About this project
FUNDED! Now the journey begins...
You did it, Harbies! Step one complete. It was touch and go there for awhile, but you pulled us through! In L.A., please go to bed! In Texas and Pittsburgh, why are you still up? Same goes for you S. America. Get some shut eye. In England, France, Norway, Germany, Croatia, and Eastern Europe, the day is young! (There's still time to get a few more pledgers for a bit more production value!) Oh, listen to me. I sound like a studio exec. 'More, more more!'
Tom and I want to thank all of you for contributing your hard earned money to this crazy cause. In these tough times it's especially significant that you gave so much. It underscores how important this mission is. We intend to uphold our part of the bargain with as much passion and zeal as you've shown in supporting this effort.
Monsters are important. They've been with humankind since we became human. We're going to do everything we can to keep them with us, and most importantly, to keep them real.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
HD Posters are Here!
Jeffrey Birch... WOW!
And HD Fan Art at its Best!
Rich Goddard, you are a genius!
Composer Joel McNeely
You've heard his music in 'Young Indiana Jones Chronicles' and 'Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire', and now he and dark genius Michael Larrabee will team up for the 'Harbinger Down' soundtrack!
Oscar Winning Crew Additions!
I just re-counted. Our little movie's crew actually has 10 Oscar nominations, and 4 wins! It just gets better and better.
This Academy Award nominated (ARMAGEDDON, TRUE LIES) VFX Supervisor is also a world-renowned model builder. Pat and I go back to the Roger Corman days!
This guy is a master of table-top miniatures and has 2 Oscars to prove it! (ALIENS, TERMINATOR 2) Another Corman alum, Robert will assure that our miniature-scapes have all the texture and ghostly beauty the story requires.
He's also an Oscar winner (THE ABYSS) and the DP of of the duo. I learned a lot in my days as a young punk working for Corman. These 3 gentlemen taught me most of it!
What is Harbinger Down?
In the spirit of sci-fi/horror classics, Alien and The Thing, Harbinger Down is a tense, claustrophobic full-length creature film that will feature only practical Animatronic and Makeup Effects.
If you're a fan of the art of Animatronics and Makeup FX, you know that this technique is overlooked by the big studios. I'm hoping that you will help us change that by supporting this labor of love. I will write and direct and ADI co-founder Tom Woodruff, Jr. will produce.
Our company, Amalgamated Dynamics, will create the kind of Oscar caliber Creature Effects for which we are known.
A group of grad students have booked passage on the fishing trawler Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on a pod of Orcas in the Bering Sea. When the ship's crew dredges up a recently thawed piece of old Soviet space wreckage, things get downright deadly. It seems that the Russians experimented with tardigrades, tiny resilient animals able to withstand the extremes of space radiation. The creatures survived, but not without mutation.
Now the crew is exposed to aggressively mutating organisms. And after being locked in ice for 3 decades, the creatures aren't about to give up the warmth of human companionship.
With over 60 years combined experience in the movie business, Tom and I have worked on many features big and small. On the big movies when there's a challenge, the solution is often to throw money at it. Response cards unfavorable after a test screening? Change the ending and spend 3 million on re-shoots. Smaller films have challenges too, but the solution is never to throw huge amounts of money at them. So you have to be smart. You have to pre-plan a bit more. And you certainly can't spend money on costly digital effects aimed at distracting the audience from noticing that the film just isn't working.
Harbinger Down is a small film. A mere speck by today's studio standards. Sci-fi/horror films like John Carpenter's The Thing and Ridley Scott's Alien are our models. They're films that tell contained stories about characters you care about who are trapped in enclosed environments. When flight is not an option, the fight is more desperate.
Visual Effects limitations back in the 80's meant that those sci-fi/horror filmmakers had to tell more psychologically engaging stories. They didn't have CGI to show expansive worlds, so they told stories that relied on well-developed characters in intense situations. It was those very limitations that made their films better.
Listen To Sir Ridley
While we designed makeup characters for Ridley Scott's aborted version of I Am Legend, he told us that the original Alien suit restricted the performer's movements more than expected. That limitation led him to change the way he shot the creature, to a more horror-based approach. For instance, appearing in the flashlight beam held by Tom Skerritt was a way of avoiding having the Alien climbing or running. According to Ridley, embracing this limitation actually improved the film. These days the 'solution' would probably be to digitally replace the Alien with an over-nuanced, hyper-active, CGI creation that looks like it belongs in a video game. And it wouldn't be as nearly as scary.
That won't happen in Harbinger Down. What some would call 'limitations', we will embrace. And the film will be better for it.
NOTHING Digital at All?
We love digital effects. Digital FX artists are going through their own tough times and we support them. But we do real FX, and we think they're still very powerful tools of film storytelling. Harbinger Down is our homage to the films that put this art on the map. Having said that, this is a contemporary film, so we'd be foolish not to take advantage of the latest digital tools. Shooting digitally saves money. We'll also use digital tools to help our animatronics look better. Rod/Rig removal and compositing of miniature puppets are acceptable uses of digital. Other appropriate uses of digital would be adding breath vapor, snow fall, compositing skies, etc. But please allow me to repeat: There will be NO digitally animated Creatures in this film.
Miniatures are Awesome!
You bet they're awesome! We had great success in Tremors and Aliens with miniature creature puppets. Remember the Queen vs. Powerloader fight? We do! Tom and I were there! We also plan to use miniatures for exteriors of the trawler and the frozen sea scape.
Stop Motion Can Still be Scary
Like most Makeup and Creature Designers Tom and I are huge fans of the late Ray Harryhausen. Aside from innovating new stop motion techniques, Ray was an unconventional artist who worked mostly outside the studio system. He was our idol when we were kids, and he's even more so now. Don't be surprised if stop motion finds it way into Harbinger Down!
Where Does the Money Go?
Even though 350k is a lot of money, when you're talking big studio VFX features, it's a pittance. The money will pay for equipment rental, cast and crew, the creatures, costumes, sets, sound editing and post production, etc. Keep in mind that we give up some funds in order to use this website. That's reasonable. And of course, it'll also cost us to fulfill our promises to our supporters, which will take resources too. This is a labor of love, but the more money we're able to raise, the more we'll be able to put up on the screen.
Where Will We Shoot?
Our setting of a fishing trawler is a perfect, isolated location for a sci-fi/horror film. Cramped corridors, oily engine room, dank hold, frozen deck. Ice, steam and snow make for hauntingly beautiful set decoration. If you've ever seen the TV show Deadliest Catch, you know the kind of ship and setting we're talking about.
A location shoot in Alaska will root us in reality and look really cool, but it'll cost more money than if we shoot on a dry-docked dinghy in San Pedro. If we can raise enough to build sets, we'll shoot most of the interiors right at ADI, like we did the trailer. Sets give us more control over creature FX rigging and lighting. It's up to you!
Tom and I are fortunate to have the most incredible crew that can be built over 25 years. We've been on the front lines with these folks on many a project, and they always deliver. They are the ones who do the heavy lifting at ADI. The sculptors, illustrators, fabricators, painters, mold-makers, PA's, and office personnel who knock themselves out to bring you the coolest and craziest creature effects.
Indeed. Genre legend Lance has been a huge supporter of our work since 1985. We created the effect of him getting split in half by the Queen Alien when he played Bishop in Aliens. He's not only a great actor, but a real friend. Did you know that Lance is also a ceramic artist? The man appreciates art built by hand. He loves the craftsmanship of what our ADI artists do so well. That's why he's so committed to star in Harbinger Down. Schedule permitting, of course. He's in demand for a reason!
Tom Woodruff, Jr.
In addition to being ADI co-founder, Tom is known as the premiere Suit Performer in the world, having worn and acted in films like the Alien franchise, X-Files: The Motion Picture, Pumpkinhead, Monster Squad and more. This time around Tom will be stepping in as Producer, bringing his considerable skills as an in-the-trenches-veteran film maker!
Check out my full bio for the mundane details. What I really want you to know is that I will bring to this project all of my cumulative experience of 33 years in the industry. Not just as a Creature FX Designer, but in directing Second Units, Creature Units, short films and TV shows. It doesn't hurt to have worked along side luminaries such as James Cameron, David Fincher, Paul Verhoeven, Ridley Scott, Neil Blomkamp, Robert Zemekis, Joe Johnston, Nora Ephron, and Mike Nichols to name-drop a few. But what will really make Harbinger Down special is passion. I can't wait to get started!
Does My Pledge Help Save an Art Form?
I don't know if Harbinger Down will impact the way studios see VFX. Then again, I feel we're on the verge of a renaissance of Practical FX. Either way, we can't abide by the status quo and let simply allow our art to die a whimpering death at the hands of dispassionate corporate functionaries. Pledges are immensely important, but so is spreading the word. Shout it from the rooftops! But do be careful. Only go on rooftops with railed balconies and non-slip flooring. You know what, maybe just stick to social media.
The important thing is to step up in whatever way you can. That's what Tom and I are doing. We hope you'll join us!
Risks and challenges
Making a feature is in itself a challenge, let alone one with limited resources. But we have a few things going for us that many others don't. We don't have to learn the process of film making, we know it already. And aside from having a top-quality Creature Shop at our disposal, we have a network of talented friends from our long careers who want to see this project succeed. We'll have support from professionals in all areas, including UPMs, Cinematographers, Set Builders, Sound Designers, Post Production facilities and more.
Is our goal to get a theatrical release? Yes! Can we guarantee it 100%? No. But we can guarantee that we will do our level best to give fans of sci-fi/horror and Practical Creature FX what they've been yearning for. Giving you what you want actually increases our chances of a theatrical release. To studios who summarily ignore the wishes of the fans, that's crazy-talk. To us, it's a self-evident truth.
Meticulously crafted Practical Creature FX can be expensive. We'll be putting in a lot of our own sweat equity to cut down on costs. This means we might take a bit longer to create the monsters than usual. Having said that, the more you pledge, the faster we'll be able to complete the film. We'll be able to afford to pay our crew overtime!
We think that you all get what we're trying to do here. But at the risk of being obvious, there are some things we need to say:
-Gifts requiring your presence (tours, tickets to the screening, face/body casts, a role in the movie, etc.) mean you must pay for your own travel/lodging.
-Some prizes include shipping. Some don't. If you buy one of the Creature prizes, you'll be responsible for shipping costs. Those costs are determined by size, weight and destination. Again, we suggest you swing by ADI and pick up your creature in person. You'll save dough!
-We're pretty fun people, but we reserve the right to refuse the use of an inappropriate photo, character name, business name, etc. If we can't come to terms, we'll refund your money. But we'd rather come to terms!
-Any age can attend the ADI tour, as long as minors (under 18) are accompanied by an adult (over 18 years old). Accompanying (paying or plus one) adult will be held responsible for the minor.
-Must be at least 15 years old and up for castings (face/half body), or to attend the after party. Minor must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Accompanying (paying or plus one) parent/guardian will be held responsible for minor AND SIGN A RELEASE. This includes: casting (face or body) and/or after party.
--Must be male and at least 25 years old to purchase the on screen death.
We hope you're excited to help us not only make a cool movie, but also to uplift an art form. Animatronics and Makeup FX have been pushed aside not because of audience disinterest, but because studios prefer an assembly line approach. You know that the traditional techniques still have a place in modern genre films, and so do we. We ask you to give us the opportunity to show it. That's what HARBINGER DOWN is all about!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter