Author Archives: byrdee150

Chrysalis

This is long overdue because I finished it on Nov. 5, but here is the film that I worked on for 3 months while I was in Germany. It’s a story about two friends who learn that not everyone grows up at the same time or in the same way, but that no one gets left behind in true friendship. The assignment was for everyone in the class to come up with a proposal of a story with some visuals and a schedule, present it to a panel of visiting professors, and after a vote 4 stories would be chosen. After we picked the stories, the students who proposed the winning ideas could pick teams and let the school know what resources they would need. I picked two students who luckily worked really well together and didn’t mind forfeiting sleep for 2 months. We spent about 1 month on storyboarding and layout, 2 months on animating, and 2 weeks on sound, editing, and troubleshooting. Nick recorded all of the music, but he also went uncredited for waking me up in the morning when my alarm clock didn’t do the job and making oatmeal and coffee every morning- probably the only real meal I got every day for those three months. On Nov. 6 the school premiered all of our films in a movie theater in Halle, Germany. The school threw a big catered, open bar party- but they might as well have just rented a room full of cots because we were all so tired we could barely keep our eyes open! Back at Conn, with a little determination you could always pull an all nighter and pass in a project with a sliding finish. You’d lose a night of sleep and your brain might short circuit a little the next day, but heck you’d gotten less sleep on party weekends so it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t used to 3 months of all nighters, and suddenly I understood why all of the film majors at Conn looked like zombie-vampires. Anyway, I’ve recovered since then and now I have more time than I know what to do with as I sit at my job-hunting command station (Not unemployed though- as my mother likes to remind me, “Honey you’re not unemployed, you never WERE employed!) I hope you enjoy the short.

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Halloween is coming!

I love planning theme parties and Halloween is coming, so I thought I’d post some costume party ideas! I tend to take theme parties pretty seriously, so the first rule is:

NO ONE is “too cool” for dressing up. Geez, don’t disrespect the whole idea of a costume party by half-assing your getup! Your host is counting on YOU, the partygoers, to be the entertainment. And it’s fun. Go to the Salvation Army or get some face paint from the dollar store, or, if you’re a penny pincher like me, sift through the rejects of your own closet. Remember that heinous sweater from Grandma? Pop the lenses out of some cheap sunglasses and voila, you’re a nerd. Underwear outside your pants automatically makes a superhero- the rest is pretty flexible depending on how creative you are. Pretty much anything with shoulder pads is so ugly it’s funny. There’s no excuse- costumes aren’t about time or money, they’re about being clever.

Costume tip number two: if your costume is a “sexy something”, try again! Some people treat Halloween as an excuse to dress like a Playboy bunny, but that’s not really dressing up, that’s just looking like a vamp. We all already know that you’re CAPABLE of looking sexy, you don’t have to smother us with it. Direct your efforts towards looking attractive for sure, but don’t show all of your goodies at once!

You can up the ante by giving a prize for the best costume. Sometimes it’s fun to give specific instructions to force the creativity out of people, like turning it into an Anything But Clothes party. Or a Nursing Home party where everyone has to dress like an old person (knee socks, comb-overs, windbreaker suits, suspenders, bathrobes…)  Nick had the idea of a Where’s Waldo party where everyone dresses like Waldo. Hobo party, Lumberjack party, Steve Urkell Party… I could churn this stuff out for hours but you get the idea.

Halloween parties are the most fun to decorate because you just make everything look creepier.  Throw white sheets over furniture to make the place look deserted (preferably from a thrift store because you don’t want people spilling on your real sheets) and clap baby powder over tables and piles of old books as dust. Tea candles and mismatched candlesticks make a good atmosphere as long as they’re out of harm’s way. Arranging some twigs in a glass near flickering candlelight casts some cool shadows and you can tape heavy construction paper cutouts in front of flashlights to project images in places that people wouldn’t expect. Cobwebs are easy to replicate by taking a bag of cotton balls and draping the stretched material over furniture. Shred up old stockings with runs or cheesecloth and wrap it around stuffed gloves as bandaged mummy hands sticking out of creepy places. My mother dyes a lot of her own wool for her textile art, so I know from years of watching her experiment that you can take different shades of onion skins or tea to make natural dyes and stain material to make it look blood-stained or ancient. Most grocery stores don’t mind if you ask to collect some of the onion skins that fall off of the produce for free. The more skins you have, the richer the dye will be so stop by a few supermarkets until you have about 4 cups. Stick the skins into a stocking (for easier cleanup), tie it off, drop it in a big pot of boiling water with a cup of salt and simmer for half an hour, then add the material and simmer for another half an hour before letting it steep off of the heat overnight. The salt should set the colors on the fabric, but remember you are dealing with dye here so don’t go spilling on yourself and wear gloves unless you want purple hands.

It’s easy to make ordinary things look scary in a Halloween context like hanging up mirrors and drawing on them with soap or lipstick. Redrum, anyone? Decorate in places that people wouldn’t expect, like the bathroom. One time someone at school decorated a bathroom stall to look like a big green monster was coming out from behind the toilet! I get scared pretty easily so needless to say I almost peed myself then and there when I opened the door. But a simpler version of sprucing up the bathroom would be to make a person shaped cardboard cutout and hide it behind the shower curtain with some eerie silhouette lighting. Classic horror movies are great inspiration and people like identifying the movie motifs. Really, you could do anything, but whatever you choose, don’t try to do everything. Either go for unnatural and creepy (haunted house), or cheesy and funny (glow in the dark, witches, bats, tombstones) but don’t try to do serious scary things AND silly tacky things. And don’t spend a lot of money- you can find or make most decorations with a little bit of planning.

You COULD play haunted house sound effects and watch horror movies, but things that interrupt the party mood can be real conversation killers. I wouldn’t want to be shouting smalltalk over the Wihelm scream or actually sit down and get sucked into watching Psycho. When I see a real movie on, I want to watch it, and all of the good thrillers require your attention for suspense. That’s why they’re good, you can’t just watch some of it out of the corner of your eye and get the full effect. Instead, if you’re going to put on a movie, I’d have a stack of cult classic sci-fi and old-school horror movies that you can put on in the background and poke fun at. I’m talking about ones that are so-bad-they’re-good. Zombies, aliens, vampires… luckily, there’s no shortage of these suckers. Make sure you rent them ahead of time though because you don’t want the video store to be out. Again, if you’re cheap like me get your entertainment from the library where it’s free! (And you can usually request movies from nearby libraries if they don’t have it there.) As for music, I don’t care how cute you are, it’s going to be difficult picking up girls while dressed as a Troll doll and swinging your hips to the Monster Mash. Yes, have Thriller and Ghostbusters on hand, but I’d keep the majority of the playlist to actual party music.

Last but not least, every party needs snacks and drinks! If you’re sending out a formal invitation via Facebook or whatever, I’d tack a polite BYOB to the bottom but it is a good host’s job to make sure that the food and drinks are plentiful. Unless you’re having a small intimate cocktail party (which is also a great opportunity for a mystery party), that sometimes means choosing quantity over quality on a budget. The best (and tastiest) option is to make a punch. I can’t even begin to list some of the recipes that are out there for potent party punch, but let me tell you there are some good ones in awesome colors for Halloween. I CAN however, mention a few ways to dress up your concoction. There is the always classic floating ice hand that you can make the day before by filling a glove (non-latex if you’re worried about latex allergies) with water or juice and peeling it off when solid. Not that anyone is dumb, but accidents do happen so if you’re going to stick things in the drinks I’d either stick with objects that are too big to possibly miss or raisins instead of fake spiders and things. For extra gore-factor, drizzle some red juice concentrate on the sides of glasses like blood. Halloween is a good time to make slimy, jiggly, Jell-O shots. It’s also probably the only time of year that people buy green Jell-O. You can buy glowsticks in bulk pretty cheaply to either wear or use as cocktail stirrers. Food possibilities are endless, but you don’t need me to tell you how to go to the store and buy some chips. I’m leaving a link to one website I found though that had some pretty cute and healthy snack ideas. Sometimes people get sick of all of the sugary stuff and healthy things are refreshing.

Well that’s it for Halloween, now you can start plotting pranks!

http://www.craftjr.com/halloween-treats-party-food/ Party food

http://www.extremepumpkins.com/trascancos.html Cool prank to scare trick or treaters

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Puppets in the Woods

Recently I was working on a puppet project for school, and  I started to think about one of my first puppet experiences, which is the first time I went to the Bread and Puppet Theater. First of all, they have a really interesting history. You can now find them in Glover, Vermont, but they began in Greenwich Village, Manhattan in the 1960s. Bread and Puppet is a group of non-commercial artists who build humongous puppets (and small ones too) for political performance art. They became known for their anti-war demonstrations during Vietnam and still uphold their philosophy that “art is political, whether you like it or not”. Even as the theater gained recognition, Bread and Puppet remained a low-budget and highly-principled operation, organizing cheap political theater and baking their puppets and sourdough bread in Cobb ovens. Eventually the popularity of Greenwich Village and Soho pushed out a lot of the artists who created it’s identity and Bread & Puppet moved up to the quieter and cheaper Vermont. Actually, they’re briefly shown in the movie, “Across the Universe” during the “Benefit of Mr. Kite” number when the gang goes on a literal acid trip up to the Bread and Puppet theater. The absurdity of the puppet performances in reality is a little too close to most movie portrayals of an LSD trip though, so actually it is difficult to tell which bizarre things are supposed to be acid hallucinations and which are genuine Bread and Puppet performance.

I found out about Bread and Puppet when I was about 8 years old, and I didn’t know anything about it’s political roots. I found out because my family was vacationing in Vermont one summer and my mother (who is a talented textile artist and gets a lot of her inspiration from folk and naive art) wanted to go see one of their weekend performances. I understood that we were going to a farm and some kind of art museum and that the title suggested that there might be some bread involved. When we arrived, my sisters and I jumped out of the hot, roadtrip-stinky mini-van and ran up to a pretty cool looking barn. Outside there is an old, painted psychedelic school bus, but to our disappointment we weren’t allowed to play in it. Ok, so we went into the barn/museum instead. Outside, this sign is posted everywhere.

Inside, my mother shooed us ahead into the museum while she asked the workers about the artwork. Let me just say, I have NEVER BEEN SO SCARED IN MY LIFE. I thought I had died and gone to a Bogeymen re-union in some forgotten ring of hell. There are clay and papier mache heads in there the size of people arranged in sad nativities. Oversized heads and body parts wearing burlap sacks with grime purposefully decorating the wrinkles of their intense, deep faces. Most of the puppets either wear draped sheets or nothing at all. The colors that gave the puppets colorful streaks looked like they were melting off by some agonizing thought that they all shared. The entire collection is carefully arranged in dioramas in a dimly-lit barn. Once you enter the maze, you have to walk through the entire museum before you pop out back in the entrance where my mother was still flipping through woodcut prints. As a kid, this is the most horrifying experience that I associate with any vacation. We did get to see a performance on the grassy amphitheater hill and years later the family even went back to see a Puppet Banquet in the woods. I’ve since come to appreciate the mission and even the style of Bread and Puppet theater, even if I can’t bring myself to be the type of artist who lives hand to mouth on a commune in rural Vermont. They’re pretty cool, if you don’t know them, check it out.

This is one of the more tame ones

This is one of the more tame ones

Bread and Puppet Theater

Across the Universe Bread and Puppet Scene

-Aubrey

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Hello!  I’m posting an animatic  for a story that I’m working on  right now. For anyone who doesn’t know, an animatic is one step above a storyboard. Ideally, it should be a tool to perfect the timing of actions but I’m not quite at that stage yet. It is really just to give producers a basic idea of how the story will be visualized (so they can give you miiiiiillions of dollars and fund your masterpiece!) For our pitching session they invited back a few of our former guest speakers (a production manager, a scriptwriter, a guy who used to do character design for Disney, etc.) and we presented our stories to a panel of professionals for the first time. It felt like we were on a German version of American Idol. One thing that I’m still getting used to is the German way of speaking very directly, whether it’s a compliment or a criticism, so you can bet I was pretty nervous! In the end we chose a few projects to begin next week and I’m really excited to say that mine was one of the ones that we’ll be working on for the next three months!

Summary: The story is about how everyone grows up at different speeds and in different ways. The main characters are a mouse and his friend, a caterpillar, who love to build and fly kites. One day the caterpillar becomes a chrysalis and grows up, but the mouse is still the same. Confused and frustrated, the mouse gets stuck in a cocoon of kite string on his own and thinks that he will grow butterfly wings as well. He is even more disappointed when he finds out that it doesn’t work that way. Eventually, he comes up with his own way to keep up with his butterfly friend.

Here is the vid with music by Nick! Again, it’s just the first version. I’m still ironing out the second half of the script so I would love any feedback or suggestions!   -Aubrey

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