Sunday
Aug212011

Strapadicktomie Procedure

This is our lovely Production Assistant miss Ella Harris helping us out with a special effects test in the car park outside K Stage by the skip. It might look like we're just monkeying around with strap-on cocks but it was actually a test for a scene that we ended up cutting from the film.

As Sam starts felling apart we were originally going to make a bit more of this and there was a scene in the original shooting script where we saw him have a pee and some blood comes out. We actually shot this but it ended up not really working; the camera was above and behind Sam and you could just see the end of his winkie poking out as he does his secret boys thing. His pee flow was supposed to turn to blood causing him to freak out a bit and generally re-inforce the whole concept of him dying with some internal bleeding. Everybody likes a bit of internal bleeding.

In the run-up to shooting we weren't exactly clear on how we were going to do this as we had so much to deal with it seemed pretty low-priority until it suddenly rushed up from over the horizon towards our faces. Then, one afternoon, Duncan was digging around on the Internet and he found this.

http://www.realwhizzinatorxxx.com/

The Whizzinator. Pretty special eh? It's a device sold by a US company and is intended to be used to defeat drug tests, the idea being you can literally pull your winkie out and do some wee right in front of somebody, no further questions your honour. It's essentially a strap-on rubber cock with a hollow pipe running through it that attaches to a pair of pants with a bag for pee and a tap to make it all go. It even comes with some dried urine in powder form. Isn't technology wonderful?

So we got some make-up on it to bring it to life a bit and hooked up a couple of bags so we could run some fake wee through it and switch to blood by flicking a tap. It didn't really look all that when we filmed it as the blood was pretty diluted and so you couldn't really see much of a change and it just looked like a visit to the little space-clones room.

Ella was brilliant fun to work with on Moon, she's got a bit of a potty mouth and it was always hilarious when she'd say rude stuff over the walkie-talkies. Randomly, we'd just jump onto the public channel and do comedy dictionary definitions of the rudest things we could think of but make it sound like proper production chat. It was hilarious watching somebody working over the other side of the set with their walkie on their belt and this very straight-sounding comedy filth just come out of their radio as if they weren't concentrating they'd not even notice. The game became trying to say the rudest stuff and say it so straightly that nobody would actually notice. If you've not been on a film set before, quite a few people have walkie-talkies on them and they are usually worn on the belt. They tend to be on quite loud if there's no shooting in progress and so there's a constant chatter of radio talk going on around you all day. I can never help but press them into service for comedy value because I just think they're excellent fun.

Lunar Industries hope you enjoy your space-penis.

Saturday
Aug202011

I am a space clone and I sleep in a drawer...

One area of the set design that Duncan and myself were kind of putting off for the most part was the clone room corridor. There was so much to think about with the rest of the productions' incessant needs that I had it in a box in my head and was trying to clear some time to get down to sorting it out. The rest of the base was designed and under construction by this time so there was already an established design language to use to get a hook on. This part of the base was never really explained very clearly in the shooting script and Duncan just wanted a long corridor that just seemed to stretch on forever. The idea was to have one side lined with stored clones and the other with piles and piles of space-food racked up like a survivalists' Christmas wish list.

I knew there was no way we'd be able to come close to getting a complete set built and as I was trying to loose VFX shots wherever possible set myself the challenge of ruling out any additional spend and set out to get the whole thing done in-camera. Sounds quite simple, and we had some space allocated for whatever solution was reached. The picture below shows a part of Shepperton K-Stage. We can see the Rec Room in the middle of the picture and the pressure-door to the "greenhouse" service area where Sam grows his plants is open. This area hasn't been constructed yet. You also can see through the open roof of the Rec Room and into the kitchenette/dining chair where Sam eats. This photograph makes the studio look quite narrow, as most of the set is obscured from view. I took this from up in the reds (the overhead gantries) and you can see the suspended metal walkway on the right hand top side of the pic cutting off the rest of the view of the studio below. The floor-space we had to build the corridor set in is in red at the top of the image.

So not much room then. Today’s Sci-Fi Challenge: Make an infinitely long corridor for as little money as possible in a small corner of the set. My idea for this is a bit tricky to explain but it basically an infinity room that traps the light using mirrors. The diagram below is how I endeavored to explain to everybody.

Nice and complicated. It's actually quite a simple concept; it's just tricky to explain the concept of how the light was going to be trapped. I thought this was a good option though as we would have complete freedom with the cameras and the room would literally stretch into infinity. We did have the down-side of the reflected portion being a literal infinite repeat but as that was the intended design anyway it didn't seem to really matter. The mirrors isolated Sam, crew and cameras so as long as we took precautions against accidental reflections we should be good to go.

The downside with this design was that it needed a couple of pretty big mirrors. By pretty bit I mean about twelve feet wide by six or seven feet high in one piece. These would have been expensive but the illusion would have been perfect. In the end the glass would have cost a bomb so we had to re-consider. This is where our Mr Tony Noble proposed a forced perspective set, which was a really good idea for keeping the costs down. He'd done one previously on a Sainsburys ad where a little carton of milk walks down a street and so we sat down and had a watch and agreed that it was a good solution. It's probably easier to show you what we did than to explain (as with any optical illusion), so have a look at a few pics from the construction and I'm sure it'll make sense.

So you can see that we were building a section of "real" set for the Sams to walk around in with a pyramid-on-its'-side type shape at the end where we'd bring all the perspective lines together over as short a space as we could get away with. This was a great illusion although it did restrict our camera coverage quite a lot. it didn't seem to matter at the end of the day as we got the footage we needed from this clever little set but we did have to watch how much we moved the camera as the perspective was always trying to give us away.

You can see from these pics how well it worked from the right angles. We had the food stacked down one side and the clone-drawers on the other. Although this set looks like a good result, beware suggesting solutions like this if you are going to have to actually work on the thing. Getting the detail to follow across the real-size areas into the forced perspective areas is a complete ball-ache. We had a chap cutting out ever decreasing versions of the food containers out of foam for two weeks. Poor bastard. I hope you'll agree it was worth it in the end though.

This pic shows the side of the "real" portion of the set where we can see the stored clone-food of lots of delicious trifle and beans and the ladder leading up to the roof of the set. In the film we see Sam descend this ladder from the "return" vehicle floor panel but in reality the two areas were in diagonally opposed corners of the studio. There was actually nothing above this ladder and Sam had to stand on a bit of decking and just lower himself down. We're such tight-arses we didn't even spring for an elevator. You can see on the left-hand side of this image how abruptly the set stops so we really had to be careful how we moved the camera. In the end it was unavoidable that we would be covering off the edge of the set, and so the cheesy loaf got a couple of plastic palettes we had painted grey from the greenhouse area and just propped them up to plug the end of the set. Worked for Red Dwarf. Worked for us.

This is Duncan disturbing Tony whilst he was having a nap. We all used to sleep in the clone-drawers, as they were incredibly comfortable being made out of luxurious bare wood.

This is the first time the clone-room set appeared as it was in this early press photo. I think this was in the first three or four official images to come out from the film and was also one I did initial colour grade tests on the establish how we would have the injured Sam 1 look. It was always a balance of desaturating his skin whthout taking too much out of the blood so it stayed red and didn't go too black. I've got some better pics of this set but I'll need to have a dig around to show you how nicely it came out. One of the things that I particularly liked was the light at the end in the far distance. For some reason I found this very creepy and would have had to go down there to see what the hell was going on and why it was all lit up. It was never in our original plan to film but I would also have loved to see Gerty down here at one point in the film just doing some menial stuff and perhaps getting the clones artifacts out of the drawer. If any of you spotted how it was done or thought it was done some other way leave me a comment as I was always curious to see how people would take to this particular optical illusion. By the way, I wouldn't recommend sleeping in a drawer, my arse is still killing me and sometimes you can't get yourself out.

Saturday
Aug202011

Getting the set finished

Home. K-Stage, Shepperton Studios. Where the tea urns never run dry and you're always no more than two minutes away from industrial strength solvents or a plate of chips. The Sarang set construction period was a really interesting time for me. Seeing this place become real that I had constructed in my head was such a weird thing it's hard to describe. The final set was so close to my designs that it was like being inside my own head. I know this might sound a bit arty and wanky but it honestly did.

Duncan and I would visit the set whilst it was under construction a couple of times a day and sometimes spend all day in there if we were needed for anything. As the base became more complete there were endless little tours checking out where we were going to site monitors, light boxes, could we get some dolly track in here, a light in there, etc. The construction crew would play old school dance music really loudly from a ghetto blaster at the side of the studio whilst they worked giving a tour of the studio a weird party vibe.

One of the things that really surprised me was how much paint the construction crew got through. The set would be sprayed and it was closed off in sections with transparent plastic sheeting as this work was underway. It looked just like on the TV show Dexter when he's doing his murdering business. We had this thick brown paper on the floor, which was supposed to keep the place clean, but was really annoying and slippery to walk on. It's funny how you come to associate things together as now, whenever I hear thick, brown parcel paper being wrinkled it takes be right back to walking around the base with a pencil in my mouth drawing little marks on the wall where I wanted graphics to go. 

Gerty wasn't the only robot on station in Sarang. R2D2s little brother used to show up on the set and just stand there, staring into space. I guess it's tough trying to break into showbiz when you're got a more successful older sibling.

In the pic below you can see a chat occurring around the comms console. You'll see the overhead lighting recess areas are covered in transparent plastic.

When we were shooting, these areas were covered in a couple of stepped layers of tighter fitting film to diffuse the light and had light-boxes mounted above them. One afternoon whilst we were shooting, quite a loud buzzing kept interrupting us. It would stop and start and we had to stop shooting to locate the sound as it was interrupting takes. After ten minutes of scratching our heads we realized a fly had become trapped between the plastic layers and was slowly cooking to death in the trapped space. Occasionally it would summon the will to live a little longer and make another noisy but futile bid for freedom. We couldn't get to the fly to either release it or put it out of its' misery, so we had to keep shooting with the threat of interruption and hope the fly died sooner rather than later. Turned out it took a couple of hours to bake his little insect brain. Cheers Mr fly, you really slowed us down for an afternoon with all your noisy dying.

This is the padded bulkhead sections before they were moved into the set. You can clearly see on the floor the areas where various bits and pieces of the set have been sprayed white before they got taken into the main set. There was loads of spraying going on throughout construction and the whole set got painted time and time again. Like my lungs.

This is the poly-board layout that was put together by the drawing team prior to construction. I've always loved these little models and it pains me a bit that they are so temporary and fragile. It's essentially a paper model held together by pins so it's really delicate. These things are always falling apart in the offices from everybody poking at them. Probably got binned ages ago.

The Infirmary overhead section was suspended by chains and used to drift and sway if it was touched. It used to be pretty annoying sometimes as it had quite a bit of inertia so if it got knocked it'd take a while for it to stop moving.

One part of the set that still annoys me is the harvester-interior section. I'd always wanted this to be "more", and generally have a more cool stuff going on but in the end we could only afford a little three-wall-and-door type set. It's actually the reverse of the Airlock door and we doubled it up in the film. When you see Sam leaving Sarang at the beginning of the film to get in his Rover is this same door as when he's inside the Harvester. The tape over this door is restricting access as this door was one of the main ways into the set. We'd enter through here in the morning and stay in there until lunch, then back in again for the afternoon. This door was one half of the tiny airlock room, which had a door at each side with the pressure suits hanging left and right. If the set had just been sprayed and was slick with wet paint we'd have to tape areas off so that people didn't keep walking through. They did anyway. Nobody used to obey signs and notices like this. When we were shooting, Sam used to hide in the airlock and close both doors smoking rollies, which was properly naughty of him. Funnily enough, I only ever caught him doing this as Sam 2. Thinking about it, it might have been Sam in character. I'd never made that connection until I wrote it just then. You'll see R2D2s little brother edging into this shot again. He's so attention seeking. I think he might be on drugs.

This is what the Sarang set looked like under the studio lights once everybody had gone home. It was pretty spooky and really quiet and still. I used to like wandering around the set when there was nobody else there and just sitting in the corridor nice and still and zen. It was really peaceful and a great place to get away from the pressure for a little while which was weird as this is technically right in the middle of it.

This is as close a picture as there is of the entire Sarang set and I had to lean right out over the scary gantry to take it (which is why it's as a bit of a rubbish angle). You can see here how the Monitor Room tower was up on scaffolding hanging off the end of the main corridor. We built the decking around it to provide access to the outside of this part of the set as there was all sorts of electrics for lights and monitors up there. I always found this part of the set pretty annoying as if you were inside the tower and somebody was outside working the monitors, the walls were that thick that if they were crouched right down you had to shout really loud for them to hear you. I spent a lot of time shouting instructions to people across noisy sets on Moon, as it could be a very noisy place to work. In the top-right corner you can see a part of the clone-room food-storage wall leaning against the edge of the set next to some smaller scale bulkheads for the forced perspective set that are being worked on. You can see here how the main corridor ceiling was hung from chains from the roof.

The Return-Vehicle room and the Infirmary both had open ceilings that were never covered. The Return-Vehicle cables that were hanging down were actually cables from one of Gary Shaws' old Motion-Control rigs that he had knocking around in his garage.

Do you like biscuits? Of course you do, who doesn't? We ate quite a lot of biscuits for Moon and as our budget was so absurdly tight I'd go around and grab all the little plastic trays out of the bins and use them as set dressing in our Moon base. If you look closely you'll also see printer cartridge boxes and Ikea knife-and-fork trays. The trick is that if you can apply this stuff with some sort of an eye for balance and form, when you paint it all the same colour if just looks like a new, cohesive thing. It honestly makes me cringe telling you all this sort of stuff. Bear in mind that I've been trying to make a science-fiction film since whenever and it's not been an easy ride. Of all the types of film to make, an Independent British Science-Fiction film must be the hardest. But we managed to pull it off. In my head I always imagined this moment to be a bit grander but here I am talking to you about how we stuck some biscuit trays on a wall and painted them white. Go Team Sci-Fi!!

Thursday
Aug182011

The Mystery Of The Unclear Space-Tats

Here's a Sam Bell clone fresh out the drawer in the Sarang station, looking Fonzie cool. 

Sam had to go through quite a lot of time in makeup in Moon and we did all sorts of things like drawing on his face and putting cotton wool in his cheeks to make him look different. But we left his tattoo. You probably noticed it in the film but might not have been able to make out exactly what it is. I couldn't when we first started shooting. 

When I first saw it I thought it was sort of like an armed forces tattoo, like the SAS have a dagger with a snake wrapped round it. It has a similar overall shape and I presumed it was something like this. After a while I asked Sam about it and he explained it to me.

 It's a chicken hanging from a noose. He said he got it so he can tell girls he's "got a hung cock".

Thursday
Aug182011

Alternate Ending - Space-Biker Sams' Tiny Package

One thing that tends to come up a bit when people talk about Moon is the ending. As we were doing everything on minimal resources we didn't have much extra footage to work with in the edit but there were a couple of small sections that got cut out and one of those happened to be the very end. In the shooting script, we had a scene right at the end, after the return vehicle hits the atmosphere, where we see a front door and Sam dressed like a biker trotting up, leaving a small, wrapped present, ringing the doorbell and running off. 

We then see Eve Bell answer the door, find the parcel, take it inside and open it. Whereupon it's a small scale model of her house.

 The idea behind this is that it's a resolution of Sam working on his model town and him making this last model sort of ties it all together somehow and him giving the present to Eve lets her know she's okay. Thing is, there's actually loads of problems with this and so we cut it from the film and a good thing too. There's just so much wrong with it. How would Eve know he was carving a little wooden Fairfield and "get it"? As she doesn't know anything about the clones of her father working in slavery on the Moon she's not going to care if he's okay or not. Also, presumably this is the house that the original Sam Bell also lives in as when Sam 2 calls from the Moon we hear his voice momentarily from across the room. What if he was mowing the lawn when Spaceclone Sam comes trotting up the driveway? Actually, thinking about it now, we should have filmed that. It could have gone completely mental. Imagine little Eve hearing the kerfuffle and coming outside to see what was going on? On a random Sunday morning? She'd have had an excellent story to tell all her mates at school about what happened over the weekend. "Daddy had one of his space-clones return from the moon to try and give me a present of a little house which was a bit weird and they ended up fighting in the garden and then the police came and didn't know who to arrest becasue they were genetically identical. I think Daddy might be going to jail".

We didn't really have the resources to be able to do this properly and we were trying to get an establishing shot of this nice house to set the scene and show how nice and rich the original Sam has become from selling his DNA into slavery. We had an idea of the kind of place we wanted but had no resources to shoot anything. I almost made up a VFX shot for this myself but the shot Duncan wanted would have taken me a week or so to get looking good working by myself and we just didn't have the time so we had to poo-pah that. I hate not getting things done but sometimes you have to suck it up and just realize that there's just no way and get over it. I also never got to use one of my designs for a cool hover-bike for Sam in this scene, hopefully I'll get to use it for another project sometime in the future.

It seems a bit strange when I think of it that the first thing we cut from the edit was the actual ending of the film, but I guess it just goes to show that when you're making films you shouldn't be afraid to cut stuff out if your guts are telling you it'll be for the best.

After making this cut, the ending we were left with was the shot of the return vehicle entering the atmosphere which sort of felt a bit flat. Fortunately, Duncan had the idea of the radio broadcast voice-over which really helped sell the final shot and give us a sense of closure on everything with the reveal that Sam did, indeed, return to earth. In keeping with our lack of resources, that last bit of radio broadcast where he's on about being a "Whacko and a nutjob" is actually Duncan. See what happens to your voice when you move out to LA?

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