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A Clockwork sci-fi film of forbidden love and revenge, inspired by a 19th-century Lord Byron poem and told in hybrid puppet animation
A Clockwork sci-fi film of forbidden love and revenge, inspired by a 19th-century Lord Byron poem and told in hybrid puppet animation
333 backers pledged $29,370 to help bring this project to life.

Fresh Perspective on “Monster” as “Yamasong” enters Post

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Wedding Day (raw footage)
Wedding Day (raw footage)

Hello everyone! I wanted to write you to give an update on “Monster of the Sky.” 

As most of you know, I have been consumed with directing the feature film “Yamasong: March of the Hollows.” It has been an amazing journey so far and I am here to report that “Yamasong” is now in post-production.

While there is plenty of work to be done on the post-production side, I have a solid team of VFX artists working to finish this feature, with my oversight. Our goal is to finish in 2016. Now my heart returns to our short film “Monster of the Sky” and the work we’ve put in to it so far. My plan is to finish it in 2016 too.

My apologies it’s taken so long to update you on “Monster of the Sky.”

As I sit here writing this, I hear two hard drives working away copying files of the footage we shot over three sessions over the course of two years, both in L.A. and Portland. It’s going to take most of the day to copy files over.

My first task is to consolidate all the footage so it lives in one place, on a faster, newer drive, so I can dive in to the final edit of the film. I’m coming back to this with fresh eyes, and the experience I’ve been gaining on a feature film. I have new ideas how to cut the short film and make it more dynamic and stylized.

One question that arises is the facial motion capture R&D. After I completed the second Kickstarter campaign, my original plan was to go back to the mo-cap studio we teamed with to capture the original data. Unfortunately, they are no longer available, so I started thinking about a Plan B. I purchased software and a 3D camera to enable a smaller, self-contained way of capturing facial movement and data. I thought I was set then, in 2014… but coming back to it now, I’ve found the 3D camera and software manufacturer was bought by Apple and discontinued. I can’t use this equipment! Important lesson: the march of technology moves at a fast pace and can leave you quickly behind!!

My immediate goal is to cut the film together – see how all the pieces fit. Make sure the story and characters are dynamic and compelling. Next, I will be able to look at shots and figure out exactly how many facial mo-cap shots we have. From talking to one of my backers, I may have a new solution to the facial motion capture question. We shall see – I’d hate to lose this opportunity to explore combining live puppetry and faces “puppeteered” remotely by a mo-cap artist. This is the grand experiment of “Monster of the Sky”!

Thank you all for your patience, and I hope to give you more updates in the months to come as we delve deeper into post-production.

May your holidays be blessed as we approach a new, exciting year!

- Sam

Amazing Developments over the past year!

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Hello Backers! It has been a busy year for a number of reasons and we wanted to update you on what's been going on.

Regarding "Monster" we've finished all the puppets and sets and shot the last of the film. We spent a week in Portland early fall of last year shooting Sky's wedding scene and final battle. "Monster" is now in post-production.

Sam also featured "Monster" as part of an amazing filmmakers talk at Brooklyn Academy of Music last October as part of the Jim Henson Foundation's Puppets on Film Festival. Here is a link - Sam's part starts at 1:31:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSZ8JKu-NKY

As many of you know, we've also had the amazing opportunity to make Sam's original short film "Yamasong" into a feature film! This will be the first puppet feature film in North America in 10 years ("Team America" was the last)! Working with the same creative team, including two of our top Kickstarter backers (thank you KICKSTARTER and BACKERS!!), we have been working all year to write the script, build the puppets, sets and props, shoot and post the feature. It's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we've attracted amazing talent to the film - Nathan Fillion, Abigail Breslin, Whoopi Goldberg, Freida Pinto, George Takei, Malcolm McDowell, Peter Weller, Bruce Davison and Ed Asner to the voice cast!!

Official "Yamasong" movie poster
Official "Yamasong" movie poster

Here is the "Yamasong: March of the Hollows" sizzle trailer:

https://vimeo.com/126826275

We are deep in shooting and early post on the "Yamasong" feature. The plan now is we return to "Monster" as "Yamasong" winds down later this year. Sam has even referred to future possibilities for both projects in this SF Signal interview two weeks ago: 

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2015/05/interview-sam-koji-hale-upcoming-puppet-feature-film-yamasong-march-hollows/

We hope you'll be patient about "Monster of the Sky" and cheer us on as we crank away at "Yamasong". Both films are a passion for the director and our team and we hope to get both out to the world in 2016! As always, thank you for your encouragement and support.

- The "Monster" Team!

What we've accomplished so far!

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A determined Sky shot on greenscreen.
A determined Sky shot on greenscreen.
Sky looks out a gear window on her wedding day.
Sky looks out a gear window on her wedding day.
Puppeteers make the Prince fly!
Puppeteers make the Prince fly!
One of the first images of the film - a giant stranger discovers an empty helmet.
One of the first images of the film - a giant stranger discovers an empty helmet.
Clockwork ghosts float in the river of time.
Clockwork ghosts float in the river of time.
Our introduction of Sky comes via a projector in space.
Our introduction of Sky comes via a projector in space.

Hello, backers! I'm sorry it's been a while since the last update, but I'm hoping I can catch you up on what's going on with "Monster of the Sky".

First, much has been happening with my puppets and films this year, and I have YOU to thank for propelling my work forward. Through your support on Kickstarter, many wonderful things have been happening (read on for details).

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me catch you up on "Monster of the Sky" - we are now in post-production on the film. Summer was busy finishing the puppets, props and sets and in September we shot the last of the scenes, both in L.A. (Sky battle and aftermath) and Portland (Sky and Prince Tanab's wedding and wedding crashing). Now I am editing the shots together to see how the film plays assembled.

I will be meeting with my post-production supervisor in January to discuss how to break up the shot assignments and push toward finishing the film. The goal is definitely to finish the film in 2015.

I've also talked to one of our composers and he's expressed his support in creating new music to round out the current soundtrack (which is a few minutes short). So instead of looping music over and over, he will expand the soundscape to fit the cut! Very exciting!!

As for how YOU have helped this project, in addition to enabling me to make all the puppets, sets, buy software for the facial motion capture R&D, pay a small part-time crew, your support has raised interest in the work overall. As I'd announced at last November's puppet filmmaker's symposium in Brooklyn, we now have the funding and backing of Dark Dunes Productions to make the "Yamasong" feature film!! THIS IS HUGE NEWS!

You may not be aware, but a (non-Muppet) puppet feature film hasn't been made in North America in a decade (not since "Team America")! Your support of "Monster" has helped us to get support for "Yamasong". And that's a win-win for us all.

I'd love to share developments with both projects in the year to come, and please jump over to Facebook and like the "Yamasong" film page. There are amazing puppet photos posted already with many announcements ahead!

https://www.facebook.com/YamasongOfficial

There is much happening between the "Yamasong" and "Monster" worlds and I hope you'll continue to follow developments in both projects! Many exciting things are coming for 2015!

Thank you again, and have a safe, joyful winter season.

Sam & "Monster" Team

Filmmaking Symposium at Brooklyn Academy of Music

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Hello backers! I hope this message finds you well!

I wanted to update you all about "Monster of the Sky" and share some exciting news!

"Monster" is now in post-production. We've shot all the principal footage and I am now editing and farming out post-production work. While the post-production will take time, the final results will be stunning, I promise!

I also wanted to let you know that I will be on a panel of puppet filmmakers in New York City next Saturday, Oct. 25th! We'll be talking about our filmmaking experience, offering advice and networking with attendees - it's a one-of-a-kind gathering, featuring myself, Toby Froud ("Lessons Learned"), Kevin McTurk ("Narrative of Victor Karloch"), Genevieve Anderson ("Too Loud A Solitude") and the amazing Heather Henson, who created the Handmade Puppet Dreams series to begin with and where we all got our puppet film start!

The event is part of next weekends Puppets on Film Festival, sponsored by Jim Henson Foundation and BAM Cinematek.

Visit this link to find out more information:

http://www.bam.org/classes/2014/handmade-puppet-dreams-filmmaking-symposium

I'll be showing new footage from "Monster of the Sky" plus never-before-seen behind the scenes shots from my first short "Yamasong" as well. Hope to see you there!

Cool News! - UNIMA Citation of Excellence

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Hello "Monster" backers! I wanted to share some news - not about "Monster of the Sky", but of my first short film "Yamasong." It received the UNIMA Citation of Excellence in Puppetry Arts, or the "Uni", which is considered in the puppetry field one of the highest honors a puppet project can receive! Prominent puppeteers in the field like Julie Taymor, Basil Twist, Ronnie Burkett, Phillip Huber and others have received this prestigious honor. I'm humbled and honored to be a part of this small group of artists!

I also look forward to carrying this level of excellence in to "Monster of the Sky". Stay tuned...

Next week watch for news on the full-scale dragonfly puppet/set piece (it's got a 12' wingspan!) and the eunuch priest who marries our two main characters, Sky and Prince Tanab. The priest is in the able hands of our costumer Ayumi and the dragonfly is ready for a paint job!

More "Monster" news soon. Take care!

Sam