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.

Film Studies with Gregg McNeill

Having spent a lot of time at Steampunks in Space talking about early films with Gregg McNeill, we clearly had homework to do. Film is not a medium I’ve ever worked in and I don’t have a very visual mind. I have written scripts – for the comics, and also for mumming sides, so I knew just enough to know I was out of my depth. We set out on a process to steep me in old films in the hopes that this would enable me to write a viable script.

Some of it was a bit random, as Tom and I wandered about on youtube and online archives. Some of it was very deliberate as Gregg steered us towards things, and alerted us to details we should be considering. How the text boards are done. How the sets are put together. The lighting and mood. I would have to write for period appropriate technology, one camera that can’t move much, a small budget… there was a lot to think about.

Several period films became key to us during this process. One was Nosferatu – the way the lighting and shadows work there. The one that most impacted on me was The Cabinet of Dr Caligari because of the way in which the sets are painted. I realised this was the kind of look I wanted for us, and after consulting with Gregg it became apparent that this might be the most realistically affordable approach for us.

Having started this whole venture from the observation that there are parallels between silent films and comics, it because vital to dig in on those mechanics. A silent film needs a script for the actors to work from, and it also needs text cards to support that and guide the viewer. Gregg directed us to early Buster Keaten films for the most effective and minimal use of text cards. That became a bit of an obsession all by itself and there is a part of me that wants to make that kind of film. This may be a story for another day…

So much would depend on finding a team of people for the human characters who could embody what’s going on and get it across. The acting style in silent films is not the same as modern films. I admit that I love the more overblown acting approaches, and for several of our characters – Durosimi and Melisandra – that would make a lot of sense. The more we looked at films, the more aware I became that I needed to know who I was writing for. It wouldn’t work for us to have a script and try to cast it.

There was only ever one person I wanted to have playing Annamarie Nightshade. There is only one person I could imagine playing Melisandra. But would they be up for it? And who else should be in that team?

Check back next week for the next instalment of how we did all the crazy things…

And do have a look at Gregg McNeill’s patreon page – https://www.patreon.com/DarkboxImages

Hopeless Folklore

Hello people! (and others) The esteemed Jeffrey Tolbert (Editor and co author of -The Folkloresque: Reframing Folklore in a Popular Culture World, has decided to look at Hopeless, Maine and its growing tribe of participants as a topic of study. “an ongoing conversation on the role of folklore and the folkloresque in Hopeless, Maine.” Your participation would be much appreciated.

Topics of interest include the nature/definition of folklore, its connections to place, and the role of digital media in the creation and performance of contemporary folk cultures. We invite you to come and join him and become part of the conversation here- https://folkloresque.net/community/folklore-and-folkloresque/hopeless-maine-folklore-and-the-folkloresque/ You do need to create a log in and password to participate. If you do not get see a confirmation email, check your spam folder (personal experience) This should be very interesting indeed!

Jeffrey happened to us on Twitter last year, we very much like his folkloresque book and he’s been delightful to communicate with. We’ve found his ideas about folklore really interesting and engaging. He’s interested in what people do – in folklore as living tradition, not dusty museum piece. So, very much our sort of chap!

Steampunks in Space

Back in November, Tom and I went to Steampunks in Space, in Leicester. It turned out to be another key point in the development of the film. We were a few tables along from Gregg McNeill, so were able to spend a lot of time talking about what had happened, what could happen, and the sorts of things we needed to think about. Being in the same place is powerful, creatively, but with Gregg in Scotland and us in Gloucestershire, we hadn’t had much scope.

Also at Steampunks in Space, was John Naylor, who is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to all things Steampunk. He was there selling hats. John is the man with the vision behind Asylum and the Ministry of Steampunk. Thanks to him, Abbey Masahiro was in Lincoln last summer and we were able to get a book to him (see this post for more backstory). So, I took the opportunity to update John on how this had all gone, and to thank him for once again being a source of magic. He has a rare talent for creating spaces in which amazing things happen.

After that conversation I had one of those double take moments of realising I had made a serious mistake. I went back and asked John if he wanted to be in the film project, and he very generously said yes. It’s all too easy to lose track of what people do in their day jobs. John does film and television work professionally, with more knowledge and skills than you might want to try and shake a stick at. He can also do fight choreography.

That weekend felt like a tremendous consolidation of the project. Adding John Naylor to the team massively expanded the capabilities in the mix. It continues to amaze and delight me that all these highly talented, dedicated, serious and professional people are looking at this madcap thing and wanting in. Thanks to their amazingness, we get to turn a bit of lunatic ‘what if’ into something that really could work.

More monsters and Matt

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…

Social Distancing, Hopeless Maine Style

On social media of late we’ve been sharing images from the island and adding a social distancing commentary. It turns out that Hopeless rather lends itself to this. It’s rare that our characters touch each other. Some of this is a period issue – it is a sort of Victorian setting and people were less demonstrative. Some of it is that you never know who will turn out to be an eldritch horror, so it is best not to get too close.

Mistrust of each other keeps our islanders at arm’s length. The grim realities of life have made a lot of the citizens emotionally unavailable. They cope by pretending there’s nothing to cope with. It sort-of works, but Hopeless is seldom a happy place, as the name suggests.

Hopeless residents have the fear of catching consumption, vampirism, lycanthropy and extra tentacles. No one really understands the mechanics for any of these things. It is hard to form, or sustain any kind of involved relationship when you are afraid of the people around you. Being afraid saves lives, for sure, but it also blights lives. There are questions of balance.

In the meantime, we are not recommending you carry a hand of glory as an aid to social distancing, even though it would likely work rather well.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.