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The Birth of a Puppet: My Professional Placement Part 2

Real Shadow, Fake Wall!

Howdy all!

The Puppetworks is a happening place nowadays. Working through the summer making puppet films has been kind of surreal. After the tests the I spoke of in the last post, Chrystene set me loose to work on my own puppet film as she worked out hers.

From there, the Puppetworks has been a whirlwind of storyboards, writing, and puppet making. This applies to more than just myself, since there are many participants in the “Smoke and Mirrors” workshops. The types of fabrication going on in the Puppetworks are varied beyond imagination and being in the Puppetworks four days a week I’m lucky enough to see participants in the workshops come and go, each working on their own film. From a 3D goose with flapping wings, shadow puppets, antiqued miniature wardrobes, and a foot with articulating joints in the toes and heel, it’s a cacophony of creativity and inspiration.

My film is one dealing solely in shadow puppets. During some of the tests, Chrystene and I were wondering if one would be able to project a shadow onto a screen and then take out the screen in After Effects, leaving behind just the shadow. It worked pretty darn well and shot me into the style that my film now has.

From there my project grew into a fully formed idea and all that was needed were the puppets. Enter Chelsea, the art department for my film that I am eternally grateful for. Without her I wouldn’t have the amazing shadow puppets that I have now. They emanate the western feel with a rugged man and his dog walking the plains of Saskatchewan in search of revenge and being principal of a rural school. You know, the regular Western tale.

After doing a few sketches to make sure they were anatomically correct, Chelsea transferred them to some black poster board, except with all of the jointed parts separate in order to get overlap to put them together into working puppets. This being her first foray into puppets, as well, it took some getting used to the process… or at least I thought it would, then she created puppets like cowboy Sawkey and his dog:

After just a few days of fabrication the whole cast was built along with all the props needed to get this rootin’-tootin’ showdown into production.

On Chrystene’s side of things, an interior needed to be built to match the exterior of this miniature prairie shack of a house. She already fabricated a pretty awesome radio to match the wardrobe and things seem to be moving along to get the 3D set built.

Seeing stuff like this is what broadens my view about other forms of puppet films or even combining different styles to create an image that wouldn’t be obtainable by sticking to just one style. For my first go at a puppet film I decided to keep it relatively simple in order to get something achievable and I have. So what that garners me is confidence to move onto something bigger with a story even more insane than the one I have now, if that’s even possible. I come to this conclusion at the end of every week, but it’s something positive, so I don’t mind.

My next post will focus on production, dealing with miniature props and how much a diva a shadow puppet can be.

Thanks for reading!

-Eric Kanius

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