told a friend of mine that Shroud had not made it into Sundance, he replied his short film was accepted. I was a little surprise, if not envious, and pressed him about his short film. My friend had apparently bought the rights to Howard the Duck, and made a 30-minute short filmed called “Blood Duck” in which Howard (the aforementioned duck) storms a South American convent and commences a grisly killing spree, executing the heroine-dealing nuns in a Columbinesque slaughter.

The frequent arterial jets of bright red blood invariably splash on Howard, saturating him red.

Thus…”Blood Duck.”

Sundance loved it.

Damascus — Notes from the Production Designer

With Damascus in full development, we are beginning to chart out the logistical requirements of our second film.

Script

Writing comes as easily to me as sculpture or mathematics.  I’ve never had a shortage of ideas; on the contrary, I have almost 150 script concepts, four television series and a dozen novels ready to start.  So, writing is not a problem.  Fortunately, I type over a 100 words per minute, so it never takes too long to get ideas down on the page.  And I can admit to an affinity for preciosity.

As with most artists, I have a healthy degree of suspicion concerning my work – especially given the gamut of films since 2001 that bear uncanny resemblances to my many treatments, concepts and scripts I’ve submitted and circulated  – so my  enthusiasm on registering my work with Writers Guild of America has definitely waned.   For this reason, the finished script for Damascus will be submitted quietly, with no attending submissions to any Hollywood producers.   Even the actors we will hire for Damascus will not have full scripts, only those sections for which they will be retained.  Only one or two principals, maybe three, will be allowed to read the entire script.

Sorry, no exceptions.

Given the many philosophical, scientific and historical complexities of the story, Damascus requires a great deal of attention to detail and patterning.  Those who have followed this film from its inception eight years ago, know that it is a prequel to a rather ambitious science-fiction trilogy that if executed properly, will far exceed all expectations.

Any script requires a dedicated eye to theme, action and pace, but a film that sets up a trilogy…even more so.  Damascus will be read, re-read, then read again.  After this, it will be handed off to a small select number of trusted reviewers for flight checking, pacing and logic.

Wardrobe

I have already begun wardrobe concepts for the special operatives present in Damascus.  Representing a significant leap forward in eugenics, the operatives wear a complex and layered panoply of next generation hyper-ablative, micro-riveted nucleated whatever — don’t worry, it looks like tight leather.

The general appearance will be sketched out with variations driven by the mission parameters of the various agents.

The suits will be – oh, how do I say this – wickedly neat.   We will soon begin prototypes of less expensive fabrics to test cut and fit.  The suits include boots, pants, jacket and a high cut underlay not dissimilar to a one-piece swimsuit.  Given the themes of slavery, the suits will have a subtle bondage motif.

Armor

Like so many filmmakers, I am stunned by the superior design invested in computer games – why isn’t the same level of innovation present in our modern films?  Did the gaming industry just steal all Hollywood’s artists?

The Damascus script currently calls for two “armored troubleshooters” (details withheld) who wear powered assault plate armor.  Once designed, the plates will be sculpted out high-impact resin, distressed, painted and mounted to a form-fitting under-suit and overlaid with all the necessary mechanica to give the armor a functionally, combat ready durability.

The two “troubleshooters” have two separate functions, and this will be reflected in their specialized armor.   From actual architecture to color, the suits will be modular and built with multiple replacement parts in anticipation of on-set fractures.

Sizing should be resolved by a variable body harness that will permit actors of different heights and weight to wear the armor.

Guns & Weaponry

Since Damascus is set over twenty years in the future, the weapons will need to futurized to that setting.   Various modern weapons will be examined and extrapolated from, with actually weapons possibly being set with in a resin exoskeleton, or resin sock, so the weapons will have the weight and function of a real weapon but with a sleeker appearance.

We are currently exploring the option of actually hiring a gun maker to physically built the one exotic firearm in the story.  If successful,  this would be a real blank-firing firearm complete with metal frame, weight, hinge and slide.

The gun will be fitted to a liquid cooled holster. Most likely, given our budget, we will only have the opportunity to build one of these.  As the proposals come in, we will probably opt for a real-firing replica and a second model that will be designed for HD close-ups – this will be our glamour model.

Damascus Lab

Our current plan is to shoot master plates for CGI effects in an existing installation, possibly a military base, and combining those shots with a hand-made set that we will erect in a warehouse in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.   I will probably tap my father’s 30+ years of experience in home construction to assist in the building of modular walls and other structures we can orient as necessary.

Once the script is combed for the necessary locations, we will draft blueprints for the necessary walls, corridors, steps, ramps and elevated floors.   With a wrap around base, we can easily place the walls on casters that can be locked down during scenes, and unlocked for movement.

With our access to wholesale materials, we can built some amazing set pieces affordably and to our exact specifications.  Further, we will frame in exchangeable black-lit gels, recessed green screens, and integrated multiple wide screen HD monitors so we can gracefully blend live video and graphic feeds alongside green screen effects.

Should existing load-bearing columns be present in our stages, we will design “column socks” that will wrap around the stone columns to match the surround art direction.

A secondary perimeter of sound-dampening cloth will be in place which should provide a nice level of quiet.

Graphics & Visual Nimiety

I have already begun creating the symbology for the Damascus Lab and Silver Mountain, two important subterranean bases in Damascus.  As with Shroud, an entire catalog of labels, computer graphics, terminal screens, walls signs, glyphs, documents, dossiers, files and folders will be produced to give the painted and printed indicia required by the script maximum impact value.  Gigabytes of computer graphics, icons, GUIs, and assorted wizardry will also be painstakingly created to give the computers and their interfaces a unique appearance while simultaneously allowing us to drop in Easter eggs of links, clues and hints to the companion websites, online portals and sequels.

Previous incarnations for the graphics populated upwards of 100 layers in our software, so we can guarantee the user interfaces will be smart and sexy.

For graphics this complex, we will be buying the Adobe CS4 Creative Suite once it is released. For logos and graphics, we will start in Adobe Illustrator and end in Adobe After Effects.  Obviously the photographic elements will be manipulated in Adobe Photoshop, with the entire database being managed through Adobe Bridge, which has remarkable features that enables one to attach meta-tags to your file, as well as other information, and sort by whatever you need at the moment.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take a while.

CGI

Far beyond the demands of Shroud, Damascus has some very design-intensive CGI effects shots, and we will have to honestly evaluate who is best qualified to handle the multitude of special effects shots in the film.  We are definitely, taking a quantum leap forward with regard to complexity, architecture and rendering.

Damascus has ecological phenomena that must be computer generated as well as extensive apocalyptic ruins, subterranean catacombs and mystic events.  We will obviously need a special effects solution as much artistic intuition as technical expertise.

Aerial Photography

The father of one of my best friend’s wife is a photographer with a penchant for skylines.  I am very excited at the prospect of using some of his striking imagery as high-definition source files for some of our skyline plates.

Website

My producer and I are currently finalizing the start-up Damascus newsletter, e-blast and website.   Once these layouts are approved (which should be next week) we will upload all of them and begin a viral campaign and online gallery.  Some preliminary photography from a 2008 photo shoot as well as pre-existing layouts will be  incorporated until new marketing photography can be generated.

Auditions

Soon we will be announcing auditions for Damascus in Dallas as well as the West Coast (Los Angeles) and the East Coast (New York).  Naturally, we are excited to invite the actors from Shroud back for our second film, but are equally excited about attracting top-tier bi-coastal talent.

As we continue to expand our expectations, we will need the absolutely best actors we can afford for Damascus.

Merry Christmas, M.

You are the hour of my serenity, the many minutes of my peace,
My desperate daily devotion, and for my calm a sovereign lease;

It is you I find in the stone stillness and refuge of my prayer,
You, the very spark and spray that keeps the circuit of my care;

You are the frequent freight of my mind, commerce without end,
A rail of palaces and parlors, the order of which all hinge,

On the strength of your splendor—those many polished pins—
That over trestles and weighbridges link the silent treasure I send.

________________________________________________________________

M., Merry Christmas.

You Don’t Pause The Fellini

Tonight I watched Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ with a friend. The film stars Marcello Mastroianni and a bevy of shining actresses all in orbit about Mastroianni’s exasperated filmmaker. The film is a clever and accurate commentary on the burden of the artistic journey when it is pressed beneath the heel of those forces interested only in the “bottom line.”

Hilarious, whimsical, haunting, philosophical, inventive, and wonderfully evocative, 8 ½ is wildly refreshing look at the filmmaker’s process. Interestingly, we paused the film briefly to discuss a scene only to have the film start again of its own accord.  Clearly, one does  not pause the Fellini.

And all that fashion style never seems to go away.

8 ½ is a great film with a musing, maundering performance by Marcello Mastroianni and the DVD offers an introduction by Terry Gilliam.

Of course, it also has Barbara Steele. Unfortunately, it is a small role.