We are moving along in editorial with our friend Margaret Lily Andres! She has helped tighten up all the footage we shot into a compact, visually fantastic 7-8 minute short film/music video, all to the driving music of Stereo Alchemy and the hauntingly, ethereal voice of Melissa Kaplan.
We follow the mystery of the woman Sky (Sumiko Braun) trapped in a space rock and her memory pulled from the remains by a bug probe - pulling us into a flashback of the birth of a goddess from the ruins of a "demolished world". We follow her from her poisoning to her rebirth at the hands of clockwork ghosts to her final flight to meet her murderer face to face. This is "Monster of the Sky!"
Below are screen shots of the current edit and a bonus time-lapse clip shot on our last day in Portland - featuring our amazing Gear Palace and Flying Mansion - built by our amazing set builder Charles Daniels. Enjoy!!
I hope this update finds you all well. I wanted to let you know that as "Yamasong: March of the Hollows" marches forward through post-production (yes, pun intended!), I am working on strategies to continue "Monster of the Sky" moving forward too. Now the important part of making the short film is assembly and the creative combination of music and visuals.
I've asked my friend and amazing editor Margaret Lily Andres to take over editorial. Not only have I worked with her previously on short films with Heather Henson's Handmade Puppet Dreams series (Toby Froud's "Lessons Learned" and Heather's "Crane & Tortoise"), she's also a superb studio editor with experience at Pixar and Laika (her credits include "Finding Nemo", "Cars", "Ratatouille" and "Coraline").
I have the utmost confidence she will help me move this project forward even as I balance my directorial duties with "Yamasong: March of the Hollows."
Last Sunday was a bit of a personal milestone for me artistically. I was invited to be a panel speaker at Monsterpalooza to talk about puppets in film. Among the panelists were the Chiodo Brothers, my puppet filmmaking colleague Kevin McTurk, Muppet director Kirk Thatcher, Muppet and Henson puppeteer Alice Dinnean, and puppeteers Scott Land and Bill Diamond. I premiered a new "Yamasong: March of the Hollows" trailer, which was very well-received (and which I hope to share in the near future!).
That evening, I attended the world premiere of Sumiko Braun's "Master of the Sky: The Life and Art of Sam Koji Hale", a documentary short she made interviewing me as an artist of mixed heritage and how my puppetry and art express my personal journey. It was part of the Asian Pacific Film Festival. I was touched by the outpouring of well-wishes from the audience and support for my puppet film projects!
You may recognize Sumiko's name - she's also my lead performer for "Monster of the Sky" (as well as Kickstarter backer and producer) and in addition to juggling family and auditions, is finishing her masters at UCLA (and soon going to USC film school). She's a great supporter of my projects and a wonderful friend.
I am blessed to have all of your support and we will continue working on "Monster of the Sky" and post more updates through the summer. Thank you!
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!
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!!
Here is the "Yamasong: March of the Hollows" sizzle trailer:
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:
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.
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!