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Monday, November 1, 2010

The original sci-fi robot masterpiece. Metropolis.

I can still remember the first time I saw Metropolis.  Somehow Lang figured out how to design a robot of extraordinary style and power (a similar design concept would be applied to Bottin's Robocop later)... made so many years before robots were real things.  But this is no Robbie... it is a machine which somehow embodies so much "life" it disturbs us, yet it is the beauty of the design which entices me most... what a strange combination he has married together in his messianic Maria.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I admit is is not the most original source of inspiration... but I remain fascinated every time I put this DVD in my player.  I am especially impressed with how Kubrick at a tender young age of 35 managed to make such a defining movie.  The movie was premiered in 1968.  The first manned moon landing was in 1969.

This image, a frame grab from the recent blu-ray release, shows off the incredible design sensibility from the film.  For a director whose career descriptions are constantly prefaced with his still photography background for Look Magazine... he was clearly also one hell of a production designer!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Soon we'll all be living in malls...

Much of the history of sci-fi movies has been an easy target of ridicule once their predictions of fashion and lifestyle fail to materialize.  Many have poked fun at the 1976 film Logan's Run because the filmmaker's decided, immediately following the rise of malls in America, to set their story in one.  Now, in 2010, we are not yet living in malls... although some people undoubtedly do spend far too much time in these cathedrals of consumerism!

But as the poor remain poor and the tiny population of the wealthy dominate the geography of the planet relaxing in leisure landscapes of tennis courts, golf courses and corporate parks, human living space will continue to be a hugely controlled commodity.  And as the population continues to grow at alarming rates... What keeps us from living underground?

Besides the obvious issues of practical functionality, it seems likely to me that this vast reservoir of real estate will become commodified and the poor will eventually be forced out of the ballooning "developed regions" of the rich and into apartments underground.

Gradually even the wealthy will inhabit this as yet untapped playground, for it will certainly become one as they explore it.  The wealthy won't arrive however until screen technology is cheap enough to give them fabulous recorded views of natural landscapes out their "windows"... it'll be screen savers on a whole other level.

Don't believe me?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ghost In The Shell: Innocence

One of my favorite movies, and a huge inspiration for Dreams From A Petrified Head is Mamoru Oshii's fantastic Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence.  Anyone interested in sci-fi should know this movie backwards and forwards.

Here is the listing from wikipedia:
"The special officers of Public Security Section 9 are investigating a cyborg corporation called LOCUS SOLUS (from the novel of the same name by French author Raymond Roussel) and its gynoids—androids made in the form of young women and used as sex dolls—that have killed eight people, having deliberately been tampered with in order to trigger a police investigation. The dolls possessed a "ghost" (which made them so desirable) that was created by using a "ghost-dubbing" machine, an illegal procedure which produces "information-degraded, high-volume copies", but results in the death of the originals. Young girls were kidnapped by the Yakuza and sold to LOCUS SOLUS for this process. Two of the girls conspire with a LOCUS SOLUS shipping inspector named Volkerson to cause the malfunctions and thus draw official attention to their plight."

This movie is truly the top of the heap in terms of sci-fi.  

Just watch this scene.
~ Dan Ouellette

Recently sighted online...

Apparently I need to go (finally) visit this museum.

The sex life of robots.

~ Dan Ouellette

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A More Human Point of View

Here's something interesting that Petrified Head's Amanda Sage would have taken interest in.  Mona Lisa's smile has been a human obsession for ages.  Will her enigma be lost once we are all android?

Read this Telegraph UK article I just found via Reddit.  The line that stuck out most for me:
So did Leonardo intend to sow so much confusion in the brains of viewers, not to mention scientists? Absolutely, Martinez Otero contends. "He wrote in one of his notebooks that he was trying to paint dynamic expressions because that's what he saw in the street."

Self-Aware Cities

(this image was 'borrowed' from io9)

Check out this article that came out on io9 a short while ago about living cities.

"Could a billion urbanized human beings help to create a system so agile, it becomes a living mind in its own right?"

This brings to mind the Puppet Master character from Ghost in the Shell and, of course, Neuromancer.  But, honestly,  I can't even begin to talk about what insights they bring up.  Read it!

The Only Thing We Can Be Sure About the Future, is That It Will Be Absolutely Fantastic

Thanks the the invention of the transistor, we can communicate instantly with each other!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This has nothing to do with Sci Fi

Not really.

But when Isabella Rossellini starts doing porn films, you can't help but shout about it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are Your Circuits Offended?

I just came across this fantastic old Sci Fi flick, "The Creation of the Humanoids" on S. F. Signal. It was directed by Wesley E. Barry in 1962 and stars Don Megowan, Erica Elliot, Don Doolittle, George Milan, Dudley Manlove, and Frances McCann. The film is based on Jack Williamson's novel The Humanoids.

Not only is it an entertaining watch, packed full of old sixties aesthetics, charm and quirk, but, like Bladerunner and so many other Sci Fi stories, it explores the unanswerable question, "What defines us has humans?"

Is Mankind simply a state of mind?

Dreams from a Petrified Head's character, Amanda Sage, rallies against a dehumanization or a loss of the human soul that burgeons as the human race becomes more and more robotic serving as devil's advocate against all those who push for it.

Perhaps the pendulum could swing too far if Transhumanism pushes it too hard.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh, the Humanity!

For those of you interested in (or frightened of) human bionic enhancements, take a peek at this new magazine, H+, which I hear is an offshoot of Wired (which was apparently an offshoot of Mondo 2000). So I hear.

From their 'about' page:
h+ covers technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing — and will change — human beings in fundamental ways. We will be following developments in areas like NBIC (nano-bio-info-cog), longevity, performance enhancement and self-modification, Virtual Reality, "The Singularity," and other areas that both promise and threaten to radically alter our lives and our view of the world and ourselves.

More than that, h+ aims to reflect this newest edge culture by featuring creative expressions of humanity on a razor's edge where daily life and science fiction seem to be merging.
They all seem to have such an idealistic view of the future. They can certainly dream.

2 B R 0 2 B

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Future is Now

The potentials of our cybernetic future are endless and unfathomable. Our technology has been developing at an alarming rate since the advent of computers. When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy in my early 20s, it finally hit me what we were all heading towards.

While we are probably very far away from being able to download our memories into a black box as some characters do in Neuromancer, we have been accomplishing major feats with cybernetics. Scientists have given amputees new arms that move by the wills of their new owners while others are experimenting by implanting cybernetic devices in their own bodies.

One such scientist is Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University who apparently became the world's first cyborg back in 1998. His case is exciting, alarming and even romantic.

An article about Warwick was just published recently on Motherboard - I highly recommend you watch the related video. In Warwick's wrist is implanted a device that allows him to control various things around him with the flick of his fingers from simple lights to setting off the alarms in his building. This mini-documentary becomes even more interesting when it begins to describe the purpose of his wife's similar implant. What was to be a study in human empathy cum sympathy, has turned out to have erotic and romantic nuances. Warwick and his wife's candid description of their experience with their mutual robotic implants is extremely endearing...and makes anyone even remotely interested in sex start to consider the possibilities of this magical device.

Even today I am blindingly intrigued by what we may be capable of doing in the not-too-distant future. The sheer amount of science fiction stories exploring the possibilities shows that I'm not alone. Nor am I alone in my exploring what negative consequences may come about with such advances.

I wonder what the future holds (it's no wonder I'm working on this project with Dan and Jason)! More interesting cyber-links to come as I find them!

Jeremy's Menagerie - Works of Art and Delicate Antiques for the Set

Jeremy, the main character in our story, is a curio collector. Why he holds a menagerie of 'Future Antiques' is never outwardly explained in the script, yet his interest in times-gone-by accompanied by a misunderstanding of what these objects might have been used for, is revealed in the movie, both to the character and to us, the movie's viewers. They allude to Jeremy's fate.

Dan Ouellette's Sex Mask for Religious People

To find objects worthy of Jeremy's curiosity, Anagnorisis Fine Arts has been brought on board to 'curate' the items. Thus far they've confirmed works by artists Christopher Conte and Erin Colleen Williams. Also, engineer Tim Mullen, will be lending parts of his impressive collection of Victorian Era antiques.

Christopher Conte's Chronos II

Items ranging from old medical devices to ornate appliances will be in Jeremy's home along with Williams's steampunk creations and Conte's Humanist sculptures will be seen readily throughout the film. Also in the collection will be Director Dan Ouellette's own mask sculpture, "Sex Mask for Religious People."

More info on this yet to come!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Interview with Director, Dan Ouellette

This is a repost from an earlier interview by Samantha Levin about Ouellette's visual style, amongst other things:

Multifaceted artist and director, Dan Ouellette, is an explorer. His creative work delves into the psyche exposing truths and ideas, uncomfortable to some, about commonly held perceptions. Viewing his work renders you a voyeur staring into the private lives of deviants, who dare you to confront uncomfortable truths about yourself. His creatures, often mutated, hermaphroditic or impossible, explore ideas of sexuality, reality, and the control we believe we have over such things. Possibly contrary to this is that his primary interest is beauty; and it is this beauty, and the familiarity of it, that draws us in.

Having directed music videos for Android Lust and The Birthday Massacre, as well as working with Floria Sigismundi on David Bowie’s Dead Man Walking video, Dan has amassed a dedicated team of people who are more than excited to work for him to realize his projects.

Dan and I chatted about his work, past and present:

Samantha Levin You self-describe your artwork as being psychosexual in nature. That term, psychosexual, most familiar in psychoanalytical circles, fits the conceptual side of your work quite well. When you're creating your work, how much does concept drive you over form and beauty; or are they completely intertwined?

Dan Ouellette That's a tough question.

I'd have to say I often start with the desire to make something very beautiful, which leads me into exploring forms I've studied extensively over the years. I sometimes feel like the prototypical "mad scientist" attempting to manufacture some new idealized object, which might be used for pleasurable, but ultimately self-destructive purposes. So the search for subject matter from which to extract some hidden previously unknown beauty is clearly a regular starting point. But very often, as I delve into the hidden forms of beauty, I enter into an even more complex psychological playground.

And then along the way I run into pre-established aesthetic modes, social mores, sexual preconceptions and political flash points. These suggestions are powerful and cannot be ignored. If an idea has a relationship or a likeness to visual material that automatically engenders viewer reaction, this needs to be addressed. It brings to mind Dali's clocks or Warhol's soup can; so my work can easily slip into the conceptual arena. It is quite amazing how prevalent the psychosexual is embedded within all manner of shapes and forms in our collective mind's eyes throughout human history.

So whenever I start my conceptual research for something I am drawn to the process of recognition. This often bleeds over into my film scripts. I began to realize so much of art hovers around that threshold of recognition. As a viewer we recognize in ourselves, or some part of ourselves, some emotional well, some forgotten experience, played out before our eyes. The effect is uncanny and draws us in almost against our will.

Medusa; pencil on paper

SL Speaking of your films, I am very excited about your script Dreams From a Petrified Head. You have received a good amount of funding to direct this script - Congratulations! What inspired you to write this intelligent, mind-bending scifi story?

DO Two strong inspirations for me are J.G. Ballard and Harold Pinter. I like how Pinter's plays are all about distraction, with none of the characters admitting, or wanting to admit, what is really happening. It is all polite social facade masking a rather lurid aggressive underbelly. And then as the masks slip, the narrative moves into a surrealism, but uncannily familiar.

With Ballard I am so taken by the comfort of his language that yields a strange torpor within his scenarios. These aren't stories with a racing urgency, as we so commonly see in the sci-fi genre, but a kind of languid mélange of unreal settings and characters with odd ambiguous yearnings.

Knowing that there are always budget limitations, the script became a kind of personal challenge. Could I write a sufficiently sci-fi-esque story in one set with a depth of meaning?

SL You have a strong team of professionals working with you, essentially for free, to whom you've entrusted the entire script. Doesn’t that worry you? A certain science fiction movie on which you had a large influence has hit the big theaters without giving you proper credit. I've seen this sort of thing happen more times than I can count. What are your feelings about this sort of loss?

DO The process of collaboration is a necessity in many kinds of filmmaking. And while I have thought long and hard about escaping that collaborative process in favor of a Brothers Quay type of DIY filmmaking, I must admit I enjoy the collaborative process. I've had many many successful collaborative experiences, a few not so successful and a few litigious ones.

I made a film in college called Alexandra's Closet, which was beautifully written by my sister. The actresses agreed to be in the movie to a large extent because of the script. I somehow also managed to assemble a very enthusiastic crew, all of them still close friends now. I had, for the first time, the very odd realization in the editing room that I had not made the film. The film suddenly was bigger and better than anything I could have made myself and I had to admit it was because everyone involved had actually made it. This was important because it helped me realize what a true creative collaboration can feel like when it works. Part of the mixed emotion was a sadness, because, truth be told, as an artist I think one is prone to concept of sole authorship.

SL I think this respect for your team is the reason why you make very high-quality films with very little money. How do your ideas behind your films and your other artworks influence each other?

DO They're all woven together in terms of my creative process. And they are all progressing simultaneously in my life.

Admittedly I am addressing other aims when working on a film than I would be working on a drawing or a mask design. Each of the different forms work on the audience in unique ways, so I need to adjust how I use my tools accordingly. I'm primarily a visual artist but of course filmmaking is more than just visual. Films have that wonderful power whereby all the elements can come together and form a kind of symphony. This effect, when it is done well, can be overwhelming. Whereas the drawings are a fixed image and so I must work very hard to create a doorway, which perhaps awakens something in the viewer far more complex than the immediate image.

SL Tell me a little bit about your obsession with masks.

DO Well, here is a good example of how woven together the different forms are for me. The mask work really began as a prop for a video called Queen and Drones: The Hospital Footage (see inset). Around the same time Matthew Barney was exhibiting the props from his short films at the Guggenheim.

But before this I had become fascinated with the human tendency to see a face in something. Watch the Muppets for two minutes and you'll see what I mean. They say that this works because of the eyes; their full creative attention is devoted to this aspect because it is the primary way we see a face. But I noticed that we can very easily read something as a face without any eyes and I wanted to figure out where that threshold was... where we still see a face where there is none.

There is the added quality in these masks that has to do with surface qualities. We have a reaction, a relationship to glassy smooth surfaces, for instance, that is quite different to say, vinyl or fabric. These surface qualities in themselves evoke their own tangible sense of recognition in us. I've been working towards what I call a "manufactured" surface that has a very forbidding tone to it.

This led to a bunch of sketches and design plans for a series of masks. Unfortunately this also demanded a whole new creative process of sculpting and casting which is unbelievably complex and challenging to learn.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Now That's How You Build a Science Fiction Set

If anyone at io9.com is actually worth his or her salt, then they should get a whiff of this...

The image above is only possible due to the incredibly dedicated and hard work of some of the best crew that the fine city of New York could offer. As our build days continue, the set pictures will become more sparse. How can you enjoy a surprise when you've already been behind the scenes? Thankfully, you can trust us to remain excited through and through.

As we wrap our casting, you'll start to see faces appear that will be easily recognizable before long!

Lighting Challenges!

This pic here is days old - the set is going up ridiculously quick.

We're giving our Director of Photography, Sam Chase, a fantastic challenge: All the paint is High Gloss! It's going to be terrifically beautiful, but really hard to shoot. We all love a challenge and we know Sam will make this film look fantastic!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Live Streaming

Come check out our status once in a while! (I'll try and not block it with my head too much)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We're in.

Another grueling day humping materials from one warehouse to another. Everyone was up to speed and it went very well.

And as I stand here in a huge space preparing for a huge set build I wonder, as I have often in the past: "What the hell am I doing here?!" Somehow this is what I've decided I must do with my life. Making friggin' movies!!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

We are 50% through with our load-in to INVISIBLE DOG. Even though today wasn't as hot as ALL of July, there's one thing you can't work without... ICE. Today I was asked, "You're producer?" My answer, "Shouldn't you be moving flats?"

Yes folks, even producer shovel ice. We're thrilled to be making this move. Party details to follow!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Upstate to Downstate

August 1st. Woodstock, New York.

Our rental at Invisible Dog began today and I celebrated it with a round trip excursion to Woodstock to pick-up our fearless director and his incredible stock of hardware and carpentry tools.

Tomorrow we begin our exodus from our storage space in Williamsburg to Invisible Dog - the old factory in Cobble Hill where we'll be HQ'd up for all of August. We are sharing the building with a choreographer who will be working on the 3rd floor. If there was a God, I'd be praying for no more heat waves!! But let's take it one day at a time, right?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And the Wheels Are in Motion

Welcome to the first post from our short film entitled Dreams From a Petrified Head. Being that this is the beginning of frequently updated blog, let's keep it brief!

Genesis: Dan Ouellette wrote his first draft of this short film in late 2009. Upon receiving positive feedback from a variety of opinionated sources (more than the usual), we decided that "Petrified Head" or (DFPH as we'll refer to it, now and again) would be the next project we intended to collaborate on. The strong themes, inherent visual singularity, and impending challenge that would reveal itself before us created an undeniable allure.

And now, almost 10 months later, we are finally knee-deep in pre-production. Last week marked the start of our serious casting call and tomorrow (July 26th) will be our first round of callbacks. Auditions went great - it was thrilling to see a large chunk of the NYC acting community take on the brief portions of the script for which they became privy to - and finally hear Dan's script come to life.