Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lost Submarines

With the current news of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan missing at sea, I'm reminded of an event that happened when I was a child living in then West Germany.

For a few days it was top of the news. I remember the graphic behind the television newsreader: A silhouette of a submarine against a simple map of the Mediterranean. On March 4th, 1970, the French Navy submarine Eurydice went missing after a dive, and after a search effort, several pieces of the ship were found as was an oil slick. (It was known at the time that something catastrophic happened when a geophysical laboratory registered an underwater explosion.)

The ship's crew all perished. As a matter of fact the French navy lost a submarine two years earlier -- it too sank in the Mediterranean. The Minerve has to this day never been found. I hope the crew of the San Juan is found alive and well.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Christmas Music to Rock

The store/shop public address and music systems are already spilling and spewing the Christmas tunes/toons. As I've been saying for years, Christmas, here in Toronto, Canada, at least, runs a full one-tenth of the calendar year.

Go ahead; call me "Eb".

At the Gas Pumps, Apparently

In the mornings I have the radio on to give background to my daily ablutions.

Early this a.m. I realized that this may be one of the most common types of news flash:

"At the gas pumps....the cost of gas will go up by one cent at midnight."

That sounds like a song lyric to me ("Country"?).

Friday, November 17, 2017

I'd Prefer to See a Doc

I remember my realization.

I was returning to Canada from England on an Air Canada 747. Sitting beside me was a young woman -- I too was pretty young at the time -- who happened to be a great conversationalist. One story she recounted was about a video party she had with friends in London. The group rented four movies, one of which was a documentary.

In summary she added: "The best film was the documentary."

For some reason I often find documentaries to be my favourites. With an emphasis on that film form today -- helped by easy access to high resolution imaging equipment -- I too prefer on average to sit down with a "good doc". Reality trumps.

Ready to go: The Russian Woodpecker.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pop Up Demo Miniature Scenery

Back in November of 2009 I wrote a piece about my experiences designing a set for the 1987 Canadian horror film Graveyard Shift. I mentioned building a 'table top' miniature on spec to show the film's producers that I could design and construct one in just a few hours, and, just as importantly, for next to no money. (In the first, and later abandoned production, there was a need for scenery in miniature form.) The above diorama took four to five hours to design and construct. Afterward I took a series of snaps, which I presented to Graveyard Shift's production manager and producer.

The punchline is I got the job. I like to think that my model job helped me secure the gig.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Conductor's 8 x 10: Julius Rudel

When I was nineteen or twenty years of age I decided to collect some eight-by-tens of orchestra conductors. Back in the days before the Internet the process of getting mailing addresses for the various orchestras was not too much of a problem. My local library, like most of the kind, had reference books for such a task. I collected several contacts. In the name of good public relations I always got a response, a large-size envelope containing an eight-by-ten glossy.

Viennese born Julius Rudel was principal conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1981, when I sent away for the glossy. Like many good conductors he built a reputation in opera, including the New York City and Metropolitan opera companies.

Julius Rudel died in 2014 at the age of 93.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembrance Day Last Post

On November 6th of last year I wrote a pre-Remembrance Day piece; a story from personal experience:

Human Nature and Remembrance Day

With Remembrance Day almost upon us, I thought about a story of my own regarding that special day; and its special symbol: The poppy.

In early November in the late 1980s (I'm thinking 1989), I hopped onto a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train car. With the seats being all but fully occupied I took the famous door position as the doors closed behind me. Sitting on the other side of the car, with his poppy box resting on his lap, and looking sharp in his uniform, was a veteran.

Immediately I remembered that a few minutes earlier I had shoved a two dollar bill (remember those?) into my shirt pocket. I approached the vet as I drew out the money. He got up from his seat and carefully pinned the poppy to my lapel. I thanked him and went back to my first position. Then, all of a sudden, and in the style of an over-directed film, several other riders popped open their purses and pulled out their wallets.

The New Math - Problem Solving

No Smartphone, No Facebook - In Remembrance

Two minutes, that's all.

We can do it!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Aliens Await "Hyper-Reality"

A Westie (West Highland White Terrier)

How To Make a Monster (Mask)

Back on Halloween (Tuesday, October 31st) I posted a behind-the-scenes photograph from my unfinished 35mm epic, Hyper-Reality. The film's resident monster was something I designed and built using the old, and very bad, television series Lost in Space as my template. (It makes sense, if the film ever gets finished. As I've mentioned on this blog a few times, "HR" may get submitted by me to a crowd-funding platform very soon.)

The photo above: This monster-build started on my office's work table. I bought a theatrical mask from Malibar, here in Toronto, and used that as my starting point. From a hardware store I grabbed a tube of urethane foam and a star was born.

Yes, that is the National Post underneath my work of art.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Prop Design: Portable Cylinder Recorder

I designed the above prop for a low budget feature film titled Johnny Shortwave. The world depicted in the black and white epic has an almost steampunk aesthetic, with audio recording happening not on linear magnetic tape, but on cylinders; Edison style.

In addition to the above I designed two table-top models. The idea I had there was that those were older machines. The rationale for the portable recorder was that miniaturization was producing more compact devices -- like a cylinder recorder. A character in Shortwave carries the machine around by slinging the carrying strap over his shoulder.

John Gajdecki built the prop from my plans. I told him that he could run with the design. He did a beautiful job, I think.

Soon I will post the original plans.

Nose to Nose with a (Noseless) CF-104

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Poem: You Must Find Yours (Good Luck!)

They did
you see

They said
to me


Bliss dropped from
the sky

But I

know not where
... nor why.


Simon St. Laurent

Friday, November 3, 2017

Conductor's 8 x 10: Jerry Goldsmith

When I was nineteen or twenty years of age I decided to collect some eight-by-tens of orchestra conductors. Back in the days before the Internet the process of getting mailing addresses for the various orchestras was not too much of a problem. My local library, like most of the kind, had reference books for such a task. I collected several contacts. In the name of good public relations I always got a response, a large-size envelope containing an eight-by-ten glossy.

While he did guest-conduct symphony orchestras, Jerry Goldsmith (1929 - 2004) was one of the greatest composers of movie music. His scores for films such as Seconds, The Sand Pebbles, Planet of the Apes, Patton, The OmenStar Trek: The Motion PictureUnder Fire, and The Mummy demonstrate not only his keen dramatic sense, but his ability to go chameleon.

In the pre-Internet early 1980s I did not know to get in touch with Mr. Goldsmith's agent, so I did the next best thing; something that I knew would work: Lionel Newman was 20th Century Fox's music director and a friend and colleague of Goldsmith's. "Mr. Lionel Newman c/o 20th Century Fox...."

Perhaps Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane said it best on a recent BBC radio interview: "(Goldsmith was) an insanely talented guy."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Avro Lancaster Bomber at CWHM

It's always a pleasure to see the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Avro Lancaster bomber, whether it's in the sky -- on occasion the machine flies over my neighbourhood here in Toronto -- or as a static display. (Note the missing engine; the 'starboard-outer'.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Matte Painting Concept Painting

Back in late 1988 I designed some concepts for a low budget feature film. A few of these were 'optical matte painting' shots, an attempt by the producers to "open up" the film. Unfortunately, as was often the case with older low budget pictures, the wish to include matte shots was one of the first things to be jettisoned. (Now, of course, for peanuts one can whip up something on a computer.) And forget about hiring a matte artist when you have no money; he or she is of a very specialized craft and charges accordingly.

The film was photographed in black and white, hence my monochrome still photo.

To those Trekkies or Trekkers out there it's pretty obvious I was inspired by Albert Whitlock's paintings for Star Trek, specifically his artwork for the show's second pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

Max (a Cat)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween! Monster from "Hyper-Reality"

On Sunday I posted another piece about my uncompleted 35mm short film epic, Hyper-Reality. It's Halloween today and I thought I would post an on-set photograph of the film's monster.

Actor Mike Garr rehearses a fight scene with the monster -- actually a guy in a costume that I designed and built (with some valued assistance from Erminia Diamantopoulos).

When the fight choreographer first saw the costume, she said: "I find that really disturbing."

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Curious Cat

What could it be? A butterfly? A bug? A fly? It might be a pigeon.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Behind the Scenes Pics from "Hyper-Reality"

Several times since February of last year I have posted about my unfinished 35mm short film epic, Hyper-Reality (90% done epic, that is). I wrote about trying to possibly crowd-fund its completion.

More info, soon. But for now....

Camera assistant Carolyn poses with the Mitchell.

I look to direct.

The technical crew sets up the business side of the "Irwin Allen Panel".

Setting up a shot in the "Alien Lair".

An Alien relaxes on the "Corman's Bar" set.

Actor Mike Garr and I enjoy a laugh over some issue.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Behind the Mitchell on "Hyper-Reality"

"Graveyard Shift" Set Build Pics from October 1985

Set builder Dave Fiacconi takes a break for the camera.

I check to see if Dave is level headed.

I hang on for dear life while the crew works to prep the set in the studio.

Chris Leger paints after building some pyro charges into a tombstone.

Set builder Rae Crombie paints some details into the mausoleum set.

The set build crew works their magic. (The shoot starts in hours.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

How Could I Not List Benny?

Back on September 20th I listed some of my favourite film scores. It was a pop-up list, and because of that, I missed some titles.

What I realized recently is the fact I made a serious omission: Scores from the late great movie composer Bernard Herrmann.

Quick. In order of release:

1. The Day the Earth Stood Still
2. Vertigo
3. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
4. Psycho
5. Taxi Driver

Try to imagine those films without their respective scores.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Film People!" (Emulsionites)

Poem: Who's Flattery?

How much is too
much flattery?

It depends on who it
is you are flattering

It might fly
or lie flat.


Simon St. Laurent

Laser Accurate Toronto Road Painting