Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Steam Man's Face

I've spent this past week making a mask out of scratch. As you can probably tell, I am very interested in Steampunk, and I'm sure you can see that theme in the mask. "The Steam Man's Face" is a mask made of bandages, old and stained from the years of abuse. Steam and grime has tarnished the copper, and dirt stains the cloth bandages. Here's how I made the mask.

I started off by creating a simple mask shape with some cardboard and gaffer's tape. The Gaffer's tape is expensive, but it holds up well to paper maché.

 Eye and nose holes were then cut out, and the mask shape was trimmed.

 Additional layers of cardboard were added to the mask to give it a raised surface. A triangular piece of cardboard was placed over the nose hole to prevent the nose from being seen. Notice the cardboard jaw. This was later replaced with a copper jaw.

A layer of paper maché was placed over the cardboard to give it a better shape. A layer of plaster gauze was placed over the paper maché to harden the mask even more, and to give it a fabric texture.

 These parts were cut from a sheet of copper and shaped to fit the mask. The eye piece is a bit of tubing I found.

Using liver of sulfur, I aged the copper to give it a worn and old feel.

Here you can see a bit of the texture of the mask. This is the first layer of paint.

 Using epoxy, the copper pieces were glued on. The back of the copper pieces were sanded down to allow the epoxy to grip the metal.

The final mask. A thin woman's belt from H&M keeps the mask on the wearer's head.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Pirates of the Caribbean Scene

My final project for my directing class required us to choose a scene from any script, and to film that scene. The only requisite was that our final scene should look different from what the scene looked like in theaters. I chose a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean- Curse of the Black Pearl. Our class was organized in groups, with each person assigned to a specific task. Before we were allowed to film, we were required to turn in a brief description of what our scene was going to look like. Here was my conceptional view of the scene:

This scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean- Curse of the Black Pearl” takes place during the first half of the movie, shortly after the Black Pearl has attacked Port Charles. Jack Sparrow has been captured and is stuck in his cell. Will comes seeking information and strikes a deal with the pirate. Here we learn more about Jack Sparrow. He knows the story behind the Black Pearl and possibly more. Jack only agrees to help Will when he discovers that Will is the key to capturing the Black Pearl and stopping Captain Barbossa.
            The shift in the scene comes when Jack learns Will Turner’s full name. While he doesn’t express his interest fully, he does change the way he acts towards Will, now acting as if he wants to help. Will is hesitant to make the deal with Sparrow, having picked up on the change in the pirate’s demeanor. From this point on, you can begin to piece the puzzle together. We know that Will Turner is important to Jack Sparrow, but we do not know why and we do not know Jack’s plans. At this point, the adventure begins.
            In the film, this scene takes place in the morning. I chose to have my scene take place at night. This allowed for more dramatic lighting. Dark shadows in the cell helped give Jack Sparrow a more mysterious feel. Will Turner, coming into a dark cell to speak with a pirate felt more eerie than having him come into a well-lit cell. It is as if Will Turner is going into the underworld to make a deal with the devil.

My crew consisted of members from my class, while the cast was made up of local actors.


Will Turner                                    Ty M. Williams
Jack Sparrow                                  Dustin Saiidi


Director                                       Alejandro S. Vargas
Assistant Director                        Kiazad Ehya
Boom Operator                           Shannon Latham
Wardrobe & Props                      Natalie Kafader
Art Director & Set Dress             Craig Ryan
Props & Slate                              Joseph Shultz
Camera Operator                         Eusebio Gonzalez
Director of Photography             Priscilla Anselmo
Sound Recordist                         Anthony Weaver
Continuity/ Script Sup.               Hannah Choe

I had an idea of how I wanted my set to look and how I wanted the lighting set up. I met with my crew and showed them detailed sketches and a map of the set. We were only allowed to use what was already in the sound stage and what few props we could rent from the Drama Department. The day of the shoot, I came in early, mapped out the location of the flats on the floor with tape, fixed and prepared some flats, and spoke again with my crew. Later that day we would have 3 hours to set up, film, and clean up.

Here are some pictures of the set.

Here is the hallway to the jail cell. All the walls were flats. Fake brick was nailed to the flats that would get the most time onscreen.

Another view of the hallway, from inside the cell.

The jail cell was made up of tan flats with fake stone attached, a blown out window which was quickly repaired, and half a barrel for the prisoner to sit on. I wanted light to come into the cell, but not only from above. In the scene prior to this, pirates had attacked the town. In my head, their cannons had blown a hole in the cell wall and in the roof. Guards hastily repaired it with wooden beams. The gaps in the beams let us play with the lighting.

Here is a closer view of our blown out cell wall. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to paint any of the flats so this one had to stay purple.

A peak at some of our lighting setups.

Once the house lights were turned off, the set looked much better. Props were brought in, and we were ready to shoot.

Another look down the hallway, now with a small table and props. I wanted there to be a warm glow down the hallway as if it were being lit by torchlight. The cell was given blue lighting as if the moon were peaking in through the gaps in the walls. And the red and orange light peaking from behind the wooden beams in the wall was from the town burning.

I am very happy with the way it turned out.


I enjoy painting when I have the chance. Here are some of my most recent works.

This was my take on the Little Mermaid. I wanted her to have more of a fish look to her, and large eyes to absorb the little light that there is deep in the ocean. Painted on canvas with acrylic paint and the details were outlined in black sharpie.

This was a quick painting I did with acrylic paint and sharpie on poster board. It was inspired by the White Stripes logo.

The art of Dia de los Muertos has always interested me. Death is rarely seen in a positive light, but Dia de los Muertos brings death to life with the vibrant colors and intricate designs. I found a large piece of cardboard, painted it white, and waited until I was inspired to paint something. Later that day, this is what I ended up with.

These two hearts were also inspired by Dia de los Muertos. Each was painted on a small 6x6 canvas using acrylic paint.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Voodoo Doll props

My first film project at San Francisco State University was in my intro to Cinema class. Every film student must take this class before they move onto the advanced film classes. Our final project in that class was to make what they referred to as an animatic less than 3 minutes long. It would be a short film told in pictures. It could not be filmed, but we could use as many still images as we wanted. The only movement would be the changes in the pictures and moving the pictures around on the screen to give the illusion of movement. My animatic was about Marie Laveau, the famed Voodoo practitioner of New Orleans.

You can learn more about Marie Laveau HERE.

I needed a few Voodoo dolls as props, so I went online to purchase a few. I was not impressed by what I found. Many of them were cheaply made with sloppy painting and they did not fit the mood of my project. I decided to make my own. After a little more research and a quick trip to a few craft stores, I was ready to start. Here for your viewing pleasure are those dolls.

Both of these dolls were made the same way. Two pieces of bamboo were crossed and tied together. Spanish moss was wrapped around the "t" shape the bamboo made, and it was all covered with canvas. The canvas edges were hand sewn tight so the spanish moss could not escape.

This doll was painted using acrylic paint, and although it may be hard to see in the picture, I stained the unpainted canvas with a mixture of tea and coffee. Scrap fabric and leather were used to tie beads along the body of the doll.

I spent much more time on this doll than on the first. After creating the basic body shape (bamboo, spanish moss, canvas), black fabric was tied around the mid section and painted white. I sculpted and painted a mask which was tied onto the head of the doll. Using old beads and shells collected on the beach, small necklaces were made and wrapped around the body. Small coins were tied to the body, as well as buttons, a half burnt candle, and many pieces of twine. More detail was put into this doll as it would be seen close up in the animatic.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Crow Mask

If you look down at my Short films post, you'll see one of my films, "Zombie Crow" has a character wearing a large crow mask. I am happy to say that I made that mask and I took pictures of its creation. Originally I had planned on making a living crow's mask, complete with black feathers. I decided against that. I was afraid that the small digital camera would not pick up on the details of the mask, making it look like a big black blob. A crow's skull allowed the features (eyes, beak, nose) to stand out more.

The mask is made of cardboard and paper maché, with some gaffer's tape and staples to keep it from falling apart. Here's a look at the underside of the mask. It sits on your head like a helmet.

The main cranial part of the mask was made first, then the top and bottom half of the beak. Rolled up newspaper was placed on the mask to raise specific spots. Once that was done, multiple layers of paper maché were used to smooth out the skull and to make it stronger.

The upper portion of the skull was painted an off white with dark brown added to areas that needed to be darker. The beak would be painted black. The top and bottom portions of the beak were painted the same. A little bit of pearlized blue was added to the black to give the beak a little shine in the light.

The lower beak was attached to the top of the skull using small metal fasteners, 2 on each side. When 1 fastener on either side is opened, the beak can move up and down. Some more painting and a glossy finish, and the mask was done.

Because the mask would not cover the face completely, a piece of black fabric was placed hanging from the inside, along with some black fishing net and some ribbon to tie the mask in place at the back of the head. With some of the extra cardboard and fabric I made some claws. Just cardboard, fabric, paint, and tape.

And here is the crow.

A quick and simple costume, but it ended up the way I had pictured.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Paper Mache Masks

About a year ago, I came across a broken Harry Potter Death Eater mask. I took it home, fixed it up, and painted it. I had a few flowers laying around, so I added them to the mask. This is the final product.

I was very satisfied with this mask, so I decided to paint some more. Dick Blick art supplies sells simple paper mache masks. Very simple and they have a nice paper surface.

The first two paper maché masks were painted to reflect my interest and love of Dia De Los Muertos. 

These were painted with acrylic paint.

The fake flowers add a nice touch to the mask.

I wanted to make my next masks look aged. I tried to thin out the acrylic paint, but I didn't get the aged look I wanted. I decided to try out water color. It worked perfectly on the brown paper maché.

This mask was based off of an Aztec Funeral Mask

The water color let the brown paper maché show through, which gave the masks a nice faded look to them. A thin point Sharpie was used to make the outlines dark and stand out. Each mask has a high gloss finish to them (you can probably tell that by the reflections on them). Each of them took awhile to make, but I really enjoyed the process. I plan on painting more in the near future.

My Short Films

Here is a collection of the short films I made during my Junior and Senior years at San Francisco State University. In each of them I directed and designed the set. A brief description before each film will give you some more insight into the making of each short film. I hope you enjoy.

Before any cinema student at SFSU can move on to the more advaced classes, there are two classes he or she must pass. In these classes the students learn how to make a short film the old fashion way, with film. This short film was made in that Intro to Cinema Studies/Lab class. It was filmed using a Bolex with industrial work lamps used as lighting. We were given a few weeks to plan out our shoot but only one hour to film. This was my first film. It was written and edited by me.

Freak Feather
One assignment I had during my junior year at SFSU required us to make a short film without any real narrative. We were allowed to choose a subject but not write out a story for it. My group chose to film a feather. Again we filmed using a Bolex. The three of us were given 3 hours to film as much footage as we wanted to but each of our edits had to be unique. This is my version.

Zombie Crow
One of my favorite classes my senior year at SFSU was my Online Cinema class. In that class we learned the origins of the internet and how media has changed to fit in with the internet. New Media. Our final project was to make a film that we considered "web cinema" and a website dedicated to that film. My short movie "Zombie Crow" was filmed using a digital camera. Since the film was going to be placed on Youtube, and computer screens are not very big, the camera should be small as well. It was a quick and easy movie making process. I wrote, filmed, and edited the movie. The crow mask was made of cardboard and papeir mache. I am very proud of it.

Scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" 
During the Final Semester at San Francisco State University, I was lucky enough to be chosen to be in the Directing class. Our final project required us to choose a scene from a movie and to film that scene. Rather than replicating the scene shot for shot, we were told to interpret the script outselves and make the scene unique. While we were given weeks to plan out our shoot, each student was given 3-4 hours to build their set, light the set, film, and clean up.