Interviews iPhone Film festival News, , , , , , , , — May 29, 2012 15:36 — 0 Comments

Filmmakers celebrate winning iPhone Film Festival 3 after finding love again

Genshi Media Group, The Haunting at Danford Cabin, iPhone Film Festival, grand prize, smartmoviemaking, Craig Anthony Perkins, Debora Jo Myers

Craig Perkins and partner Debora Jo Myers in fancy dress costume for a party. The couple recently reconnected again after being childhood sweethearts

Former childhood sweethearts Craig Perkins and Debora Jo Myers combine their talents to produce award-winning animation short that wins top online film festival

Stop-motion filmmaking must be one of the trickiest genres to pull-off, for one it takes the patience of a zen saint, and man, all that syncing — why bother?

Of course when it works well (think Aardman Animation) all that effort is worth it, and the same can be said for Genshi Media Group (GMG), winners of best animation and the grand prize in the third iPhone Film Festival (IFF3) for its horror short The Haunting at Danford Cabin.

GMG bagged a treasure trove of prizes worth $3,500 including $2,000 worth of studio services at Filmlook post-production house, the Mobislyder, a Steadicam® Smoothee and the Fostex AR-4i Audio Interface along with a shipment of other prizes.

The Portland-based company is in fact Craig Anthony Perkins, a composer and filmmaker from southern California who established his company 17 years ago, and Debora Jo Myers, a writer, producer and actress from Portland, Oregon. The pair were childhood sweethearts and have only recently got back together — but more of the love angle later.

This is the third short film with Craig in the director’s chair and the first shot as a stop-motion animation. In addition to writing, directing, editing and scoring the film, Craig along with Debora, acted as puppeteers for their first time. “It was definitely a learning process and we found out the hard way what not to do the next time we attempt something like this…” said Craig.

In a wide-ranging email interview, Craig explains how the couple got it together again and the secret of their success, but first I asked him:

How does it feel to walk away from the IFF with the grand prize?

Craig Anthony Perkins: We’re very honoured, especially since there was so many great films that were entered. The fact that the judges saw and appreciated what we tried to do; even though this was a stop-motion, I used traditional filmmaking techniques (lighting, camera moves, foley work, original score, etc.) and am very happy that it was recognized and that it paid off!

The Haunting at Danford Cabin was your first attempt at stop-motion animation, which makes winning more impressive. Can you tell me why you switched to this genre?

CAP: Honestly, we were writing the scripts to our next couple of projects which will be feature films, and wanted to do something quick and short in the meantime, so we had an idea for this short live action film… but I needed a certain type of actress, and after putting out a casting call, and getting over 100 responses, and still not finding quite what I was looking for, I was sort of frustrated and wanting to do something – anything!

Debora noticed the pictures I had taken of her father’s dollhouse that he had built for his grandchildren and said to me, “we should do a stop-motion!”

So we did. And originally, we did it as an experiment just to see if we could pull it off. We had no intention at first to even showing it to the world let alone entering it into any film festivals, but it wound up taking a lot more work than I had anticipated and at the point I thought, “we may as well do this right” so I really concentrated on the sound and music knowing we would need this to make the rest of the animation work.

Every single sound effect was recorded by me using a Zoom H4N handheld recorder. The door creeks, clock sounds, footsteps, etc. 100% real foley work like they use to do back in the day. Debora even did the chicken voices after we tried (and failed) recording real chickens! And of course she did the ghost voices. Even the death scene at the end was me falling on boxes and groaning.

Also, we really wanted to push ourselves. I try not to do the same thing or repeat what I’ve done before if I can help, so in the past couple of months we did the fantasy/fairytale “Isobel & The Witch Queen” and then this stop-motion horror (with the quick ‘street interviews‘ test thing in between) and our next two films are a murder mystery/thriller and then a sci-fi.

What was the inspiration or idea behind the story?

CAP: Believe it or not, The Haunting at Danford Cabin is loosely based on a true story! I previously mentioned Debora’s father’s dollhouse that he built. He designed it himself; it’s a cabin style house as you’ve seen in the movie, and when we were filming ‘Isobel’ here in Portland at Forest Park, there was a historical landmark showing the site of where Danford Balch’s cabin once stood. Danford was the first man to legally hang in the state of Oregon for the murder of his son-in-law. I thought it was an interesting story and the cabin location was a fit our dollhouse cabin, though we changed the story to the ghost of his wife coming back for revenge for her own murder and changed the last name to Westering.

How long did the film take to make?

CAP: Actual days shot I think was about four or five days at [at least] eight hours a day. People may not realize the process of stop-motion, especially now with the way everything is computer controlled, but again, we did it old school. After setting the scene, the lights and the puppets in place, we would move the puppet slightly, then snap a single picture with the iPhone. Then move the puppet again ever so slightly and move the camera, and snap another picture. And we would do this 24 times for every one second of footage that you see on screen. So we wound up with about 4,000 still shots to make this movie. Then I spent another few days doing all of the foley/sound effect work; stomping around recording my footsteps, etc. Then a couple of days to record the music and mix it and a few days to edit it all together. All told probably at least three weeks of nonstop working on it.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of making this type of film?

CAP: The advantage, and I say this with all due respect, we didn’t have to deal with actors, or with any other crew. Just Debora and I and the puppets (and the occasional cat jumping up on our set!) And we could take our time planning out what we wanted to do without feeling like people are waiting around impatiently for the next scene.

The disadvantage; it’s REALLY tedious and boring to do. And with the slightest wrong move I would have to reshoot the whole scene again (and again, that’s 24 still shots and movements for one second of screen time!) Also, it’s back breaking work! I literally threw out my back while making this! And it’s a little harder telling a story this way, especially since ours was slightly experimental, with very minimal dialogue, but I think we were able to convey what was going on with the editing, the atmosphere and the sound… at least I hope!

The other disadvantage is, we didn’t get to work with actors and a crew, because in all honesty, that’s what makes filmmaking special; the synergy of all the talent involved to create something magical!

GMG have been quite prolific in the last 12 months, what motivates you?

CAP: Thank you. I’ve always been an overachiever. I can never sit still and feel like I’m never doing enough or what I have done is never good enough, so, not only the past 12 months, but my Genshi Media Group (which for the past 17 years was just me) has put out a lot of work, from several music projects, published books, toy designs, photography, etc.

What’s next on the production slate?

CAP: We are working on three things. First, a short which we would like to turn into a web series called Petites Aventures de Cosette. This is the one we are still looking for just the right actress for. It’s a fun whimsical adventure, that will have some [minimal] stop-motion mixed in with the live action. We are also writing the script for what will (hopefully) be our first feature film called When The Willow Weeps and I have been doing some pre-production design for our feature sci-fi film called Biocode.

Unfortunately, we can’t do this stuff any more with a zero budget. And that is what we had with both ‘Isobel’ and ‘The Haunting’. For the ‘Isobel’ movie we did things like rip down track lighting from Debora’s father’s workroom to use as home-made dolly tracks. And for ‘The Haunting’, that lovely exterior landscaping ground that you see in the opening of the film, is actually our blanket that we sleep with. This was truly guerrilla-style filmmaking in every sense of the word! But it’s too hard to keep doing it this way and we really need to try to fundraise for our next projects; we think we can really do SO much more if we had an actual budget to work with!

Genshi is very much a partnership between you and Debora Jo, how long have you been collaborating?

CAP: Actually, Genshi Media Group was founded and run solely by me for the past 17 years. Debora became part of it just these past few months. We were childhood sweethearts back in Junior High which was a very long time ago, then we reconnected last summer online and I moved up to Portland (where she now lives) in October 2011. I then realised her writing and acting talents and also how hard of a worker and how resourceful she is, so I knew that we would be able to work together on films. So far, together, we have done Isobel & The Witch Queen and The Haunting at Danford Cabin, but if you look at the Genshi Media Group website you’ll see only a partial list of what all that I have done the past 17 years in music, film, photography and design.

The results so far have been impressive, what the secret to GMG’s success?

CAP: Thank you! For me, it’s never, ever being satisfied with what I did. As soon as I have finished something as best I can, I immediately tear it apart; looking at all of the things I could have done better, kicking myself and saying, “why didn’t I do this!” But I never go back and ”rework” anything that I have finished. Once it’s done it’s done and I try to just move on and try to be better next time.

How important is this acknowledgement from IFF?

CAP: This is very important for us, and I’d like to thank all the IFF3 judges. It has been a struggle to get to this point for both Debora and I, so we really needed this to make something happen for our next film(s). We’re hoping someone, somewhere will recognise what we’re trying to do with our filmmaking and help us get an executive producer/funding. The good news is, once we released ‘The Haunting’ to the public, we have already been approached by several professionals in the industry. For our next films, we have a really great cinematographer who currently works on two hit Primetime Network TV shows and we got an Emmy Award winning makeup artist who wants to work with us, and an amazing amount of composers (though I’ll probably stick with doing the music myself for now.) So we’re hoping this acknowledgment from iFF3 will take us to the next level!

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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