Those of you who have been with us for a while may be able to guess what this is for.
Hello again people (and others).
As some of you will know, we are working on translating the Blind Fisherman (The prelude to Hopeless, Maine) to film. Towards this end, I’ve started sketching settings that will appear in the film to help me visualise the settings so that I can move on to storyboarding. Once the script is finalised, we’ll storyboard and go on from there. In order to help make all of this possible, I’ve begun studying producing and other aspects of filmmaking. We have a studio, cinematographer, production design and an art director. Our plan is to make this the first in a series of Hopeless, Maine set films.
In the words of our cinematographer, Gregg McNeil ” We’re making a strong statement with this first chapter of the Hopeless Maine Anthology and we hope to continue this with other filmmakers, directors and storytellers each weaving their own visual tale.”
We will keep you up to date on our progress!
Hoping this finds you well, inspired and thriving.
Dustcats were once ephemeral beings who have, by unknown means, achieved considerable solidity.
Dustcat puppets on the other hand were once ephemeral ideas that are now being reality.
Here is some dustcat fur!
Puppet maker Matt Inkel says that he is waiting for stuffing and thread and then needs to decide what technique he will use. He said to us “I suspect I will sculpt a head and make a simple plaster mould to be cast in something soft and then attach it to the fur body… I just want to finalise my thoughts on the transition between the two materials and hiding the join and blending the fur”
We are very excited to announce that we have raised enough money to fund a dustcat puppet for our Hopeless Maine film. Many thanks to everyone who chipped in! If you’re new to all this and have a sudden urge to get involved, start here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/
The dustcat will be a marionette, able to waft about and gesticulate in charming ways. There will be updates and progress shots, so, watch this space.
The Blind Fisherman is, unshockingly, an essential character in the film called The Blind Fisherman. For a long time, we had no idea who was going to play him. As a small outfit with whatever budget we can cobble together, we could hardly go the normal recruiting route. We were going to have to use our network of people to find someone who might be suitable.
There was a collective wracking of brains amongst existing team members.
We started thinking about the qualities our actor would need – that he would have to be a younger man with a light build, and that he would need a physical skills set. To fight the sea monster plausibly he would have to be athletic. As we have a team member who can choreograph fight scenes, we didn’t necessarily need someone with a fighting background, but someone who could easily learn how to do the right things with their body. That opened up dance, gymnastics and circus as potential backgrounds alongside someone with a background in a martial arts or other combat disciplines.
So I asked our friend Ruby, who does a lot of circus stuff and is young and therefore could be expected to know other youthful personages. She asked if we knew Edwin, and we admitted that we did not. She told us he is lovely – which is an important qualifier for being involved with this project. Given how we’re all investing time and effort, with no one knowing how any of it will work out financially, we cannot afford to bring anyone in who might make any of us miserable. Being able to work easily together and enjoy that process is non-negotiable.
Edwin Forster is turns out, is not only lovely, but entirely perfect. After we got into lockdown, we started asking our actors if they could do photos for us to share, and this is his, alongside the cover image for the original project this is all based on. Got to love anyone prepared to go that extra distance!
For some weeks now I’ve been telling the story of the Hopeless Maine film project, how it got started and what’s happened along the way. The decision to go public with it as a process came some way into the journey.
Normally films turn up in the world as finished items. We may have had some teasers along the way – usually around casting, but the process remains largely hidden. This is fine when you have a massive budget to make a film and another massive budget to promote it. We started with only our own money. We aren’t a studio, none of us are famous enough that our names guarantee the project success. We can’t whip out a Hopeless Maine film from nowhere and expect many people to care.
The two main considerations were, how we fund the film and how we find an audience. So, it made sense to go public as a way of tackling those specific issues. We’ve started crowdsourcing to fund the puppets, which means we can get started there and hopefully the progress we make will enthuse people and build interest around the project as a whole.
There are also a lot of other, less businesslike reasons for doing it this way. We’re a team of steampunks, for the greater part. We belong to a community and we met each other through those community spaces. The desire to feed back to said community is strong. We want to bring people with us because we feel there are a lot of people who are our people, and who are a key part of the context in which this is all happening. And we want to give back by sharing what we’re doing.
Hopeless Maine was always intended to be a community project. Tom has brought all sorts of people into it in different ways over the years. Not all of them stuck around, some of us did. I’m not his first author, but I am the one it’s been hardest to get rid of! As Hopeless lays its various strange eggs in other people’s minds, we want to say yes to that, to open up space for other people and other visions.
Also, this is the bit that I can do. I can tell you the story of what happened. I’m the least experienced team member, the one with the fewest relevant skills. It is incredibly exciting watching what everyone else is doing with this and seeing how amazing the team are. But from here, I will mostly be loitering at the edges, because there’s not much I can usefully do. Hold the odd puppet maybe.
I’m telling the story of the project as it unfolds because that lets me feel like I’m still involved, which is nice. Thank you for giving me that space.
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.
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/
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.
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…