A Clockwork sci-fi film of forbidden love and revenge, inspired by a 19th-century Lord Byron poem and told in hybrid puppet animation
What could throw a proverbial wrench in the works of an elegant Clockwork Universe? Love can. And not just any love, but a forbidden love. Can mechanical, predictable worlds survive the chaos of romance and betrayal brought on by two young lovers?
MONSTER OF THE SKY is a mythical 10-minute sci-fi/fantasy film about a woman swept away to, and then held captive in, a palace in the clouds, her clockwork world interrupted by a handsome stranger from the sky. Enabled by the ghosts of her ancestors, our heroine embarks on a quest to punish her lover and captor, escalating to a spectacular final battle between them: a goddess of destruction and a mechanical winged warrior clash in the silence of deep space. It is a tale of love, revenge and closure.
Think Dark Crystal and Spirited Away meets Count of Monte Cristo.
My name is Sam Koji Hale and I am the director and designer for "Monster of the Sky" and an experienced puppet filmmaker. I work with Heather Henson, who grew up with film and puppetry in the Henson family, and together we produce the Handmade Puppet Dreams film series. I first worked with her while directing my short film Yamasong, followed by another stunner of a film Narrative of Victor Karloch, which I produced for Heather's company IBEX.
This new epic puppet film is solo of IBEX, but I'm bringing the same level of quality to it. My hope is you'll join me on this project, taking this Dark Crystal-inspired puppet storytelling to a new level with MONSTER OF THE SKY!
NEW NEW NEW REWARDS!! We are offering rewards to push to our funding goal and beyond! These rewards include 4GB & 8GB versions of the Prince Helmet flash drives (see picture below), an archival quality giclée print of concept art and a behind-the-scenes studio tour! Check the side bar on the right for details!
Stretch goal? $35,000
What will it fund?
- Space Rental – I’m talking to a couple groups about moving our production to a bigger space (and possibly shooting there too). This would allow us all to be under one roof, improving communication and camaraderie – a MUST for any smooth production!
- Water Tank – in the story Sky falls into the ocean, is met by ancestral clockwork spirits and is rebuilt as an armored goddess. Instead of faking the water, I’d love to rent a plexiglass tank and truly SHOOT UNDERWATER!
- Expanded Animation – With our basic budget, we’ll primarily be doing facial animation on close-up shots. With an expanded budget, we’ll be able to add more shots of facial animation and effects!
So please help keep this fund-raiser going. Help us make the best film possible!!
We want to share the love! You'll get a thank you on the website, and lots of cool rewards, including stickers, T-shirts, DVDs, Blu-rays, original artwork, an art book, a chance for your likeness to appear in the film and even puppets! Pictured below are a few of the items and more in the side bar to the right!
ART BOOK PROMO:
"MONSTER" ART BOOK PROMO - Get the "Monster of the Sky" art book for $125 + the 2-pack "Monster" and "Yamasong" DVD pack.
OFFER EXPIRES THURSDAY @ 3 PM PST!
Get the gorgeous art book with illustrations, photos, and even includes a section on making "Yamasong." A must have for art book collectors!
(To redeem this offer, pledge $125, select no reward, and I will confirm by email!)
WHERE "MONSTER" BEGAN...
I am the rider of the wind
The stirrer of the storm
A hurricane of rage
In human form
And now the hour has arrived
And this vow I renew
I am a monster of the sky
And I’m coming after you
- "Monster of the Sky" lyrics by Stereo Alchemy (inspired by Lord Byron)
Hearing these lyrics, I immediately visualized a powerful woman as a sheer force of nature – a storm goddess! A woman fully empowered. I imagined her racing through cosmic fire and time and space itself with intensity in her eyes. I was excited at the challenge of telling a story about the fury of love embodied in one woman's unbelievable transformation.
From the very first time I heard "Monster of the Sky" (a track off the God of Love album by Stereo Alchemy), imagery and story came to me immediately. Every song on this electronica album draws inspiration from the Romantic Era poets (Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Lady Caroline Lamb, John Donne, etc.) with "Monster of the Sky" springing from the words of Byron's classic "Manfred". The song features Melissa Kaplan (of Universal Hall Pass) singing new life into this almost two centuries old poem.
In 2010, my previous filmYamasong played over 30 film festivals worldwide, big sci-fi/fantasy festivals and Oscar-qualifying festivals. It was nominated for multiple awards and won 2010 'Best Animated Film' and 'Best Fantasy Short' at Dragon*Con!
After the success of the film, Shoji Kameda, the film's composer (and one-half of Stereo Alchemy), approached me to see if I wanted to work with him again and gave me Stereo Alchemy's new CD, God of Love. When I listened to "Monster of the Sky", I knew I'd found my next film project to expand upon the special mixture of puppets and animation developed on Yamasong.
WHAT MAKES THIS FILM SO SPECIAL?
First, this is a film fully immersed in a miniature, puppet world. It's a vast, beautifully designed world that blends the real and digital seamlessly. We haven’t seen so much of this with puppets lately…yes, with live actors and animation, but not so many folks are doing it with puppets and computers. I previously combined these art forms with Yamasong and hope to develop it further with MONSTER OF THE SKY.
Second, the puppets, props, costumes, jewelry: everything is caringly handcrafted by artists. We use real materials that breathe a life of texture, pattern, color, and those little imperfections that tell us a human being touched this. For example, I sculpt the heads and hands of each character in Paperclay, and no two heads are exactly alike. I blend the Paperclay with handmade papers or Bristol, to create things like the looping, alien curves of the helmet for the goddess character (see below). Again, all one-of-a-kind creations.
And third, I want to push the boundaries of what we can do with the footage once it's in the computer – I’m a digital artist too and strive to make smart choices of when to use real, when to use digital and when to blend them. I want to bring animation to these puppet faces – a hybrid approach. To me, the strength of this puppet style is in the big body expressions, but their blank, emotionless faces can be distracting. In Yamasong my team created digital eye blinks – this time, with the proper budget, I want to bring each character’s face to life at key moments with digital tools. We’d motion track the voice actor’s face and then in the computer, transpose movement onto the puppet’s face, giving it more life.
For all these reasons and more, I’m hoping to create a truly stunning and unforgettable film experience – a work of art with a dramatic story about love, loss and setting things straight, despite the odds.
MEET OUR TEAM
Sam Koji Hale (director) – Emmy-nominated filmmaker; credits include Yamasong (writer/director), Annoying Orange (art director), Team Smithereen (associate producer) and Narrative of Victor Karloch (producer)
Stereo Alchemy (composers/musicians) – who are:
- Kametron (Shoji Kameda) - Grammy-nominated percussionist for Hiroshima and On Ensemble and
- Christopher Tin - Grammy-winning composer for Civilization IV's “Baba Yetu”
Eli Presser (lead puppeteer) – CalArts grad, competed on America’s Got Talent and played Drone 237 in the hit web series Drone
Sumiko Braun (lead actor) – actor/model/poet/activist – a powerful physical force on camera, a spoken word poet and great match for the lead character
Robyn Yannoukos (painter/fabricator) – a student Oscar winner(!), Robyn's credits include Robot Chicken, Morel Orel, and Annoying Orange
Ayumi Nagai Moore (costumer) – graduate of New York Fashion Institute and Annoying Orange alum
Charles Daniels (scenic designer/artist) – fabricator at Laika Animation Studio on the feature film Coraline and a spectacular steampunk builder
Chloe Ching (jeweler) – she makes "Origami" pendants and necklaces!
Michelle Zamora (puppet fabricator) – puppet builder for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Live show and Adult Swim!
WE HOPE THAT YOU’LL JOIN US!
Backing our film is easy. If you’ve ever purchased anything on Amazon, you’ll find it easy to contribute to this campaign.
We’ve got the experience to make this film a reality. We’ve got the passion and love for the project and the creativity to carry it through to the end. Now we just need YOU to make it complete.
Watch the trailer to Yamasong again and keep these reviews in mind:
“Yamasong: Visually stunning, this combination of puppetry and digital wizardry has to be seen to be believed. Think 'Monkey’s Journey to the West' meets 'The Dark Crystal'.” – Animation Ideas, Sydney, Australia
“Sam K. Hale is a rising creative force in the field of puppet films.” – FIRSTWORKS, Rhode Island School of Design
“A welcome mythic adventure…much like a Neil Gaiman film.” – ARTSMASH, RI Online Review
Wouldn’t it be great to be involved in a film as stunning as Yamasong? Join us in creating something as unique, beautiful and breath-taking with MONSTER OF THE SKY. Thank you!
Check out these links:
TechZwn - Puppet Roles Redefined
Fantascize - Sci-Fi Film to Rock Your World
Atlanta Backbeat - Puppets & Pixels
Shooting People - Sumiko Braun Interview
L.A. Weekly Blog - Inside the World of Puppet Filmmakers
PuppetVision Blog - Support "Monster"
Sci-Fi Review Podcast - Sam Koji Hale Interview
io9.com - Crowdfund This!
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
One of the great challenges with making this kind of puppet film is the technical question of shooting puppets and puppeteers on green screen. How do we light the puppets and how do we remove the puppeteers? A lot has to be considered. When I made my last film “Yamasong” we ended up having to rotoscope a number of shots of puppeteers to take them out (in layman’s terms, cutting them out frame by frame, a painstaking process.)
Think of it this way, almost every frame of a puppet film like this is essentially 100% effects shots. Most of the film is without actors – our actors are the small, sculpted characters. Because they are small, we also have challenges with our cameras. We need special lenses for shooting small scale and a high-end camera to shoot the best, cleanest, highest resolution possible (for our budget). But the wonderful part about it is that our team gets excited about these challenges – and has the experience to overcome these potential obstacles!
Another challenge in making a puppet film is wondering, “Will people watch this?” "Is there an audience?" I can say from previous experience with my last film “Yamasong” and the other puppet short films I’ve helped to produce with Heather Henson’s company, that the answer is YES! We are finding, and even building our audience and helping to create wonderful films that people want to see.
With the proper funding we can make this a 9-month production. That's what "Yamasong" ended up being. The risk of course is that it takes longer, especially if our artists get better paying gigs along the way and we have to shuffle things around, etc. But the goal is once this Kickstarter campaign is funded, we hit the ground running and make this film in 2013. We want to be fully dedicated to this project from start to finish.
What will we do with your money? First, we complete the puppets and sets (that's a third of the budget - $8-10K). Then shooting begins - your money will pay puppeteers, crew, equipment rental and shooting space (another third of the budget). After that, funds go to our digital team to take the amazing performances and bump them up two notches with animation. Whatever we've got left - and hopefully we exceed our funding goal - every bit will make it into the film - THAT's a promise!
So we’re asking you to help us make this film! It’s going to be a unique, creative and dynamic visual story and we think you’ll LOVE being involved! We hope you’ll help pitch in, but even if you can’t pitch in financially, please help us by spreading the word about MONSTER OF THE SKY. Shout it out on Facebook, Twitter, blog, email or face-to-face with your friends. The clock is ticking. Thank you for getting the word out on this new film!
Yes! Anything above the $30 level includes the autographed DVD.
The digital version of the film will be region free with no digital rights management. I want you to be able to play this on whatever device you have, wherever you live in the world and I'm going to provide a high-definition version of the film for you to download.
Yes! The digital download will include any featurettes offered with the DVD version.
I've been asked this a few times and the answer is no. If I don't make my goal, Kickstarter does not charge your credit card and gets NO pledges. Kickstarter only benefits when I reach my goal.