Friday, December 2, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
It has been a while since we blogged. It's time to return to our series about the cast of The Gift!
Virginia "Dulci" Maddy as Marie
What a journey it was to find Marie, the ghost of a muse and the woman who closes the door on Phil. We heard many versions of Marie through the audition process, and while many of them were very impressive, they were different from the Marie we had imagined. So in the end we went to the actor who we knew could play Marie from the beginning. We are very grateful Dulci accepted the role.
Ricky Grove as Keith Mandelbrot
Ricky Grove of Machinima Expo and Renderosity, also well known for his sound design work for Machinima (watch his sound design tutorial, and voice acting recording tips), is a professionally trained actor. We’d been long hoping to have an opportunity to work with Ricky. Listening to his delivery is a treat. We listen to it like we’d listen to an opera singer.
Lauren Weyland as Alex
Our favorite Second Life cross dresser, Lauren is something of a celebrity in the virtual world. He has a show called “Tuesday with Lauren.” His edgy and masculine voice fits Alex very well, and his characterization of Alex is perfect to a T. We thank Lauren to be part of The Gift. Lauren often does voice acting for machinima movies. You can hear him narrating at Chantal Harvey’s Joy of Music.
Holding auditions for your movie can be a daunting prospect for many reasons. It’s actually substantial work to publicize auditions and to sort through the responses. (The worst part is that you have to write "rejection" letters to somebody.) But auditions have been worth our while. We are very happy to have met Robert, Scarlotte, Kera, Edwyn, and Brandon through auditions.
Scarlotte has a very distinct clear voice that rings like a bell. See her Voice Actors' Alliance page.
One of most fun lines in The Gift belongs to the Larry the Parrot: “I love you Larry.” Kera, a film school student and machinima maker, also does quite a lot of voice work for other machinima directors. Visit her Vimeo page
Edwyn and Brandon played Phil’s co-worker who shouts “Surprise” at his office birthday party. Nice and generous guys, who are great to work with.
Paul Carr as Coffee Shop Customer
Paul is a well-known machinima director who creates fantastic pieces. We had him for a cameo role in The Gift—he plays the British gentleman who buys small coffee to go from the coffee shop (although what he really wanted was a large cappuccino.)
Visit his Vimeo site.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
As many viewers recognized, The Gift has a fantastic cast. In this series of blog posts, les chats noir celebrate the talented actors of The Gift. We’re very lucky to have had an opportunity to work with all of them.
In order of appearance (with one exception):
Marc "GP" Cholette as Phil Carey
GP requires no introduction. He has played countless roles in over 150 Machinima movies, ranging from a horny bottle of beer, a serious elf, a comic Latin playboy, a charismatic (and semi-comic) French playboy, beasts, aliens, and numerous leading men of varying temperaments. His enormous range often makes him unrecognizable from movie to movie. I used to spot him by picking an exceptional voice actor on whose voice I don’t seem to be able to put a name.
GP is also a professional musical composer, and wrote soundtrack for a number of Machinima pieces as well as movies and TV productions.
Sonya Cross as Emily
Sonya is another voice actor in extreme high demand. It's no surprise. She has a voice clear as spring water, sweet as an apple, and crisp as Brut Champagne. But the real surprise and delight comes when you hear all the different personalities and emotions coming alive through that lovely voice. Sonya has quite an impressive voice acting résumé outside machinima as well, appearing in various mediums such as radio plays, video games, and advertisements.
Melanie Greaves (AfterThought) as Zinnie
Tyre McAllister as Greg
Kid Millions as Child
Pedigree brought Kid Millions to the spotlight early in his life. After his 2010 debut as a little kid in Surfs Up! directed by his father (theBiz), Kid Millions took up an even more challenging role this year in Ethyl Merman Lies Beneath. In The Gift, he plays the child of Phil and Emily, causing lots of coos and "aw"s in the audience.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
In The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart, the well known philosopher and film theorist Noel Carroll argues that our perverse desire to be terrified by horror films has its root in our sense of awe toward the unknown. Being scared by horror films inspire this kind of awe according to him.
This explanation, while making sense, never fully satisfied me. My own theory has been something that can be called a masturbation theory of fiction. It goes like this:
(1) We as a species developed through evolution a host of emotions that are functional for our survival and therefore for procreation (despite their potential for backfiring, especially in the modern world). Anger provides us with a surge of energy for a (necessary) fight. Sadness keeps us from wasting precious energy in futile efforts. Fear and disgust drive us to adopt protective behaviors (running away, ducking down, turning way, throwing up, keeping distance, etc.).
(2) Any systems, once in place, need to be activated on a regular basis. So do emotions. In early days of the human species, there were plenty of immediate and "legitimate" triggers for these basic emotions. In the modern world, we don't have to worry about lions attacking us or wolves stealing our food. In the modern world, our emotions work largely on the plane of the social and psychological rather than that of the physical. I also suspect that they are not exercised in enough frequencies and intensities. Therefore, we invented a gym for exercising our underused emotional muscles, which is the genre fiction.
But then, we are a more complicated species than just that. More often than not, horror films do much more than just stimulating our fear circuits, but tie our reptilian experience with what might be called the cerebral. The result is a fatal concoction of the conceptual and the primordial -- the idea felt urgently in your gut.
In Dario Argento's Opera (*spoiler*), the young opera singer's plea not to be another version of her mother, but a person of her own, is expressed acutely through the horror story. Roman Polanski's The Tenant addresses the issue of identity. Even our ordinary vampire stories and zombie movies is about our fear of giving oneself up to a passion or preserving one's "soul."
(But then, some horror movies are hardly more than pornography of another kind.)
Finally the point: All this rambling is brought to you by my experience with a recently machinima piece called Destiny's Keeper by Keith Eiler (a.k.a. malletpropstudios, a.k.a. Gnasche). It is a well made movie with a Lynchian feel to it. The story can be a little bit cryptic at first view, especially if you're distracted (?) by the disturbing (by which I mean 'great') sounds and visuals. But once you get the story, the horror is elevated to a whole other level. Watch it here or below.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
The production of our next machinima project, The Gift, has taken off nicely and been steadily gaining altitude. This project is especially dear to me, although one may argue you feel just the same way for each and every project during the production.
Initially, the protagonist of The Gift was an aspiring novelist. Eventually, in a major revision, Phil (named after Philip Carey from Of Human Bondage) was re-born as a classical music composer.
I think changing Phil's medium of expression led to a great improvement. For one, I think it made the story more cinematically appealing by allowing music to take a more central role. It also helped me keep the script more compact. But one thing that strikes me after the fact is how music makes a perfect element of this story.
At this point, I would like to present excerpts from two poems by W. H. Auden, published right next to each other in a collection: The Novelist, and The Composer.
In the first poem, Auden says a novelist should:
among the Just
Be just, among the Filthy filthy too,
And in his own weak person, if he can,
Must suffer dully all the wrongs of Man.
I cannot claim I know exactly what Auden meant, but these lines resonate in me quite profoundly. The truth is I suspect I write because life is imperfect. In writing, I deal with all the injustice and filthiness of human existence, just as I do in life. In writing, however, I deal with them not as the object or as the agent but as a student and observer, and this enables me to cope with "all the wrongs of Man," or the wrongness of existence.
On the other hand, music can be, in my mind, a purer form of art. Music, at its best moment, completely transcends the human world and puts you in a radically different mode of being. Yes, music can tell a story, and music can mimic life, but music can also induce an experience of the purest joy, the highest pleasure, an aesthetic ecstasy, like a lightning that strikes directly at a mysterious spot in the brain without ever touching an earthly object.
Anyway, here is how Auden put it more accurately than I ever could:
Only your notes are pure contraption,
Only your song is an absolute gift.
You, alone, alone, O imaginary song,
Are unable to say an existence is wrong,
And pour out your forgiveness like a wine.