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Shown at BUG 07: Pivot’s In The Blood by Alex Smith
Beware of this video. It essentially explodes the myth that to create white-knuckle horror you need living, breathing humans as victims. Or indeed moving film.
Alex Smith, making his first video for ages, has essentially done an extremely low budget facsimile of a Jaws-style movie with rudimentary puppets, completely visible invisible puppet-makers, a polythene sea, and (most importantly) buckets of blood - all shot on thousands of digital stills.
In fact, Alex may have inflicted serious damage on his own home making this, and upon himself - see his account of the making of the video below.
But what the hell - it's bloody brilliant.
Alex Smith on his video for Pivot's In The Blood
"I've always liked the idea of making a shark attack film. There was one film in particular that inspired me: "L'Ultimo Squalo", which is an Italian rip-off of Jaws. The story is the same as Jaws, but in the spirit of Italian exploitation cinema, everything is amped up. There's three times as much gore. And I've always been interested in sharks. I've been shark cage diving in South Africa, which was amazing.
"I was shooting a documentary about Depeche Mode in Sao Paolo and I got caught in a sudden rain storm. I went into the nearest café to wait it out. I had nothing to read, and I'd had a rush of blood to the head, if I was to make a shark film, what would happen How would it be different to the others So I thought I'd write a fantasy shark movie. I wrote some key scenes, imagined how I'd shoot it, and then forgot about it. Then I got asked by Pivot to make a video for "In The Blood", and the bass line, the title, and the general mood of the song spoke "Shark" to me.
"My cousin Ralph showed me a film about the sculptor Alexander Calder, "Le Cirque de Calder". Calder shows us puppets of circus performers, about four inches tall, lion tamers, trapeze artists, knife throwers etc- all made out of wire, cork and scraps of material. Calder is seen the whole time, nudging the puppets along with his hands- there are no strings or rods attached to the puppets - just Calder's hands. What I took from it, was that seeing the puppeteer didn't matter at all, and that you can read emotions into a piece of cork with a couple of eyes drawn onto it.
"I met up with my sculptor friend Astrid to discuss making this, and we spent a lot of time talking about materials. We knew we weren't going to try and make something realistic, but there needed to be something in the materials that people could connect with. Astrid insisted on real broken glass for the shark's teeth, because broken glass is scary regardless. Real human glass eyes from WWII were used for the mannequins eyes, old messed up human hair wigs and elastoplasts for their hands all helped give the puppets a human quality.
"I wanted to shoot this in my back yard. It's been filling up with rubbish for over a year, and I liked the idea of just stretching a plastic sheet over the whole lot to "clean it up", almost like suppressing something in the back of your mind, like the "if you can't see it, you don't have to deal with it" mentality. Astrid and I talked a lot about how much you can get away with, along with whether seeing the puppeteers would spoil the illusion, and we looked to Calder's film to reassure ourselves.
"Friends helped out with the puppeteering, and it was a steep learning curve for some. My flatmate [editor Paul Hardcastle] would turn up drunk late at night, we'd still be shooting, and I'd rope him into dressing up in the overalls, goggles and gloves to do some shark wrangling. My sister helped out with the blood (we needed a lot) she became obsessed with getting it right, sometimes refusing to let us use it until she'd got the consistency and colour perfect. We tried to make some ourselves when she was unavailable, but we just couldn't figure out her secret recipe.
"It was all shot on my dad's digital camera - over 7000 stills got used in the final version. Technically, it is animation - or rather Pixelation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixilation). It was the best way to create some of the effects, and it creates a world different look to real-time, which fit the music. Scenes of attack and blood splashing were shot with a flash- we all had to stand around frozen in position waiting for the flash to re-charge in-between shots. That was probably the most laborious part of the shoot.
"It took around five days to shoot, all in my flat and backyard. The flat was turned upside down, there was blood everywhere, nobody slept much and I fell down the stairs and fractured my shoulder. But it was worth it!"
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