Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adrien Brody Breaks Loose on History Channel's "Houdini" Spot


Recently, I caught the promotional spot for History Channel's "Houdini" starring Adrien Brody. The original idea for the spot used storyline montages to emphasize Houdini's greatest fears. As is common in this industry, the plans were changed to accommodate a revised schedule, resulting in the stylish spot shown in the above stills. 

Filmed in an abandoned power plant in Hungary (where the series was filmed, though don't quote me on this), the mysterious lighting from the fragmented window-ceiling panels adds to the alluring nature of Houdini's persona.
Erik Blair is one of my favorite writer/directors to collaborate with. He provides me with a script, and together we rough out a shot list and camera angles. We discuss my thumbnail scribbles, and work up the frames.  My storyboards for the full-up were loose and designed quickly with minimal detail.  What results is a psychological portrait of a man obsessed with his craft, whose fame is burdened with loneliness and his own mortality.

Some of the story moments from the original concepts are shown below. 






Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Planet of the Apes" Tee-Shirt Winners!

Thanks to the peeps who entered the POTA tee-shirt giveaway.
Congratulations to Candace Baker Leit and Ed Brickler who will be recieving their new shirts soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer on the Planet of the Apes

Apedoms favorite likeness of Cornelius (Roddy McDowell)
as painted by Ken Barr. Love the color choices in the face.

As the month of July blockbuster movies approach, the new entry in the "Planet of the Apes"} franchise opens July 11 with "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." Now is perfect timing for me to share my favorite POTA comic book art, published by Marvel Comics in the mid 1970's when Ape fever was enjoying a resurrection with comics, a prime-time TV series and a Saturday morning cartoon.

I picked up this issue of POTA magazine #12 for a whopping dollar bill, when that was a lot of money for a kid. Anything printed in black and white in those days struck me as sophisticated. One chance to flip through the pages showed me I was right. 

Stellar pencil work by Tom Sutton. Ballsy  then and still ballsy today.
In contrast to many of today's comic book artists,
it's obvious that Sutton was not a slave to photo reference. 

Writers like Doug Moenich and artist like Tom Sutton were ahead of their time. With innovative ideas for environments and settings, the story titled "City of Nomads"  takes an unusual POV, a far cry from the 1968 classic motion picture (starring my then-favorite thespian, Charlton Heston).

                        
Top: (left to right) Maurice Evans, Heston, and the
strikingly sexy Linda Harrison in the 1968 POTA.
Bottom: If this is a spoiler, you need help.

On a huge ship akin to Noah's Ark, the city of Hydromeda is divided into two districts and beset by a class struggle. Orangutans rule, Chimpanzees work, and Gorillas revolt. Humans row the giant ship in an aimless struggle to navigate the seas. A masked assassin eliminates the ruling class, the Chimps wage war against the gorrilla uprising, and the human slaves break free to add to the chaos.

A monstrous fish makes a monkey out of the orangatan king
in Tom Sutton's simian fish fry.
 

Tom Sutton's pages boast black and white pencil art, a rarity for any comic magazine. His designs, characters and embellishments are complimented by the expert moody pencil rendering, making the story a tour-de-force of skill. Just look at the giant fish served at the Ape feast. After the assassin strikes his victim and the table is overturned, the jaws of the devoured carcass are big enough for the king to hide inside. Perhaps a comment that the gluttonous ruling class are about to be devoured by their own greed? 

Rennaisance apes and pirate gorillas.
I am guessing Sutton used the heavy lead of a
graphite or draghting pencil to punch up his darks and contours.

Tim Roth as Thade
in Burton's 2001 remake
In this dark vision of the Apes saga, the artist could easily have utilized the wardrobe and production design of any of the 5 original Ape films. Instead, Tom Sutton creates a look that any Hollywood production designer would be grateful to invent. It suggests endless interpretations of the myriad societies that may exist in an post-atom bomb century or centuries as portrayed in the POTA film franchise.  Sutton blends Northern Renaissance costume design, Robin Hood, Spartacus-style battles, pirate cutlasses and primitive constructs to make his pages a prolific entry into comic book history. The POTA films and TV series that followed merely reiterated the art and design of the original film, diluting its originality with each entry. The TV series in 1974 followed the same premise as the films, but with a fraction of the budget - astronauts fly into the future and land on an earth ruled by apes. The humans there are not as primitive as the humans in the first film. It could be argued that they are descendants of the negative zone humans from the last and worst Ape film, "Battle of the Planet of the Apes," which supposedly takes the POTA story arc full circle. Tim Burton's 2001 POTA remake explored something of a promising reinvention in costume and design, but nowhere near as unusual as Suttons pencils.

(L. to r.):Roddy McDowell, James Naughton and Ron Harper
in the short-lived weekly TV show which debuted in September 1974.

Today, audiences demand a reinvention, not just a remake. Why deal with astronauts at all when storytellers can choose to tell stories that take place anywhere at anytime on the POTA's. One can envision Apes in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Mexico, Russia, or the Congo. The visual styles can draw inspiration from Aboriginal art, Futurism, African Art, Art Deco, Islamic motifs, Japanese patterns, etc. Imagine a weekly cable TVseries with the budget of today's top-of-the-line shows like "Game of Thrones" or "Vikings," each week a different story somewhere on The Planet of the Apes. With this concept approach and various untested schools of visual vocabulary, the possibilities for production design are endless. 

"The first one to bring me a banana gets
two extra tickets to next weeks Simian Dance Recital!"
Above: Still from the upcoming "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."

Enjoy the premiere of the July 11th film. I'm sure it will be an ambitious entry that will validate a retelling of the Ape saga and satisfy audiences. It will prove that we love our Apes any way we can get them...even if the approach isn't as original as the one dreamed up by Tom Sutton and Doug Moenich. The magic of the printed story is that one artist and one writer can create a universe unto itself in a matter of weeks or months. The resulting treasure is timeless. 

       

Leave a comment on this post to enter the "Summer on the Planet of the Apes" tee shirt giveaway. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced on July 16, 2014. Winners must have a valid mailing address and will be contacted via email for shipping.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gang of Storyboards


      
Here's one of my several promo sheets from a variety of storyboard gigs. I love the way I am sometimes required to quickly switch gears between assignments. One day color, one day BW, one day loose, one day refined, one day celebrity likenesses, one day character types. It makes for an interesting week, never a dull moment. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Devious Maids" and Jason Derulo Promo Appears in AMC Theaters Nationwide



This promo spot for the second season of Lifetime's "Devious Maids" has recently been broadcast on television and the web. 

Directed by the talented Joe Nichols, the promo integrates a cool cross- promotion with singer/songwriter Jason Derulo. The party setting is a smart way to revisit these lovely Latinas of Beverly Hills and ponder what secrets they and their rich employers will reveal in the coming season.

In addition to seeing the spot on television and on the web, it was a treat seeing it in the AMC movie theater on 68th and Broadway. My daughter and I were waiting for the movie to begin and we watched it twice within ten minutes. For once I was delighted (and surprised) to see a spot that had meaning for me instead of another mind-numbing commercial for Coke or shutting off your cell-phones. The spot is playing in all AMC theaters across the country. 



I prepped myself for this storyboard assignment by watching as many episodes as I could in the timeframe I was given. It's definitely an entertaining, well told and humorous soap opera with as many twists and turns that one can expect expect to keep the audience interested. Structurally, it turns each beat in all the right places, and seems to build one event over another to impact all the characters. In most cases, the "Maids" aren't quite as devious as their employers, whose shallow short-sightedness is matched only by their narcissistic tendencies. This spot captures all the glamour, luxury, and secrecy of the show, with a little bit of taboo added for fun. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

VIKINGS TEASER, HISTORY CHANNEL Season 2


In case you haven't noticed over the past few years, History Channel has been producing not just documentaries, but also dramatic series and reality shows. "Vikings" has much more than meets the eye. Well researched and written, this spot for Season 2 depicts 9 of the main characters revealing their true nature.
The full-up spot is here: http://www.history.com/shows/vikings/videos/vikings-season-2-teaser?m=51896f6e2acad

VIKINGS: LAGERTHA STRIKES in Teaser


Don't be fooled by this woman. When she says finish your peas, you'd better finish them.