Welcome to BlogDogIt Tuesday, September 25 2018 @ 01:00 AM EDT

Oh, so now I'm THAT Grandpa?

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masodo's musings

Ever since attending Fandom Fest, Louisville in July - I think it is safe to say - I have become quite the Pig Head. To avoid confusion I should say - more specifically - I have become a Big Biting Pig Head. I am referring of course to Pig Biting Pig Productions, independent purveyors of Horror and all that goes with it. I have already introduced the reader to this merry band of movie-makers in a previous post [see: Bitten By The Big Pig] and have directed your attention to PJ Woodside's Blog entitled "This Old B1tch Makes Horror Flicks." But it is the preexisting parallels between my life and this outfit that have me pondering - to the point of musing - today.

piglet I think it important to note that I have decided to read PJ's blog from beginning to end (something I feel is required before I can honestly say I am "following" a blogger.) While everything she offers is genuinely fun and insightful, there is a particular post that seems best to explain my fascination with this Big Biting Pig enterprise. I am referring to her post of November 30, 2012 titled "of fans and piglets." I will not re-tell the details of the story here rather I would encourage you to visit her Blog and read it for yourself [see: "of fans and piglets"] (Since I have not yet completed reading the full assortment of the site's articles I reserve the right to draw your attention to another quintessential PJ post should one present itself.)

She talks about it in the above recommended article and it seems to be a recurring topic of seemingly great importance to PJ. It is embodied in the word "collaborative." I suspect it is her awareness and attention to the boundless potential of "on the fly" collaboration during the movie making process that helps to make her such an outstanding director. Far be it from me to try to relate to the life and times of an independent filmmaker the likes of PJ Woodside, but when it comes to admitting that a project owes much of its success to the power of collaboration I think I can speak with some authority.

Please Read On ...

In the past few months I have "directed" three video productions that admittedly would be nowhere near as enjoyable (in both the creation and the viewing) had it not been for the collaboration involved. I am referring to the following:

Alien Wars | Boy and Dog 2 | The Great Race

Alien Wars Alien Wars was truly the brainchild of my 6 year old grandson Brodyn. While Brodyn was left in the care of his Papaw (me) "we" decided to play LEGO. I enjoy an excuse to show off my ability to build with bricks and on a previous "play-date" we ended up taking pictures of our creations to show the grown-ups when they returned, just how much fun we had and the creations we made. I was not surprised that this particular LEGO session took a similar turn when Brodyn ask me to get the camera. This time however, I handed the camera to him and showed him which button to push so he could have the added enjoyment of making the pictures. At one point he knocked the dial from automatic exposure to manual exposure and the picture of his "spaceship" came out way over-exposed and washed out, to which Brodyn exclaimed, "Cool, it looks like it blowed up!" He handed the camera back to me an insisted that I now take a series of pictures of the spaceship as he positioned it various phases of the crashing process. I told him that it seemed more like he was wanting to make a movie. We reviewed the series of shots we had just taken and I pointed out the apparent motion created as we moved from image to image. Before you knew it I was breaking out the tripod and the animation ensued.

I was amazed with Brodyn's rapid grasp of the stop-motion animation concept and for the most part he was the hands-on animator and I the director and camera operator. We worked together in harmonious collaboration for nearly two hours after which (following another 20 minutes in editing) we had a cohesive animated movie to call our own.

Boy and Dog 2Boy and Dog 2 came about two months later. Once again Papaw was called upon to "entertain" Brodyn. You see, I am pretty much the baby sitter of last resort (and I'm just fine with that.) Upon accepting the assignment my daughter said, "I should warn you Brodyn wants to make another movie..." "That will be just fine," says I. When they arived at my house the camera was ready to roll and the collaboration soon began. I immediately laid down the law however, by insisting whatever we did "story-wise" it must focus around the two central characters from our previous endeavor: The Boy and the Dog. Brodyn answered this requirement with one of his own. Namely: we had to "make something come up out of the ground" like he saw Gumby do in an episode we had recently viewed when I was showing him what the experts can do with stop-motion clay animation. I had wondered at the time if seeing Gumby had made any impression on him (beyond the cartoon story aspect) but he remembered that "dematerializing" trick and knew he wanted to make it happen in our production. With these goals in mind our story was developed "on the fly"; our playful collaboration now permanently preserved for others to enjoy. It is evident that Brodyn finds great pleasure in sharing the results of our projects with others. As for Papaw's joy in sharing?... Whatever. [smiley:;)]

I think it is fair to say that - in reality - during the creative collaboration, the whole process actually felt a bit like hard work. However, the fact that a 6 year old would not only be comfortable in the demanding conditions of a stop-motion animation project but also feel at ease enough to volunteer his input toward the creative process, speaks to my role as director (albeit on a microscopic scale) not to mention his inate creativity.

The Great RaceThe Great Race, our latest offering, was the result of my most recent babysitting gig. This time we were lucky enough to have Brodyn's older sister Claire with us. As before, I was warned that these kids are expecting to crew the next shoot. Claire was very interested in the tales her brother would tell of the "animation game" and was anxious to try her hand at the craft. I too was excited to introduce Claire to this magical World but honestly did not much relish the thought of filming a tabletop of LEGO where Brother and Sister might find themselves at odds (that collaborating can be tricky business, you know.) My solution was to journey to their home where I would involve them in a bit of life sized human animation (aka 'Pixillation'.) All I knew going into this project  was that the children should be dressed in clothes on which Mommy wouldn't mind some inevitable grass stains because they were about to do a whole lot of scooting around the yard. (All the while I am envisioning the exploits of Sergeant Swell of the Mounties - 1972)

Sargent Swell of the Mounties Pitting these siblings in a race around the yard seemed a natural plot-line to explore. As I was just standing there scratching my head, I mentioned that we need to come up with some sort of starting line (literally and figuratively, I thought.) It was Claire that suggested the orange cones. It was Brodyn that came up with the helmets. Having the cones allowed us to walk around the yard and establish our "course" of action. Claire thought they should exchange high-fives to begin the race but allowed me the handshake in the beginning, saving the high-five for the end of the race. I gave them the following basic instructions: as we progress they needed to make sure that when I take the picture they are gripping their imaginary steering wheels and when they move to their next position they need to make sure to put their bottoms where their feet were. It was also decided that they would both cross the finish line at the same time (that was a bit of Papaw diplomacy.) Other than that, they were pretty much free to drive their "cars" as they saw fit (with the exception of a couple of key "posts" to hit in the process.) They were real troopers as this was quite the work-out for them. They were very excited to see the finished movie and Claire said "I could just set and watch this over and over again." High praise for a movie of any sort, I suppose.

So there, now I've went and did it! Will these kids ever be satisfied spending quality time with me that does not involve the creation of a motion picture? I hope they will, because I am not too sure where we will go from here. I have introduced them to the concept of the storyboard and explained how they can find just as much fun in creating movies on paper. I am hoping that next time one of them will want to seriously direct so I can concentrate on just getting the shot. I am really most comfortable in the role of cinematographer, after all.

These experiences have given me a new-found respect for the work required of a director. When done properly what starts as a group of folks sharing a common goal can create something much larger than themselves. Skillfully guided collaboration can create a synergy. It can create a strong family (even if the individuals were not a family to begin with.) This is the magic I see in that Big Biting Pig company.  This is the magic I see in the time spent together with the grand kids. This is the magic I hope to carry with me. This is the magic I hope to impart.

Movie Magic? It exists.

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