Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Ruffus Christmas Carol – Help Us Get It Done

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The holidays are fast approaching and I made a promise last year that our Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol would be finished and released by then. Here’s how you can help make it so.

When we started the project we attempted, through Indie Go-Go, to raise the full $8,500 we expected we could scrape by on to make the whole thing work and release it to the world. We only managed to achieve $2,090 but that generosity from our supporters convinced us to carry on and go ahead with the shoot. I’ve blogged about that before – here and here and here – and here’s our original Indie Go-Go pitch.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ruffus show itself you can find all the original episodes on the official Ruffus The Dog website or on our YouTube channel.

Well now, after almost a year of gradually, inexorably (if not continually) working on the post production of the show we are coming down to the wire. The many favours and dedicated sweat equity contributed, in addition to the much needed cash, have carried us almost to completion but once again we find ourselves in need of real money to ensure the project gets finished at the level of quality it deserves and to enable us to release it to the world on time for the holiday season.

So we have launched this 2nd round of Indie Go-Go funding.

We’re trying to raise at least $3,000 to cover further post-production costs, DVD and bandwidth expenses, and a pantload of promotional work.

There’s going to be a screening at the Revue Cinema (I’ll be posting more info on that later) with the proceeds going to support the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

The show will be released online for free streaming and downloading with the option to buy DVD copies, songs, posters, calendars, t-shirts and (hopefully) a graphic photo-novella. But it’s gotta all be done and ready for release before December 15th.

Our clock is ticking.

If you can contribute that would be freaking awesome. If you can’t you can still help us with word-of-mouth, just telling people about the project.

Mention us and link to our Indie Go-Go page on your own blog, your Facebook wall, your Twitter account, or maybe just stand on the street corner with one of those sandwich board signs whilst ringing a bell and wearing a funny hat. Whatever it takes.

Full Disclosure: When I refer to “we” on this project I am mostly referring to “me”, since I’m the guy who has always chosen to wear too many hats. Hey – I got a fat head – might as well use it, right? But I always say “we” because I am not a one-man-band; I rely upon and have benefited from the extraordinary generosity of my friends and family – all of them colleagues and collaborators in this work with me. I couldn’t do a thing without them.

Thanks in advance for your generosity. If you have any comments or suggestions or if you have any questions please feel free to post them here or via email.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back in the basement and keep working on the show.

Cheers.

Carlin Step

Friday, March 4th, 2011

My friend Fred sent me to Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist blog where I found this great music video mashup of Saint George Carlin. This remix was done by Steve Porter and Eli Wilkie, who have made it available – with a bunch of other stuff – over at Porterhouse Media.

Carlin doesn’t really need to be mashed up – his words are music enough on their own – but it’s always fun to see the brilliant, scathing, clever, insightful curmudgeon doing what he does best: fuck with language.

Cheers.

P. S. Well, this is weird – I was going to attach some links to my previous blog posts about Carlin (I’ve made a few) but they all seem to have disappeared. Please tell me I wasn’t just hallucinating these past few years and that I actually did write stuff about Carlin. But if so – where the fuck did it go?

P. P. S. Anything prior to February 23, 2009 was lost when I fucked up my blog – which explains why earlier links like this: http://www.millsworks.net/blog/2008/06/23/george-carlin-at-his-best/ take you to my 404 page. But I was sure I’d posted stuff about Carlin since then. I must be losing my mind.

Ruffus The Dog UStream Marathon

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The Flying Spaghetti Monster in “A Christmas Carol”? Hell yes! Read on!

As we continue our pre-production efforts on Ruffus The Dog’s A Christmas Carol you can watch streaming episodes of Ruffus The Dog – along with numerous shameless plugs asking for funding contributions – on the Ruffus UStream.TV Channel.

Or you can watch it right here:

Why am I doing this?

It’s coming down to the wire for raising funds to make our version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and the shoot is just a little over a week away.

Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!

Relax. Breathe in – breathe out – repeat if necessary.

It’s all good.

I’ve already posted about our funding efforts – you can find some of them here and here and here.

We don’t have nearly as much money as we intended to have in order to pull this off – but that’s not going to stop us. The production is going ahead as planned. If you – or anyone you know – can help by contributing even a few dollars via IndieGoGo it will go a long way to helping make this exercise in creative insanity just a little less impossible than it already is.

I may make it sound like our efforts to release this production of “A Christmas Carol” online by December 21st are nothing more than a folly doomed to failure – but actually I’m delighted with what we’ve been able to achieve in such a short time with so few resources. This is going to be an amazing show. It would not have been possible without the dedication and determination of the talented team who have come together to help make this happen.

You can help too. Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/ruffus-the-dog and tell others to do the same. We’re counting on you to help get us across the finish line with enough in hand to make this journey work.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish my storyboards, render more CG virtual sets and make a Flying Spaghetti Monster – you know – for kids.

Here it is as a work in progress:

FSM

Enjoy the shows. Thanks for your support.

Cheers.

A Message From The Producer

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Today I posted this short video as part of our last efforts to raise productions funds through IndieGoGo for “Ruffus The Dog’s A Christmas Carol”.

The process of using IndieGoGo has been interesting and I’m pretty sure it will prove to be useful for other projects we come up with in the future. Our initial goal was for $8,500 which was a painfully low amount considering how ambitious this production has become. With only 5 days left to our IndieGoGo deadline we have only managed to secure about 20% of our goal – but we’re forging ahead with production regardless.

I’m sure I could have done a better or more aggressive job of promoting our efforts to raise funds but all excuses and caveats aside – I’m a puppeteer, dammit! We did manage to get a very nice mention in BoingBoing which helped draw a lot of attention to all this nonsense we’re up to.

Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a team of friends and colleagues who are both dedicated and talented. Their generous contribution of time and skill will be what makes our version of “A Christmas Carol” really shine.

Our shoot days are coming up fast and I’m looking forward to the four days of hilarity and hard work that lie in store for all of us.

The miraculous Jane Edmondson, assisted by Tatiana Hernandez-Deutsch, has been creating wonderful miniature ealry Victorian wardrobe for our cast of puppet characters. And our designer, Karen Valleau is crafting new puppet characters and just finished an exquisite snowglobe with St. Paul’s Cathedral inside.

Earlier this evening I had a Skype call with our composer, JP Houston – he’s currently in L.A. recording and rehearsing for a European band tour – and he’s been sending me demo tracks of the songs for this production and they are frickin’ awesome. Unfortunately he won’t be able to come to Toronto for the song recording sessions so we’ve been organizing a back-and-forth effort with him sending tracks here – we record the vocals and send them back – and so on and so forth until my brain melts out my ass.

It’s all fun and games until someone’s brain melts out their ass.

And for those who know me well – today I found myself alone in the kitchen making production sketches – and involuntarily let loose with one of those maniacal laughs.

Felt good.

Please, do what you can to help us out – or at least encourage others to help – every little bit is greatly needed and appreciated. The finished show WILL released online on December 21st. So there.

Here’s the original IndieGoGo pitch video:

And here, of course, is the widget that leads you to our IndieGoGo pages:

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go edit some footage of Sinbad the Sailor and these two pigs, Ray & Harry, the Hausen brothers.

Cheers.

The Troll Under The Bridge – Ruffus The Dog

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This is our version of the classic fairy tale “The Troll Under The Bridge.

I wrote this in response to a lot of social justice issues that were bouncing around our city that year – none of which, alas, have been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction or needs – and was also inspired by my readings of (and brief correspondence with) Prof. Jack Zipes.

This story seemed to be a good mix between a classic folktale that advised for and supported a local xenophobia to ensure the safety of townsfolk when confronted by unknown individuals who seemed all too ready to prey on the unsuspecting – and some of the uncomfortable realities we seem to have trouble addressing in our current day to day lives.

It’s too easy to continue to prey and profit upon the blind fears of the unknown – and far more difficult to explain the community and individual need for compassion and necessity of learning what (or whom) something (or someone) actually is before passing judgement.

Heady stuff, perhaps, for a kids puppet show.

But I figured if you’re going to tell a well worn tale you might as well wear those tattered shoes upon a path less trodden and, in doing so, perchance take your audience to a place they might not have otherwise found.

This is especially true with young audiences. Present them with classic literature, iconic stories, archetypal characters, and then put those stories and characters in the context of the world(s) our young audiences inhabit today – the impact will (hopefully) be more meaningful, long-lasting and most certainly resonate more deeply throughout the rest of their lives as they grow up and away from kids puppet shows and begin their own walk upon the paths offered to them by the so-called real world we all must eventually, inevitably and inexorably inhabit.

It’s all about context.

Don’t worry kids. It’s just a puppet show.

And yes – there are monsters in the real world. They do prey upon you. You must beware them – and know them for who they really are. But know them truly – and don’t be afraid to look closer – and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes those who cry wolf or demand the destruction of a monster – are monsters themselves.

So there.

Cheers.

P. S. Apologies for the opening ad in the video. If it’s irritating and you hate it – say so in the comments and I’ll drop it like my trousers at a – uh – nevermind. Just leave a comment.

P. P. S. If you – or anyone you know – want to see more tales like this please visit our IndieGoGo site where we’re trying to raise enough funds to make our own version of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. Many thanks. Tell your friends.

Here’s the widget:

UPDATE: Cory Doctorow very kindly gave us a mention over at BoingBoing with a nice snippet from this post, an embed of the Troll video and the info on our efforts to raise funding for our Ruffus version of “The Christmas Carol”. Thanks, Cory!

Dance, Monkeys, Dance!

Monday, October 18th, 2010

This one – alas – never gets old:

It’s a video mashup based on Ernest Cline’s remarkably prescient and – alas and alack – eternally relevant screed against the basic nature of humanity itself. In short: We’re monkeys with car keys.

Hug your loved ones. We’re fucked.

cheers

P. S. Since we’re all going to hell in a handbasket – give us money to make a great online puppet show: Ruffus The Dog – A Christmas Carol.

Ruffus The Dog – A Christmas Carol

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

If you go to www.indiegogo.com/Ruffus-The-Dog you will find a page seeking to raise money for the production of entirely new episode of Ruffus The Dog – our own version of “A Christmas Carol”.

Here’s the pitch video:

We’re seeking a ridiculously low amount for such an ambitious production but we’re also confident in the abilities of our team to pull it off. Where that leads to with other episodes and other things featuring Ruffus – I have no idea. Plenty of dreams – but not a clue as to what will actually happen.

Making the video was – um – interesting. I did everything myself and now find myself looking forward to working with my friends. Playing all the characters was fun but I didn’t like being the Princess – I’ve always been a firm believer that female roles should be played by women.

While I did write a script that laid out the necessary call to arms for funding that we needed, most of the dialogue from the Pig and the Weasel was improvised. As often happens when playing with puppets, sometimes the character just asserts itself and takes over. There is a lot of weasel footage that just couldn’t be used but left me weeping with laughter. It’s usually not good to laugh at your own follies but when it’s distanced through a character at the end of your arm I think it’s allowed.

Just a little technical info on how I put this thing together: it was shot in my home, straight onto my laptop, very much in the manner of the other Ruffus promos I’ve written about before. This time, though, there were 7 characters – and a Delorean – and a disco ball. I had 15 separate video tracks to composite and 10 stereo audio tracks to mix. Everything was done in Final Cut Pro.

My laptop – which is already a beaten up piece of overheated shit – was just barely up the task as it doggedly chugged along, trying to comprehend and provide all the effects I sought.

It didn’t help that my trackpad was fucking up and making its own decisions on where to go and what to click. I very nearly lost a bunch of files because of that and I suspect that’s what caused the loss of a previous shoot of mine. It was only after I finished the edit of this video that I discovered my battery on the MacBook Pro was swollen and bulging out from the bottom of the case and on the inside was putting pressure on the trackpad, causing my poor dedicated little piece of shit to lose its mind like some syphilitic blind beggar wandering through a godforsaken mad house.

But it is done. It is not perfect – but it IS done.

I exhort you to visit the Indie Go-Go site and have a look at our pitch page. There will be regular updates of photos and videos, documenting the progress of the entire enterprise. It will be fun.

Even if you can’t contribute financial support you can certainly help us out by making as much noise about it as you can. Tell your friends. Grab a widget and park it on your own web pages. Tweet about it. Helping to direct people to the site is an equally important expression of support that will help us to get the show made.

And your comments here are also welcome.

Stay tuned.

Cheers.

Making Another Ruffus Promo

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

A little while back I posted about Making A Ruffus Promo where I described a little bit of the antics involved in shooting and editing a short promotional video to announce new episodes released on the Ruffus The Dog web site.

Well – I did another one:

This time it involves 3 characters and so was, naturally, just a tad more time consuming to make than the previous one. But not because there was an extra character.

The excess production time was caused by me fucking up.

I thought I was being clever in this little exercise of quick and dirty shooting – set it up, knock it in the can, cut the fucker together and throw it out on to the interwebs. Ta-dah! Piece of cake. Yeah – right.

My son helped me with the shoot – operating camera and performing the right hand of the pig character. Took us less than an hour to get all the shots we needed. It was fun – even though we shot the scenes on one of the hottest days of the year and my sweat was dripping on the computer keyboard the whole time.

My sweat wasn’t the problem. It’s because I’m an overly confident lazy bastard that caused the problems. I have old hard drives – they need to be updated – yeah, yeah, sure, someday maybe. I back things up – sometimes – when I get around to it – maybe later when I’m not so busy – just let me get this one thing done first.

You get the picture.

Nothing too complicated.

Nothing too complicated – and it only took me 2 hours to cut and composite the whole thing.

That’s when I noticed we missed a line and had to set up all the lights and camera and shit – again – to get this one integral little fucking line from the pig. Geez.

No worries. Shit happens. Got the shot. Imported it into the edit. I’m feeling pretty cocky at this point. In a couple of hours the render will be finished and I’ll post this puppy and gloat it about it on Twitter and Facebook. I am too cool for school.

I got all the way to the end of the final edit on this shit and was just going to do one last pass to tweak the audio a bit when suddenly Final Cut Pro started telling me I had files that were off-line. That’s how FCP describes something important that just isn’t fucking there anymore. Off-Line.

What?! How is this possible?! Of course the files are there. I put them there. Right there – there – where there is now n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

The screams were heard all through Parkdale – and across the Twitterverse – that night.

Where did they go? I have no fucking idea. For all I know they just floated away with all the sunshine I’d been blowing up my own ass.

I proceeded to spend over 12 hours attempting to recover the files – even tempting the fates by going into the Terminal in a desperate bid to reconstruct the files via command line. Eventually I had to admit defeat and a few days later – this time without the help of my son who had returned to school – re-shot the entire thing.

This time I backed up the files. This time I saved everything – twice – and on different drives. This time I did it right. And it worked – sort of. It doesn’t possess the verve of the first shoot and the edit isn’t as finessed as the first one, largely because I was bored and pissed off with myself for wasting so much fucking time.

But I wasn’t just going to give up and do something else. Oh no. To me it was more important to actually get the thing done. It’s all part of a larger plan of mine that involves certain guerilla production techniques that (often) fly in the face of common sense. Backing Shit Up is now part of the plan.

Something else I did this time around was actually script the whole thing. I mean properly script it. I write scripts all the time for our shows but usually when I’m shooting something small like this I’ll just scribble down some notes and then wing it. It’s fun – what the hell.

This time I wrote it all down – just like a real shoot.

Script - Page One

Script - Page Two

Script - Page Three

Script - Page Four

If you’re into that sort of thing you can download a PDF of the script. It’s not terribly clever – it’s just an exercise in production technique and an attempt to keep some original content flowing through the web site to maintain traffic.

The script is 4 pages for 2 minutes of screen time. There are some producers and broadcasters who live and die by page counts, refusing to even read scripts that defy their ironclad belief system in how long a script must be. Those people are pinheads. The running time of a script is based on how it plays. The little numbers in the corners of the paper don’t mean shit.

You’ll notice I wrote out each and every shot as it appears – with the exception of a couple because I fucked up the timing with the different characters speaking and had to fudge the edit to make it work – c’est la vie. When making the original Ruffus episodes – and for most of the shows I’ve produced and directed – I’ve always done this. It makes sense not to include all that kind of specific production detail when you’re just a writer-for-hire or trying to sell something on spec – then it makes sense to leave things open for readability and to let the other collaborators contribute their own vision to the process of crafting the finished story.

So should my script for a chintzy little 2 minute video have been only 2 pages long? No. Fuck that. Like I said: die hard page counters are pinheads.

Common wisdom sez a feature film script should be no more than 110-120 pages. Ever read a Hitchcock script? 250-300 pages. Of course, his scripts were detailed blueprints of exactly what he wanted to shoot and he was a freakin’ genius – and I’m no Hitchcock – but I do know if you toss one of those on an executive’s desk these days – they’ll plotz.

But, when you’re doing shoots that involve puppets and blue screen other stuff like that, and you don’t have a creative team on hand to figure shit out for you, and you don’t have a budget or the time to stand around with your thumbs up your arses trying to figure out the best way to accomplish the finished visual effect you desire – that’s when you simply write it down and say: “Shoot the fucker like that.”

Works for me – when I take the time to back shit up.

The next installment of this drivel will focus on how much crap I keep in my head as I work. That’ll be fun.

Cheers.

P. S. My friends and colleagues are, thankfully, telling me things like: “You know, if you ever need any help – all you gotta do is just call.”. I know! I appreciate that SO much. And YES – I will call. But first there’s still a couple of other things I need to mess around with before we move into a more collaborative frame of reference. Bear with me. And thank you so much for your support. :)

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Rachel Bloom proves geeks are hot in this wonderfully carnal tribute to Ray Bradbury. Reading has never been so fun.

Where was she when I was in high school?

It’s doubtful there will be a similar tribute for other authors of note unless you can come up with sensual rhymes for Azimov, Heinlein, Ellison and Lem.

Cheers.

More Ruffus Stuff

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

As I post each new episode of Ruffus The Dog I’m also going to be posting these little “trailers” or (shudder) “advertisements” that can be spread further than the full shows themselves.

I’ve been wanting to post full episodes on the official Ruffus YouTube channel but I’m still waiting to see how much further they intend to jerk me around after reneging on their “Director” status that would allow me to post videos longer than 10 minutes in length. Each Ruffus episode is just a little over 14 minutes long – so the best I can do with Da Toob is make announcements like this.

There are many other promotional efforts I’ll be pursuing in the coming weeks, most of which will benefit from having an extant body of works already posted rather than attempting to jump up and down in an effort to gain attention for a site that is barely there at all. It’s all good.

Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn – step by step. One step at a time – we shall see how it all plays out.

Cheers.