Monday, 31 October 2011

Style experiments 2

following Phil's advice, I tried out a couple of the different techniques for head construction from the first year.
The small ones are based on the "egg" method from Preston Blair, and the Big ones are the "divided ball and plane" method from Andrew Loomis

Friday, 28 October 2011

Style Experimentation

Following Phil's comment on the previous post, I tried experimenting with different styles.
What do people think?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

trying to nail down how the bandana interacts with her braided hairstyle

Character Design Project Week 6

Robot silhouettes
Viking clothing practice

Justin's tutorial of clothes was really helpful

Hero Costume Concepts

Trying out different variants for the Heroine's outfit

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Heroine Silhouettes 1

Following Justin's suggestion about good characters having clear silhouettes, I tried out a couple of different ideas for my heroine
I like the left hand one, but what do you guys think?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story (2007)

Famous (or infamous) for his unique marketing style, William Castle was a successful B-Movie director in the 1950s and 60s.  This bio-pic tells the story of his career from doing odd-jobs in a Broadway theater to producing a major Hollywood film (Rosemary's Baby).

Although the B-movie films he directed are not the worst examples of the genre (some are reported to be quite good), they have achieved fame as a result of the publicity stunts Castle used to promote them.  Initially, these were relatively tame - hiring nurses to revive any patrons who fainted during the film (accompanied by planting an actress in the audience to pretend to faint); taking out a real insurance policy with Lloyd's of London, insuring the lives of the audience against dying of fright; and hiring a hearse, complete with coffin, to standby outside the cinema "just in case".  It is arguably these stunts that have led people to compare William Castle to famous American showman, P.T. Barnum.  Both became famous through what might now be considered deceptive advertising - Barnum advertised a "mermaid" with a picture of a beautiful merwoman, while the reality was probably a taxidermy chimera of a monkey and a fish.
Fig 1.  Advertising Poster for Feejee Mermaid (Charleston Courier)
Fig 2.  Engraving of Actual Feejee Mermaid
William Castle continued this tradition of using advertising posters that bear little relationship to the film they are promoting (a technique embraced by many B-movies since), but his big contribution to the technique was the use of a "gimmick", which is featured prominently on the posters and other advertising for the films (a technique that doesn't seem to have died yet - see the recent trend in 3D films), in effect turning the "gimmmick" into one of the stars of the film.  Each new film brought a new gimmick, and it was his series of more technical gimmicks (all with names ending in "O") that he is best remembered for -"Emergo", an improvement upon the contemporary craze for 3D, in which objects not only seemed to come out of the screen at the audience, but actually left the screen and moved around the cinema over the audiences heads (in fact, just an inflatable skeleton on a wire than moved slowly over the audience); "Percepto", where certain seats in the cinema were fitted with mechanisms to make them vibrate in order to make the audience jump (and idealy, scream); and "Illusion-o", a modified version of red/cyan anaglyph glasses (dubbed a "Ghost Viewer") which enabled the audience to decide whether they wanted to see the special effect "ghosts" or not.
Fig 3.  Ghost Viewer
As his gimmicks were more complicated than the contemporary anaglyph 3D systems, William Castle added short introductions to his films, in which he explained not only how the gimmick worked, but also "set the scene" for the film itself, often hyping it well beyond what it actually delivered.  Through these introductions, Castle became well known to his target market (roughly speaking, pre-teens) and ended up as big a star of his films as the actual cast (hence the words "A William Castle Production" featuring prominently on the posters); this was helped by his very "hands on" marketing style, in which he would travel around the country as his film opened in different towns, personally drumming up audiences.

William Castle - Introduction to "The Tingler"

This personal showmanship is another parallel to PT Barnum, who also managed to turn his name into a synonym for a particular type of spectacle, where everyone knew that the publicity was better than the reality (indeed, in Barnums case, it was often basically a fraud) but the audience actually enjoyed being fooled, and would often go back for more.  In Castle's case, this was helped by his understanding of what attracted his audience to his films - he believed that people went to see horror films to be entertained first, rather than scared.  As a result, his films are often described by modern critics as "camp" and "silly", but this is perhaps more a reflection on changes in the cinema-going public than the talents of Castle.  However, there is no denying that as audiences became more jaded and cynical, the market for Castle's more "tame" films dryed up - his gimmicks could not compete with increasingly sophisticated special effects, especially as they always reminded the audience that what they were watching was a film (this could perhaps be compared to the rivalry in theatre between Brechtian theatre [which always seeks to remind the audience that what they are watching is a play] and Stanislavskian theatre [which emphasises realism and immersion, famous for its use of method acting]).

Perhaps the tragedy of William Castle is that the gimmicks became more memorable than the films; ask people what they loved about his films when they were younger, and the first answer will almost invariably be "the gimmicks!".  As a result, the critics almost always dismissed his work as second rate or derivitive - indeed, they dismissed him as a sort of low-budget Hitchcock, even though his film Homicidal was arguably better than Psycho (Time magazine, cited in Legends of Horror) (and Hitchcock's insistence that "no one shall be admitted to Psycho after the film has started has definite echoes of a Castle gimmick).  However, there is an argument that he was in fact ahead of his time - compare the moment in The Tingler where the monster supposedly kills the projectionist, then it's shadow crawls across a blank screen, to the scene in Gremlins 2 where the gremlins "take over" the film; or compare Sin City to the following scene (also from The Tingler).

"the tingler"
List of Illustrations

Figure 1.  Advertisement for the Feejee Mermaid from the Charleston Courier, January 1843 At: (accessed on 24/10/2011)

Figure 2.  The Feejee Mermaid, as depicted in Barnum's autobiography  At: (accessed on 24/10/2011

Figure 3.  Ghost Viewer At: (Accessed on 25/10/2011)


William Castle - Introduction to "The Tingler" (2007) (Accessed on 25/10/2011)

"the tingler" (2010) (Accessed on 25/10/2011)

Automat Pictures (2007) Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story (official site) (Accessed on 25/10/2011)

Vasquez jr, F (2010) Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (Accessed on 25/10/2011)

Zimmerman, S (2005) Legends of Horror - William Castle (Accessed on 25/10/2011)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Character Design Project developement

Just doodling around the heroine - the best thing to come out of it IMO was the middle sword design; more ancient greek in feeling than the conventional strait one on the right.

Trying to develop the villain a bit.  Since he's meant to look more old and frail than he actually is, I quite like the way that the cloak helps sink his head into his torso.  I was having a lot of trouble with the chest armour - I just couldn't come up with a suitable spiky design that didn't look like a reject from Batman's wardrobe.  In the end, I went back to an early doodle and picked a piece that looked more like the crown, rather than a conventional piece of armour.  It also has the advantage of being small enough to (mostly) be hidden by the cloak.
Early Doodle

Character Design Project Week 5

 In-class lifedrawings (much credit to Jon for the "unbalanced" pose)
Character emotion practice - nothing special, due to the hazy nature of the designs at the moment

Monday, 17 October 2011

Character Design Project Accessories part 1

Started out by doodling ideas for the characters close-combat weapons - the heroine's is a fairly straightforward double-edged sword, while the villain's is based on a bronze-age (I think) sword I saw on a museum poster, but spikier.  The henchman's weapon was trickier - frankly, I'm not sure he's smart enough to cope with the intricacies of swordsmanship; he's more likely just to swing wildly (hence the club ideas)
Trying out putting a cloak on the villain - besides automatically making him look more evil, there's a sort pf justification, since he's meant to be quite old, and old people tend to feel colder.

The thing I'm really happy with is the weapon idea for the sidekick - a broken bit of oar, which he can use as a club.  I just like the idea that he started out as a galley slave and kept hold of the thing he knows.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Character Design Project week 4

and an attempt at the villains main prop - his ship (heroine's ship included for scale)
I am having a bit of trouble with the villain - most of the time, he'll be sitting in a high back chair, looking fairly old and frail, but he's meant to actually be more wiry and tough - it's kind of like the way the kingpin looks fat and useless unless you know it's not fat but muscle.  Anyway, it's hard to draw the villain standing up without him looking pretty generic

Monday, 10 October 2011

Character Project - initial designs

The only one I'm even half-way happy with is the heroine (right hand, middle row) and that's so generic as to be almost totally nondescript.

Oh well, onwards and upwards...

Best Worst Movie (2009)

Fig.1 Best Worst Movie Poster

There is a strong argument that it is impossible to truly explain why something becomes a "cult", or at least no one has managed it yet; the first person to be able to predict (or better yet manufacture) a cult film would be able to make an awful lot of money, so people will certainly keep trying.

"Best Worst Movie" is more interested in documenting the experience of being involved in a cult film, rather than seeking to explain why a film becomes cult, but it does uncover some interesting features.  Perhaps the most obvious of these is the divide between those members of the cast and crew who acknowledge the "badness" of the film that they made, and those who seem to actually believe that it was a good film (most notably, the italian director and writer).  In some ways, it is almost as though there are 2 different cults at work - the larger cult, who realise the film is terrible, but like it in a "so bad, it's good" way, and the (much) smaller cult who believe that the film is a work of art that has been unfairly maligned.

The majority of the film focusses upon the larger cult, and in particular the way that it has formed over the 20 years since Troll 2 was released strait to video.  Early on, one of the interviewees likens the film to a religion - one person discovers the film, likes it, and then starts showing it to their friends, and these friends in turn start to "spread the message".  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is the way that it happens completely without any marketing - it is recomended purely by word of mouth (although nowadays, thanks to the internet, this approach is capable of reaching the furthest corners of the globe), a technique that is extremely good at targetting the (small) demographic who are likely to enjoy the film.  The second notable feature of this "evangelical" model of marketing is the communal nature of the filmwatching - "converts" seem happy to watch the film over and over again with new "recruits", and it is possible that this provides an atmosphere in which the new recruits are subtly indoctrinated into liking the film too (humans being social creatures, we are highly succeptable to social pressures).

As for the question of why some films are singled out for elevation to the rank of "cult classics", perhaps the best explanation is offered by the Chicago Reader's J.R. Jones.  "There's also an element of empty spectacle at work here. The movies singled out for attention...(are)...the movies that are bad in the most spectacular manner...When kids are ten, they turn out at the multiplex to see cars and planes and helicopters crash and burn; when they're 20, they turn out at the midnight show to see the entire movie crash and burn." (Jones, 2010).  For a film to become a cult classic, it is not enough for it simply to be bad.  There must be some extra element, something ineffable that calls out to a particular sub-group of film-lovers, causing them to return to it again and again.

In the case of Troll 2, there is a strong argument for the mystery ingredient being the sincerity of the films cast and crew.  Like the films of Ed Wood, the audience never get the feeling that the film is aware of its failings, let alone trying to exploit them (or perhaps worse, cover them up).  Perhaps it is the lure of watching someone be stupid without realising - the guilty pleasure of car-crash entertainment - but watching Best Worst Film, you cannot help but feel that the audience at the midnight screenings genuinely love Troll 2, despite its myriad faults. (Peary, 2010)

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Best Worst Movie Poster (2010) [Online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)


Abrams, S and Henderson, E (2010) Best Worst Movie In: Slant Magazine [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Biodrowski, S (2010) Best Worst Movie (2009) review In: Cinefantastique [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Ebert, R (2010) Best Worst Movie In: [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Goodykoontz, B (2010) Best Worst Movie [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Jones, J.R. (2010) So Bad It's... Bad: The lesson of Best Worst Movie? Life's too short to waste on terrible movies In: Chicago Reader [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Long, C (2010) Best Worst Movie (DVD) In: [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Peary, G (2010) Review: Best Worst Movie In: Boston Phoenix [online] At: (Accessed on 10/10/2011)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sidekick Biography (2nd attempt)

Since I need to make sure that the villainous sidekick isn't in danger of overshadowing the real villain, I think he'd better suffer some simplification...

Captain Sidekick is big, strong, and very stupid.  He obtained the position of captain through a moment of extremely good luck, and has kept it because he's sufficiently big to scare the pirates under him from any thought of mutiny.  His world view is very simple (so simple, in fact, that there's a good chance he'd fall for the "look behind you!" gambit), and he has an almost puppy-like desire to please Admiral Villain.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Character Project Synopsis (version 3)

Okay, time to turn the "mythic" up to 11...

The most notorious pirate in the Not-Mediterranian, Admiral Villain, has captured his greatest nemesis, the legendary Pirate hunter, Captain Alexis.  Imprisoning Alexis in his hidden island lair (along with all the other pirate-hunters he's captured, Villain hopes to be able to intimidate the city states of the Not-Mediterranian into giving him the sacred treasures they hold, which will enable him to achieve apotheosis.

However, the daughter of Captain Alexis (Heroine) takes command of her fathers ship and sets out to search for Villain's lair; but in order to find it, she first needs to locate the oracle who can tell her its location.  Along the way, she encounters a variety of monsters, mythical beings, etc.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Character Biographies


Half-Naiad, she is a good swimmer, able to hold her breath longer than most people, but otherwise has no special abilities.  She was raised by her pirate-hunting father on board his ship owing to the death of her mother when she was young.  Consequently, she is at home on board ships, with a good sense of balance, ability to climb etc.  Is good with sword and bow, as a result of training from early age.  Outwardly confident, is somewhat shaken by the capture of her father and determined to rescue him.


Started out as a pirate when he was kidnapped as a young boy, worked his way up to pirate captain through cunning and treachery by the time he was 20.  Now commands a fleet of aprox 20 pirate ships through a mixture of fear and hostage-taking.  Now in late-middle age, only occasionally goes to sea, spending most of time in his secret stronghold.  Although he appears to be quite old and tired, is actually still very dangerous (partly as a result of his magic sword) and not to be underestimated.  Styles himself "admiral" out of vanity, has amassed a considerable fortune through the efforts of his "fleet".  Still occasionally ventures out on his "flagship", a massive quintreme rowed by slaves and captured opponents.


Thinks of himself as Villain's most "trusted" leftenant, but is in fact merely the most sycophantic of the captains in Villain's fleet.  Has a high opinion of himself, but most of his successes are due to the fear inspired by Villain's name.  Is rather cowardly, but possessed of low cunning, which has enabled him to reach position of captain.  Definitely not to be trusted, you should never turn your back on him.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Vehicle Modelling Tutorial Step 3

Since it looked pretty simple (just continuing the contours of the front quarter) I had a go at modelling the door.  I'm not sure how well I did the door handle recess, but I'm sure Alan will show a better way.

Vehicle Modelling Tutorial Step 2

Looking at the front 3-quarter photo, I noticed that the "crease" behind the wheel arch is actually a recessed region that runs across the door to the rear wing, so I did my best to model it in.

Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Perhaps the best way to look at "Lost in La Mancha", a documentary about Terry Gilliam's abortive 2001 attempt to film his pet project "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote", is to contrast it with the only really comparable film, "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse", which documents the infamously disaster-ridden production of Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now". 

In both cases, the directors were keen to make the film, (in Gilliam's case, he was also the scriptwriter, and had already spent 7 years trying to secure funding to start production; in Coppola's case, he had commissioned the script and believed that it would redefine public perceptions of war) and therefore provided the central impetus for the filming.  Both productions were disrupted by adverse weather; in the case of "Apocalypse Now", a typhoon wrecked sets and trapped the cast and crew in their accommodation, while "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" had its normally arid primary location resculpted mid-shoot by a torrential rainstorm (which also led to extensive water-damage to the props), and their stars suffering from health problems which left them unable to participate in filming for several weeks.

Lost in La Mancha Part 6 (2009)

Where the two production differ significantly however is the timescale of the disasters and the scale of their budget.  "Apocalypse Now" was a big-budget film, able to afford the numerous delays and setbacks that it encountered (although this led to it's own problems - in an interview in "Hearts of Darkness" Coppola stated "There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little we went insane") while "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" was made on an extremely tight budget (Gilliam joked that the budget was half of what they needed), with a very tight schedule that left no room for error; consequently, when the film ran into trouble, it was doomed.

Due to the abreviated nature of the actual shooting (the insurance company shut the shoot down midway through the second week), a significant part of "Lost in La Mancha" is taken up with the processes of pre-production, in particular Gilliam working out the design of scenery elements and props, as well as location scouting (with retrospect, his choice of a location adjacent to a NATO bombing range was less than ideal).  It is these moments, along with Gilliam's storyboards, that give a glimpse of the film that might have been.

Perhaps the nicest moments in "Lost in La Mancha" are from the beginning, before "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" crashed and burned, when the film makes use of wonderfully Gilliamesque animations to introduce the audience to Gilliam's filmmaking career (and explain why it has been blighted by the shadow of "The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen")
Fig.1  Baron Munchhausen Animation

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Baron Munchhausen Animation (2002) From: Lost in La Mancha Directed by: Keith Fulton, Loise Pepe. [Film Still] [Online] At: (Accessed on 03/10/2011)


Lost in La Mancha (2009) (Accessed on 03/10/2011

Lost in La Mancha (2002) Directed by: Keith Fulton, Loise Pepe [DVD]

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) Directed by: Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola (documentary footage) [DVD]

Ebert, R (1992) Heart of Darkness: A filmmaker's Apocalypse (Accessed on 03/10/2011)

Ebert, R (2003) Lost in La Mancha (Accessed on 03/10/2011)

GA (2011) Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (Accessed on 03/10/2011), Inc. (1990) Lost in La Mancha (2002) (Accessed on 03/10/2011), Inc. (1990) Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) (Accessed on 03/10/2011)

Mitchell, E (2003) Lost in La Mancha (2002) Tomatoes (Accessed on 03/10/2011)