Monday, August 10, 2009

Save Prince Plutonium!: Props and shooting

Last year I shot the film Goblin Wood with my friend Björn's step-daughter Angelica (you can find several posts about that project here on my blog). We all enjoyed the experience so much we decided to repeat it this year, adding Angie's friend Tove, who had gotten quite worked-up about becoming a YouTube film star herself. The resulting project was Save Prince Plutonium!, about two rival space heroines, Astro Girl and Galaxy Girl, setting out to rescue and win the same boy (never a good thing). As a side-note, the girls are at present having a bit of a real-life fall out over a boy in school, but the issue seems to be resolving in a way quite similar to what eventually happens in our film. Life imitates art, as always!

Also shot last year were two projects filmed in front of a less-than satisfactory blue screen. I've spent close to a year getting usable extractions of the actors from that blue screen background, but this experience hasn't deterred me from having another go at chroma key. This time I decided to use green, which seems to have been a much better choice. This meant we only had to build a couple of consoles and seats for space ship interiors. The rest would be models keyed in behind the girls. My pal Björn helped me build the things we needed.

The cockpit chair for one of the space ships was an old automobile seat. The controls for the consoles were all sorts of old stuff gathered up; buttons and keyboards repainted and pieced together.

While Björn and I were building the set pieces the girls started getting into their roles and playing with the stuff. This was very cool, of course, since it meant they were really looking forward to doing this project.

For Angie's (Astro Girl) space ship we only fixed up the auto chair with a couple of control handles. The handles were painted jet black and retractable buttons for firing laser cannons (of course) were put into the grips.

Tove's (Galaxy Girl) space ship had a big console used for long shots of her steering her ship. Astro Girl, on the other hand, gets into a space battle with robot ships and only needed her chair for her action-filled, very quick shots. The console was built out of fiber board. Nothing fancy at all, but it worked great.

The console was painted with a black base coat. The steering wheel was made out of an old coat-hanger and two wooden dowels.

With gold paint and controls added the console looks snazzy enough for this project. I ran out of gold paint while spraying the front of the console. But that was alright, since we never intended to shoot very low anyways.

The laser guns were just two water guns lazily bought by me and modified slightly.

Angie's mom Lisa took care of the make-up duties. Looks like neither of the girls really enjoyed being made up.

But it was worth the slight anguish! The space suits were two (very expensive) gymnastics suits I bought, with some small details added. Before we started filming the girls got to do some inspired action-heroine posing. Might be good for poster art or the end credits.

As you can see we used a cloth green screen (4m x 2m) for the background. Another piece was added to the floor when that was necessary. It's difficult getting the cloth completely smooth, but a simple iron with the steam turned up will go a long way fixing that.

And off into space we go! There will be additional stuff like blinking lights added to this console.

All the new stuff for Angie's cockpit will be added in the background.

We shot all the scenes in an old room in a boarding school, just a stone's throw from where I live. Angie's turning into quite a mini-Milla Jovovich, with ever-expanding fight scenes. Both girls were very acrobatic, doing back-flips, cart wheels, high kicks and other sorts of gymnastics that looks particularly painful to a 35-year old couch potato. In the film they'll be fighting stop-motion animated robots.

And of course I'll have to mention Prince Plutonium himself. I shot the scenes with Elias playing the prince about a week after we did the scenes with the girls. He dressed up in clothes picked from the costume storage of the boarding school's drama class. I made a suitable "atomic" head band for him. Like the girls, Elias is 10 years old, but already severely bitten by the acting bug.

I borrowed the camera from the school as well. It was the first time I shot in HD, in 16:9 and saving the footage on a digital memory card. I wanted the best possible image quality for all the green screen shots and that's why I didn't use my old standard DVcam. It's good for most things, but I don't trust it for producing good keyable footage. This big, expensive camera was not the easiest to cooporate with. I will buy my own HD camera as soon as I can, but it will be something much simpler that this big chunk of plastic.

After the filming was done we all had a wrap-up dinner. Angie fooled around with a Beltain deer mask I made a while ago and we decided that for 2010 we would do a celtic-inspired fairy tale, where she could wear the mask. The main focus here would be to find stunning spots of real nature and keep the chroma key shots to a minimum. It may seem foolhardy do discuss new projects while old ones are unfinished (or just shot), but you never know how long the enthusiasm will last when it comes to kids. All of a sudden they might decide that they're too old or too adult to play around in front of a camera, so do what you can as long as you can. Stock up with good footage while you can get it. I don't really think that attitude will be a problem with Angie, since she's really easy-going and adventurous. She's a very good actress despite her tender age, so I'd really like to do more films with her.

Finally; a background shot from the planet where the prince is held captive. This unhospitable, monster-infested place was created using photos of twilight skies with shots of coral reefs provided by a friend living in the caribbean.


McTodd said...

More fantastic stuff! Great to see you're busy - I've been very lazy...

By the way, I tried emailing you earlier but it bounced back.

Richard Svensson said...

Oh, I'm sorry about my email -It's been changed to

Happy to hear from you again. And there's nothing wrong with "being lazy", ie taking it easy sometimes. My big problem is that my inspiration and (according to myself) brilliant ideas comes faster than I can make them into something substantional. I really need to win the lottery, so I don't have to waste my life going off to work every day!

Shelley Noble said...

Completely fabulous and adorable! What fun!

Richard Svensson said...

It was a lot of fun making this and I think it can turn out quite well in the end!

a guy in a gorilla suit said...

really like the background with the coral reef and the planet and everything. really nicely done. And very nice to see another film in progress. All the best !