Latest

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (28/2/15)


After all the building and making of new pieces for the filming of my new piece I am finally painting, my hands are proof of that. One of the best things in life is to get stuck into a good old fashioned painting session.

Starting the day by decking the platform for the open wagon carriage before moving onto priming the train station and all of the track. Then the real fun began. I seem to have painted all of the cardboard pieces, not wanting to do the balsa until last as it takes more time to paint, soaking up more paint.

It took me a while to get the right colours got the carriages, starting off almost skin-tone. I’ve noticed that they fit into my bright pastel pallet which seems to run through my other models.

When it came to the train itself I decided before painting the wheels to start over again by painting it all over in coal/metallic black. I’ll be adding more subtle detail next time, instead of block colours as previously. It should be a much better design, whilst still being loose It will look more like a train. It’s all coming together now, I’ll be ready to start filming in no time.

The Long Gray Line (1955)


The Long Gray Line (1955)When a John Ford makes is self available you never pass it up, especially one you’ve never really heard off. It’s not even one he is probably best remembered for either. Both of those apply to The Long Gray Line (1955) which is the directors salute to the forces which he gave his services to in WWII. His way of paying back for all that West Point academy. Taken from “Bringing Up the Brass” an autobiography of the  non-commissioned officer (Tyrone Power) who puts on his best Irish accent as he comes off the boat and makes himself into an American in style by working in the kitchens at West Point, we can see from the start his eye is not on the job, enamoured by the uniform and the men who come through the historic building.

A much as it’s a salute to the Army, it’s not out-and-out pomp and circumstance that I have four with some war films. Of course that was down to the Hays code which placed certain demands on film-makers to hold the armed forces in high regard. Today it’s seen as probably too patriotic, bear in mind I am British and don’t salute a flag. equally so I believe that God Save the Queen in the best national anthem in the world, so it’s all relative. You can’t get more patriotic than a film about 50 years of an officers life at West Point. An Irish Immigrant much like the directors parents giving his all to his adoptive country. It’s not a heavy salute, we hardly see the star-spangled banner, for all the men who pass through Marty’s long career. From the cadets to the officers who see more than a uniform, they see a decent man who has given his whole life to his country.

The Long Gray Line is another chance to see the John Ford stock company minus the big players who would have dominated the film otherwise. Instead with Power at the helm, an actor who honestly looks too old to play a young Marty (all this before biopic’s cast younger actors before we see the lead) does however grow into the role as he ages, sporting a moustache by the time the always fiery Maureen O’Hara comes off the boat and his life as future wife Mary O’Donnell. Sadly she’s not as on fire as he previous Ford film The Quiet Man (1952) opposite John Wayne. You must remember this is a completely different film, there instead to support the leading man in her thick Irish accent.

It’s all about the cadets really who pass through the doors of West Point for me, making Marty’s life so rich and the film so Fordian giving it real heart at those emotional moments. In between his fretting to resign his commission at a drop of the hat, its not just about honour and duty to his country, but the family and friends he has along the way, a man who was there through it all, assisting the master of the sword Capt. Herman J. Kohler (Ward Bond) by teaching cadets to box, swim and play American Football. He was obviously so much more to them. Unable to have kids if his own with Mary he adopts a few as his own who he painfully loses over WWI. A time that is gracefully marked with the black ribbon in a year book. Probably a Fordain touch to mark their passing.

Of course for a film that charts the life of a 50 year career is going to be a long watch for sure. It trundle’s along with rich characters from the stock company that keep it alive. Also being Irish characters we can see more warmth in them drawn out by Ford who allows us to connect with this people. There is of course heaps of marching, probably replacing the flag which otherwise flies high in audiences minds as these young men in training for a soldier’s life are putting through their paces. It’s a celebration of the army, something we don’t tend to do, if we did it would be over at Sandhurstwhere the best are trained for Queen and country. We don’t have such a strong sense if pride for our armed forces. Maybe because of our imperial past or that so many families have suffered from more recent conflicts. We of course had John Mills who saw us through many scrapes. Maybe our past victories are enough to celebrate and not the existence of the army of then still a young country making a mark on the world. This of course is a non-American point of view on a very American film.

Related Articles

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (21/2/15)


Every step I’m taking with this work is going forward. Grabbing a day off from work to get things rolling towards the filming process next. I am surprising myself with how well things are going construction wise. With only minor repairs being taken which aren’t slowing progress either.

Starting with the ramp to the open cargo carriage, I have added the slope at one side that would allow access to the carriage itself. I will be decking it out next time before I prime and paint it.

I am surprised at how well the walkway on the train station has held, usually having to fix this work at least once before decking out the roofing, which is now in place ready to prime and paint next time. I couldn’t help but see how this one and the original model compare. I have missed off the side sign, which I am sure is made up for with the larger sign on the roof.

Whilst the train track is increasing ever more, to almost double the original length now with nine pieces of track, two of which are curved which I have tried before not to great success. This time I planned the track more carefully. I even had to adjust them when I was fixing the sleepers into place. The alterations are minor and can’t really be seen.

Lastly the old steam-engine has undergone somewhat of a refit, well on the undercarriage, it just didn’t fit. Probably being the first model of its sort to be made I have developed these models, having the support system redesigned so that more of the underside is visible between the wheels. Something which I have adapted to this old piece, also changing the trim and wheels which I discovered were too short.

Under the Skin (2013)


Under the Skin (2013)I’m still trying to get over what I saw last night, some of the images have been permanently burned into the back of my retina, they were that powerful at times in Under the Skin (2013). You could say that Scarlett Johansson is on a role, taking part in some exciting films. From the vocal role in Her (2013) to more recently Lucy (2014) which I have waiting to be watched. For science fiction I would never have chosen Scotland as a location, I guess because it’s so close to home, too normal, being across the border, a country that in many ways looks the same on the face of the streets away from the landmarks. It’s also thinking in the box an alien could easily land in Scotland as it would in America somewhere and usually is the case.

You also have to bear in mind that Jonathan Glazer comes from the UK so is more likely to set a film over here. Having only made two films previously that have both leave an impact on the audience. I was left horrified by Birth (2004) which I felt crossed a line of decency. The very possibility that a young boy could be a woman’s reincarnated husband. To the striking off-beat gangster Sexy Beast (2000) that brought out another side to Ben Kingsley who is belligerent in getting a retired gangster to do one more job. Thats nothing compared Under the Skin (2013) which has an uncanny ability to literally get under your skin. From the opening sequence that reminds me more of Kubrick than Interstellar (2014) did, digital or not I just don’t care, hypnotising you as we travel through space moving from spherical object to another before cutting to Johansson’s eye, the eye of a stranger to our world that we first see stripping a dead woman, taking on her form, unbeknownst to the audience.

She, the female with no given name travels around Scotland’s streets observing all who walk past her van. It’s rare chance to see through the female gaze, looking on at the unwitting male who is being preyed upon with eyes from a distance. We have seen it so many times as men look on at women of all shapes and sizes. There is however a darker reason that just sexual conquest, acting only as a guise for a honey trap that takes mens lives. Chatting them up casually from her van, acting innocent, not knowing her own power as a woman and sexual being, her innocence isn’t even known to herself as she eyes up her victim so slyly, they don’t know their death is close at hand.

A sequence in itself is something I cannot easily forget, the power of flesh is strong for both prey and predator as they enter the dark reflective space, undressing for two very different reasons. Holding a mirror unto the act of rape, two individuals with very different thought processes, one with intent to invade anthers body without consent, whilst the other fights for freedom from their situation. Of course I cannot really describe such a horrible act and I don’t want to. Seeing more the similarity mirrored as the female plays the dominant role, leading an unsuspecting male to his demise. One that is not quick at first, almost like a dreamlike state, even a coma, trapped between one world and the other before the inevitable takes hold, pulling you away, almost instantly.

I can only guess that the female and male on the motorbike (Jeremy McWilliams) who travel the country seeking out men, who must provide the right/nearest energy they need to survive. One day leaving only females on the planet if they carried on. Things only change when she meets her third victim, a deformed man (Adam Pearson) who has never had any attention/affection from women, which we discover through innocent questions, drawing out not just the inquisitive nature within her but also a heart which she did not first possess or knew she had comes into being. The alien is becoming human, an unknown state and condition to be in, an alien state which scares her. A child trapped in an adults body emerges, unsure of the world around her and the body she inhabits, exploring it all, whilst still holding back from really knowing what life here is all about.

The final third of the film sees her transformation from a predator into her a victim, relying on the kindness of stranger to survive, trying to adapt to our way of life. Something the audiences becomes addicted to finding out how she gets on. All this comes to the final moments in the forest as she falls victim to her own power as a victim of an assault which leads her to demise in shocking form that unnerves not just the park ranger (Dave Acton) the audience has become accustomed to her human form, we forget that she is just a guise for an alien. It all becomes very human and disturbing in these final moments as the truth is revealed after being mesmerised, terrified and induced into this one of a kind film. So sparing on dialogue that when we hear it we listen all the more carefully. This is a film that will rarely come along, especially with a director who has only produced 3 in the last 11 years. He waits carefully before crafting such delicate pieces of cinema which provoke and inspire, leaving us on edge, with an other-worldly power lingering over you which I won’t be able to shake for days, like a dream that was so really, you find yourself question its own reality.

Related Articles

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (17/2/15)


Things are really starting to take shape now as I entered the painting stage for some of the models. I’ve had some free time on my hands recently which I have taken advantage of, ending withe things really starting to happen now.

First the train station itself has had the sheltered walkway constructed. I’m hoping that it all stays up after pushing up all the construction today, ready for the next stage of roofing the piece. I have also added the trimming to the majority of the building.

Turning to the open wagon, which I have now discovered to be the correct name for the vehicle has been primed. I have also started to construct a platform which I even added the legs to. I’m not sure I want a barrier on-top. The main vehicle and retractable ramp have been primed ready for paint to be added later.

I also primed the two carriages before moving onto the main part of the day, the track which had previously work for photography. Now that it will be filmed it needs to fit together, looking more organised. Also the track was out of proportion meaning when the vehicles sit on the track they don’t really fit right. So I decided to strip back the rail, keep the sleepers and start over, reducing the rail width by half and paying closer attention to the gaps between the sleepers. In reusing these sleepers I’m left with torn card still attached to the sleepers, which I will need to either paint over or hide somehow. One ways is sand over those areas making it look natural. I have also numbered the track so they will always go in that order. As you can see I need to make a few more pieces, I’m thinking 2-3 more sections, which can be then used multiple times. I know I have saved time in recycling parts, allowing me to get to filming even sooner. Already it’s looking far better, it took a few years to address this problem which I have previously just looked over.

My last decision of the day was to attend to wheels on my train, noticing they don’t actually reach the track, which has to be changed. I will be adding new wheels as part of the renovations before filming begins. I believe shooting will take place in March and April, able to squeeze in time whenever I can get into the studio. Before long it will have its own railway network.

Fitzcarraldo (1982)


Fitzcarraldo (1982)When Film4 announced the Werner Herzog season later last year I must admit Fitzcarraldo (1982) was the main film that I wanted to see really. A film that is so ambitious and bombastic has to be seen for itself. Another Herzog character driven by an obsession that cannot be soon forgot. If it’s not Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald – ‘Fitzcarraldo’ (Klaus Kinski) love for opera with his lover Molly (Claudia Cardinale) it’s his determination to see things through. Meeting him coming in by the scruff of his neck to an opera recital almost at it’s end he persuades the usher to let them through, raging he has a right to be there. Imbuing his passion onto another, it’s infectious and I don’t even like opera. Kinski is the perfect actor for Herzog with the face of someone on the edge, the steely blue eyes that stare at you with a fierceness that you cannot deny. Yet at the same time he doesn’t lose sight of reality…too often.

Fitzcarraldo is supported and loved by Molly the only one that really understands and shares his passion for all things opera, Able to look beyond the weird exterior to see a great figure before her. Also acting as his only way to function in high-society, holding the purse string to him purchasing land and a steamboat that see him leave her to seek out his fortune to fulfil his ultimate dream, an opera in the Peruvian jungle. An admirable task that causes a lot of mockery from successful businessman Don Aquilino (José Lewgoy). Always at the mercy of others to facilitate his dreams. The hopeful dreamer always relies on the help of others to bring them to reality, this is no different, each with their own obstacles to overcome.

For me it was seeing the powerful visuals of the boat, it was all about the boat for me. The kid inside us all wants to see the impossible happen, this is one of those rare times, the poster is not enough really. We see it on the promotional material, not knowing fully how it gets there. I just couldn’t comprehend how it could be done. The engineering behind pulling off this feat, not just in front of the camera and for real. This happens before the film crew and the audience eyes, a boat fresh out of water, driven by natives who have their own motives.

The journey into Fitzcarraldo’s new land is not without its problems, a crew that he cannot fully trust, an engineer who he knows is there to spy on him and a captain (Paul Hittscher) who knows the dangers that lie within the trees, death and curses. Who can he really trust, acting by his wits to get them up stream. The added threat of the natives is the real gamble, hearing only dances, he retorts with opera music, the only music he know. It’s only a native superstition that saves the crew from certain death, turning their fortunes around.

The great feat to ensure his dream come to fruition needs him to secure his fortune from rubber trees, from other side of a mountain. Why doesn’t he just walk across or have gone up the other river you ask? He has though this all through we find. Before us we see acres of land chewed up not just for a films location and shoot, but for a boat to be pulled up metre at a time through a system of pulleys and turnstiles that lift up this small steamboat out of the water. It doesn’t seem possible, no models or camera trickery seem to be have been used during this. It’s an event film like you’ll never see again. The impossible brought to life in film and reality, you have to see it to believe it.

This was indeed worth the wait to see before we are brought back down to earth with a bump, as the boat is at the mercy of the rapids, determining the outcome of the films conclusion. A risky film to make and film, it could have all gone incredibly wrong for Herzog who puts everything on the line, much like Fitzcarraldo does himself, so much is at stake for both men, in front and behind the camera. Mirroring the film process, to have a big idea that has to be back by investors who either believe in your idea or not, wanting to see you succeed or fail. Leaving your family to bring an idea to life, whilst leaving your loved ones behind. Left vulnerable to the fate of the day at hand, nothing is certain, its how we turn that fate to our advantage.

Related Articles

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (13/2/15)


My third day in a row in the studio, something I’ve not had for a while, so I have relished the chance to spend so much time making. I can gladly say that all my new kit has arrived now, so I can make a start filming when the models are complete. I will need to think about the locations more soon and how the pieces will come together too.

Onto the making today, things are going nicely, with the more work to the station it self I’ll be adding the framework next time after cladding the roof and the window frames were added also. I’ll be adding the trimming around the sides next time too.

Moving onto the livery carriage it has almost been completed structurally, added the last of the barricades to the top. I also constructed a ramp which can be used for un/loading away from a station, i’m thinking of everything here. I’ll be working on a special ramp next time too.

Whilst the carriages have come together like flat-pack really, as I have done it so much recently that its second nature right now. Adding the wheels, trim to the sides to make it look flush at the bottom. Most importantly the roof to keep out the rain and allow the train-robbers to walk on-top. I also aded a barrier either side of each one. I think I could make more of them easily.

when these are all complete I can work on the track which will be the in-between segments of the video when I put it altogether.

Unforgiven/Yurusarezaru mono (2013) and Unforgiven (1992)


Unforgiven:Yurusarezaru mono (2013)I’ve been waiting to catch the Japanese remake of Unforgiven (1992), wondering how it would compare, which I can’t help but do. On the face of it these two films are the same in terms of the basic plot, the three men who ride into avenge a prostitute has been attacked. There is however more added depth to Unforgiven/Yurusarezaru mono (2013)  with the added strand of their countries civil war between the now samurai and Shoshon in the 1860’s, which mirrors the American civil, I don’t remember that in Eastwoodwestern at all. (However I haven’t seen it in 4 years) which gives the characters more of a back-story, not just gunfighters who left a trail of death and destruction in their wake. Much the same goes for the two elder men Jubei Kamata (Ken Watanabe) and Kingo Baba (Akira Emoto) who start out on one last job in hopes of collecting the reward money. Something that Jubei has long since given up since his days of killing to survive. To raise a family and work a small farm. You could say on the surface that he is a changed man who is simply struggling to keep his family alive in the 1880’s. Whilst Kingo is willing to go on one more job.

With Jebei’s wife long dead he soon gives into his friends persuasive words, riding out a while later. Its still very much the same film, switching 19th century America for Japan, its’s that simple. Of course the dialogue is different, at times I can’t read the subtitles as some bright spark decided to make them white in a font that becomes invisible in the snow. Moving on we soon meet up with a younger man who wants to join up with the veteran swords men, ready for another killing. Even his back story is fleshed out more, finding out he is a Anui a race that the then Emperor was trying to reduce, much like the taming of the Native American over the other side of the Pacific. 

Add into the mix the small town where all the action takes places we have the sherif who exerts more power than necessary. Using violence to quell violence. Much younger than Gene Hackman‘s Little Bill Daggett who mirrored by the far younger sherif who doesn’t care who he hurts, using the law to shield himself. Whilst the group of prostitutes are struggling to be listened to. You could say it’s a feminist film, but I’m not too sure, as much as there women are willing to defend themselves, they still pay for men to do the dirty work. They are hiding behind the strength of a man and his gun/sword. 

I think to really compare both films I need to re-watch the original Eastwood classic to truly understand what is going on. I think there was a conscious effort to make this version stand alone,  whilst the main story elements are the same, it would;t be the same without the final showdown which was shaken up and completely different. I didn’t feel the terror at the transformed man, maybe it was the snow that soften it, not as dramatic as the rain on the soaked ground. Again I have to see for myself. It was however interesting to see once more the relationship between American and Japanese cinema. Before it was Kurosawa‘s Yojimbo (1961) and Seven Samurai (1954), who influenced Sergio Leone and John Sturges The compliment is being returned from Clint Eastwood by Sang-il Lee.

Unforgiven (1992)Moving onto or backwards to the original as directed by Clint Eastwood I found myself understanding both in greater detail and his own observations of the western as a genre, how it formed. The violence of the west and the gunfighter which has recently seen his latest film American Sniper (2014) becoming the most successful war film of all time (probably to be beaten later his year). Focusing always on the man behind the violence, not the act itself, what drives man/person to act in such a brutal and dangerous way toward others. Scaring those around you, in order to have power, dominance, material wealth, and self-confidence.

When a man gives up that violence as we find with both Jubei and William Munny they are tamed by wires who have died by the time we meet them. Now a shadow of their former self’s, trying to do good by their family. Before we have seen the lone gunfighter’s come into town, not looking for a fight, always walking into it by the films end. Which happens here in great style. And in great tradition of the aged gunfighter Eastwood carries that on, in his last western role, becoming then too old to really so it justice. I can see strokes of El Dorado (1966), The Gunfighter (1950) and The Shootist (1976) they are no longer the young men they once were, struggling to get on a horse or even walk without some ailment holding them back. Time is their only true enemy. Munny is no longer able to shoot straight without changing weapon at least once.

The legend of the gunfighter and the west itself it question the form of travelling writer/biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) who arrives with English Bob (Richard Harris) one of the last great gunfighter’s who legend is bigger than himself. A status constructed by the writer and a lot of creative license to mythologize the untamed west, glorifying a man to become more than his actions. Creating a history that sells to the masses, attracting tourism and money. The very foundations of the genre, which can sometimes be based more on fact if in the right hands. Beauchamp spends most of his time discussing the events of English Bob’s gunfights with Daggett who puts the writers book to shame, the truth behind the legend which. The facts are sometimes harder to swallow than fictions. We discover that the man now in jail had only survived so long was down to pure luck Drawing your gun first was never a sure way to win a gunfight, it takes skill and thinking to win at a draw. Draw your gun first as your aim is not always right, giving the other a chance. Add to that the alcoholic element for Bob who is painted in a far darker insidious light, is more malicious in his killings. Not the brave man who saved the day, more of a lucky drunk who could’t stop shooting. The skill of the gunfighter in the pages of dime novels or the screen is a romanticised vision of an age of survival; kill or be killed.

This is also a macho trait which we find in the youngest of the two men in ride with Munny to avenge the prostitute. The ‘Schofield Kid’ (Jaimz Woolvett) creates his own legend, first recruiting Munny to join him on what could be an adventure, a quick job that itself had been blown out of proportion. Stating that he has killed 5 men before they start even begin, knowing his youth is holding him back to match Munny’s record which is never really totted up. A very masculine trait to “big” yourself up to look and feel better, reputation is a very important part of masculinity. This doesn’t wash with Munny who eventually joins up with on friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) who then all join up. I can see even at the start, the subtle changes that were made between this and the Japanese remake to have its own identity, to not just be a scene for scene copy unlike I Died a Thousand Times (1955) which allows it to be the same in terms of structure whilst having its own identity, its own culture.

Both have these built-in myths of past fighters, with swords or guns who have had great battles which have been constructed around the events which were probably bloody and full of horror, alcohol, and fear. If you deconstruct both films down to their main points we have a male figure who has lead a violent life, which has a built in legend and reputation that others have built up and admired. Without the facts to hand we have no idea what really happened, the trauma, the horror, more importantly the shame they now carry with them. I remember from my first review a few years back of the Eastwood original I focused on how the violence in a man can be tamed or even suppressed, able to reform. Until it’s triggered we don’t know how dangerous we can still. Eastwood’s gunfighter will always be more terrifying cinematically, probably because I am a great western fan than of samurai which is almost equal in its horror of the slaughter of the men. The changing of the end is what I was most critical of, going for the sherif first was a wrong footing, the main villain is always killed last.

Whatever these two films are, they do carry on that great tradition of that American/Japanese cinematic relationship of informing each others story telling. Showing the western is not dead and both countries have very different but similar histories which at the heart of human. All cultures create legends out of historical figures from moments they would sooner forget.

Related Articles

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (12/2/15)


I went into the studio thinking I would be making up metres of new train track, making what I have for test purposes. New track for the big-screen you could say, which would be thinner in terms of the rail, the same width, wanting to match the wheels I have on the train pieces.

Talking of train pieces I have added the decking to the walk-way of the station today, before I add more to the roof and the extended roofing. I also added framework to the sign above. This piece is really coming together now.

Whilst the livery carriage (as I’m calling it) is taking shape for sure, adding the horizontal pieces. This should be completed next time before I start to paint it. Whilst two new carriage have been started, taking notice of the first one I made during my residency in New Mills, the card was too flimsy in areas, which I have rectified with these. The base is far stronger, allowing for a thinner body on top to be added. I am still considering whether or not to added plastic window panes before adding the slopped roof. So I need to decide before the roof goes on.

I’ve also been looking into the ramp, which I have illustrated with a foot bridge I constructed a few years ago, I could do another that is slightly smaller in height, change the design, maybe have a rail too down one side.

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (11/2/15)


I’m grabbing some free time to get into studio at the moment, so I have made a start on two new models. The first being the train station which  has been long over due really so I have made the basic form today. I’ll be adding the window frames and other details next. I’ll clad it last before painting. It’s basically a scaling up of the Walter Mitty inspired train station model to full-(model)scale. I have stretched around the back to suggest more of an interior, maybe a waiting room. I’ll be adding a sheltered walkway again, mirroring as much as I can the smaller piece.

The next model is something I have had to do mostly from memory and inspiration from my found footage. I can’t seem to find anything, the nearest I can think of is an open livery coach for short journeys. It maybe that it’s a probably a creation of Hollywood, I really couldn’t say. Anyway I have made a good start on that as well, placing posts on top, the underbelly has been repeated from past railway models pieces. I’ll be adding cross pieces next time too. I will also be constructing a ramp for this piece, maybe two of them, that will be heavily balsa again, taking time to complete.

I wasn’t satisfied with my first two tests of track that I made last time. So I got the camera back on the dolly and changed the angle to look further down the track, which is really paying off now. I am also thinking about finding found sounds for these sequences instead of relying on film audio too much, leaving that for the sequences that play out in the studio. I may use found audio all over having little of the original from the found western footage. I’ll have to do some more sourcing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 715 other followers