I want to share two character tests that I made for a short film called The Room of Indefinite Holding, which is based on a diorama that I made last year.
The first character, who I think of as Birdbrain, is a paper skeleton on a wire armature. I’ve been exploring Birdbrain’s story in otherdioramas, and it’s particularly satisfying to bring him to life.
Here is birdbrain with my hands, shown for scale. He’s taller than the previous diorama versions.
As I was leaving work one day, I found three discarded wasp nests in a patch of ivy near where I park. One of the hives had bees/wasps in them. I immediately thought the hives looked like faces, so I picked them up and brought them to the studio.
Here’s the first puppet test:
Here’s a close up of Beeface, as I was assembling her.
Here’s one of the sets for the room itself.
I’m moving (too) slowly on this because I don’t want to make a mistake. Yes, mistakes are essential and can be good things. I’m taking about the disastrous variety, the “WHAT IF I SPEND DAYS FILMING A THING AND IT’S ALL WRONG?” variety.
Disney did this when they first used their horizontal multi-plane camera in Fantasia. The camera that they used to shoot the footage had an incorrect lens and they didn’t noticed until after many days of filming. When they viewed the developed film, they could see not only the animation, but the room and floor, too. They had to scramble and reshoot the entire sequence, as the release date was looming within weeks.
I’ve experienced this too, though on a much smaller scale. My film wasn’t Fantasia or even for Disney and it mostly involved spoons. But, entire days of work were lost, and the motivation to spend hours hunched over spoons, repeating myself, can be greatly diminished by such mistakes.
In the documentary about The Residents called The Theory of Obscurity, it is suggested that the Residents are as successful as the Beatles. Their Twitter bio reads “Formed in 1972, The Residents are an avant-garde art collective that has released over 60 albums, numerous music videos & short films, 10 DVD’s & 3 CD-ROMS.” What it doesn’t mention is the members have remained completely anonymous. Their goal (it’s said) wasn’t to be famous, so their definition of success may actually be oranges, while the Beatles were concerned with Apples. Still, they have been highly productive and influential, and they have made a living at making their work.
I like the Residents more than the Beatles.
I’m writing about this to share something profound Penn Jillette said in The Theory of Obscurity:
“If you wait until you know understand enough to do something, you’re never gonna get it done.”
This piece is made in a late grandfather’s violin (thank you Jeanne and luthier Susan Hopkins for helping me get it/open). This is in the current show at the Smith Healing Gallery in DC – details here. Without saying too much, I love string instruments that have f-holes. This particular violin echoes a coffin, and the figure of Pierrot is trying to make his way to the Land of the Dead. He is constrained by gold thread, held by clergy-like figures. He is also being pulled onward by silver thread, and is trapped between two worlds. I wonder about famous souls who were idolized during their lives (David Bowie, for example), and how the mass grief of a society might effect a transition to, say, the Land of the Dead.
To explore more delicate containers for my dioramas, I decided to try egg shells. I used a pin to poke holes in the top and bottom of an egg, and then used a screwdriver to make a larger hole at the bottom. I used the bulb of a turkey baster to push the contents of the egg out through the larger hole in the bottom.
I then bleached the inside of the egg and rinsed it with soap and water.
I used a dremel/engraving tool to make the hole(s), and then added the scene. I can light the egg from the hole at the bottom, too.