THE HAUNTED SWORDSMAN
From Kevin McTurk, the director of the award-winning Kickstarter funded short film The Mill at Calder's End, comes a gothic horror adventure told with groundbreaking puppetry and innovative practical effects.
The Haunted Swordsman is a live action samurai tale set in a world of demons and ghosts that will utilize 36 inch tall bunraku puppets, traditional in-camera effects and good old-fashioned smoke and mirrors trickery.
This short film is only a single chapter in an epic tale of a lone samurai and his odd guide, the cursed severed head of another samurai, as they traverse a world of mythical creatures and nightmares of folklore...
'Lost in a bamboo forest, his Shogun murdered by an evil supernatural force, a lone samurai collapses to his knees with an anguished cry. Disgraced and humiliated at having failed to save his Master, the Samurai prepares to commit seppuku. But a voice stops him. A voice emanating from a cursed severed head who offers to guide the Samurai on a quest for vengeance. Thus begins the tale of...'The Haunted Swordsman'.
The first chapter of THE HAUNTED SWORDSMAN , THE SWORD OF WHISPERING DEATH, will be a stand alone tale. However, with each Kickstarter stretch goal that is reached , a new continuing chapter in the epic tale will be unlocked and will be able to be filmed.
For each new short film chapter, director Kevin McTurk will bring together his team of professional puppeteers, camera and lighting technicians, top creature effects artists, amazing voice talent and phenomenal sound designers and musicians, to create a visually captivating tale of revenge, honor, love, and betrayal.
As each short film chapter is unlocked, a new reward bonus item (yet to be announced) will be sent to EVERYONE that contributes at the DVD/Blu-ray level (or higher)! Each of these items will be announced as a milestone is approached.
In addition, new exclusive gifts (designed by a group of phenomenal film concept artists) will be announced at each milestone. Each new gift will be offered as a separate reward package or can be an ADD ON to your original order.
A RETURN TO KICKSTARTER
I am absolutely thrilled to be returning to Kickstarter. In 2013, I set out to make The Mill at Calder's End and created a Kickstarter campaign to raise $32,000. The campaign was a fantastic success and I raised over $65,000.
The Mil at Calder's End was an official selection at over 60 film festivals worldwide and won 14 awards, including the 2015 Grand Jury Prize for Best Animated Short at the Seattle International Film Festival. In addition, I was honored to have Guillermo del Toro purchase the Grimshaw puppet for his personal Bleak House collection.
The puppet was also personally selected by Guillermo for the traveling museum exhibition At Home With Monsters, which premiered here in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and continued on to Minneapolis Institute of Art and then on to the Toronto Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).
REVIEWS OF MY EARLIER GHOST STORY PUPPET FILMS
"THE MILL AT CALDER'S END IS TOLD WITH A PASSIONATE SENSE OF STORYTELLING IN A MEDIUM THAT BOTH ENSHRINES AND REINVENTS THE OLD CLASSICS." -Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, Hellboy)
"BREATHTAKING...AN INNOVATIVE AND ENGAGING USE OF PUPPETRY..." -Sir Richard Taylor, Weta Workshop (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings)
"CREEPY...FILLED WITH SOME REALLY COOL HORROR IMAGES... I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THIS..." -Rick Baker, Special Make-Up Effects Artist, Winner of Seven Academy Awards
"HAUNTING AND ATMOSPHERIC...IT IS VERY RARE THESE DAYS THAT YOU SEE AN ORIGINAL STORYTELLING FORMAT, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT SUITS THE SUBJECT MATTER SO WELL..." -Mike Mignola, Creator of Hellboy, Contributing Artist for "The Mill at Calder's End"
The Haunted Swordsman is a passion project that is heavily influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa, the Lone Wolf and Cub manga and film series, the classic Japanese ghost story films Kwaidan, Ugetsu, and Kuroneko, among others, as well as visceral, immersive films like The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road.
I have always had a great love of puppetry and traditional in-camera special effects. The work of Jim Henson (The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and his Storyteller television series) is a great inspiration to me and I am hoping to bring his sense of wonderment and artistry to The Haunted Swordsman.
In 2012, I was honored to work with Heather Henson (Jim's youngest daughter) on my first film. Heather produced The Narrative of Victor Karloch as one of the short films for her Handmade Puppet Dreams Film Series and was a guiding force in helping me create the haunted world of Victor Karloch.
THE FILMMAKING APPROACH
The Haunted Swordsman will be told with the traditional Japanese theater puppetry technique known as bunraku. Each puppet figure is controlled by three (or more) puppeteers dressed in black and hidden behind each character. It is my goal to make a film that celebrates practical effects and therefore there will be very little computer generated imagery in the final film. In my first film, The Narrative of Victor Karloch, I utilized several silent film era camera techniques, such as a shot of a miniature ship on a stormswept ocean (which, in fact, was made up of painted flowing garbage bags). For The Mill at Calder's End, the Apparition (see below) was puppeteered in a water tank. I plan to continue to use many more of these 'old school' techniques to give a hand crafted look to The Haunted Swordsman.
From my experience working as a special effects artist in Hollywood for over twenty years, I have been fortunate to work with the most talented creature effects artists,concept artists, and puppeteers in the industry.
This film celebrates two of my great loves: the art of puppetry and suspenseful storytelling. I promise that The Haunted Swordsman will be unlike any puppet film you have ever seen before.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Kevin McTurk | Director
A professional creature effects artist, cinematographer, model maker, and puppeteer, Kevin McTurk has been working in the effects industry for over 20 years. In 1992 he began his career in special make-up effects at Stan Winston Studios, working on Batman Returns, Interview with a Vampire, and the Jurassic Park films. He has worked for many effects companies over the years, including the Jim Henson Creature Shop, Amalgamated Dynamics, Spectral Motion, New Deal Studio, and Weta Workshop in New Zealand. His most recent credits include The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and Stranger Things. In 2011, Kevin completed his first puppet short film, a Jim Henson Foundation grant project, The Narrative of Victor Karloch. The film was a great success, playing in over twenty international festivals, and winning the 2012 BEST ANIMATED FILM at the DragonCon Film Festival. His follow-up film, The Mill at Calder's End was the result of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and played in festivals around the world. This film won many awards including the Grand Jury Award for BEST ANIMATED SHORT at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Tab Murphy | Screenwriter
Tab attended USC Film School and has been a working screenwriter since 1983. His major breakthrough came with a writing credit on Gorillas in the Mist, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Tab wrote a number of Disney feature animation movies including Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, Atlantis: the Lost Empire, and Brother Bear, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In addition to his Disney credits, Tab has written several Warner Bros DC animated movies, including Batman/Superman: Apocalypse and Batman: Year One, based on the Frank Miller graphic novel.
Guy Davis | Production Designer
Guy is a Conceptual Designer and Storyboard Artist for film, television, and video games. His work can be seen in the Guillermo del Toro projects Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim, The Strain, Pinocchio, and the upcoming film, The Shape of Water. Guy has also contributed concept art for The Mill at Calder's End, Paranorman, Steven Universe, Gears of War 4, Evolve, The Simpsons: Tree House of Horror XXIV, and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival. He is also an Eisner winning comic book artist and the creator and illustrator of The Marquis (published by Dark Horse Comics).
Arjen Tuiten | Lead Puppet Sculptor
Accomplished Dutch sculptor and make-up artist, Arjen Tuiten has worked for Stan Winston Studio / Legacy Effects, DDT, and Rick Baker's Cinovation Studio. One of his greatest make-up contributions is the Pale Man character for Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth. He has now founded his own studio R-E-N and is responsible for the make-up effects for the films Rings and Wonder.
Paul Komoda | Puppet Sculptor
Paul Komoda is an artist whose dark dreams are manifest through sculpture and illustration. He's worked in the fields of film and collectibles, and for a time, had worked directly with the legendary surrealist, H.R. Giger. He is expanding into realms of graphic storytelling and fine art.
Mitch Devane | Puppet Sculptor
Mitch Devane is one of Hollywood's top sculptors who has contributed his artistry to many films including Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Ring, and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, among others.
Eli Presser | Puppeteer
Extraordinary marionette puppeteer and creature suit performer, Eli Presser is a CalArts graduate in Puppetry Arts. Eli lead the team of puppeteers on The Mill at Calder's End. Eli currently serves as the Technical Coordinator for the Performing Arts Program at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
Peter Abrahamson | Mechanical Designer
A skilled animatronic designer, Peter Abrahamson has been working in the film industry for over 20 years as a puppeteer, robot builder, and animatronics creator for such projects as Hellboy, Men In Black 2, BattleBots, and the Jim Henson TV show Dinosaurs.
Luke Khanlian | Mechanical Designer
Luke Khanlian is a Design Engineer who spent most of the 90's working as a mechanical designer and puppeteer on film and television projects including: Starship Troopers, Bicentennial Man and The Green Mile.
Tim Gore | Puppet and Prop Painter
Master painter Tim Gore has over twenty five years of experience in the make-up effects industry and has worked on many iconic films over the years including The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, Hellboy, Lady in the Water, and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army .
Miyo Nakamura | Sculptor and Painter
Accomplished sculptor and painter Miyo Nakamura has worked on the films X-Men: First Class and The Thing (among others) for Amalgamated Dynamics as well as many giant sculptural pieces for Blizzard at Alliance Studio.
Spectral Motion | Associate Producer, Creature Design Consultants
Mike Elizalde’s Spectral Motion is one of Hollywood’s premiere creature-effects shops, making monsters for films such as Stranger Things, Hellboy, Hellboy 2:The Golden Army, and Pacific Rim.
Will Thomas | Composer
Will Thomas, a composer & producer based in Los Angeles, has released four albums under his minimal electronic moniker Plumbline as well as four albums under his song based project Dive Index. These have included collaborations with ambient innovator Roger Eno, as well as Joseph Arthur, Merz, Mark Gardener (Ride) and Ian Masters (Pale Saints) among others. Will has also composed music for commercials, film and TV projects including CSI, Johnson & Johnson, Smirnoff, Herman Miller, Cody, Nocturne podcast and BMW. He most recently produced the latest Helen Money album ‘Become Zero’, out on the Thrill Jockey label.
THE MILL AT CALDER'S END - AWARDS AND FESTIVALS
Risks and challenges
Risks and challenges
THE HAUNTED SWORDSMAN will definitely be a challenging filmmaking experience. Every frame of this film is essentially an effects shot. The "actors" of this film are the sculpted puppet characters that are controlled by three puppeteers dressed in black (or green screen) behind each puppet. Therefore, one of the single greatest challenges is how to film the puppets and hide the puppeteers from camera. There will definitely be a number of shots that will require "rotoscoping" ( digitally erasing puppeteers from the shot, frame by frame). In addition, every element of the puppet world - wardrobe, props, and sets - must be custom built for the film.
In terms of production scheduling, "THE HAUNTED SWORDSMAN : SHORT FILM ONE" should be completed within a 6-8 month time frame.The shooting schedule could possibly be delayed if puppeteers and/or technical crew members are unavailable on shoot days due to better paying jobs or out of town work and would therefore force us to reschedule. But the ultimate goal is to start shooting this fall and reach post production in the spring/early summer..
How will the Kickstarter money be spent?
Here is a short breakdown of the budget:
30% Puppet Construction,Costuming,Sets,and Props
30% Cast, Camera/Lighting/Stage Rental/ Crew
20% Post Production (Sound Mixing/Digital Compositing/Color Correction)
20% Kickstarter Rewards and Shipping
THANK YOU in advance for supporting THE HAUNTED SWORDSMAN..
Your contributions will enable this project to take creative risks and deliver a vision that few have ever attempted!
- (31 days)