24 June 2017

Working with Lovecraft’s racism and gothic sexism




One of the difficult things with adapting other people’s stories for films is the baggage that comes with some of them. Many times it’s just odd plot machinations or maybe older references modern people have completely forgotten. Sometimes, it's much more delicate. 

H.P. Lovecraft was notoriously racist. There isn’t much of a debate about that. He wasn’t pulling an Eminem, saying he was just writing characters who happened to be racists. He was saying Italians are a filthy race living in squalor (as just one example) in stories, correspondences and personal interactions. I would argue it’s much less present in his literary work than his personal life and some of the offensive stuff in his writing might be us putting our modern sensibilities over those of a time where  racism was open and common - but I wouldn't argue it’s not in there or acceptable.  

Gothic horror stories and many stories from that period in general, including Lovecraft’s, have an inherent sexism as well. The protagonists are almost always male, and often there are no women at all! When women are present they are often victims, or sickly or at the mercy of some guy she married. To be fair, that was the case for many women at the time so it’s no surprise that’s how they were represented in fiction. 

So, why would I choose to make films from such problematic source material? For one thing, the stories themselves are fun, amazing, scary and have attracted me since I first learned to read. They are not about being racist or sexist, they are just trained by those elements. Since the authors are dead and the stories are for the most part in public domain, they are a rich source of ideas a poor filmmaker like me can actually make use of. As time goes by and immortal corporations have begun to own everything for forever and a day, making freely adaptable material more and more rare. 

In the case of my Lovecraft films, I easily can cut the stuff I like out. In fact, it never has anything really to do with the basic story so it’s never missed. I am also not lining the pockets of some bigot with cash in order to make them. Despite his influence on the horror genre, he is still relatively unknown in the world at large and, face it my little films won’t change that. His stories are also simple enough at their root to cut down to 2-4 characters and a few settings. This is vitally important when you are a one man show making an animated film by yourself with no budget. 

Sexism in gothic horror in general is little harder to get around and I haven’t been able to do what I would like to change them in a way I think would work. I have exchanged some men’s parts for women but then I can’t get a woman voice actor to record the part. The doctor in Cool Air would have been a woman if I could have found someone is one example. I added a mention of a sister in Staley Fleming’s Hallucination just to have the mention of a women, even though in that mention she is the grieving fiancé. 


In conclusion, I guess I still have some way to go to combat the problems in the stories of others I am telling. like many things, some of it because of budget, resources etc is beyond my control - but I do try. 

16 June 2017

The Oval Portrait






My next project will be Edgar Allen Poe's The Oval Portrait. 

I have to make three characters but I might modify one from a Lovecraft animation to save time. No synchronized dialogue in this one but 4 set pieces I will try to make a little less detailed and easier to render. It does take place an a recently abandoned manor afterall. There won't be tons of furniture etc to make. The will be a female in a large dress as  challenge and I might try some more advanced texture painting on the people.

Of course first I have to get the narration recorded and work out more of the details with lighting and mood. So here are a few images of the sets so far. There will be the long shots of the manor (maybe a tower as well), the hallway of paintings, the bedroom that contains the titular oval portrait and the artist's studio in the tower.

Clicking on the images will bring up larger version for anyone interested. 




10 June 2017

Staley Fleming's Hallucination - animated short




My adaption of the short Ambrose Bierce story done in Cinema 4d with the voice talent of Mike Luce as the doctor. 

Unlike the Lovecraft shorts I've done, this one needed some addition plot points to give the characters motivation and help it work as a short film. The written piece is very short and light on background details. Ambrose Bierce was not on my radar for this series of animation until he was mentioned by my friend Arthur Dion of gallery NAGA in Boston and I might take up another of his stories in future. 

I think I continue to refine my animation and rigging techniques with this project. I also delved little more deeply into effects work with the spectral hound and the fireplace details. I also discovered limitations to C4D i wasn't aware of.. like simulated hair doesn't show up in operate passes, like the depth pass, making it difficult to add focusing effects in post.  

01 June 2017

Edgar Allen Poe project - The Raven



I was up for a TV job that I did not get and decided that the cartoon raven is made for it, with a few modifications, would work for an animated version of the poem, The Raven. I reworked the CGI puppet and set up this little test which shows potential. I think.

This won't be done until next year I'm guessing as I am almost done with my Ambrose Bierce animation but have already started work on Poe's The Oval Portrait.

My idea is to have a series of gothic horror shorts that are not all Lovecraft and maybe tell a few more obscure stories in the genre. The Raven is far from obscure but since I seemed to be part of the way there - why not?

In case anyone is interested, here is an image of the original model which is certainly more child friendly. 

25 May 2017

Hutch - new drawing


I have not been inspired to draw much lately. It feels stale to me for some reason and unless I get some really interesting shots of acrobats this summer I might put that project to bed for awhile. I did draw to dogs from the neighbourhood this week that I have wanted to do for a while. Hutch, this one I think is the one I like more as a drawing. I put a tiny bit of colour in the small flap of extra tissue under his right eye as it's something that makes Hutch, Hutch. 

11 May 2017

Picktorial - DAM and image editor


In my quest to rid myself of Adobe products I have discovered something I hope to replace Adobe Bridge with. I mostly use Bridge to look through my images (photos illustrations files etc) and not to edit them but this new software offers a nice range of editing tools so I might just try them out. 

The app is called Pictorial and I immediately liked the interface and speed the images loaded. I did notice a couple hick-ups for my workflow, however. 

Since I use Affinity Designer and Photo over Photoshop and Illustrator now, I noticed those files simply were not visible in the Pictorial window. A huge disappointment. Affinity is working on it's own DAM software, but when that will get released is anyone's guess, could be as far as a year off or more. I contacted Pictorial to ask if at least seeing the preview images was in the roadmap and it wasn't... until I asked. Within a day they sent me a test version with the ability to see small .aphoto previews in the viewer! That is service! They also explained clearly what the problems were in getting larger images and that seeing eps, illustrator and other files in the viewer would be possible but isn't immediately available and why that was. 

So while this isn't the perfect replacement for me, it's the one I am using exclusively on my laptop and more and more on my desktop. I don't think it will be long before it does everything I need. 

27 April 2017

Blast from the past - my old training logo


This was the logo I designed for my years as a personal trainer in the 80s. I still like it today even if it is a little dated. I put it in the workbooks I gave my clients, t-shirts and in ads I put in the newspapers.


I created it in Pagestream on my Amiga, an early page layout program that had added vector drawing (limited but still innovative at the time) to it's list of features. It's still for sale! If I had 100$ or so lying about I would seriously consider trying it out again. It was way ahead of it's time but unfortunately the Amgia basically died out and I had to start with pagemaker and then to Indesign with brief times of using Quark.