Pre-Production Update #3: Character Design 3

In this update, we’re getting down to the meat of the film- our hero. Referred to in the script simply as “The Seeker,” JIX’s star fits firmly in tradition as a man with no name, quietly seeing to his business as he pilots the spaceship Searcher 5 on a mission of vengeance.

It’s been several years since I jotted down the first sketches of The Seeker, so I can’t be 100%, but I’m pretty sure it came to me pretty quickly.

The Seeker001

In contrast to Serento’s suit, The Seeker’s is less flashy. It’s worn, and closer to a look that we’re familiar with, which is an indication that it’s old and out of date.

The Seeker003

In this sketch, I just did a little refinement to the space suit from the first thumbnails. I was happy with the overall execution, but something still didn’t quite gel for me: the face. Sure, he’s got the steely determination and world-weariness I needed, but something was definitely missing. So, over the last week, I thought about and worked on the problem…

The Seeker005

… and this is what I ended up with. The key breakthrough for me was changing my figure of inspiration from an admittedly generic Clint Eastwood type to the actor John Hawkes. This design shift gave me two things: one, I’m drawn more so to animated characters with exaggerated profiles (and the vulture-like nose and hollowed cheeks definitely give me that), and two, Hawkes is an actor that bleeds vulnerability even when he’s at his most menacing. As a final touch, I added the large scars across the face, tipping my hat to a past confrontation that The Seeker may have had with the monstrous Serento.

Now that the characters are all designed, I’ll be moving into two new phases in the coming weeks: story boarding the film and creating color profiles for each character. Of course, you’ll be front and center for each new development.

AJ

Pre-Production Update #1: Character Design

Wow, it’s been a long time since our last update.

So you’re probably wondering what’s going on with us at 17 Presidents Productions. Well, since our last post, my awesome wife had a baby boy (hurray for Teddy!), we changed website providers, and we moved our family and production offices from Miami, FL to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

It’s been crazy. But, the good news is that now I can focus on getting “Jupiter IX” off the ground. So, in this first Pre-Production blog, I wanted to begin to highlight the first step in artistic development, Character Design. At this stage, I’m in the middle of locking sketches for the secondary characters of the story. I chose to start with these guys for two reasons: one, nailing these characters will help me define the tone and style of the world they inhabit, and, two, it insures that I give every character as much thought and care as I will eventually give the stars.

Android003

Our cast includes an android-concierge with a gambling addiction…

Mechanic001

… a space station mechanic with an ex-military past…

Bartender001

… and a mysterious bartender.

Expect a new update from me between Monday and Wednesday every week. The project is just starting to warm up, and there is going to be some really cool artwork heading your way.

AJ

PS- We got a new light kit delivered today from B&H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/)! We’ll cover that in-depth in its own update once shooting has commenced.

Staff of One

(Originally posted 5/22/12)

I am pleased to announce that Luke Nader, my best friend and frequent collaborator, has joined 17 Presidents Productions as a producer, a move that has added creativity and business acumen to the studio that would not have existed if it were just me alone.

AJ

A Big Announcement for Something Short

(Originally posted 5/20/12)

I love science-fiction; I always have.  As I started film school in early 2008, I already had a lot of ideas for projects swirling around in my head, and one of them was set in the cold, black expanse of space. I don’t remember much else about that original kernel of an idea, but it must have been very strong, because I sat down on my computer and knocked out a quick animation test of small, pock-marked planet spinning against the stars.

This CG test stayed with me for several months until I had to write a short screenplay (5 pages max) for school. What came out was a script called “Jupiter IX” that centered on a quiet, determined man crossing space on a quest for vengeance, ending at the titular space station. It was simple, with just a handful of lines, but the mood of the piece really stuck with me. Even though it was told on a backdrop that was infinite, the story felt claustrophobic, a juxtaposition that I felt could be very successful.

Fast forward several years, and I hadn’t really given “Jupiter IX” much additional thought. I had gotten hung up on shooting my student films and producing my thesis project, but when I graduated film school, things cooled off for me. When I entered the filmmaking job market in Miami in late 2009, I was completely disinterested with the lack of work and creativity that met me. Turning my back on that world, I kept my head down and continued work as a graphic designer, waiting for something to reignite the filmmaking passion that I’d lost.

Until about a month ago. Much like science-fiction, I have always loved stop-motion animation. Two of my favorite films of all time are Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, the latter of which I consider a perfect film. So, about a month ago, I ordered a couple books on the technical aspects of stop-motion, and I devoured them. I wanted to try my hand at it, feeling that it could be a perfect medium for me: I draw, paint, sculpt, write, and have degrees in both film and digital animation. I even have done voice work on past projects. So I started to think of projects to work on, until it hit me… “Jupiter IX” had been waiting for me since 2009 to realize exactly how to make it.

Now, we finally get to the point of this entry. After a period of research and soul-searching, I am officially announcing that “Jupiter IX” will be the first project to be produced by 17 Presidents Productions, and that development is beginning immediately, with the end goal being a completed stop-motion short with professional level execution and storytelling. This will be a long process, and I have no belief that it will be anything but difficult, but I am excited to take the challenge head on.

But there is a second announcement as well. I am asking you along for the ride. Through this journal, I will be making frequent updates throughout development. I will be posting each step of the way to give you a closer look on the challenges, failures, and triumphs that I’m bound to encounter. There will be pre-production and design artwork, as well as photos and videos of work in progress.

So, I leave you with the first piece of pre-production art: the original planet test from 2009.

Thank you ahead of time for your interest, love, and support. It’s going to be a fun ride.

AJ