Category Archives: The Ministry of Playwriting

Disfigurement Man: The Fear Wake

Disfigurement Man originally started out as a writing warm-up from The Ministry of Playwriting, but come Spring of 2009 when I was tasked with creating an animation project I decided it was time to adapt the warm-up into a short film.  The process for the stylistic creation of this piece was in itself a bit involved (like every animation piece I’ve done this was created by hand-drawing each character and background and putting the looping animations through After Effects), and you can find out all about in VATAS Ethisode 11.  But if you’re not in the mood to watch a longish and rather quiet rant about animation, you can instead just watch the final piece:

Disfigurement Man: The Fear Wake from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I still very much enjoy Disfigurement Man, and although in terms of scriptwriting it very much shows its beginnings as a writing warm-up I think the stylistic flourishes make up for it. A little bit, anyways.   The soundtrack composed by William Culbert (who also helped me out with the score to Into the Mainframe), helps set the mood as a Blade Runner/Hill Street Blues dystopia where only the ugly remain (although none as ugly as Disfigurement Man). The animation style, with its roughly composited frames and constant movement,  also helps bring out this feeling of noirish ugliness and evokes a gritty punk sense as well (both which greatly add to the feeling and mood of the piece).  The vocal performances are fine, although I think I’m still trying to figure out how to coax good vocal performance out of people like I can (at least part of the time) with live-action performances.

Also, as far “superhero” origin stories go, getting “Shot by some bullets” is a fantastic one.

No Cash Value

During my junior year of college in my design class I was tasked with making a poster, there were a few stipulations, but overall I had free reign to make a poster on whatever I chose.  So, I decided to turn my gaze to the Ministry of Playwriting, a writing group I headed up in high school that still occasionally met.  We were talking about releasing a book of some of the more coherent writing warm-ups and short scripts we made, and I decided that when this theoretical book was published we’d have a theoretical reading from that book.  So, here’s the process behind the creation of the very real poster to all of these theories.

Firstly, I decided that I wanted to hand make this poster, mostly because one of the signature styles of the Ministry was it roughness and its unpolished nature.  Many of our warm ups featured instantly incorporating something into a script regardless of whether or not it would fit (resulting in multiple bus crashes and giant squids int he middle of emotional dramas).  I also decided that it would be interesting to create the poster on top of script pages from our write-ups, after all this was a reading from the Ministry of Playwriting, why wouldn’t our poster highlight our writing?

The first very rough draft of "No Cash Value"

This first poster has a few issues.  FIrst, I was originally thinking about using hand made stamps to create the type on the poster.  Well, I found out that firstly almost every letter stamp I made would come out backwards (and I was all out of stamp foam), and second I found out that all of the stamp type would come out almost entirely illegible.  Also, for the general format of the post I wanted to invoke both mid-century modern but also the work of Tandori Yokoo.  Unfortuantely during critiques I found that going for an almost direct translation resulted in the conveyance of the idea of “No Japan”, which is nowhere near anything I believe.  So, I decided to take what worked from this design, scrap the rest, and come up with something entirely new from scratch.

THe second try at the No Cash Value poster
A quick note, these posters were actually large rectangles, but when combining all of the image files together in Photoshop it gave me these strange parallelograms.

Okay, now we were getting somewhere. I had settled on to a way to incorporate the zero sign without conveying anything terrible, and that was what would be described as the Squid.  It’s actually meant to convey both a zero and an explosion (One of The Ministry’s earliest motto’s was “If at first you don’t succeed: Explosion”. Needless to say, we weren’t very good writers at the beginning). Also it’s meant to be a squid, as that became our de facto mascot (see also the Ministry of Playwriting coat of arms at the top corner of the poster).  Aside from the Squid tying everything together, we also had a great cluster at the top that conveyed information in a visually interesting and simple manner.  The only thing I needed to work on for the next round was the lower half of the post (everything beneath the Squid looks like chaos, and not in the playful way I wanted. Instead in the ugly, “I don’t know what I’m doing” way), and I still needed to work on the color palette a bit.

The Final Design for the "No Cash Value" poster

So there’s the final design.  It mostly works, although after looking at this poster fairly regularly for the past few years, I can say that the title “No Cash Value” still isn’t reading as a title, and that the treatment of the repeating “May 16 2010”, although interesting and worth exploration, didn’t come out as well as it could have. The 7:00 MST came out fantastically, and I finally found a way to incorporate the magazine photo cutouts while also incorporating them into the overall piece well.  Further, I finally found a great color palette.  So, an overall success I suppose.

My Name is Ward Armstrong and I Travel Through Time

This began as a writing warm-up for the Ministry of Playwriting, and it grew into the most viewed film of mine and perhaps the film I’m most known for.  So, now here it is, re-uploaded on the New Henceblog: My Name is Ward Armstrong and I Travel Through Time:

My Name is Ward Armstrong and I Travel Through Time from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

To clarify: I don’t think this is the best film I’ve ever made (that honor belongs to Lamplight Breakfast on a Burning Kitten), but this is consistently an audience favorite. It’s easy to see why, as it’s a good joke vehicle (wonderful lines/readings that stick out: “I will send you to the dinosaur times”, “Well, you can’t stop the Squid Monster”, and “They have these saws for arms. It’s TERRIBLE”) and the main performance of Leroy Twarogowski is delightfully befuddled.  On another viewing, I feel that the pacing is a bit off, and that I could have done a much better job editing this together (the Mexican standoff scene doesn’t quite pop as much as it should) and I really wish I was able to include the take where Leroy pronounced it “Moo-Tants”, but if memory serves me correctly it just wouldn’t fit in.

Teh Cld Wr

Here’s another old Henceforth Classic, from my high-school/basement days: Teh Cld Wr.  Although, interesting fact, Teh Cld Wr (though shot my senior year of High School in 2007) wasn’t completed until I was in my second semester of College (winter of 2008).  Another interesting fact: Teh Cld Wr was the first film that I’m credited as directing on my IMdB Page (the film that got me my IMdB page was Andrew Gingrich’s Wholesale Souls, though).  So, Teh Cld Wr occupies an interesting place in the Henceforth mythology and chronology: A bridge between the years I discovered my craft and the years I honed it, and for the longest time throughout college I was known for making Teh Cld Wr.  That’s the preamble and history for the video, so now let’s take a look at the film itself:

Teh Cld Wr from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

The early henceforth films were plagued by a number of problems, many of which are found in every film people have made with their friends in basements: Sound quality, a lack of expertise in editing, general low-quality.  So these are given problems, and even among those the only glaring issue is the sound (I was rather ambitious with editing, and I do think it’s a notch above most of the other films that my fellow high-schoolers were making).  The early henceforth films can also be marked as having a bizarre grasp on color correction.  Part of this was intentional, as was the choppy nature of the film, but even so… it gets a bit tiresome.  Also, because of the choppy nature of the project, many of the best gags are cut out (and because of general disorganization, an entire segment on the Vietnam War was cut out.  Oddly enough, the Vietnam War segment was the reason I decided to make this project).

But there are also some good nuggets in here, and I don’t think it’s completely a waste like some of the other early films are.  The part about the arms race (1 apple, 2 apples, don’t use the apples) is still one of my favorite scenes ever, as is the part regarding the Berlin Wall (“I can’t until the late 80’s” is a gem).  I also think the acting is remarkably decent, given how old we were and how little experience I had with directing.  So, although this isn’t my best work, and I’ve grown by leaps and bounds since the creation of this (or at least I’ve gotten better at hiding my mistakes) this will forever be attached to me and for a good amount of people it will be the earliest film of mine they can see.  And I think it’s a fantastic film for that purpose.

Delicious Pound Cake

As the seven previous readers of the Henceblog know, much of my senior year of my undergraduates degree was spent putting together my senior thesis project: Delicious Pound Cake, a story about cake and the apocalypse.  The story of how production began and the story of pre-production can be seen with the Cakelog video series, but overall the creation of Delicious Pound Cake went by smoothly without much of a fuss.  Except that about a week before production began I had around half a ton of plywood fall on me and crush my leg, and that we got into a bit of a location snag for our general store (getting the proper papers signed in time, it wasn’t too terrible a problem, but it was something).

So, for the entirety of production I was on crutches, and for a sizable portion of production I was on painkillers. The funding campaign never took off as much as I would have liked it to (mainly because of lack of visibility and lack of funds for those who could see the campaign), and that coupled with general lack of organization on my part and business form all involved (this was, after all, still a school project) caused us to be a bit scattered during filming at times, and caused me to overlook a few pivot things.  But, in the end, the project was completed, and it went into the festival circuit.

That’s around where the previous Henceblog left off. Well, the festival circuit wasn’t kind to Delicious Pound Cake. Or maybe it was so kind it decided to leave it alone, but at any rate the film never made it into anything. So, I decided to put it up online so it can be free for anyone to watch anywhere. That’s where it is now, and that’s what is embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

Delicious Pound Cake from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I now understand why Delicious Pound Cake didn’t make it into any festivals, I think the script was a bit lacking, and the overall apocalyptic idea was just barely underdeveloped (enough, though, to make it very difficult to understand, and enough to create a few glaring issues [like this one: how is it that all of the spices and the like in the general store are all unharmed EXCEPT for the vanilla? Shouldn’t all of the spices have been vaporized in a nuclear blast?]).  However, I do think it’s a fantastic senior thesis, and I also think it’s one of the best movies I’ve made (not THE best, mind you, that honor belongs to Lamplight Breakfast on a Burning Kitten).  We all did the best we could, and I still think that it should have gotten into at least one festival. But oh well, Next time.