Creating some (major) cool in 2018

Telling our own stories by creating our own work has always been one of the key goals of our company. It’s the start of a new year and new adventures and we’re excited to have a variety of our own very cool and interesting projects on the go (no spoiler alerts but keep an eye out here and on our social media channels).

With a current change in audience taste, demand is being created for the more human realism of hands-on practical effects versus digital effects. Part of this trend is a growing appreciation for the edgy hand-crafted artistry of our distinctive style of stop motion animation. We established that style with our first film Skeleton Girl, Canada’s first stereoscopic 3D stop motion animated film. It had its world premiere in New York, was chosen as one of the top short films in Canada, and toured the globe to overwhelmingly positive comments.

We continued experimenting with our fabrication and stop motion capabilities, creating a musical animation called The River, set to the ironic and iconic Canadian trio, The Arrogant Worms’ River of Snot. The River also toured, and in fact was invited to be part of Edinburgh’s Dead by Dawn horror festival, where, very shortly, it is going to be screening a second time. For all of you appalled by the volume of nasal secretions from a crazy bad cold – Edinburgh has officially declared it a horror story!*

The Seance Project Title Card

We’re continuing to  help others create their own cool with our services, products, equipment and props, but we’re re-focused on pitching, building and creating our own arsenal of original properties as well. From a live-action ghost series to stop motion animations, and possibly a feature or two thrown in. We’ve also started dipping our toes into the world of VR, an exciting area for continuing to create cool – a goal foremost in our mind no matter what project we’re working on.

We know it will be an exciting and productive 2018 and want to wish all of you a terrific year as well. We look forward to giving you a peek behind the scenes (or as Nancy says “behind the screams”!) as we continue to create cool this year.  Follow or chat with us via the social media channels below and let us know what you’d like to read about in our blog, we’d love to hear from you!

Wynonna Earp Season 3

We did some amazing things on seasons one and two of Wynonna Earp and are very appreciative of the support and well wishes we received from all the Earpers out there. Though we are not part of the crew for Season 3 (you will see our blood and perhaps a limb or two), we wish the cast and crew a super successful shoot.  Although you won’t get the great behind the scenes blogs we did for the first two seasons, we can’t wait to take you “behind the screams” on the new cool and creative projects we’re working on in 2018.

*note that you can watch both Skeleton Girl AND The River (as well as a behind the scenes making-of video) by going to our YouTube channel below. Check them out and let us know what you think! 

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Work on second 3D short in Twisted Tales anthology begins

Now that we’ve released our first baby Skeleton Girl 3D onto the film festival circuit, development work has been happening on the hotly anticipated follow-up, “Through the Looking Glass”. It will be in a similar thematic vein to Skeleton Girl – native 3D, a stop motion animated modern day parable. This time, our Narcissus Mary learns that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence…or the mirror in this case, and in fact can be quite frightening.

We’re working on the script and once that’s locked down will be using a new system for storyboarding called Storyboard Pro 3D; we’ll keep you updated on how that’s working. We learned from Skeleton Girl how great it would be to be able to draw scenes in a program that allows us to quickly change the shot, and to get a good handle on what it is going to look like in 3D before we start shooting. Although it takes away the glamour of having the storyboard taped all over Leo’s office walls, it should theoretically save us time on the pre-production and production end of things.

We’re looking at different options for raising the funds for Through the Looking Glass possibly including another stab at crowd-funding (we weren’t very successful with it for Skeleton Girl), offering for sale some very cool, limited edition items tied to the film’s main character, grants and tax credits, company investors, and other private financing.

We will endeavour to provide more regular updates on the whole process of making the film, starting with this post – and the very first photo release of our Mary maquette – and the beginning of our script, financing, development journey. Enjoy.

Sounds like fun! Applying for film tax credits

OK, I know that a heading with “tax” in it might turn a lot of people off, so bare with me and just focus on the “credits” part. As an independent filmmaker, it would behoove one to be aware of what financial support is available to get a film made, help with the expenses after it’s done, or even to review guidelines and criteria BEFORE you make your film. Now that’s proactive.

Although I had started the application for the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit (CPTC) a number of months ago for our film Skeleton Girl, it remained incomplete, continuously going onto my “to do” list week after week. I bit the bullet and pulled out the file again today. Although it appears we won’t qualify for the tax credit for a few reasons, I thought I would pass on some highlights and facts for others that I hope will help.

The CPTC is a refundable corporate tax credit “designed to encourage the creation of Canadian film and television programming and the development of an active domestic independent production sector.” The program is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage, through CAVCO (the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office) and the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency).

The CPTC is available only to qualified corporations, and yes, the applicant organization must be incorporated to be eligible. I know there are independent filmmakers out there who don’t want to go to the expense and time of incorporating, but if you’re a serious filmmaker, it’s non-negotiable. Get incorporated.

There are about ten other requirements listed in the guidelines that it would be good to review before you submit an application, including time restrictions for filing, and distribution limitations once your film is made and you’re looking for distributors.

There are two parts to the application, Part A and Part B. Part A provides a certificate confirming that the production is a Canadian film or video production. Part B provides a certificate of completion, which is issued where the production is completed and continues to meet the CPTC requirements. Both Part A and Part B can be applied for at the same time but remember that there are deadlines for applying to Part B, so check the information early and diarize it for dealing with before the deadline passes.

There is an application fee to apply for the CPTC. Again, check the guidelines for details on the particulars. And since you’re now incorporated (right?!), the company pays for it.

There are a number of excluded productions (and genres, but those are fairly obvious – no porn, no advertising, no talk shows). If you fall into any of these, you won’t qualify. Check them out.

An individual performing a producer-related or key creative role (these are described in the guidelines) for a production must be Canadian at all relevant times (meaning by the time she/he begins any duties in relation to the project, and during the remaining course of the production and post-production). We were caught with our pants down on this one. It turned out that our highest labour expenditures were for a key creative person who, as it turned out, had applied for permanent resident status but had not yet received it. Even though she had lived in Canada for many years, and had been a landed immigrant for a long time, we were unable to claim any of her labour because she was not recognized as a Canadian citizen as defined in the Citizenship Act. Ouch. Lesson learned.

And lastly, something that had me stumped for a while: the difference between a production being certified by CAVCO and being certified by the CRTC. Here it is, word for word right out of the guidelines. “The CRTC has a Canadian content recognition program which is similar in many respects to CAVCO’s CPTC program. However, there is no tax credit provided through the CRTC. The CRTC will accept CAVCO certification of a production, in lieu of certification by the CRTC. Therefore, an application is often only made to CAVCO where the production is eligible for the CPTC.”

There is a lot more information that I haven’t addressed here including the percentage calculations used for determining the tax credit. The full guidelines can be found by clicking on the link below. I hope you’re still awake and that some of this is helpful. Good luck!

For the CPTC Program Guidelines, go to www.pch.gc.ca/cavco.

Skeleton Girl Testing

Steve animates the skeleton
Steve animates the skeleton

All of us at Bleeding Art Industries have been working on our first film production entitled Skeleton Girl, under the auspices of Skeleton Girl Productions Inc. Models continue to be built and we’ve been doing numerous tests and alterations to bring this short to life.

The first test shot featured lightning casting a figure’s shadow across a wall portrait. A very quick sequence was shot and analyzed and it became immediately clear that the current rig holding the figure in place was providing more of a hindrance than a source of stability. I realized that, since we at no point will we see the puppet’s legs, I might as well remove them. A second rig was quickly fashioned that acted like a motion picture dolly; it allowed the puppet to move smoothly from one side of the frame to the other in very small yet measurable increments. I don’t have to tell you that small yet measurable increments are crucial to stop motion.

A second pass was done. This was far superior to the first take, but now something else was bugging me. The puppet now looked like it was wearing roller skates as it passed by. Leo and I discussed this for a moment, and Leo rushed off to the shop, returning a few minutes later with an add-on for the dolly rig. Now the puppet could move up and down as well as side to side, again in small, measurable increments. If you aren’t sick of that term already, you’ll love animation.

By now almost two hours had passed between shooting the first frame of the first take and completion of the third take. Everything was looking great. But not great enough. The figure had its ‘walk’ down pat, the animation was smooth and natural, and the lighting was fantastic. But something was missing. The skeleton was missing that one most important element: character.

A fourth pass was done. This time, about midway through the sequence, the figure opens its mouth and extends its arms slightly. Both of these motions last around 6 frames each, which is exactly 1/4 a second, but these simple moves sold the character. We ran the shot forwards and backwards, over and over again, then nodded and smiled. In just over 3 hours we had done multiple takes, reviewed each one, perfected the performance and shot, and moved on.

In live action film the director usually says ‘Great. Cut. Print it’ before moving onto the next shot. I suppose you could say that as an animator. Instead, I just said ‘Great.’

Skeleton Girl and Updates

Well it is my turn again. Leo here. I just thought I would jump in with a few updates as to what is happening at BAI.

Heartland – The Movie, kept us all hopping creating snow when it was all melting and there was none to be had. I had the great pleasure of working with James and Jason. I thank them and the rest of the team very much for their help on the show. Given there is really nothing else shooting in the province except for Heartland, James is off to Vancouver for a while, as there is more work there (read: better tax credits therefore more film productions). He has a great and exciting job lined up and I wish him well on his show.

We are lining up to do the 4th season of Heartland the series. This story of a girl and her horse can be viewed on CBC at 7pm on Sunday nights. You can watch it online at http://www.cbc.ca/heartland. We are very excited to welcome back the producers of this production, and thank them for their continuing support of Bleeding Art Industries. We’re grateful to be working when so many of our colleagues in different departments are not.

We just finished the Calgary Opera’s production of Don Giovanni. Blood, bodies, and a dumpster belching flame and smoke from hell were the order of the day. I can’t think of a more fun opera to work on (other than anything Wagnerian or Der Freishutz) and we did have a lot of fun. Custom radio controlled propane gas effects complete with a dumpster which looked very akin to the cockpit of a 747. Bravo to Brett who had to sing and do the high fall into it every night. Without him, we would have just been a flaming bloody mess.

Skeleton Girl is in high swing and camera tests commence next week. Skeleton Girl is a modern parable of what happens when you acquire something that isn’t yours to acquire. Shot in stop motion and lasting 6 minutes, this is not only our first producing venture, but our first real foray into the new realm of 3D. We welcome the learning curve challenge and rise to the occasion. Becky is putting the final touches on the business structure, funding agreements, and marketing of the short. If you want to support this fantastic project, give us a call or take a look at IndieGoGo.com and type Skeleton Girl for more information on how you can get involved. Check back soon for links to our Skeleton Girl website, which will have more content on it shortly.

CTV’s Bravo!FACT Grant Awarded

Yeh! We’re one of the lucky recipients of CTV’s Bravo!FACT grant program for Skeleton Girl. They posted notice on their website a couple of weeks ago and we received a letter last week saying that we have been awarded $20,000 of the maximum $25,000 one can apply for. Although hugely grateful and thrilled that they think our project is worthy of funding, we now have less than 4 months to shoot and complete the short – and get our financing in the bag –  and not in that order! We don’t see the grant money until the short is complete and submitted to them. So, we’re looking for interim financing that will allow us to build the sets, the models, secure the camera equipment, feed the crew, and all the other components of putting this together. Have faith, have faith, have faith…..

Demented Tales of Skeleton Girl

Steve here – I’m the Office Manager at BAI and am overseeing our soon-to-be-launched prodco Bleeding Art Productions. I am very excited to introduce our latest project, Skeleton Girl, which is set to go into production some time this year. This will be the first of 10 short films to be released under the Demented Tales banner.

Skeleton Girl is an update on those classic cautionary children’s tales; the ones found in every society that seek to impart wisdom on the younger generations. In short, the stories parents use to make kids behave. Told with a sprinkling of terror, a dash of wonder, and a big heaping spoonful of black humour, Skeleton Girl tells the tale of a little orphan girl who removes a very special item from a gothic graveyard. That night, as a thunderstorm rolls in, she begins to hear the tapping of bony fingers and soon realizes that it’s not nice to steal from the dead…

That’s the pitch. Now comes the nuts and bolts behind the magic. This will be a stop motion short which is a format that is new to us. I have done some simple animation in my younger years but this will be a much larger undertaking. With live action you are simply rearranging reality to best suit your artistic vision. With animation you are literally creating something from nothing, unless you’re using claymation, in which case you’re creating something from nothing and clay. 

But we’re not scared. Anxious yes, but not scared. You see, we’re a special effects and fabrication company for film, television, and stage. The unknown is familiar to us. Every other day a producer or production designer or artist comes to us with an idea for a visual sequence, and it is up to us to make it look spontaneous and authentic. Sometimes the techniques are as old as the hills, and sometimes the scenario has been repeated a thousand times, but there is always the unexpected and there is always that element of the effect that is completely new. Whether it be a campfire or a blizzard or an exploding cat (true story), we must take our past experiences, mix them with common sense and, most importantly, ask ourselves ‘what if?’ With each effects sequence you are reevaluating your process and the outcome, and with each completed effect you have come up with a thousand ways to do it all better. And in the end isn’t that why we do it? To get better? To exceed our own expectations?

In the end we are all storytellers, and what really matters is that the story reaches people. All of our skills, all of our experiences and mistakes and blood and tears serve only to make this happen. To will ether into reality.