Saturday, April 2, 2011

Return of Plan 9 From Outer Space

Wow, I haven't blogged in some time. Let's get into it.

For the past month I've been working on a film for a competition to do with the remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space (yes, people are actually remaking it.) The idea is simple: reimagine the original film in 1-3 minutes so I went with a cool recapping of the main points/themes of the film (Bela Lugosi's characters death, the destructive nature of man, strange looking zombies standing around and an alien yelling "STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!") and do it all to a music track (composed by me of course) so it's all simple and can get away with a little cheesy aesthetics or cheap cardboard sets because it's mimicking the original, but turns out more arty and cool looking. That was a long sentence, let's make this one shorter. And this even shorter. Good, less run on sentences.

It has been way more work than you'd think. I've never had to organise so many actors in such a small amount of time from different locations. I had neglected the competition for a while and then decided that 20 days before it were to finish I would come up with an idea, design and build costumes/sets (the costume being a very similar style to the original) and film/edit it all. Wow. Silly me. If I want to do a proper short film I usually take an entire semester to do it so this has been an experience in quickly making a film.

There were quite a few problems and at times I even wanted to quit but I didn't and now I'm nearly done. I'm typing this as I render different clips that I've just edited with Magic Bullet in Adobe Premiere Pro. I'm giving them all a contrasty black and white look.

My poor lighting has actually given the footage a bit of a film noir look when put into black and white. Woops. Perhaps this could be to my advantage?

OK well quick run down of the film: I recreated the scene where the old man (played by Bela Lugosi in the original, played by my Grandfather in mine) dies. Originally due to Bela Lugosi's death he just walks off screen and there's the sound of a car hitting him even though his shadow is still clearly visible. Instead of the awful narrative voice over of the original I set it to sad piano music with cuts and changes in speed to the beat.
Next we have the thudding sound like a heart beat as flashes of the zombies appear on the screen. A shot is shown of a police hat and a limp hand nearby to show that they've had victims. But then, a poor lady is running away...
Cut to Jeff Trent and the detective/police guy (whoever he is in the original. I decided to exclude the general because a) I can't remember why he's there b) couldn't find an actor or costume). They walk up towards where the alien spaceship presumably is (though not shown on screen because hey, I don't have a spare ship ok?) The heart beat thud is now accompanied by dark low strings. This is me skipping forward to the end of the film, ignoring all other plot points of the film for the sake of a simple climax. (I have 3 minutes max to do this, so I figured I'd just allude to the important events that happen prior in the middle heart beat section - mainly zombies as that is the iconic part of the film).
The alien watches from the inside by himself. I did make a costume for a female, but my actress couldn't get there on the day and I didn't get her message asking for a lift until after filming. Also, in the original she plays very little purpose in the film and when she tries to do something she gets shut down 50's sexism style with a slap and the man going "women are for breeding" before being superior. I decided that it wasn't important enough to have her in there as the original film treated her as unimportant. Yeah, like I said, I'm mimicking the themes too and women being unimportant counts as one. I would've enjoyed having my actress in the film, but during filming I realised it would've been dificult to place her in the shots and work around her for the action. She really hasn't got much of an important role.
OK, so the alien opens the ship doors being all arrogant and such (like in the original) and then there's a bit of a stare off between the three. The alien yells at them for being stupid (lik in the original, it's such a great piece of dialogue. "STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!") which is the only piece of dialogue (not even recorded, just implied by his lips) in my film. This angers the man (Jeff Trent, aka the Pilot, aka the male lead) who proceeds to violently beat the alien to an unconscious pulp (ULTRA VIOLENCE YEAH!) montage style. I sped things up, rapid cuts, occasional shaky camera. It was awesome really. It could've been improved only with blood.
Seeing as in the original the spaceship catches on fire due to some random piece of machinery breaking in the fight but my set went for a more simplistic and more futuristic style (I covered my pool table in paper mache and used After Effects to make the squares painted on light up as if it was an interactive touch screen. Totally better than actually building something real) I needed a new reason to allude to the original fire. I decided that the detective, which until then played pretty much no role at all other than just being there, should light his pipe and then throw the still lit match behind him. The flames slowly grow larger as the unconscious alien lies in the background.
Dun Dun Dun.
Totally expressing the original theme of the movie about man being destructive and violent in one scene. Yeah.

OK I actually got kicked out the computer lab while I was writing this/editing the film a few days ago and so I'm in the future now and the film is finished. Yep. I did it all. I put in in black and white, synced the music and such and it looks really fancy and you can't watch it yet (not allowed to put it on youtube as it's for a competition). I like black and white. The contrast, the blackness. The shadows become so noticeable and cool. I should just make other films in black and white too just for fun. Also, as there was no recorded dialogue I could direct people while the camera was rolling and didn't need someone to be in charge of sound. Yay! Simplicity!

But yes, finally, after nearly a month of work I've finished it and showed it to a few people who were interested in what I was working on...

...then realised that it doesn't actually make any sense to anyone unless they've seen the movie...

You see, mine doesn't have a plot exactly... it's just scene of man looking sad and walking away from his house, shots of random zombies in a graveyard, girl running, man walks into spaceship and beats up someone a foot and a half taller than him.

The end.

...hmm... OK but if you had seen the original you'd understand that it's the infamously poorly executed death scene of Bela Lugosi. Then the zombies in the graveyard during the day is an allusion to the mismatched editing of the chase scene where the vampire zombie chases a girl and it changes between night and day. The cheap sets are to mimick the cheap look of the original. It's all allusions to the original redone in a more "arty" (not that arty...) and "professional" (that is to say, less amateur) manner. The cheapness mixed with the epic music and such is like Ed Wood's talent vs intentions. He wanted to make good films with his low budget, he just didn't manage it.

I wrote the most verbose description of my entry on the submission form. It was so long I had to add in an extra line and a half to fit it in and I'm not sure I quite made my point. Oh well, it doesn't matter.

I hope I get into Round 2 of this competition.

Yay, time to spend another month working on another film! It's on.

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