Tag Archives: Deathstopia

Once Upon a Time in Wisconsin

I hate Kraft American Singles.  They are not cheese. They are some sort of hideous amalgamation of chemicals that taste horrible, just awful.  So I decided to animate a story on them.  This came form a writing warm-up I did on my own time, I can’t even remember when or what larger piece I was working on at the time, but I remember that I just wrote this quickly in an afternoon.  Later I decided to adapt it for a class on narratives; I’d tell you the exact assignment but I can’t really even remember that anymore.  But I do remember this piece, and I do remember the horrible smell of cheese as I scanned each horrible sliver.  Was it worth the torture?  Let’s take a look:

Once Upon a Time in Wisconsin from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Yes. Yes it was.  I enjoy this piece immensely, and I’d put this in my “under-appreciated and unseen classics” category.  First I actually enjoy the weird effect the paint on cheese has, as it gives it a strange bit of depth, like acetone sheets if they were yellow blocks of maybe-milk.  I also think the narration adds a nice touch to the story (I have a love-hate relationship with my performances, but this one is alright), adding a menacing twilight-zone-esque feel to the tale of Marty turning into cheese.  I’m not sure if there’s anything I’d change about it , it’s far from perfect, but for a project made for an unknown assignment it turned out just fine. It’s also a style, the photomontage, that I’d like to revisit with another story.  I think it’s a form that could use another go around and certainly something easy to do now that I’m all on my own.  How about you, internet?  How do like this odd little cheese-story?  How do you like Kraft American Singles?  What do you think the title of this piece should have been, because I’ll admit the title is pretty terrible?

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.

Without the T’s: Escape from Tomorrow

The story of Escape from Tomorrow and how it was made precedes the film itself, to the point where many people may not actually recognize the itle: It’s the film tha was shot over a period of about three years inside of Disneyland without Disney’s permission.  Besides the accomplishment of the feat of actually shooting most of the film inside of the park without anyone noticing, there’s also the impressive fact hat Escape from Tomorrow is currently showing in theaers and Disney isn’t doing much to stop it.  As such, this film has garnered quite a lot of focus among guerrilla and independent filmmakers and my greates fear going into the film was hat the story of the making of this film would be beter than the film itself.

I’m happy to say tha fear is unfounded, and in acuality Escape from Tomorrow presents a surprisingly accurate depiction of a family vacation to Disneyland (and I am including the nightmarish ride through “I’s a Small World After All” and being kidnapped by Epcot scientiss).  The story largely follows a father, Jim, and his family as they spend one last day at Disneyland.  Jim’s son, Elliot, desperately wants to go on the Buzz Lighyear ride (and when the ride closes down the son gets into a fit of depression); Jim follows two young French girls through the park and fantasizes about them; He tries unsuccessfully to connec sexually with his wife, Emily; and he experiences a nightmarish fever dream where the park itself seems to be teeming with devil-beasts and mad scienists.  This last part, though, is mostly relegated to he second act and even then only in small doses.  Instead, the focus is on the absolute irritaion hat any family experiences not only at Disneyland, bu on any family trip.

Not every scene was shot on location in Disneyland, as I’m pretty sure a scene in a nurse’s office and a scene in the basement of Epco were both shot off site.  However much of the film was shot during regular Disney business hours, which makes the cinemaography highly impressive.  Mostly the film seems to rely on natural light (which I’m told Florida has lots of), however when non-natural light is used (and I’m not exactly sure how hey were able to bring lights into Disneyland and not raise suspicion) it’s for ableaus that bring everything back to it’s classical Disney roots as everything seems highly saturaed and staged in the most incredible of ways.  There are also plenty of great instances of framing and plenty of fun visual gags, the most memorable one being making an out-of-focus Mickey Balloon look like some sort of demonic monster looking over Jim’s shoulder.

The effects work is also very well done.  Again: this is a surprisingly accurae film, and so the effects work to bring in a feeling of having a nighmarish fever dream.  So we can see some of the strings and where mating and digital face replacement was used, but it’s not a bad thing.  Even in the case of simple distorion that happens on some sort of ride through Dia de los Muertos (I really have no idea what atracions there are in Disneyland), the sound and the simple visual of a large fisheyed screaming face was wonderfully disconcering.

This isn’ a film for acting or for writing, as the actors (while cerainly not being bad) seem to have been more concerned with geting their performances done in a small number of takes instead of giving an ineresting performance.  Much of this also has to do with the material, as a father having marital problems in Disneyland isn’ necessarily new and the screenwriter certainly didn’t approach it differently. But this is a guerrilla film hat proves not only can these ypes of movies be made, they can be made well, they can look fantasic, and they can actually get wide disribution, even if you’re going up against the legal monsers of Disney.  For these reasons, and the reasons above, my arbirary grade for Escape from Omorrow is B+: It’s certainly worth seeing, a well done experiment, and a film where the most nighmarish thing isn’t a demon-possessed touris or a witch-seducress, but rather the ambiance of being surrounded by people in cartoon suits and children screaming with glee.

A "B+" Grade.

“Space Laser” best photos 9-N-4!

As we’re all aware, I was recently back in Sioux City Iowa at the Western Iowa Technical Community College to make a movie (Much like I did last year when we made “Write-In 2012“).  This time we shot a short sci-fi piece about Trash and Spiders and Laser beams.  It was a lot of fun, and it’ll take a while to get everything edited together.  In the meantime, though, here are some stills from set to quell the curiosity that would otherwise consume and kill you.

Featuring Jim Westcott as "Space Demon" Mangus DeTriade!

Chris Risdall, Camera Assistant

Fun Fact about shooting this film was that we shot in the server room at WITCC, which means that all of the wires that are going in and out of the shots are actually all of the internet for the entire school!  It was an exciting location that proved to be a bit tricky to block in (I had only seen photos of it before getting onto set, and the room was simultaneously bigger and smaller than I had thought) and we had to have a member of the IT department watching us the entire time to make sure we didn’t unplug anything.

Jason Lees in Cinema 19N4!

Front projection of a ship computer in 19N4!

I was also glad to finally work with the immortal Jim Westcott for this project.  If any of you have seen the work of Andrew Gingerich you’d most know Jim as Roger Deerborn in “Third Party ’08”, but he’s also been on the sets of “A Serious Man”. “Sweet Land”, and many independent features in the Minneapolis area.  Jim was a pleasure to work with, as were our other two actors Matthew Hubert and Aundrea Marcoe.

Matt Hubert and Aundrea Marcoe as Skarsgaard and Steelpepper, respectively

The Immortal Jim Westcott

Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be

Here’s a rather obscure one from my time at CU Boulder.  We were to explore a place through video, and I decided to do an old abandoned pool (although it may not have been abandoned, only out of season).  The result is an eerie exploration of a space outside of its purpose that is filled with sadness and a playful energy. It also ended up being a bit of a precursor to a lot of my experimental work, and you can see bits and pieces of “No!”, “Powerful Magics” and even a little of “In Fridge” spread throughout.

Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I always feel like this is one of my more underrated works.  Its not perfect by any means, and I feel like in a few places I could have used some more aggressive editing .  However the balance between play and melancholy not only captures the feeling of the old pool perfectly, it also communicates a lot of what I was going through during the time of this piece’s creation.  I also think the sound (though some bridges needed to be fixed) adds another layer to help the viewer get fully immersed in the place, and a lot of the visual effects that I played with helped tie together the surreal nature of where I was filming (and the overlay of the zoom shot is still pretty damn cool, even three years of craft-honing later).

The Babel Project

As the seven readers I had before the Henceblog reboot know, I worked as the art director on two student senior theses before I left Santa Fe.  The later of the two was called “The Babel PRoject”, a sci-fi film about a future where people can download information directly into their brains, thus causing the downfall of language and the commodification of information. Well, that’s the world the film’s set in, the actual film itself is about a mind-erasing conspiracy at a research company, but for me it was all about the creation of the info-filled dystopia.  So let’s dive head first into it.

The main art direction for this film was to create a number of large infographic posters that would be featured throughout hallways and on walls.  These posters were about everything from the functionality of walls to the history of Tungsten to the reason why information must be hoarded and gotten at the risk of human rights.

Small Security

Elevator Safety Information

And I also created an entirely separate typeface built around the idea that once information became something that you can simply have, then the very basic act of reading and interpreting letters becomes almost irrelevant, and that as such letters would be stripped down into their most basic forms in order to be more efficient and less extravagant (the entire design philosophy for this world was to create something that would be crowded with data and information but be presented in the most simple of ways).  Seen below is a brains can that was printed onto a transparency, with information written in English (Fun Fact, the dominant typeface int his dystopia is Lucida Grande, which is the placeholder typeface for the creation of titles in the Final Cut editing suite), Chinese, and in the Simplified typeface.

A Brain Scan of something

The Simplified type and many elements of the art direction for this film were a bit rushed, and I don’t think I ever really got into the swing of things and really got to create a fully realized world, part of it had to do with me and part of it had to do with lack of communication between the director and me.  But for the entirety of the production I was acting off of my first impulse, and one of the reasons I wasn’t able to act off of more than the first impulse was because of all of the information and the complicated nature of how the inforgraphics looked.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the smaller pieces:

THe Elevator may break.

Do Wash your hands
I’m not sure what’s happening with the background here, but it’s supposed to be the same binary behind everything.

Always look at Information

So with every single smaller part of each sign every element had to be measured (because measurements are information), the color information had to be placed (again, the more information the better), and I also had to think about how best to simplify forms (People are inverted exclamation points, because we’re already using exclamation points and because all you need to show a person is a body and head) as almost everything in these infographics (minus the hands) is a combination of letter shapes found in most fonts (parenthesis, astrix, O’s).  So in between doing this for every inforgraphic of every poster, I also had larger warning signs to make that are full of almost every language (again, if you have the knowledge of speaking a language, and if this knowledge is incredibly easy to obtain, then everyone will want to use it):

Uh Oh Chemicals!

And on top of all of this I also had to create an info-filled letterhead and the Logo to the evil Logos Labs.  Fun Fact about the Logos Logo: Most of the type is all based around the same square repeated over, the only difference being the “L”: I wanted the L to bring to mind both an eye (because this is an evil future lab that’s always watching you because of science fiction) and to look like a fermata (Thus, Logos becomes a company that is focused on holding, keeping and hoarding.  It’s a company that resists change and will do whatever it takes to make sure that Logos stays Logos).

Logos Labs: Information is the Future

The entry form for Subject 17, who has had all of her understanding of language removed

And so that’s it.  Again, not my best work, but for a rush job it turned out alright.  At least, I can safely say that I think this production had bigger problems than the art direction.

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.

VATAS: Ethisode 11

Ethisode 11 isn’t nearly as pivotal or fun or experimental as the previous three, but it’s still a decent enough episode.  The most interesting part of Ethisode 11 is that I was surprisingly focused on one project: the creation of the animated short “Disfigurement Man: The Fear Wake”.  The result is a mixed bag, and before going deeper into the criticism, let’s take a look:

Ethisode 11 on YouTube

It’s a good thing that I took a close look at how one singular project is put together, and I do feel like the process of “Disfigurement Man” was worth exploring (because, as with any animation, there are thousands of tiny steps along the way).  I’m not sure how effective I was in communicating each step, though.  This combined with some sound issues make for an episode that could be very interesting but ends up being mostly unintelligible.  But, for all I know it ended up reading well and was a useful and intriguing look into the creation of a popular animation.  Unfortunately, because I made the project, I already know each step, and so most of this episode is all unnecessary review.  But for you, my seven readers? Maybe this was useful, and the sound isn’t even all that bad (especially when compared to Deadisode 8).

VATAS: Deadisode 8

Oof. Now we’re into the big three VATAS episodes, starting with the one that brings to the light one of the biggest ordeals I’ve had to go through: My school shutting down and everyone leaving me.  This time was stressful, no one really knew what was going to happen or what they were going to do, and everything seemed completely hopeless.  So I did what anyone who had an unsuccessful video-blog would do; I made an entry all about the death of CSF:

Deadisode 8 on YouTube

I’m still dealing with the aftermath of this, and I realize that in the grand scheme of all of the world a school shutting down is small, but this was the destruction of a place I had finally grown to call home, it was a crumbling of not only everything I had believed in in terms of education (which, in turn, was everything I believed about life at that point) but also everything I thought I knew about friendship and acceptance and home.  It was hell.  And I think this episode is a fantastic visual artifact to help people understand exactly what this moment felt like for me.

I chose to film this episode in one of the strangest parts on campus, which was right next to the library and even before the school shut down it was a little pocket of the apocalypse.  The concrete was peeling everywhere in pools, all of the plants were dead in few lonely bench-planters, and there was a constant metallic drone of the generator/monolith. The place has an unmistakable feeling of being a nice hangout place years before, but decay and time took its toll, and now it is nothing but death.

The editing and color correction also help place the feeling of this episode.  The yellow wash over the entire episode gives it a distinct sense of decay, and almost all color except for the grating, jaundice yellow has all but disappeared.  The Vocal track is nearly inaudible, drowned out by the incessant drone of the Monolith.  Instead, all we have are unhelpful subtitles and a growing sense of unease.  This unease is made all the worse with the constant jarring cuts to the Monolith, to me all alone in this dead landscape, and to one of the most straight-forward and saddening Tracy McKnightly Hours ever (“There is nothing”).  This is an episode about failure, the only VATAS to be defined by what doesn’t happen, and the most atmospheric and sad episode to date (Save for the last, but we’ll cover that one in due time).

Episode 8 is also one of the more watched VATAS episodes.  I’m not sure why this is, but I’d like to think it’s because of the sense it conveys. The creeping hopelessness and doom of the situation of CSF is communicated rather well visually, and the story of how the school’s administration kept on shooting itself in the foot is certainly an interesting one.  Also, it even garnered mention on Andrew’s much more successful EXG Blog. Things got very heavy here, and this was an undercurrent for a lot of the work I produced at the time.  But, never fear. Things will get much more lighter in Westisode 9.  Or they can get much lighter now, if you want to jump to another VATAS episode. Either way, stay tuned for next time.

100 Science Fictions

  1. Space Crisis on Planet Helmar

  2. Greygax the Horrible

  3. It Came from 5 Places

  4. Don’t Look at It!

  5. I Have Space-Sickies

  6. Robot with Mallet

  7. The Monster from Pluto’s Moon

  8. Urion

  9. Capricia

  10. The Lowest Point

  11. Stanley Spaceman: Man in SPACE!

  12. Mars is Puce

  13. Hyraxi!

  14. Uh-Oh, Asteroid

  15. The Stock Crash of Fortuna

  16. Planet Without a Face

  17. The Saddest Belt

  18. Mantis!

  19. Remus V: Planet of Wretch

  20. KRAAG

  21. C.C.C.X

  22. Stanley Spaceman in Jungle Trouble… IN SPACE!

  23. His Eyes Were Gone

  24. Lof the Greedy

  25. Zzzzzappp

  26. Zapf: Dingbat from Space

  27. The Tromper of Delubina

  28. Justise

  29. Tortoise of Terror

  30. GIF, GIF, GIF!

  31. The Incredible Moron

  32. Death Isn’t on the Moon

  33. Stanely Spaceman and the Case of the Martian Mirror

  34. Ghosts of Yesterday’s Past

  35. A City of Unrest

  36. The Jewel of Forever

  37. Not This Time

  38. Fear of Stars

  39. A.R.C.S and L.E.A.D

  40. The Forgotten Workday

  41. If the Moon Could Dance

  42. Hitler was a Space Robot from Saturn’s Past

  43. #ROBOTOHNOOHPLEASE

  44. Stanely Spaceman Can’t Find It.

  45. Cybermonday

  46. “The Goo”, It Said

  47. Martian Ragweed

  48. Tyler is Gone

  49. IT DOESN’T WORK

  50. The Giant Reef Monster

  51. Nibbles the Unrelenting

  52. Iron Cast

  53. The Looming Cloud

  54. The Twin of Janus

  55. A Bead of Six: A Stanley Spaceman Tale

  56. Error of Infinity

  57. Not Again This Time

  58. *See Appendix

  59. The Fire of 1000 Suns

  60. “I Can See the Future, Captain”

  61. I FORGOT THE KEYS!

  62. Curiosity’s Folly

  63. It Was Right There

  64. You Won’t Like It

  65. The Longest 10

  66. Stanley Spaceman has a Problem

  67. Steam-Powered Monster Brains Attack the Pentagon!

  68. The Creeping Time

  69. But, Why?

  70. The Look of Galf

  71. The Year of Ice

  72. There’s too Many!

  73. Yesterday’s Tomorrow

  74. It Sneezes

  75. The Cats of Forever

  76. Green Gooses!

  77. Stanley Spaceman Makes a Friend

  78. Crazy Enough

  79. Lorem: The Always Planet

  80. Lights of Mars

  81. Samuel?

  82.  /ERROR/

  83. The Monster Needs to Eat

  84. Unidentified but See-Through

  85. Zeron: Element of the Void

  86. Woman of Sad Eternities

  87. Horrible Things

  88. Stanley Spaceman’s Space-Egg from Outer Space!

  89. I Can’t Hear It

  90. Don’t Look Now, But It’s Here

  91. Robot Needs an Outlet

  92. Anger of Deos

  93. Beige and Marooned: Lisa in Space

  94. Helmets of Crius VI

  95. Steel Heart, Living Lungs

  96. The Green Also Grows

  97. K.O.R.P.S.Es

  98. The Gears of the Martian Revolution

  99. The Death of Stanley Spaceman: An Earthling’s Tale

  100. “It Can’t Be”, Said the Moon.