All posts by Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Agents of Change

Agents of change are small entities that often crop up in the background in Hopeless images. They are beings who live out their names. They change things. The more of them there are, the more scope there is for change. Their presence on the island is a major reason for the island’s odd flora and fauna.

We’ve not used them prominently in any plot. But, Merry Debonnaire has used them repeatedly – first in this short story https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/the-aunties/

And then again in this excellent tale about what really happened to Annamarie Nightshade https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/annamarie-nightshade-is-going-to-die/

Merry’s concept of the agent’s of change as Aunties was taken up by Keith Errington and turns out to be significant in his Oddatsea novella.

There have to be agents of change in the film, because if you look closely at the opening to The Gathering, there they are in the water with baby swimmy Sal. Helping her change. They are not solely responsible for Salamandra’s watery transformations – she does most of it for herself, but they give her a lot of ideas.

If you would like to help us make agents of change as puppets, we’re crowdfunding the film as we go along and your support would be greatly appreciated.  More of that here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/team-creatures/

Questions of setting

One of the key questions to ask when making a film, is where you are going to do the filming. We have one camera that isn’t going to be that mobile. At present, we’re crowdfunding the project so it may be fair to assume that our budget is small. That in turn means filming quickly and not using multiple locations.

Happily for us, the early film makers faced similar problems, so their solutions can be our solutions. Many early films were made on sets that were painted and owed far more to theatre than the real world. This of itself creates a dreamlike unreality, very different from conventional modern films and wholly suitable for capturing Hopeless Maine.

With a script in place, we started talking in earnest about how, technically, we might do any of this. The conclusions we came to were that our best bet would be warehouse space. Sets would be painted, dressed, we’d have to figure out workarounds for the sea, because there’s a lot of sea in this story but we don’t want anyone in real water with actual boats. Matt Inkel, our puppet maker alerted us to the fact that he can also do models, so exteriors of buildings will be handled that way. Loretta and I are both comfortable wielding paintbrushes, so we might be doubling up on the painting for skies and backgrounds and whatnot.

There’s a lot to work out. We aren’t at this point a studio, we aren’t used to thinking as a group about what needs to be done. We’re figuring out how to develop ideas collectively, and finding out what broader skills we have that might be relevant. There are two processes going on here – one of sorting out all the technical bits and pieces that need figuring out in order to make a film. The other is a process of figuring ourselves out as a team. Who we are and what we do. Where the spaces are that mean we need to bring other people in to help us. Who those people are. How we work together is an essential part of the process, so the existing relationships we have are key.

And of course as we work together, those relationships grow and change, we find new potential in each other, new relevant skills, and things we might do moving forward. There is a magic to it, definitely.

 

For the love of Dustcats

Dustcats are one of a number of Hopeless Maine cat species. They are adorable, floating cats who use their long tongues to slurp up dust. In normal circumstances, dust is their main food, but it is important to remember that dust is basically particles of dead skin. A hungry dustcat might not wait for the skin to naturally fall off.

Dustcats have been known to eat people’s faces. Island lore has it that they only eat the faces of the beloved dead, so this is only going to happen to you if you have a dustcat who loves you very much. Probably.

Like all cats, Dustcats are pointy in way they can use to attack and defend. However, they have additional capacities for violence. They can regurgitate dust – a process not unlike throwing up a hairball, only this is a dustball and can be launched from higher up.

In extreme circumstances, dustcats form a wrecking ball – knotting their tails together in the middle and putting all the pointy bits on the outside. It is a formidable thing to encounter.

What would a dustcat look like in motion? What would it look like as a puppet? We want to know. We know we are not alone in this. If you want to know these things, and you can spare a few pounds to help us make dustcats, we’re crowdfunding puppets for the Hopeless Maine film. If you aren’t able to chip in but want to help, please share your love of dustcats and help us find people who can help! We have social media badges and everything. More over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/team-dustcat/

The very expensive paperweight

The heart of the Hopeless Maine film project will be a hand wound camera. We’ve known that for a long time. So, early in 2020, the hunt for the camera began. At this point we had no idea what might be out there, what it would cost and what would be possible.

Then, an amazing thing happened. An early camera came up for sale in Italy. We could afford it. We were all silly amounts of excited. The purchase was made. The waiting for delivery began. Some of us were over emotional and cried a bit (ok, that was me).

The camera arrived with Gregg! Photos of it pinged between the team. We were all very excited. Then on closer inspection, it turned out to be missing the crank for winding the film. Fortunately there are a lot of clever and practical people in the team so plans commenced almost at once for how to make that part.

The camera was so old that the lens wouldn’t adjust. Gregg’s guess was that it might well be clogged up with hundred year old camera grease. So, while Gregg sought out help from a lens expert, some of us wondered if hundred year old camera grease might be the kind of thing to scrape into small jars and sell on ebay to people who get very excited about old cameras. (Me again).

However, it turned out on closer inspection that the fundamental problem with the lens, was there wasn’t one. We had bought a singularly expensive paperweight. There followed some trying exchanges in which the camera seller tried to persuade us that selling the camera without crank or lens was entirely reasonable.

Ebay did not agree, so we were able to get most of our money back. That at least was a relief, but it was also a setback and a moral blow for all of us. However, there was a collective getting up and dusting off and determining to try again. The hunt was back on. We were not going to be beaten that easily!

If you’d like to help us keep the film project moving, do check out this page for details about how you can get involved https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/

Spoonwalker by Dr Abbey Masahiro

It sounds to me so botanically beastful

His walking is looking like dancing

And making noise, zee boo, zee boo.

Eye colour changes by temperature.

When rainbows appear, he sings

Songs of the ancient moon.

Rider of storm, rider of wave.

Cutlery thief exposed.

 

 

(Dr Abbey is part of the Hopeless Maine film crew, and slowly being lured into other things, which is what the island tends to do to people – more here  https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/casting-durosimi/  )

Casting Durosimi

As I commented in the last blog, we did not initially know who should play Durosimi in the Blind Fisherman film. Suna Dasi and Loretta Hope were the obvious choices for Melisandra and Annamarie, respectively. As soon as John Basset joined the project, it struck me that he’d make a fine Reverend Davies. But, these three characters don’t really feature in the original Blind Fisherman piece while the two who do – the fisherman himself and Durosimi – were turning out to be a challenge.

Looking back, we started unconsciously figuring this out at Steampunks in Space, with a conversation about the team member all of us knew least at that point. What does he want, we asked each other. What would he enjoy? Because the heart of this project has always been about people doing what they love, and for one of our team we weren’t sure we’d pinned that, and we knew it mattered. Tom, Gregg and I had quite an involved conversation on that score, and still, at the time, the penny did not drop.

Eventually it struck me that we should ask Dr Abbey Masahiro if he would like to play Durosimi. At this point, we knew he had a background in directing and producing films and we knew he was up for working on a Hopeless Maine project, but that was about it. Only after we asked did we find out that he also has a lot of acting experience.

We knew before we asked that Dr Abbey is something of a wizard. But, our experience of him – as with this portrait Tom did – is of him being a charming and whimsical sort of wizard. Durosimi is not that sort of wizard, he is the sort to sacrifice children by throwing them into the sea.

Consequently, when Dr Abbey’s Durosimi photos came in, we were both startled and delighted. Tom had a very strange moment of realising that this was pretty much the face he’d been seeing when he was drawing Durosimi twelve years ago. So here he is, slightly terrifying and absolutely perfect.

Stuck in a hedge

I believe it was John Boden of Bellowhead who introduced The Pricklie Bush as a song about a man stuck in a hedge. I came to that story via Genevieve Tudor – who does a most excellent folkshow on Radio Shropshire and which you can (should!) listen to online if you like that sort of music. If you don’t like that sort of music, flee now, this post is not for you.

I wrote a Hopeless Maine version of this song. Normally I try and write more original things, but it’s a song with a great tune and chorus, and I find the original verses a bit dull. Also, getting stuck in a bush seemed like a Hopeless sort of thing, we have a lot of prickly bushes, fruit and inedible plant matter.

James and I recorded this one for the Steampunk Over Ether Festival, held online recently. It’s not the best recording of anything I’ve ever done, there’s a crunchy moment at the start which bothers me, but at the same time, we are all very tired and that wasn’t the first attempt. Hopefully it will amuse you anyway…

Tom was unwell when we did the recording, but he’s far less covered in tentacles now and is expected to make a full recovery.

Casting The Blind Fisherman

It was obvious from very early on that as a motley crew and not an organised studio with a proper budget, we could not approach casting by putting a call out. We would have to find our players. We’d got Reverend Davies. Fortunately, two of the cast were blindingly obvious in terms of who we wanted, so as the project got moving, we got in touch with them to ask if they would be up for it…

I’ve known Loretta Hope since she was a kid. She’s a fantastic human being, an actor, dancer, model and aerialist and more. Multitalented, lovely to deal with and someone who very much looks the part. She’s always been the person I wanted to have playing Annamarie Nightshade. I asked, and she said yes, she would be up for doing this with us. You can find out more about Loretta here – https://lorettahope.co.uk/

There’s some good moody seaside Annamarie relevant content here…

 

The other obvious choice was asking Suna Dasi to play Melisandra. Singer, dancer, voice actress and longstanding supporter of Hopeless Maine, it had to be her. She agreed, so that was all charmingly straightforward!

 

That left two characters to find. We needed a young man with circus or combat skills to be our Blind Fisherman. We wracked our brains, and came up with nothing. Loretta couldn’t find anyone suitable in her circus circles. We asked other circus folk… and eventually the perfect young man appeared. More of him soon.

Our other missing cast member was Durosimi, and it eventually dawned on us that he had been staring us in the face all along…

Film progress

Hello lovely blog readers! Mostly we’ve been sharing the history of the process of making a film on Fridays, and mostly what you’ve been getting is the backstory, not what’s going on right now.

But, what’s going on right now is rather exciting, so, below is a little video of the 3d model Matt Inkel has made as part of the process of developing puppets for the film.

 

Script Writing with John Bassett

A great deal of work went into trying to get me up to speed so I could write a film script. Scripts are not my usual stomping ground. Add up the total pages of Hopeless Maine graphic novels, and I’ve not written that many words as comics’ script. There have been a handful of small, silly plays in the mumming play form. By late autumn it was apparent that I was the least experienced and least qualified member of the film team.

What I needed was someone who would work with me, who could bring script experience to the table. I approached John Bassett because I was confident I could work with him. Amongst other things, John runs Stroud Theatre Festival and Stroud Steampunk weekend, and I’ve been to some of his plays and had a bit part in his Chartism film. So I asked, and he said he would be delighted to help.

We had a few really good sessions drinking coffee while John gave me things to think about. He turned out to have a deep interest in old films as well, so there was a lot to draw on. I needed to figure out how to think about this film in terms of structure, number of characters, number of scenes and settings and John was a great help with this. During this process it struck me that he’d make an excellent Reverend Davies, so I asked if he’d like to join the cast as well.

It became necessary to pin down the characters and have a sense of who would be playing them, so that was all going on at the same time and I’ll be talking about our actors next week.

Around Christmas, I wrote a scene by scene description of the film. I didn’t try and write a script, I went for the structure and what needed communicating and what the emotional tone should be. I passed this over to John, and he went through and turned this into dialogue that would work for the actors – a tricky thing for a silent film because some of that dialogue will carry to the viewer and some won’t. John also looked at text boards, although I think what we need to do with those is film, and then see which ones we need to deploy.

It was a very exciting process seeing my structure fleshed out as a script. The resulting text was passed around the team and, assuming we hit no technical issues, it looks good to go. I am greatly enjoying working in this even-handed way, where anyone who needs a say gets one, and authority is based on need or experience – what is technically possible, what is affordable, what it is fair to ask of another team member. So we may have to negotiate things as we go along, but I see that as a tremendous strength. It’s a wonderful way of working with other people.