Tag Archives: Hopeless Maine

Designing Hopeless, Maine for film

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.

Hopeless Role Play

As a young human, I played a fair few role play systems and it was a significant part of my life. One of the normal features of a role play game is that the world is… well… world sized. The setting you game in is usually as large as your imagination is willing to invest in.

A role play game set on Hopeless Maine is clearly a very different kettle of fish (or tentacles). It is, by any definition, a rather small setting. You could walk across it in a matter of days, and one of the features of the island is that it is very hard to leave it and go elsewhere. It is a tiny reality of its own, full of weirdness, but it is not really how most role play worlds function.

But, small can be beautiful. Small can be really intense and there’s not much scope to run away from the consequences of your actions. Everything you do as a player on Hopeless will stay round to haunt you – probably in a literal sort of way. You can’t just leave town and move on if things don’t go well, or you’ve nabbed the treasure or made an enemy. Outside of town, beyond the farms it is difficult to survive, which is why people mostly aren’t living there.

Hopeless as a role play setting is really good for intense scenarios. It lends itself to mysteries and murder mysteries. If you’re looking for a setting where your characters will have to make long term relationships with NPCs, this is for you. If you’re looking for situations where people have to think and role play rather than dungeon crawl, Hopeless works well. It’s not going to be the right setting for anyone who wants to spend their time slaying monsters, grabbing treasure and hooking up with pretty NPCs. But, if you like your gaming experiences to be weirder, more gothic and with more focus on the role play, this could well be the ideal setting for you.

The Hopeless Maine role play game has been a work in progress – and largely the work of Keith Healing – for some time now. We will have some significant news for you soon, we think, which is why I’m dangling this teaser-tentacle today. Also, the cover above is the old cover, there will be a new cover soon…

Jed Grimes

Jed Grimes runs the Hopeless Maine hardware store. However, sourcing on Hopeless is a bit haphazard. People who make stuff tend to want to sell or trade it themselves. Mostly what Jed sells is stuff he has scavenged, and he’s a really good scavenger. He also plays the long game. When a ship flounders off the Hopeless coast, most people are out there looking for exciting things they can use or eat straight away. Jed takes home bits of wood, and nails.

He’s really into nails.

Jed is also the sort of person to take a length of heavy ship’s rope and pick it apart for usable threads. He’s almost as much into string as he is nails.

If you’ve read Hopeless Maine: Victims, you’ll already know a few other things about Jed. His life is complicated, but, no spoilers for the people who haven’t got that far.

These Our Revels part three -Darkbox.


Next to last in the series of These Our Revels, which started with a concept  from Hopeless, Maine and has been brought into the world by a concerted creative effort lead by Fiona Sawle and Nimrod Lancaster.  This stunning eerie photo was taken by  Gregg McNeill of Darkbox Photography during the Sanctuary event.

Gregg has this to say  about this plate-

” I love this plate. Exposure time was a trim 4 seconds because it was taken out doors, under a marquee, so lots of ambient soft UV light. It’s only the second time ever I’ve made portraits outside at an event. ”

There were additional challenges due to the weather conditions that day, and their Marquis  nearly blew down overnight.

Steampunks in general, and our people in particular are absolutely bloody amazing.

Darkbox Photography have a patreon which can be found here. Please do support their work!

Dustcats!

Dustcat news!

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.

A new Spoonwalker in the family

The continuing adventures of the spoonwalker hereby commence!

I got a message from Gregg McNeill (Yes, that’s the same Gregg from Darkbox Photography and the film project. Well done for keeping up!) asking to borrow my Spoonwalker as he wanted to do a photographic print of a Spoonwalker in a bell jar. I was thrilled at the idea! Then I had a closer look at the Spoonwalker I had made and realised he would never survive the trip through the post. He’s made of air dry clay and wire (and spoons, obviously). I then remembered that I was owed a favour by a well known maker and creator of wonders. None other than Herr Döktor! I contacted him at his lair of strange and sometimes dangerous things and asked if the favour I owed him would  equate to something like a Spoonwalker. As it turned out, it did! (or near enough!) So we now have a new Spoonwalker in the family. Here we see a progress shot and the little bloke himself  and a charming rampage in the garden. There are plans for a Spoonwalker II now, who might be cast so that more of the charming (and slightly unsettling) little creatures might be unleashed on a now vaguely suspecting world. The one you see here, will now be sent to Gregg so that he might be the subject of an utterly splendid photographic print using vintage processes.

 

The film story – going public

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.

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.

 

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.

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