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Un[dis]criminate


I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.

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Paris, Texas (1984)


I’ve been meaning to watch Paris, Texas (1984) for quite sometime now. Only being aware that it was a modern classic and seen as a modern take on The Searchers (1956) where once again I will be coming from as I explore and try to understand what is a beautiful film no matter the reading you take from it. I know now that my next piece of work will be based on the John Ford/John Wayne classic and how it’s influence on film ever since. My exploration has now taken me to Wim Wenders classic, having only seen one other of his films and more recently his Polaroid exhibition at the Photographers Gallery last year.

So where to start with Paris, Texas, I thought it would be straight-forward modern retelling of the Western classic. That was before we met Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) who in the opening scenes collapses from a mix of heat exhaustion and dehydration. The desert has not been kind to this tall gangly man who remains mute for the first 30 minutes of the film. Relying on his gestures or lack of them to discern what he wants. When his brother Walt’s (Dean Stockwell) called to come and collect his once thought dead brother from a small hospital in the middle of the Texan desert. Texas is the first real link to The Searchers where we find the film is loosely set, the backdrop of seven years of wandering. The silence is at first worrying, has Travis become a mute, or has he been psychologically afflicted, uttering no words, relying on his strained relationship with his brother to communicate. You can only feel for them both as Walt tries to reconnect and understand his brother who just can’t keep still at first, twice he bolts before finally making the trip West to California.

Hopes of flying home are soon dashed when Travis needs to stay on the ground, he’s a complex man who we are beginning to understand as he slowly opens up to us and his brother who we learn has been bringing up his nephew as his own child for the past 4 years. Travis has been wandering for the past 4 years, but why. The journey home on the open road doesn’t pass without a few bumps along the way. The location of Paris in the state of Texas is brought up a few times as they both reminisce, a plot of land that he had hoped to have truly made his home. The wandering cowboy making a small part of the world his own, a homestead for the family he once had. Still holding onto the more fragile parts of his past for later his return to Walt’s home and being reunited with his son Hunter (Hunter Carson). All this could be read as Aaron Edwards (Walter Coy) bringing home his wayward brother Ethan (Wayne) from the wilderness after the civil war. At this point I’m beginning to see how the classic has been reworked.

Back home he begins to open up to his son, both are unsure of each other, one leaving without reason or notice, feeling abandoned, whilst the other deeply troubled by his own behaviour. A cowboy just riding off into the sunset, much like Shane yet without the young boy crying out for his return. His presence would ultimately be detrimental to those around him. The family home – which could be replaced with the Edwards homestead is equally uneasy and full of memories for Travis who begins to make up for lost time with his son who begins to allow this stranger back into his life. I feel that so many of the scenes in this film could easily be shared here, but that would be too extreme. However the father son relationship that is at the centre of the film is only suggested in the Searchers, could Lucy (Pippa Scott) or even Debbie (Lana Wood and Natalie Wood) yet unable to express that connection would have broken the Hays codes that restrained films so badly in the 1950’s. Wenders doesn’t have any of that to consider, his family have raised the boy as their own without question, and without with-holding the truth either.

The blossoming of the father-son relationship is at times both heart-warming and very moving as they begin to see each other as part of one another. An invite to walk home together is brutally snubbed as only a child can handle, whilst Travis can only look on with rejection. It’s a family home-movie that seen to be most revealing. We meet the mother Jane (Nastassja Kinski) who had a passionate relationship with a much older Travis. The images are too much for him at time to bare. For the audience it’s our first chance to see Jane, a part of his life that has only been spoken about, shaping our view of what this character means to them.

Travis finally decides to take things into his own hands, after being told more about Jane by Anne (Aurore Clément ) who had raised Hunter as her own. Jane for the past 4 years has been depositing money on a monthly basis in a bank in Houston. That’s all he needs to seek her. After spending just over half the film trying to find himself and pick up where he left off, does the real search begin. Leaving with his son in tow they head for Houston hoping that they can find one person in a city of thousands. A beautifully simple translation of plot elements for a modern audience and setting. Father and son grow closer as they get closer to finding Jane who Hunter believes he’s spotted. The search is now on, following a 7 year olds hunch they hit the road in hopes that he’s right, or face waiting another month.

Finally reaching the car and a quiet building Travis enters into a world he knows little about. This the Ethan of the film does enter the Comanche Camp and finds his Debbie very much alive and well. Working in a peep-show, another form of prostitution. Unlike Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) who was able to save the young girl from a downward spiral, our Travis here is prevented by a wall of glass and a telephone, that affords him the safety to get to know the woman he knows he’s hurt, scaring both her and himself into their own separate wildernesses. What follows are some of the longest scenes I’ve ever watched, pure conversation between two people, only a phone line connects them, the truth hopefully will break through.

Let’s go Home Debbie – Ethan’s final lines of dialogue, the hatred in him has now melted away, allowing him to see the girl, the niece that can be saved. He can now see the hope in her to bring her back to civilisation. Whilst he’s still left to wander, unable to be part of the family. Travis gives up his position to reunite his son with his mother in an equally moving ending to the latter film, Believing this is the right thing to do by his son, finally putting Jane first after what was an emotionally abusive relationship built on a destructive passion that couldn’t last. There maybe no racism but there’s plenty of anger that still has to be dealt with internally for the quiet man who drives off into the night. Ending a film that is deeply melancholic, reaching into the heart of America’s deserts to reunite a family that ultimately cannot be together. Sam Shepherd‘s simple script has taken a classic formula of the search and rescue Western and transforming it into a tragic romance between a couple that had no chance of being reignited. I just wish I’d seen this classic years ago, now I’m left wondering how many more rich films have been inspired by such a complex Western that I maybe still in the midst of my own search for some time to come.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (18/10/18)


It’s been a really good day in the studio, with its own share of drama. Beginning calmly enough with two gap filling pieces for the rock formation which I now feel is complete allowing me to move back to the list and see what needs making.

I turned to a lift for the gold mine, which I want to work in two ways. One – that can hold a stagecoach and fit down the shaft of the final test piece I made a few months ago. Two – can be used with a mechanism that suggests that it’s traveling down the shaft. I have an idea for this which involves creating a long sheet of brown-paper which will run continuously when manually turned on a piece I’ll construct. I’ll then film the result that will suggest motion. I’m hoping to use the finished carriage – the lift will be used in both pieces so once made I can switch between the two.

Today I’ve made a solid start with one major blip along the way. I believed I had measurements for the basic form, even working out how to add the balsa wood, which I even began fixing into place. With 4 sides of the interior done I thought I was getting somewhere fast. With sometime to spare I made a start on the roof. Feeling pleased with myself I wanted to see the piece on situ – the shaft, only to discover that I had the right dimension, however I had misinterpreted them when I came to add swing doors (which maybe changed) on the wrong sides. Meaning that I had to reduce the size of the piece by 3cm to fit how I now had it. I could have made a fresh piece, but I felt that would be throwing away a days work. Instead after marking up where the cuts where to be made I began to carefully cut a section of that width out of the main body. This was before I had fully worked out how to resolve the issue. Then I turned to my trusted glue gun to re-fix the two separated halves of a once whole piece. I was then left with the clean-up operation. During the cutting process a number of balsa strips had been badly cut into. A lot of pieces on the shorter side had to be replaced completely, running over the join which I knew had to be covered in order to appear natural. This was on the floor and roof that received this treatment. The pieces that I cut and fixed in place created beams and stops in the piece, ultimately more authentic.

The accident with the measurements and drawing up the piece during the initial building ultimately turned out for the best, pushing me to make quick decisions that made a better piece. It still has a long way to go, but from here on out it’s going to be better for sure.

Mad Max (1979) & The Road Warrior (1981) & Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1984)


It feels like a long time since I’ve got my teeth into the influence of The Searchers (1956) in film. How one little Western could really effect so many more after it’s release as just another John Wayne western, nothing to go crazy about at the time. And then the first batch of film directors to leave film school had discovered this under appreciated masterpiece, for some they really couldn’t let go, or John Ford and Wayne couldn’t let go of them. One of those was George Miller who has recently been able to go back to this anti-hero and explore him further to great success. I can’t to see where Mad Max goes next in the apocalyptic future that has breathed fresh life into an already cult classic of a film.

I’m about to undertake another extended film review, looking at the original trilogy of films, reading them as Westerns and where I can as being influenced by The Searchers, something of a preoccupation in my film watching. Beginning with the original 1979 that I was told by my dad that one of my uncles thought was crap on release. I wanted to see for myself why did he think that? I wanted to put that opinion to the test. My first watch a few years ago, left me wanting more, all the crashes, explosions and fast-paced action was all I wanted. It felt far longer than it actually is too. Looking back I found I was watching a different film, same images, but with a different set of goals in mind. Not just a refresh in the mind, but also to find the Western iconography that connects a seemingly throw-away road movie to the great American genre. A genre that can easily be transplanted to the vast Australian outback. I was surprised that the cast mostly speak in an American accents, reminding me of the dubbed English audio found in Spaghetti Westerns. Being an Australian production and cast, even made on location in the country. Maybe this was a decision to help sell the film to an international audience.

Set a few years in the future, a decidedly vague choice by Miller to keep the audience guessing, how long do we have to wait for this prediction to come true, hopefully that would never happen. We’re thrown into the start of a police chase, two interceptor cars are ready and waiting for a car to come into view. One car with a cautious officer who can’t even stand the odd swear word from his partner – a man clearly out of his comfort zone but wanting to keep the peace on the open roads of the Aussie landscape. It’s a car chase that will have massive effects for this squad of interceptors for the duration of the film. The couple in the car carried the leader – Night Rider (Vincent Gil) of a biker gang that is ultimately killed whose legacy brings forth bloodshed and violence.

We first meet the gang as they ride into town, much like a group of riders on horseback, their motions even on two-wheeled vehicles are arranged like the four-legged animals would once have dominated this open space. The bikers bring with them a brand of violence that can only be delivered on two wheels, the maneuverability and ease to all murder and rape to be carried out on the innocent. They are vicious men who show no mercy to thier victims, they’re sadistic and shocking even today.

We haven’t even met Max (Mel Gibson) whose face is kept out of view until he makes his entrance saving the day, showing that he’s not one interceptor to be messed with. Along with his partner Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) who loses his cool when he learns that their latest suspect – Johnny the Kid (Tim Burns) has to be released. All part of a rigged system that works in favor of the criminal, having no apparent evidence creates the illusion of a rigged legal system. Leading Goose to his eventual demise and a strong Searchers reference, after a few scenes that built up to the gang getting revenge him for his treatment of the Kid, a more reluctant and innocent member of the gang, dressed in more civilian clothes leads Goose to what could be seen as an Indian raid. Scar’s Comanches delivering their revenge for his mistreatment. Even leading up to the car explosion he’s reluctant to commit the act. Could the kid have been captured and adopted into the gang, being pushed to prove himself to the rest of the gang, most importantly to the new leader Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne ) whose growing tired of him. The following scene goes further than Ethan Edwards entering the massacred homestead of his brother’s wife and family. We are never shown the extent of the human cost, left only to our imaginations. It’s believed to be too painful. Miller goes a step further, taking us into the hospital room, changing the shot to reveal a bed with a bed sheet over a raised framework. Max investigates, discovering the charred remains of his partner who he’ll never work with again.

From here on out we see a once law-abiding interceptor (I say that loosely as they were the law), Max becomes a man on a mission. The drive to see justice done, is forced upon him by the killing of his wife and child. He has nothing else left to live for except to use the security of his job and uniform to see that justice is delivered. Even resulting to methods not too far off what the gang would use themselves. He becomes the very thing he hates in order to ensure his wife and child’s death was not worthless. The impact of their deaths is too much for him to just sit down any more.

We are seeing the origins of a man whose destined to live a solitary life in the outback of a future that is still uncertain. I am left wondering how do we get from Mad Max to Road Warrior. Are there a number of biker gangs that take over, how does civilisation crumble to become a rare group of people who will do what is necessary to survive. All will be revealed in the middle film, which I feel is the strongest of the original trilogy. We will see how Max has transformed into a loner who wants nothing more than to be left alone like a gunfighter who knows Indians, or in this case bikers.

It’s been a few weeks since I watched the original Mad Max, which laid the foundations for what has become an Australian classic. George Miller returned to the well to produce a far more futuristic and dystopian future, using the first now as a firm foundation into what could easily be and has become a franchise (albeit 4 films) with its own unique language, which has been carried through more recently to the belated remake/reboot/sequel (I’m still not sure where it fits in but I bloody love it), a far more bombastic entry than the original entries.

Now back to the first sequel, now I remember mostly the exhilaration of watching The Road Warrior (1981) more than anything else. It was a case of re-watching to remind myself. Even the ending was a complete surprise. Opening with a short prologue that explains where we, it’s vague enough to be in the distant future, carefully and with pathos placing Max, making use of footage from the first film and archive footage from past conflicts to paint a bleak picture of how the modern world collapsing, irretrievable by the governments even then. I wonder how things would work out now with a trade war between America and the rest of the world. The fake news and underhand activities of a clandestine Russia who are unable to take responsibility for what’s clearly their own actions. Or will global warming beat all of us to the point where we self destruct?

With the prologue setting the tone we’re thrown into another road ambush between Max and a gang of bandits on bikes and cars, kited out with spikes, cross-bows and anything else they can use to inflict death on. We witnessed what was clearly the final days of what we would call civilisation as it began to crumble. Now it’s Max against the world, taking on the role of a future gunfighter replace the standard horse for a car with all the bells and whistles to survive and outwit his opponents on the open road. Riding alone if it wasn’t for with his dog, man’s only true friend. We catch a small box under the chassis with switch, the first loaded gun that we thankfully see fired later on. Ultimately he outwits these bandits, meeting Wez (Vernon Wells) whose part of a far larger gang. Clearly main adversary of the film, taking on the position last held by Toecutter, both are pretty much the same character, hell-bent for the same things in life. Wez is however far more dangerous with a short fuse, once lit has to be allowed to blow.

Clear of the first incident Max encounters a real character – The Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) who really steals the show. Another man out there in the wilderness, trying to survive. Complete with a unique gyrocopter that allows him to escape the mayhem below. He could easily be the mad inventor sidekick if Max would only let him into his life. Max has now become a lone wolf, unable to really connect to others enough to trust them. It’s a dog eat dog world that relies on having your wits about you. One false move and your dead. For Gyro the stranger in his life is a breath of fresh air and sees in him the opportunity for some excitement instead of keeping his vehicle safe. Both men who have seen a lot since the modern world collapsed.

Gryo leads Max to where he can get his hands on more fuel, the main commodity in this dystopian world. Found in a much desired complex heavily fortified and wanted by The Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his gang (including Wez). It’s a constant state of war for those with the oil that they have found and will do anything to hold onto. The rag-tag band of men, women and a Feral Child (Emil Minty) are not afraid to fight, only on more civilised terms, they haven’t let the end of the world affect them too much. They are essentially good people just trying to survive. Those with all the riches in the area, whilst the uncivilised punk riders are the Native Americans of this world. Circling the compound on an almost daily basis, doing what they can to chip away at the defences of the last refuge for the oil tanker which means hope, stability and ultimately survival. The compound could easily be seen as a fort of the last of the civilisation, trying to hang onto what makes them human. Could they be the last hope for humanity in this corner of the world.

Now I remember the original deal that Max makes with the compound when he nears with one of their wounded, as much gas as he can carry in exchange for their dying man. The deal/contract doesn’t last long enough to be fulfilled before an ultimatium is made by The Humungus which determines the future of the community that have been fighting to survive for too long to give up. The tanker in exchange for their freedom, a fair deal for some, not for others and only 24 hours to make their minds up. The catalyst is ultimately the stranger among them – Max, with his unique set of skills and experience he is their Shane who can save the day. If only he chooses to stay with them is up to him. His world is far different than that of Shane who has to leave in order for civilisation to thrive. He’s very much a loner who still has a heart that has to be found before he can make a difference. One key scene in a make-shift garage between him and the communities leader Pappagallo (Michael Preston) whose able to get past all the leather coat hard-shell to find the man whose no different from anyone in the compound. It’s a classic scene that allows audience to understand Max more. Of course we have the original film to draw upon for his back-story.

In terms of Western comparison, it’s all there in the action, swap horses for cars, trucks and bikes, all pimped out with a rustic punk aesthetic, they aren’t just vehicles, they are weapons, homes before they are transport. All culminating a jaw-dropping finale that feels like it last forever. Breathtaking stunts that have produced a string of sequences that sees a huge swathe of characters meet a fantastically bloody end. Each one unique and grisly, there’s no need for repeats, it looks like George Miller was playing, when in-fact it would have been carefully laid out to look like a male fantasy of road carnage. This is what I remember the unadulterated violence, the tension of these scenes that show how precious this commodity really is to the survivors of this future.

Looking forward to the next and final installment we are left with a far shorter epilogue, learning that the narrator is in fact the Feral child, which is a precursor for Beyond Thunderdome (1984) and the commercial sellout I’m now dreading it to be. If only the trilogy wasn’t that, but a nicely compact two-parter that has an origin story and well-crafted sequel that feels very much like a Western in the classic form that feels far more modern, a conflicted man who doesn’t want to make connections with others, yet knows he has to help others in need. The law enforcer in him is not dead yet. Miller has crafted a visual language that draws on the then present, retrofitting it for the a future that is both alluring and incredible dangerous to enter.

I’ve been putting off the third installment for a few days now, making excuses not to sit down, until I thought, lets just do this and get it over and done with. What I felt was going to be the Millers Return of the Jedi, with plenty of money to spend now with lots of stipulations to gain the biggest return. With two major elements to sell-out, first you have a big name of the moment with rock star Tina Turner who herself had just made a successful return to the music world with her latest album, a second wind in her long career. Whilst the real Jedi factor is the kids, to reach the widest audience – appeal to the kids. True this is 15 rated film in the UK, that wouldn’t stop it getting lower ratings across the rest of the world.

Again my memory of this film has faded overtime, thinking it was far longer and much better than it actually is – I’ll get to that later. With a bigger budget at least it was still filmed on location in Australia than over the Nevada desert. The tone of the film’s set in the opening scene, a pilot and son in the cockpit of a small plane hijacking a camel drawn car. Discovering it was once again Bruce Spence in a similar role, hoping that this would be a true link to the previous film ultimately made no sense as the Gyro Captain who in the prologue took over leadership of the group that escaped in Road Warrior. Why would he leave them with only a child. Understandably his on-screen chemistry was too much to pass up for a cheeky cameo, or an attempt to make a connection to the last film that just got confused in the edit.

I couldn’t stop thinking of the recent reboot/sequel – Fury Road, how I badly compared this last entry as being the strongest influence on it. In terms of visual style it’s very strong, however it has more in common with the middle entry. I need to revisit and put that error right. Miller’s world has certainly been expanded with the bigger budget. First with Barter Town, where we find Max who was the owner of the camel drawn car wanting to get his vehicle back. Entering a dark world where remnants of the society we have known have been held onto and bent in order for survival of the fittest. They have regressed to a state of law and order that wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Wild West. Max through sheer persistence with The Collector (Frank Thring) who takes him to meet the leader of Barter Town, no not the saxophonist, this is 80’s sexy minimalist style. The big reveal of Aunty Entity (Turner) whose open to a deal, that’s after he proves his worth to her.

If you’d been wondering what the hell the title of the film meant, you don’t have to wait much longer, a throw-back to classical justice of Greece or Rome, a giant metal dome where all arguments are settled. A deals made for Max to get The Blaster (Paul Larsson) in the arena. Part of a larger scheme to disrupt the power play between the two classes that make up the town. The underworld which literally holds that power than keeps the town alive is in the hands of two people with the combined name of The Master Blaster. A little person – The Master (Angelo Rossitto) the brains, whilst The Blaster is the braugn. Together they are not to be messed with in the pig-s*** infested underworld. Connected by a metal framework over The Blaster’s shoulders. Essentially Max in a pawn in a bigger problem that he’s more than happy to get involved in for his own gain. Much like in Road Warrior, the stranger than enters with his own agenda is happy, however he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

Barter Town is an in-depth expansion into the apocalyptic future that Miller has been bringing to life. You could see it as just another collection of people just trying to survive the only way they know how. However the complexity of this town is explained away all too easily in the dialogue – namely Dr. Dealgood (Edwin Hodgeman), there purely to explain and dumb-down the rules for us of this town so explicitly we don’t really have a chance to understand on our own terms.

Our town in the Thunderdome is probably as violent as the film really gets before recycling the finale from Road Warrior. The confined space to fight in, the crowd that put themselves in danger just to see someone die is a sure sign of the regression of modern society to return to more primitive methods to settle a score. It’s the only gunfight of the film that ends, well it doesn’t really end, it leads to a form of torture. They didn’t really need Max, he was just a catalyst who discovered he still had a conscience.

You could easily break this film into two smaller films, two scripts that have been brought together in the development process. Once Max’s sent on his way to his death, much like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) without the drawn out pain and suffering that helped make the film. Max is later found by a young woman who drags him back to a hidden paradise populated by just children with a language that first time around was interesting, now it’s just annoying, reminiscent of the more sophisticated language used in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork who invented a form of slang of Nadsat that takes some understanding to really enjoy the novel and film. Miller’s kids are abandoned remnants of society who’ve been left behind during the escape from the worlds destruction. Believing Max to be their savior, a pilot who has come back to take them to Tomorrow Morrow another paradise that gives these young people hope of a better future. The children are on the whole annoying and just human copies of Ewok’s essentially, only now you wish you couldn’t understand them.

Sadly we like Max are stuck with these kids who some eventually accept as not being the pilot of their dreams, having a built a narrative around this now god-like figure. We’re pulled back into the desert as half of them have gone off in search of this Tomorrow Morrow. Max knows that first they’ll encounter Barter Town which if left unattended would be exploited and killed, maybe worse things. The children of a paradise are about to enter Deadwood or Tombstone essentially. Reluctantly Max becomes a parent to these feral children who begin to overrun the underworld, rescuing The Master who has lost his place in their society, treated little more than the pigs who now surround him.

A signature ending of a car chase then ensues, the only difference is that they are chasing a car on train track, changing the dynamic of the chase, a large cannibalised vehicle’s path restricted by rail, falling into the hands of Aunty Entity and her gang who are in pursuit. It looks like a sure thing, a recycling of events from the previous film, nothing is really fresh at this point, just a change in some of the elements, more children than ever. The level of violence’s reduced to almost nothing, even for a 15 rating with the odd explosion and arrow being shot, it’s just tame for a Mad Max film, let alone an action film that you’ve come to expect from this trilogy that has been made safe by the inclusion of more children. Why didn’t he feral child from Road Warrior pop up to bit someone, at least that would have been more violent.

The addition of kids and more kids has had a knock-on effect to the overall quality of the film that entered far too much into music video world. I can forgive the casting of Turner who I’m a fan of, she really owns the part and has a real presence, becoming part of this postapocalyptic world. Maybe if the children came to more harm, maybe we would have a more exciting film on our hands. Not a mess of what is two shorter films that resulted from two much studio interference asking for more of the this and less of that. The violence in this world made it dangerous, worth exploring, shocking an audience who wanted more of the same, but got something that catered for the wrong audience.

I can’t write the film off completely, there are some interesting things going on, some scenes really get your attention. In terms of the overall trilogy and the Western genre that I began this extended review looking at, Miller has used it as a framework to look at a possible future when the West was still not quite won. If an event of such explosive proportions were to strike, civilisation could easily regress to a simpler state of operating. The need for survival becomes more important that the structures that we create. Yet for the pockets of humanity that are left in this future who are trying to rebuild cling on to these simpler models to get on their feet. The goal then is to stay alive and hopefully rebuild a future that can resemble a past they once had. The trilogy starts out strongly with the opening entry working as an origin story before we really enter into a dark world where it’s survival of the fittest where anything goes. Then entering what could have been a better entry and the potential for more if they hadn’t listened to the studio too much. It’s still a strong unique trilogy that offers a bleak view of the future without coming directly out of Hollywood, whilst using the tropes of the Western as the bare bones of a different world view.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (16/10/18)


What I thought would take a good few days has only taken two to complete. With half still to do when I came back into the studio. Of course of varying sizes, luckily having some of the first brown paper that was found at the end of yesterday I was able to carry on the language that was made out of making do became a part of the overall look of the work. Using the technique for 3 pieces before I moved onto the final piece that was completely wrapped in the grey toned paper.

Looking at the complete set it just about works. I might add some more of the grey tone across the whole piece. I also need to make up some smaller rocks that will go in front of the gaps I have. Then I can move onto something else on my making list.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (15/10/18)


Today I’ve made some real progress with the rock formation. Beginning the day by completing the work to flesh out each of the sections and going back around them so they are flush at the bases, I don’t want any gaps.

With that out of the way I finally got the wrapping underway, breaking out some brown paper that I found in a previous jog. I was able to wrap up 3 1/2 pieces before it ran out. (I later found 2 more sheets under my workstation). I moved onto another tone of brown paper on top so that it appears more natural. After finding the extra sheets at the end of the day, I can carry on this look with the next piece.

I noticed as I pieced them all together that the act of wrapping up the sections the overall shape has changed slightly, every change that has been made to these pieces has an effect on the final form. Some sections may need extra work before they are finished. Otherwise I should be able to wrap up the rest of the sections pretty quickly now before moving onto something else on the long making list.

Working with Miniatures


A few weeks ago I began following Damien Webb on Instagram. His work is far more detailed than the loose language that I employ in my work. I really admire his workmanship and the varied output. Looking through his feed I can see he’s continually pushing himself to produce different work, usually determined by commission it allows him to discover and learn new techniques. We both share a real passion for working in miniature. The podcast below shares a theme that is very current in visual effects, the employment of model miniatures in film with the increased and regular use of CGI. It reminded me of my dissertation that I wrote in my final year at art school, which I’m hoping to share that with you over the coming days. For now I’d like to share a podcast – Flaw in the Iris: The Film Podcast that Damien was invited to contribute too.

 

 

Cowboys Invaded – Update (12/10/18)


The focus of the day has been to put in place the framework for the rock formation that I made a good start on last time. Using strips of cardboard at two widths to create more shape and also allow animation to be carried out later on. I’ve made a solid start today, working on 7 out of 8 sections using the strips not also to create more shape, but also to fill in any gaps that are showing when the sections are positioned together.

I’m pleased with the progress, I know I’ve got a long way to go with these and I know that the wrapping process wont be easy. I’m not pushing to get this piece completed just yet as I have no idea how long it takes to wrap one of these sections. Not all sides will be covered up, however some pieces for photography and script purposes will be. I’m looking forward to see how this collection of boxes will be transformed into something more interesting.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (10/10/18)


Today I can finally tick off the upgrades of the town and move onto other aspects of this very ambitious work. I began the day by finishing off the jail/sheriffs office which needed both a jail on one side and the stairs on the other. Pretty straight forward additions that allowed me to move on pretty swiftly.

The final model was in fact a general store, not as I had thought to be a bank. I went for a reduced height whilst adding a raised sign at the front. It was another straight forward make for me. I guess part of me wanted to move onto something else. I’ll be returning to these pieces for more detail but I break’s needed from them.

Moving on to something more ambitious and large-scale – rocks. For the past few months I have been collecting boxes at work for just such a task. Not really knowing how many were really needed. I broke them all out and made a start arranging them on the floor around the tepees which I also arranged to ensure I got a decent shape. Now that was the easy part, just arranging them, keeping that arrangement is another matter. Drawing an outline around the boxes to ensure I knew where to fix them was the plan. Once removed from the arrangement – even when photographed was not always going to do it. I did my best and had to play it by ear at times. I had made 7 piles that wrapped around, I ended up with 8 which was probably better.

It looks almost like the original set-up, however I know I need to added a few pieces to ensure that when I wrap the brown paper that I have no or little gaps when they come together. I also want to add in a few places where the Native American figures can be animated, which means constructing pathways that wont be lost in the wrapping process. it’s all new to me, not so much the wrapping, I’m applying the technique to a whole new approach that has production requirements of a script.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (8/10/18)


I’m happy to report I’ve received more cardboard and word that I might have more next month too, it can’t get better than that. Armed with my new supplies I took on another day long piece – this time the hotel, which is based on the saloon. However having learned from the construction of the saloon, which was admittedly all over the place. With that piece I constructed the balcony before I even thought about the saloon swing doors, which I had now got restricted access to that area. I did however somehow achieve the doors with a false entrance too. It was a struggle.

Now with that knowledge I began by work on that element as soon as the front wall went up, the false entrance first for support before going onto add the swing doors and the door frame around them. Then I got on with the balcony which this time was done in sections for each side. Previously all of my hotels and saloons have had one piece that I hoped to fit around all built sides. I didn’t want that trouble again, a few measurement later and I was underway.

The main differences between the saloon and hotel is the front and the side that I positioned the stairway so they look different enough. Essentially they are the same model miniature with a few visual differences, it’s the process and decisions that make the hotel superior in terms of production.

With some time left in the studio I decided to make a start on another piece – the Jail/Sheriffs office, this time I wanted something different from the old brick building that I had made for the animation. After carrying out some research and looking at the jail in Lincoln County, New Mexico, which once held Billy the Kid, I went to work. Combing elements of a taller 1 floor building with the cells which will go on the side and another stairway. That’s probably a recurring feature in these pieces, which I’ve tended to avoid at large scale, again it’s more difficult and time consuming to produce, not impossible but takes a long time to make individual steps.

When I return to the studio I’ll be finishing what is the penultimate piece of the cardboard town, before turning to what I believe is the Bank. I’ll decide where I turn to next, I feel a return to the brown paper could be coming up soon.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (7/10/18)


My first studio update of the month and a long time coming too. I’ve decided to take a holiday from the day job to allow my batteries for a week. I’ll be taking it easy, part of that time will of course be spent in the studio. Starting today after easing my self into the extended break I have exhausted my current supply of cardboard for the upgraded town pieces. I should have a fresh supply tomorrow that will allow me to make the final 3 pieces and also the Army fort which I also want to upgrade.

With only one box of the old cardboard supply left I used it to make the Land Office which popped up pretty fast before lunch too, which is always a bonus. I;m not sure where any extra detail will go for this one, I may added some posts above the extruded first floor.

Moving onto make a final decision on the slaughterhouse which I have been taking my time on. Weighing up the pros and cons of them both I went for the smaller piece. It rightly suggests a network of the buildings, not just having a the main one which gives it more importance than it really needs. Being a substation or just another base works better. I had only to make a small modification, extending the side so I can get and easily animate the refrigerated wagons, that was the only con. Being smaller too I have slightly more storage which is now in short supply.

Lastly I decided to something that would be a quick make  – the small fleet of flying saucers which are used for one shot to suggest more from a distance. Playing mainly with the scale to achieve this effect I picked up some smaller paper bowls a few months ago for just the job. The making process was pretty straight-forward. All I have to make for the scene is a number of buttes and a raised piece that will act as a platform for a larger butte for a few Native Americans to sit upon for the shot.

Moving on I hope I’ll be able to carry on and complete the town upgrade, before moving onto the fort. Before leaving the studio for the day I was clearing up all my off-cuts, to find some of the packaging which I might use for exclusively for the piece. If I get more I’ll have more to work with. I’ll be using playset’s of Fort to inform this new piece which I hope will be in less pieces and might even be smaller than the huge one I had for my previous animation. I might even take a break before the fort to make some of the loser pieces such as the rock formations after amassing quite a few boxes which I’ll use to build up some rocks and buttes that will be covered in brown paper again.