I blogged a few weeks ago about how Matt Inkel first got involved with the film project – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/03/06/monsters-matt-and-muppets/
As things started to get moving in the autumn, we went back to him to talk in more detail, establishing that yes, he really was up for this. We talked a lot about different kinds of puppets, how they might be deployed to interact with actors, and what we would need puppets of.
At this point it became clear that child Salamandra would have to be a puppet. Those of you who have read The Blind Fisherman will likely know why, for the rest of you, here come the spoilers…
The central action in the story involves Sal as a baby being thrown into the sea by her father, encountering agents of change, and then being rescued by the fisherman. Clearly we could not throw a small child into water to make this film. Further none of the team has a small child to whom they are not overly attached and people don’t often rent them out on these terms. So, our child character would have to be a puppet.
On the plus side, that means an adult who knows what they are doing is entirely in charge of making that child character do stuff. On the downside, this character is key emotionally and evoking complex emotions with puppets needs thinking about. It’s been a consideration while writing the script.
At some point, when we have funding, Matt will be building both a child Sal, and a sea monster to fight with Seth. How many puppets he makes is probably going to be dictated by funding. There’s scope to have puppets of the same thing at different scales to allow different kinds of scenes to be more easily filmed. Basically, we can go utterly mad with this if the money is there to enable it…
In the summer of 2019, Dr Abbey Masahiro was at the big steampunk gathering in Lincoln. For a whole host of reasons, we weren’t. Tom had one of his moments (not unlike the stuff he gets up to on Facebook) and arranged to get a copy to Dr Abbey via the fabulous Lyssa Lopez Wain (who we later killed in this blog post).
Much to our delight, Dr Abbey was rather taken with Hopeless, Maine and started talking to us about what we do, and might do. The film project had been languishing on a back burner for some time at this point because none of us knew how to proceed.
As luck would have it, cameraman Gregg O’Neill was at an event with Dr Abbey a few weeks later and it gave them a chance to talk about all things film. There was a conversation about the Blind Fisherman project. Then, later in autumn, Dr Abbey took some Hopeless Maine posters and books to the Tokyo Film Festival to see if there might be a potential market for us. People involved with film festivals around the world had a look at us, and the response was positive.
It lit a fire under us, simply. Dr Abbey cast a spell on the project and we knew we were willing to invest a lot more energy and resources to make it work. The whole tone of the conversation changed, from largely daydreaming to entirely serious. We started thinking a lot more seriously about what and who would be needed to make it work, and everything stepped up a gear.
Some of the most important developments in the Hopeless Maine project as a whole have been due to what Tom does on Facebook. It shouldn’t work, and yet somehow, it does. I put it down to how alluring he is. I say this based on having been entirely lured, back before Facebook existed, when Tom was in the habit of doing his thing in yahoo groups.
Having decided that a Hopeless Maine silent movie would be a cool thing, Tom posted on Facebook to see who wanted to make that happen. I don’t think there are many people for whom this would be a viable way of developing a project, but there it is, this is his super-power.
In a very short time frame, two key people stepped up to say that yes, they would be up for that.
One was Gregg McNeil – who I have blogged about here. https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/01/04/the-glorious-work-of-gregg-mcneil/ we met him through Steampunk events, and were smitten with his tintype photography. Gregg knows about period film and cameras and was keen to get involved.
The other person to step forward was Walter Sickert, of the Army of Broken Toys, offering to do the soundtrack. We love Walter’s work. Further, this is someone with experience doing scores. It’s Walter’s music that you hear in the background to this video –
A vote of confidence from two people who know what they’re doing far better than we do. It was a powerful moment. It took us from ‘this is a lovely idea’ to ‘this could work’. We started talking to each other a lot more seriously, and Tom spent a lot of time talking to Gregg. It was around this point that we realised a hand wound camera would be the heart of the project. This would be our key magical item, moving forward. All we had to do was find one that works…
We met Matt Inkel at Asylum in Lincoln back in 2018. He was sporting a fetching Steampunk Ghostbusters backpack of his own making, and we got chatting about what he does as a maker with his Arcane Armoury hat on. This was just after we’d started looking at old, silent films, so the timing was perfect.
After the event, Tom and Matt continued chatting online. He expressed an interest in making Hopeless Maine stuff and this led us to the Salamandra’s Key project – Matt made a version of the key Salamandra has in The Gathering. You can find out more about that over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2019/01/04/salamandras-key/
One of his keys ended up in the award winning Case of Good Fortune – and more of that story over here should you feel so moved. https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/the-case-of-good-fortune/
One of the things Tom and Matt have in common, is a love of Jim Henson. Hence me sneaking muppets into the title! Matt talked about his experience with Jim Henson’s creature workshop and how cool a Hopeless Maine film would be. Tom of course had a series of muppet-moments.
At this stage it was just a bit of shared daydreaming. The kind of conversation where you go ‘wouldn’t it be lovely if…’ But, this is often where serious projects come from – those idle speculations that at first seem too preposterous to take seriously. And so you keep playing with them because it’s just messing about, and before you know it you’ve set your heart on a Hopeless Maine silent film with puppets and live action.
And so it was that Matt Inkel joined the film project before there even was a film project. He will be making puppets of some of the island creatures, and of course the sea monster whose fight with The Blind Fisherman is a key part of this little story.
You can find Matt Inkel’s Arcane Armoury on Etsy – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ArcaneArmoury
What prompted us to think that making a Hopeless Maine black and white filmA Hopeless Film was a good idea? Let me tell you a story…
It started at Pagan Pride in Nottingham, in the summer of 2018. We stayed with Cat Treadwell, which was a wonderful thing to get to do. She was having a bit of a clear out, and we came home with a box set of Greta Garbo DVDs.
My maternal grandmother was a great fan of Greta Garbo, so this had pushed some nostalgia buttons for me. Garbo was one of the few actors to make the transition from silent films to talkies, and some of the films in the box set were silent.
Watching these films together, Tom and I were struck by the technical similarities between comics and silent films. There’s less space for text in a silent film, making the interplay between what’s done as an image and what is words closer to comics than to modern film, I reckon. Facial expressions are super-important in both forms, and often more stylised than naturalistic.
We spent a lot of time talking about all of this, initially just because it interested both of us. We were wondering what we could learn from silent films that would help us as comics creators. Somewhere in those conversations, Tom said something to the effect that he thought The Blind Fisherman would make an excellent black and white silent movie in the style of these period pieces. I agreed, and at the time that seemed to be the whole of it.
But of course it wasn’t.
So we feel it is entirely reasonable to hold Cat Treadwell responsible for being the catalyst that started this whole idea. You can find Cat’s Hopeless Maine story here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/threads/
And find Cat here – https://druidcat.wordpress.com/
The Blind Fisherman is a sequence of illustrations and poems that you can currently find at the front of Hopeless Maine, The Gathering.
Before we get any further, I’d like to mention that the fisherman in question matches the legal definition of ‘blind’ in that he has significant sight impairment, not total blindness. This is most usually the way of it. Some of the things he does in the sequence have a magical component to them which is why he binds his eyes – it’s just better not to be distracted by looking.
This sequence began life the autumn we launched Hopeless Maine as a webcomic (back when we were itisacircle.com). We’d started this Hopeless Vendetta site already while we were waiting for technical stuff on the webcomic. Tom wanted to launch with something a bit special, and also he is slightly masochistic, so he did this series of images telling a story. At the last minute he realised he wanted an extra image and sat up all night just before the webcomic launch! Not something I can recommend, but we weren’t living together then so getting him to go to bed was a good deal more difficult.
The words followed the images. I was painfully inexperienced around comics at this point, and working with a forgiving webcomic format, not the harsh realities of the printed page. If I was doing it now, I would be thinking from the start about how the words might fit and be big enough that a middle aged person like myself might be able to read them! One of the pieces in the set pre-dates the art, and was written as a song in my late teens. It was such an uncanny match that I felt I’d been moving this way all along.
The Blind Fisherman wasn’t in the Archaia editions, but Nick at Sloth was happy to give it a home when Personal Demons and Inheritance combined to be a single volume. It also meant we had something extra in there, which felt good. So at that point, that we had got an eccentric combination of art and words into the front of a fat comic was the extent of our aspirations.
Tune in next week for another instalment as I try and explain the curious journey of going from this initial body of work, to making a film.
Readers, we have a delectably crazy project on the go and have got to the point where it feels like talking about it may not jinx it!
We’re going to make a Hopeless Maine film.
At time of writing this is a project with no funding. It does however have a script, and most of the team in place to make it happen. We have some ideas about funding. However, if you have a magic money tree and were wondering how best to deploy it, we’re here to help you!
From here on in, I’m going to be blogging regularly about how this all goes. There’s quite a lot of backstory to tell, so I’ll be working my way from the beginnings of this idea forward. It’s not been a smooth path at this point, and all things considered, it’s not likely to be smooth in the future either.
While all of the team members are experienced professionals, only some of us are experienced professionals when it comes to film making. Tom and I are the least experienced in all of this. There is a great deal to come where we’ll be depending on the knowledge, skills and cunning of the rest of the team. Beautiful people that they are, they have enough faith in us and enough enthusiasm for Hopeless Maine to give this a go. I’ll be talking more about who does what as we go along – my fondness for telling a story means I want to introduce the key characters as they enter the plot. That said, if anyone wants to ‘out’ themselves that’s fine by me!
So, if that wasn’t quite bonkers enough, here’s what we’re planning. We want to make a silent movie, on a period camera, with a soundtrack. There will be puppets and actors. It will be based on The Blind Fisherman (the series of poems and images at the start of The Gathering). If you’ve read The Blind Fisherman, you will know that it doesn’t really suggest a smooth translation into film, which is part of the fun of it. We don’t want to make a film version of something we’ve already done in the comics. We want to go somewhere new.
Thank you for joining us on our latest madcap adventure, and watch this space for the story as it unfolds…