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So this is just a quick update, but it’s been one year since Erich Zann premiered at Haverford in Stokes Auditorium, but the project just won’t stay dead!
On April 3rd, the film screened at Australia’s “A Night of Horror” film festival, alongside several other adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. A link to the festival’s site can be found here: www.anightofhorror.com/
And just yesterday, I got confirmation that the movie will be screening at the Pittsburgh Horror Film Festival sometime between June 3rd and June 5th (they haven’t released the final listing). That festival’s site can be found here: www.pittsburghhorrorfilms.com/
This is awesome. Who would have thought that a short film made by a group of people with little-to-no filmmaking experience would be seen by filmgoers on the other side of the planet? I am still in awe of the amount and quality of the work put in by that cast and crew, and I’m so pleased that people in different parts of the world are going to be able to see it!
Our next goal? The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. If our film makes it to the final round, it will be watched and judged by Guillermo Del Toro, the man behind Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies! You can find the website for this festival here: www.hplfilmfestival.com/
So, tonight’s the night! Walker, Marissa, and I did two run-throughs yesterday in Stokes Auditorium and they sounded fantastic. I honestly can’t believe how good this whole production is going to be tonight. I don’t want to oversell it, but it’s going to be bigger than 10 Superbowls!
So, if you can make it either tonight or tomorrow, please do so. I guarantee it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss.
Saturday and Sunday. Stokes Auditorium. 8pm. Be there.
Spooky! Mesmerizing! Terrifying! Shocking! As promised, here is the trailer for “The Music of Erich Zann!” I hope that all of you folk who have been following the blog will be able to make it! If not, there will be a DVD release!
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/LOkeYQGr0QE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
I recommend watching the trailer in the highest quality possible, just to make sure you get the full experience!
Update: Hmmm… so the trailer isn’t embedded any more. Not sure what happened, but I’ll just give you a link to the video. www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOkeYQGr0QE
As I’m sure many of you have noticed, the Humanities Center has finished the posters for the film and hung them up basically everywhere on campus. I’m pretty sure you can’t stand anywhere on campus and not see them. So, well done HHC! You run one heck of a good ad campaign. And special thanks to Duncan Cooper and Nate Adams for somehow taking my incoherent notes and suggestions and turning them into a masterpiece. It looks really amazing.
For those of you who haven’t seen the poster, here it is:
I would try to make it bigger, but apparently the blog can’t handle that. I might tinker with it and upload it again. But I think you get the idea!
Also, look out for the trailer for the movie. It should be finished and uploaded by tomorrow. It’s gonna be great!
Less than one week!
Well, I’m coming to you live from the cubby hole that is Roberts Media Lab, waiting for a test sequence of the film to finish rendering. Special thanks to Vicky Funari for showing me a great way to add a nice blurred border to the footage and to Jeff White for installing the “Old Film” plugin I found online. Of course, because I’ve added so many filters to the film (to take the clean, well-defined HD video and turn it into old-looking footage), it now takes 50 minutes to completely render a 3 minute scene. Thankfully, James Joyce’s Ulysses is here to keep me company…
…as well as good ol’ Hulu.
But the footage that comes out of this long, long, LONG wait looks fantastic. Fritz Lang himself couldn’t spot the difference (probably).
Also, because I’ve now entered the time of shameless self-promotion, here’s the link to my recent interview for the Bi-Co News: www.biconews.com/?p=24293. For those who couldn’t find it, it was buried between the article about the Lacrosse team applying to live in Drinker House and the one about the Frisbee team’s tournament last Saturday. Go Donkeys!
Oh good! Now I only have to wait 30 minutes!
So, at 11:34p.m. on Thursday in Yarnall attic, principal photography for “The Music of Erich Zann” was completed. Sounds so official, doesn’t it? Now to finish editing, add the aging effects, finish writing the score, hang posters up, and, of course, cut my hair. Ain’t nothing to it but to do it, right?
I just want to take a moment (one of many, I’m sure) to thank everyone involved in this project. Even though we aren’t done, we reached a huge milestone yesterday and I couldn’t have made it here without the help of my amazing cast and crew. All of them really stepped up to the plate and help realize this project. I’ll never know how the seniors involved were able to work on this and simultaneously handle theses without ending up like The Student in the movie, but they did it; this would be nothing without their crucial contributions.
I’ve been watching the clips over and over again in the editing room (So many clips!) and I’m constantly impressed by the actor’s understandings and portrayals of their characters. All four of them have turned in some pretty spectacular performances with minimal help from little ol’ me. I get the feeling they knew what they were doing before I did.
Of course, Walker is still working on the score, but what I’ve heard has gone far beyond my expectations. I can’t wait to hear the completed product.
So yeah, basically, thank you to everyone involved with this project. We’ve still got a bit to go, but the end is in sight. And it looks fantastic.
I look forward to seeing all of you following this blog on April 17th at 8pm, when “The Music of Erich Zann” premieres in Stokes Auditorium! If you can’t make it, don’t worry, there will be an encore performance on April 18th, same Bat-time, same Bat-place!
So, over Spring Break, I actually built a melting hand that I’m going to use for the film. How did I do it, you ask? With these simple instructions (and informative pictures!), you too can make your own creepy melting hand!
Start with a creepy skeleton hand:
To make sure the hand wouldn’t flop around while it was melting, I reinforced the wrist with some plaster of paris cloth. After it dries, the arm will be stiff, which is good for the film.
Next I took some sculpting wax:
And some different colored crayons (red and purple for the blood and apricot for the skin):
And melted both the sculpting wax and the crayons in an improvised double boiler (basically a bowl in a pot with some boiling water):
And then covered the skeleton hand with three different layers of colored wax: a red bottom layer, a white middle layer, and a peach top layer.
Here’s the final product!
It is rather weird to have this lying around my apartment.
Now, I won’t give away the context of the melting hand, but I will tell you it signals the Student (played by Peter)’s descent into madness. Fun, right?
On August 20th, 1890, H.P. Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island… and the world immediately got a whole lot weirder. While he was young, he began writing what was then known as “weird fiction;” we’d think of it as a mix of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. He’s easily most famous for his work on a combination of works collectively known as the Cthulhu Mythos.
These works are based on the idea that there are enormous, god-like entities who existed before humanity known as “The Great Old Ones.” Cthulhu is the most famous of them, so much so that when the teaser trailer for Cloverfield was first released, nerds all over the Internet were convinced they were finally going to see a Cthulhu-inspired movie; they were, of course, disappointed when reality set in.
Of course, our film doesn’t have the budget to realize Lovecraft’s monster, but it still taps into one of his most popular themes: the idea that the universe is fundamentally alien and attempts to explore and correlate the unknown only end up driving the person mad; if someone were to see “ultimate reality,” whatever humanity and sanity he or she had would vanish in a sort of “reverse gnosis.” It’s basically taking the idea of “curiosity killed the cat” to an intergalactic extreme. Cheerful, I know.
I won’t give away exactly how The Music of Erich Zann ties into this idea (if you’re curious or into spoilers, just check out a book at your local library), but suffice to say it does so in an unexpected and rather shocking manner.
And so it begins.
This past Saturday saw the first day of actual filming for the film. We gathered in the kitchen area of Yarnall and got ready for the shoot: costumes donned, makeup painted an inch thick, set dressings placed, camera ready to roll.
Because this was our first day, we didn’t want to run a particularly complex scene (that finale is going to take quite a bit of time), so we shot a scene from early in the script. The Student (Peter) meets with Madame Blandot (Laura), his new landlady and moves into his podunk, fresh-out-of-college apartment, complete with broken floorboards, non-functioning lights, view of a lovely brick wall, and ghoulish upstairs neighbor. I’m suddenly concerned this might be a case of art imitating (my future) life.
Again, I can’t compliment Sophie’s makeup designs enough. Laura’s aged landlady looked wonderfully decrepit, while Peter’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Student had just the right amount of color to reinforce his naivete. And they look wonderful in black-and-white. Here are some sample photos as makeup is being applied:
As both Laura and Peter noted, acting for film is considerably different than for a play. By the end of the day, we had run the scene into the ground, repeatedly; I was concerned that if anyone heard the phrase “So many books!” one more time, we would be driven insane (a case of life imitating art?). But of course, now that we’ve finished that scene, we never have to revisit it again! Huzzah!
Now, for the next entry, I’ll be giving you a little insight into the history and bizarre machinations of H.P. Lovecraft, the author of the short story on which the film is based. Prepare yourself for a glimpse into the darkness of the unknown!
…but were too afraid to ask! And who could blame you? German Expressionism is creepy, but in a good way. For all of you horror fans out there, I hope you’re paying proper due to the genre that started it all. To give a brief history, German Expressionism originated in Germany (obviously) around the 1920s. It’s a highly stylistic early genre of film that functions largely as an alternative to realism. Its plots and characters are often steeped in madness or psychological distress, and thematically it toes the line between the real and the surreal, or even the paranormal. Probably more important is the visual manifestation of these themes in the distinctly German Expressionist style–the stark lights and darks, dramatic shadows, exaggerated make-up, and constructed sets that use sharp angles to create a setting that is determinedly non-real. The result is a disorienting exaggeration of reality, and an overwhelming sense of creepiness. The classic example is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), which is definitely worth a gander if you’re at all interested in the genre.
Like vampire movies? Looking for something a little more edgy than Twilight? Then check out Nosferatu (1922), Murnau’s classic Dracula-like vampire extravaganza! The make-up may seem a bit corny and outdated, but Murnau actually uses some pretty impressive techniques for the times.
Probably the most accessible example of German Expressionism that you can find is Fritz Lang’s M (1931). This film, a little later than the others, exemplifies more clearly the style of narrative filmmaking that we’re used to today. It’s a brilliant and highly enjoyable film, that fits nicely between the classic German Expressionism style, and the exciting drama of the emerging film noir genre.
A note on German Expressionism’s enduring influence on modern cinema… Its thematic and stylistic influence is clearly visible in film noir, horror, psychological thrillers, and absurdist films. If you were to have a conversation with say, Alfred Hitchcock, or Tim Burton, I’m sure they’d have a lot to say on the matter.
Meredith Slifkin ’10