#TheEndOfTheMovieBlog …I dream of Muppets (part 2)

#TheEndOfTheMovieBlog …I dream of Muppets (part 2)

written by VictorMoran


     Once the head was complete I couldn’t help but play with it (don’t worry it’s not THAT kind of blog) and so there I was, a grown man in the dark playing with a puppet head. Needless to say it wasn’t long before I was talking to it. Look, I’m fully aware as to how crazy what I’m saying is but I can explain it VERY simply. Remember when you were a kid and you would randomly find an old worn out puppet in a toy bin in after school care, or your grans closet or those shitty ones they’d have at doctor’s offices? Remember how you’d put the puppet on your hand and suddenly YOUR brain just designated a voice for it? You didn’t think about it, you didn’t question it, it just came. So long story endless, in conversation Rickles and myself agreed on one thing for sure and that’s that he was furry.

     Now, as I passed through rows upon rows of rolled up fabric, heading towards the faux fur area, I must admit that days of online browsing had made me close minded. I knew the color, length and courceness I felt Rickles required. I thought a non flashy purple with the vibrance of maroon was NECESSARY. The length needed to be medium but leaning toward short and matty like Oscar the Grouch and ALL THIS was in MY MIND chiseled in stone. So imagine my surprise when I ended up leaving the store with a roll of bright royal blue long strand faux fur. I don’t know what it was. I just saw it and it SCREAMED Rickles at me and you know what the best part is? They actually had a roll of faux fur almost identical to the specifications I went in looking for.

     It was a gut reaction but if there’s anything I’d learned from all my research was that Jim Henson was really big on letting things happen. Sure, he went in with a plan but he never let it become a box and it’s with that spirit in mind that I justified going on instinct. OH, I also got a couple of rectangular felt fabric sheets for the mouth. Black for the inside of the mouth and pink for the tongue. I know, I’m basic as fuck when it comes to puppet mouths and I’m ok with that aspect of myself. Bet THAT’S a sentence you didn’t think you’d be reading today. But seriously, it was actually something that mattered. I’m not sure if it’s Animal or Sesame Street but the influence was oddly specific. 

     So I cut the felt fabric into the appropriate shapes for the mouth and tongue and put them into place with some crazy glue. Now for the faux fur. I watched a BUNCH of videos on how best to make a pattern for a puppet head and clearly none of them sunk in properly because this was an ordeal. Which is why I’m glad I don’t have a lot of pictures of it cuz I wouldn’t show them to you if I did. There was SO MUCH glue involved and the blue hairs were EVERYWHERE by the end of it. The great thing I found about the faux fur was that it’s very nature actually did an amazing job of hiding my mistakes and any noticeably ratty looking bits kind of added to the character of this puppet made from scraps.

     Overall I was happy with the way Rickles’ fur lined up. The color was inviting in the way that a muppet from Sesame Street’s is but was long enough to give that Muppet Show monster vibe and as if it wasn’t perfect enough, the length also made it easy to style in a variety of ways. Everything came out so good that it made it abundantly clear that the eyes were shit. I know you were thinking it, it’s ok. I totally agree. Originally I really liked the natural color of the racket ball for the eyes but that was back when I thought the fur would be short and purple. Also something about the positioning of the pupils was bugging me but first the obvious color problem had to be taken care of.

     As I sat there painting the eyes that I’d just ripped off Rickles that had been so hard to place and glue down just a few days prior I got to thinking about the early days of Jim and Jane Henson’s television careers when Sam & Friends was taking off and how they were reusing, repurposing, redressing and redesigning muppets for national tv appearances and local coffee ads. How Jim kept that spirit going when him and Frank Oz had THEIR run of projects. That idea that you cannot be precious about a thing while you are making it.

     The reality is that nobody is perfect and no art exists without discovery. There are LAYERS of beautiful paintings beneath the paintings we think are beautiful paintings. But Jim Henson knew this. Something isn’t working in the scene? Rip the thing to shreds if it means it ends with the solution. You gotta rip the eyes off the puppet that took you an hour to figure out how to stay in place? Just means you already know the right way so the second time shouldn’t take so long. That’s apparently just how Jim was. Anyway, while the paint dried I cut out some penny sized felt pupils and researched the positioning.

     Ok, this is actually the coolest thing. So there’s this thing called The Henson Triangle that people that have worked for the company say is the most important aspect of making the puppet feel alive. Essentially the position of the eyes in relation to the nose and mouth gives the puppet a central focal point that works perfectly on camera.

     Basically you have to make your puppet a little cross eyed. I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s true. Not too much of course but just enough that if you got up really close to it’s like it in that picture, you’d notice it’s crosseyed but take a step back and and if you did it right suddenly the magic of The Henson triangle can’t help but do ALL the work for you.

After what had turned into a long night of bringing Rickles’ head to life I went to bed quite pleased with my progress… but Rickles had a body in mind.

 

…to be continued.

 


written by Victor Moran


New to #TheEndOfTheMovieBlog?

Click Here to read other posts from the blog.


#TheEndOfTheMovieBlog …I dream of Muppets (part 1)

#TheEndOfTheMovieBlog …I dream of Muppets (part 1)

written by VictorMoran


     It’s 1951 in Hyattsville, Maryland. A 15 years old Jim Henson stands over a pile of found supplies for a project, of which he just added a ping pong ball and an old lime green jacket from his mother’s closet. It’s 1985 in Jamaica Plain, Boston. My grandmother sits me down in front of the TV, puts a VHS tape into the VCR and presses play. It’s the 18th of September in 1976. After years of shaking the “children’s programming” label the entertainment industry kept trying to put on him, Jim finally got to make the adult variety show of his dreams and by the end of the night, it will have aired on primetime television.

     It’s the 14th of August in 2018. After 2 years of doing the site with Garry every week and finishing up Monday to Monday, I’m posting episode 3-b of This WIll Not Be Helpful. It’s been 6 years since I made The Nature of Things and doing the podcast has stirred up the desire for a big project. It would have to be something that nobody but me would want. Something so niche it would be pointless to make. Something insane. Something that showed it’s love of the very craft it took to make on its sleeve and above all it would have to be FUN. 

     My mind started racing, so I decided I would make a list. 10 things that NEEDED to be in this new dream project of mine for me to ACTUALLY go through with making it. I figured 10 is fair. 20 makes it too easy for me to bail out of and 5 is so few that you might as well not make a list at all. So I grab this clipboard I bought at Goodwill a couple weeks prior, mainly cuz it felt official, clipped a paper to that bad boy and clicked my pen to the ready. Number 1…

     Yeah, you guessed right, the first thing on the list was Muppets. Now, before you “Um, actually” me, I’m aware that a Muppet is only a Muppet because of Jim so let’s act like civilized human beings cuz you know what I mean when I say Muppet. It’s not the puppet, it’s the feeling. It’s the creativity, the passion and the anarchy and it was the first thing on my list. By days end I’ve made quick work of the other 9 and start researching my number 1. 

     In two days time I’ve rewatched every Documentary, special and BTS video I’ve ever seen about him. I took virtual tours of exhibits, rewatched Muppet Guys Talking & Jim’s short film Timepiece and listened to countless interviews by those who knew the man and those of us inspired by him. I must say that if you’re ever looking for an inspirational youtube rabbithole to fall into, just type Jim Henson into the search bar and believe me, you’re gonna get it.

     By the end of the weekend I had rummaged through research and the three videos I found most helpful to get me fully ready were Jim Henson on Making Muppets and 2 videos from Tested where Adam Savage visited Rick Lyon’s Shop and toured the permanent Henson Exhibition in the Museum of the Moving Image. It’s insane how far Jim got when you think of where he came from and it was with that spirit that I moved my attention to the closet.

    If Jim could make Kermit out of a ping pong ball and his mom’s old coat, then surely I could do SOMETHING with all this crap in my closet. I found a couple of crazy long foam packing noodles that could work for arms. LOADS of cardboard, a large malleable but durable foam separator, wire hangers for the arms, through my excited eyes there was LOTS to work with.

    After the smoke cleared and cooler heads prevailed it turned out that I didn’t have as much as I thought I had and what I DID have needed things I DIDN’T have to make what I DID have into a puppet. For example I had ALL this cardboard, which was great, but I only REALLY needed a little bit. That malleable foam was perfect but after cutting and shaping it, it wasn’t nearly enough. I think I had like a quarter of a small bottle of crazy glue but I did have a bunch of tape and a racketball.

     Well, needless to say, this isn’t a story about how with an optimistic outlook and the magic of Muppets I overcame all adversity with a stack full of not enough materials and somehow still made an all time iconic puppet…

…but it IS a story about how I managed to make a puppet head.

     Yeah, that’s right. I made a goddamn puppet head because technically it’s not illegal and nobody was trying to stop me. SUCK ON THAT SOCIETY! Look, I wholeheartedly regret not taking any pictures of the process it took to make this cuz as I’m sure you can tell, it was A PROCESS. Somewhere in between whatever I picked up from all the videos I watched and whatever kinda felt right.

     So yeah, sorry if you were hoping for some story about how I didn’t do the thing but learned some greater lesson or whatever but that’s lame. My story’s way better. ANYWAY, I spent the night in awe of it. I know I made it but I just couldn’t believe I actually did and before you ask, yes it DOES have a name.

It’s Rickles McNickels. I know because he told me so.

 

…to be continued.

 


written by Victor Moran


New to #TheEndOfTheMovieBlog?

Click Here to read other posts from the blog.


#TheEndOfTheMovie: Analytics

#TheEndOfTheMovie: Analytics

Ok let’s see, what to write that will get the attention of people and get shares and likes and drive traffic to my site? I could talk about being a father. Nah, that doesn’t get as much traction as one would like. I’d have to change father to parent. Fuck I wish I was a woman. Slap the word mother on shit and suddenly everyone gives a fuck what you have to say but that’s not an option unless I was Trans and if I was trans, OH BOY. Could you imagine the amount of traffic? A father turned mother, wait Orange Is The New Black did that shit YEARS ago. It’s probably old now besides I’m not Trans so that would be a major poser thing to do. Ok, so what can I use to drive in the audience? How can I exploit myself to improve my analytics? Ok, we’re brown. High yellow but brown enough to be chucked in the back of a truck in Mississippi. That’s not enough though. My parents are Cuban so in the eyes of most that would make me Cuban though I’ve spent my life being told I’m not Cuban enough by Cubans while simultaneously being told by Americans that I’m too Cuban to be American. So we can’t really use the LatinX thing. Oddly enough the people that have been most compassionate to my “#struggle” is African-Americans and I’m pretty sure it’s cuz they know that at a KKK cross burning we’d be kindle together quick as fuuuuuuuuuuuck and there is nothing that brings people together like knowing you’d both be lynched by the same people. #Respect. But back to the matter at hand, what can I #exploit about myself that is marketable? Let’s see, I already said I’m brown. I’m heterosexual, which let’s face it is NO help these days. Being a straight male is like buying a one way ticket to who gives a fuck what you have to say town.

This is kind of fucked up but it’s a true story so fuck it, I’ll tell it. So when I was in pre-production for the last movie I was trying to make, I met up with this guy who was helping the Coral Gables Art Cinema find local film projects, both short and feature length, for them to give like grants to or whatever. Anyway, the guy read the script and we sat down and had a meeting with him and he kept giving us all these dodgy answers as to why he thought the board he worked for that made the final decisions wouldn’t go for our movie. He kept being very vague and dancing around the subject until he finally said, “Look, honestly? If you were a gay man or a woman they would be all over this but you’re just a straight Cuban man IN MIAMI where there are LOADS of Cubans and you don’t even lean into being Cuban in the script.” Crazy, right? Not, “the script wasn’t solid” or “your production plans look iffy.” Forget that the production would have had multiple races in front AND behind the camera. None of that mattered and so that brings us back to here. What to exploit. Hrmm. Well, there’s the fat thing but that doesn’t help because you can only be a fat woman on the internet. You know cuz it’s sexualized. No one is fantasizing about a fat man but SOMEONE is masturbating to a picture of a fat woman RIGHT now. No, the only time anyone pays attention to a fat man is if he’s dancing, falling or chronicling every step on the “journey” to being a not fat guy and that’s just gross. ALL OF THIS is gross actually.

Look, maybe it’s my age talking (which is also a fully exploitable thing: See Dabbing Granny) but I always believed that all that mattered was the quality of your work because, shouldn’t it be? Why do I have to know “what’s your race”, “who you fuck, how you fuck, where you piss, who you praise”, “how you vote”,”what you watch”, “when you eat and how you live” just so I can enjoy your work? Just do good work and none of that other shit matters. You rise above. But that’s what I BELIEVE. The reality is what matters now is having a niche and oddly enough my straight, high yellow, fat, atheist, Hispanic ass is not enough niche to move the needle. In all fairness to the way things work, it doesn’t help that I refuse to lean into any of these things, cuz, ew. The good news is that when I wither away into obscurity, a death I very much I look forward to, I will wither away with the pride of knowing that I never exploited myself for the sake of commerce.

OH WAIT, mental illness! I’m mentally ill, that’s a niche, right? #MentalIllness. Guys, I’ve tried to commit suicide SO MANY times, you have no idea. Seriously, majority of my classes were in portables. I fantasize about killing everyone in line at the market JUST because. Do mentally ill people buy things? I mean, yeah, I buy things and I’m HORRIBLY bipolar. I FOUND MY NICHE GUYS! FUCK ALL THAT PRIDE SHIT I WAS TALKING BEFORE! I CAN FINALLY EXPLOIT MYSELF NOW! WE’RE GONNA BE RICH!!!

 

written by Victor Moran

edited by Danielle Ruiz

#TheEndOfTheMovie: The C word

#TheEndOfTheMovie: The C word

We live in truly amazing times. Every day I am in complete and total awe at the evolution of the human race. We have made fantastic social and technologic strides as a species and I welcome our further advancements. I do not long for simpler times. I keep my headphones on when I Uber, I prefer my phone conversation through text, and know to differentiate the frequent activity of my social media presences under a banner user name. I get the point of branding. I say this so you understand that I am by no means one of these first generation millennials that feels the need to separate themselves from that dreaded classification by openly pontificating on the failing state of society visive the internet because of a some ridiculous nostalgic memory of how cool Gen X’ers seemed to us as kids. I tell you this so you know that my gripe (and don’t worry, I’m getting to it) is coming from objective place. The grievance I’m going to speak of is the use of the C word.

Content. Now I know that to you that word just slides out of your mouth like cum dribbling out of a first time blow job giver that doesn’t know that it’s rude to not swallow. To me the mere idea of the word makes me feel as gross as the second half of that last sentence made YOU feel when you read it. Seriously, it makes my skin crawl, but then again I’m the guy that audibly gagged in La La Land when a character said the words “They say I have a knack for world building”. Don’t believe me? Tweet @MyXXfly because she was next to me in the theater and couldn’t help but laugh at my involuntary display of disgust. Look, I’m not saying all of you should have the same visceral reaction to the word Content but you should at least care.

The problem with Content is that there’s no differentiating when it comes to it. It’s this umbrella label for any and EVERYTHING now. Movies and music? That’s Content. Social media posts? That’s Content too. A detailed article by a reputable news organization about a tragic world changing event…… somehow also Content. See, Content is part of the corporate lexicon. A language spoken by business men AND WOMEN whose sole purpose is to quantify objects, people, places, and things into easily predictable summations of monetary gains and that’s fine if it’s your job. Hell, someone has to make sure the lights stay on and the people get paid but now WE’RE all saying it. Listen, when you’re the head of company your brain is preconditioned to see things in dollar and cents I’ll give you a pass but you’re not. You’re an internet information junkie looking to binge watch, listen to, and read all the flashing pretty colors coming off one of your MANY screens like Neo in The Matrix and you NEED to understand that there is difference between all of it. If EVERYTHING is Content then everything is automatically given the same numerical number in the silly little value charts in your mind and NOTHING could be further from the truth. A movie is more important than a vlog. A Facebook post has WAY less value than a news article. A Buzzfeed quiz is… well, anything Buzzfeed does is essentially useless. Now I know that you’ve all been accustomed to think it’s all the same thing so I’ve worked up this nifty little pie chart to help you gauge the pecking order on the totem pole of importance as it were.

Lumping us all together by content is diminishing ALL our value. Someone went to school for six years to be journalist and now he’s on the same level as a blogger. Another guy spent all his life learning the intricacies of music and he’s lumped in by a guy on YouTube with a ukulele that only does covers of Duran Duran songs, it’s fucked in the head! But you know what’s even more fucked? This normalization of the word Content is bleeding into the people ACTUALLY MAKING it. Shit, if you thought I was being hard on you poor bastards just wait till I draw my attention to this piss poor excuse of journalists and artists, AND YES I SAID ARTISTS, that’s what you are. You’re artists, not CREATIVES which is another C word that’s pissing me off while we’re at it. Have we become so complacent with the social standing of the arts and journalism that we’re adopting corporate descriptors to sell something that at its core is an expression of thought and emotion? To describe OURSELVES?!? Are we so broken that we can’t muster up the nerve to call it art? And it’s not like we’re just saying it publicly to shill our work because I have been in rooms filled with nothing but people involved with the arts and they’re saying it amongst THEMSELVES. You hear that thumping? It’s the sound of Fellini and Hunter S. Thompson rolling in their graves and if I had my way I’d let their reanimated zombie bodies out to gnaw on your skulls till the creative bits are all gone because you’re embarrassing. Shame. SHAAAAAME!

I wish I could say sorry for being so aggressive but I’m not; I’m really not. When I was growing up being a journalist was some noble shit. Being an artist was the most punk rock thing you could decide to do. We were rebels and outliers, gypsies and thieves. We were a motley crew of off-kilter counterculture lunatics saying fuck you to the establishment and now we’re just willingly handing over the keys to the nut house to the guards. We’re surrendering our way of life for the sake of views and likes. That’s just sad. And before you call me hypocrite, I’m aware you’re reading this on a site where I advertise and sell my shit, the irony isn’t lost on me but you can click on every link and look through every page and I promise you that you will NEVER read or hear me call anything I make “Content”. I’ll call it a movie, a song, a vlog, an essay, a show… I call it ART because Content is a word used by cowards and con artists and maybe that’s the REAL problem here.

Look, you don’t have to agree with me and if you made it through this little rant of mine you deserve a fucking medal but you should at least LISTEN to what I’m saying because one day you’re gonna be at a party and you’ll hear on person ask another what they do for a living and instead hearing musician, writer, or filmmaker, you’re gonna hear that second person take a breath and say, “Content provider” and THAT is the day you’ll realize that art has died.

But hey, at the end of the day that’s just MY view on the matter and that’s probably not worth much anyone but what I DO know holds some serious value is that I made it through an entire rant called The C Word without ever saying Cunt.

….Well almost.

 

written by Victor Moran

edited by Danielle Ruiz

#TheEndOfTheMovie

#TheEndOfTheMovie

I have spent my entire life wanting to make movies and arguing with those who said I couldn’t. I even made a couple along the way. But recently I found myself engulfed in a situation that made me not wanna make movies anymore. Which is an amazing feat considering my parents couldn’t accomplish that in 30 years and they’re Cuban. Who knew that two years of hapless preproduction and the tectonic shift of an entire industry was all it would take.

544465_400485936636326_84168022_n (1)

Making movies was always my lighthouse. No matter what horrible things were going on in my life, no matter relationship status or living situation, the desire to make movies was there. It was my rock, my sanity and suddenly five months ago my sanity was gone. After making a feature length film three years before, spending a year writing a new script and another year in preproduction of that script the project was suddenly at an uncomfortable standstill and the only words of solace that I was being told by production was, “This is the way it works.” As time moved on and the project kept getting pushed back and pushed back, I found myself swimming in a stew of “presale distribution” discussions and being swayed towards holding off for hopes of smaller but still “name actors” in particular roles for the sole purpose of getting said distribution and the budget had increased to the point of unrealistic. Especially considering the project was basically meant to be an R rated, super punk-rock, fuck off finger in the air to the romantic comedy genre. That was the spirit it was written in and this business vibe was starting water down the core. So needless to say I inevitably became ok with the project getting pushed back YET AGAIN to the point of being postponed indefinitely.

20150710_152326

Now as all this crap was going on with me, the “movie business” was going off the rails. Every day the industry feeds were mind boggling. Disney was buying everything, every other studio was desperately trying to get in the shared universe game, Warner Brothers even announced that they weren’t going to make any original movies for the next five years before shutting down their independent branch. What’s known as the “middle budget drama” was slowly not being made anymore. The easy way to bitch about this is to say that Hollywood is ruining movies and blah blah blah but as I sat there licking my fresh wounds I realized that it’s not their fault. The “Hollywood machine” is a business, what matters to them is asses in seats and the reality is that the general audience isn’t interested in watching those movies in a theater. More and more people are actually watching small independent movies and thanks to the internet and Netflix they’re easier to find and because of that fact the audience has grown accustom to watching these movies at home. On their iPads, computers and phones, the independent film viewing experience has become this insanely intimate thing to the audience and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

converse2 VML

Now I’m not gonna lie, as someone who grew up wanting to make movies in the DIY Sundance glory days of El Mariachi the realization that the kind of movie that I’m interested in making is not the one that gets a theatrical release anymore kind of killed me a little. I mean this was like watching the end of the movie as I knew it and it wasn’t even a profound mercy killing, it was more a shotgun blast to the face. For Christ sake Martin Scorsese can’t get more than a limited release and that’s the fucking guy that made Goodfellas. If he could barely get The Wolf of Wall Street made (and yes, that actually took years of begging for money and is now in a scandal over where the money actually came from) what were the odds that good ole Mr. Hollywood was gonna answer the phone for me. So why bother to try and make movies at all? I know this sounds grim but I promise it ends happy and it’s about to get there, I swear.

Me01

After looking at all the data and taking my latest “filmmaking experience” into account, I decided that I didn’t want any part of it. I still wanted to create but I didn’t want to play a game where I kill myself making a small personal movie to then be offered to make Jurassic World or Black Panther. I know that sounds like an insane jump but that’s literally what’s happening to writers and directors at festivals now. So I decided that I would make a site. It would be my way to reject the system while simultaneously welcoming an audience and by being my own distributor I could make whatever I want without it being corrupted by the worry of trying to sell it before it’s even made. The “way it works” wouldn’t apply to me anymore and why stop at movies? Why not a comic strip? I could make a TV show and do live events. Books, music, I could just rant like a lunatic and post it up. Kind of like I’m doing now.

20160603_114450 - Copy

When all was said and done, the end of the movie (as I knew it) killed a very specific childhood dream of mine but it gave birth to a much greater reality where I can speak directly to you, the audience, without any interference and promise that my blood, sweat and tears will be in everything on this site. That commerce will only come into play LONG after creation and if all this sounds like your particular cup of tea then you will be met here with open arms……

…Welcome to VictorMoranLive.com.