Sunday, September 25, 2011

Swedish-Japanese Monster Attacks: Umibozu!

Now for a little short film project. Long ago I found a Japanese story about the sailor Tokuso encountering an Umibozu at sea, and discussing the peculiarities of life, horror and truth with the monster.

An Umibozu is said to be the spectre of a drowned Buddhist monk, and usually manifests itself as a huge black head, on occasion accompanied by tentacles. The creature is huge and sinks ships daring to venture too far off the coastline. Of course, a giant squid comes to mind, and it has been suggested that such an animal have been glimpsed and the encounter started off the legend.

  My version of the story features a poor fisherman, rather than a successful mariner. The Umibozu is pretty intact, and has a couple of nasty-looking tentacles.

In early September I shot some green screen footage of my pal Dag Persson dressed up as the fisherman. We concocted a very simple wooden hold for the "oar", which was just a big stick in reality. I took some snapshots of a small wooden japanese boat model a friend of mine has, and superimposed Dag into it. It works fine for distance shots, while close-ups simply show Dag from the waist up. We used a powerful leaf-blower (which made a hell of a racket) to simulate stormy winds. Dag's been in a few of my projects. He was the hero in my "The King Who Sought Immortality", for which he also stood in front of a chroma key screen with the leaf-blower going full blast in his face.

The Umibozu itself was constructed as a very plain hand puppet, just something I held aloft on my outstreched arm and waved around in front of the camera. Since it wasn't meant to convey any expressions I tried to create a distinct permanent expression on the sculpture for the puppet.

I made a two-part plaster mould for the sculpture and cast latex tinted black into the finished mould.

The finished puppet has reddish eyes created by painting on the flat backside of a pair of glass semi-orbs. I also made a jointed latex tentacle, which I animated twice and edited into the shots of the Umibozu submerged in water.

The finished shots make use of photos of an overcast sky, googled lightning images, shots of a CGI ocean I bought some years ago, and some spark shower footage from used as water splashes.

It's not a realistic look, but that's not what I was after. The whole film is stylized in different ways.

For example, I chose to include fleeting images of some of the words from the conversation between the monster and the fisherman. The reason for this is simply to add more punch to the visuals, and also to make sure our Swedish-accented English comes across well enough. If you can't understand what's being said, the purpose of the film kind of falls flat.

I'm still editing the project, but it should be up on YouTube during the coming week. Sayonara!


McTodd said...

I've just watched your Umibozu short and I love it! A perfect subject for you, and you're pulled it off really well. I love the idea of someone arguing with a monster. And for such a simple creature, your usual (high) level of craftsmanship in constructing it, the textures of the Umibozu head are fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! It´s an honor the act in Your films!
Doggie Dharma

Richard Svensson said...

McTodd: Thanks! I enjoyed working on this project, and I hope it shows.
Dag: It's my honor having you along for the ride!

Luffy said...

Though it's short and simple, it is a fabulous film. One of my favorites from you!

anon said...

idk what to put here