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Puppets to Their Places: My Professional Placement Part 3

Good day all!

We’re back at it in the Puppetworks studio. If you haven’t caught my last couple of posts, we’ve already discussed some of the tests Chrystene and I have done, along with a slice of the puppet fabrication going on around here. Now it’s time to move on to production.

If you’re familiar with a regular “human actor” set, there’s not that much difference to what goes on during a puppet shoot other than the actors are now actually pieces of fabric and/or paper. A minor detail in the grand scheme of things. You still need sets, lighting, sound, and a camera. And, of course, the puppets don’t move on their own, so puppeteers are needed as well.

Now, there are many different ways to go about puppeteering a film and it depends the visual style you’d like to accomplish. Some films that show all the ropes and sticks that the puppeteers use to move the puppets around and there are others that try to hide those elements in order to give off a different feel. For my shadow puppet film, I wanted the controls of the puppets to be invisible, so attaching strips of clear plastic made my puppets seemingly move on their own.

With the way my film is being put together I had to film all of the characters separately, marking down each scene they had to be in and what background elements were needed in order to complete the shot. For example, a particular shot of my film has the cowboy, Sawkey, jumping after his hat which happens to be in the beak of a crow sitting on a tree branch. To get the full scene I needed Sawkey jumping, the crow with the hat in its beak, the dog growling at the crow, the tree with moving branch, and the ground for everything to stand on.

It’s a puzzle made up of moving pieces, everything has to fit together just so. After a multitude of shots taken over the course of a few days, the puppet-actors were wrapped. Now it was on to sets and background. The easy thing to do would be to create some scraggly ground in a drawing program, but I wanted to keep it true to the film. Strips of ground were made, then photos of the shadows were taken and stitched together in order to make long stretches of prairie to walk across.

As for Chrystene’s film, the shoot was a little more involved as it used tracks, dollies, and cranes on a miniaturised cabin in front of a green screen. The effect was superb, with the wonderful set coming to life in a beautiful way. It’s just one look that Chrystene’s film inhabits before moving into the pages of the diary and giving the viewer a trip through the erratic, and yet succinct, entries by Kathleen, who wrote in it from the 1930s all the way to the 80s.

Berny works the crane and dolly while Sarah and Noelle puppeteer some hands.

This elaborate puppet filmmaking, along with all of the participants’ films, are definitely something to look forward to in the near future. As everyone moves forward in their films, the excitement builds exponentially. A mix of different styles of filmmaking put together by filmmakers, new and experienced, makes for an awesome time for makers and viewers alike.

In the next post, the joys of post-production on the puppet film are discussed including such juicy tidbits as some creative commons music sites to check out, and what the grueling process of putting the pieces of my film’s puzzle together is like. Sneak peak: It’s not so bad, especially when the results are so cool.

Thanks again for reading!

-Eric Kanius

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