With Ed's arrival fast approaching - the shoot days that is - the Aliens and I decided it was time to take the Mango Goddess for a spin and locate the location.
The day was hot, and after winding our way up narrow roads to the ridge-line of the Santa Monica ranges, we were still without the perfect place, and the Mango Goddess was in need of a little Alien love.
On our way down, though, we found the perfect place, checked the dirt, and bid our adieu. The indicators on the Mango Goddess, which underwent some form of temporary aberration, returned to their usual function and we headed off to a well-earned afternoon swim! I can't wait to bring the actors in and capture the action at the base of the power pole we shot a couple of weeks ago!
Among the many triumphs of yesterday, the Aliens and I spent an hour making favored foods of The Squirrel King. For the aliens, ice cream cones and ice cream were the obvious candidates.
In the process, Alien One wrestled with the realization that a cone can simply be rolled out of the correctly cut paper while a ball of ice cream is a more mysterious beast - at least in the realm of papier mache, though there's probably a life lesson in there somewhere too.
For my part, I was at work on a 3D element of the portrait; look closely at the foreground and you may identify an item from a gypsy barbeque!
Welcome to our cast! The magnificent and talented team who populate the world of The Squirrel King.
SHI NE NIELSON - ROBIN
As the heroine and protagonist of The Squirrel King, Shi Ne brings years of experience and boundless energy to the role of Robin.
A graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Shi Ne has played recurring characters on television shows ranging from ER and Grey's Anatomy, to Law and Order: Los Angeles. Her enthusiasm for life is as infectious in person, as in the character she plays!
JUSTUS ZIMMERMAN - JUSTUS
To the casual eye, the difference between Justus (Just-us) and his namesake character Justus (juice-teuse), may be hard to discern, but while the co-creator of The Squirrel King has spent significant time bumming around the climbing locales of America, he's also spent a good deal of time acting.
With leading roles in the independent features Safe Word and 29,000 Wishes. 1Regret., and commercials, such as USA Today's 4th ranked Super Bowl commercial (House Sitting for Doritos), Justus is a star in the making. He's also perfectly cast as Robin's happy-go-lucky boyfriend, who through delightful ineptitude always seems to land on his feet.
LOUIS DEZERAN - ED
Lou is the perfect man to play Ed, Rusty Springs' municipal-one-man-show. With a rich acting history dating back to roles opposite Tom Selleck in Concrete Cowboys before Magnum P.I. and a recurring role on The Bold And The Beautiful, Louis has seen it all!
In fact back in the seventies, after a role as a founder of Mixed Blood (the first multi-racial Union theatre in America), and while teaching Ron Perlman at the University of Minneapolis, Louis even authored two texts on acting. Beyond his acting chops, Louis is a craftsman with a toolshed second only to the character he'll be playing in The Squirrel King.
BILL WATTERSON - PAUL
You might recognize Bill from national ad campaigns for Burger King, Arby's, Living Social, Chevy and many more, but in Northern Europe he is the face of Jever Beer. For us, however, he will always be Paul, Justus' easy going climbing-bum-come-philosopher friend.
Partnered with Tim Gibbons (Executive Producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm) and New Media rock stars OK Go on the rock 'n' roll comedy project The Kardiac Kids, Bill can be regularly seen in person at a monthly Vaudeville Variety Hour at Second City Hollywood which he produces and hosts.
TONY DOUPE - THE CATBURGLAR
Though we will never see his face, Tony Doupe is the Catburglar. He first met Rufus on Butterfly Dreaming where he played the inscrutable but very memorable Officer Lowry. Since then, Tony has starred in The Off Hours, an official selection at Sundance, and Frayed which was released by Lion's Gate.
With supporting roles in feature films The Ring, and Life Or Something Like It, and appearances on television in Northern Exposure, Unsolved Mysteries and The Fugitive, Tony is a man on the rise.
MIKE MAHAFFEY - BOB
Mike is a professional fight director; choreographing fights for film and stage. He's also a Beverly Hills Playhouse trained actor.
For us though, he is Bob, the Catburglar's inept sidekick. With a background that includes motion capture on The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, and Biohazard: Degeneration (the Resident Evil spin-off), the precision of his movements accentuates his apparently haphazard actions and amplifies the laughs his comic timing already delivers.
Kate has had an illustrious career on both stage (4 Broadway shows, including Tom Stoppard's "Travesties" with the Royal Shakespeare Company) and screen, with prominent roles over the years including mother-of-the-groom to Steve Martin’s Father Of The Bride.
To us though, she is Marcy, the nurturing spirit that guides Ed through the world. From her stage work as therapist Charlotte Wallace in Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy (for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award), to her real-life experience as an acting coach to beginners and stars alike, it seems Kate has been preparing for her role in The Squirrel King all her life.
ALIEN ONE AND ALIEN TWO
Last, but by no means least, we have the puppeteers behind Robin's whims, and the keys to the whole series, our lovable Aliens.
With no previous acting experience, but boundless energy, close ties to the director and a willingness to work beyond the traditional call of actors, these whirlwinds of trouble are set to delight!
You've always wanted to see the papier mache lion's claw shower stall feet, a felt truck and the squirrels themselves! Here's your chance, live and in person!
Come see a selection of Squirrel King props at the Montana Artwalk tomorrow!
Beyond the props, the Aliens have been busy preparing boxes of supplies for our "Make and Take" table, where you too can make a Squirrel King flower, leave it to dry, and take someone else's earlier effort in its stead!
- 4 pounds of pom poms - 900 green pipe-cleaners - 600 felt leaves - skewers and glue
We hope to see you tomorrow for some high-end home-made fun!
Chin chin Ruthless Whims
Where: 11th and Montana, in Santa Monica When: Thursday 5-9pm
It is with great pleasure that I present the masterminds behind The Squirrel King digital series, aka the crew.
Writer/Producer/Director - RUFUS WILLIAMS
A PhD from Harvard in mathematics and rock-climbing expertise that ranks him among Australia's top boulderers serve as great indicators of Rufus' diverse talents and inclinations. Add two beautiful and energetic daughters into the mix, and it is hardly surprising that he has chosen to follow up his debut feature film, Butterfly Dreaming - which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and went on to win Best Thriller at the Santa Monica International Film Festival - with a light-hearted digital series about aliens, squirrels and one woman's quest to be part of something important.
Writer/Producer - JUSTUS ZIMMERMAN
Just outside Wenham, MA, there is a valley named "The Valley of Justus".
If you really need to know more, check out the cast page, as Justus plays his namesake, and our protagonist, Robin's, boyfriend.
Cinematographer - TOM CLANCEY
Tom brings years of experience shooting a range of projects, from studio and independent features, to stunning commercial work. His collaboration with director Justin Lin (for whom he has shot additional photography on The Fast & The Furious franchise, including the most recent Fast Five) resulted in Finishing the Game which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (2007). Tom also shot Director John Landis' Emmy award winning documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.
Along with music videos and numerous national commercials, his recent independent features include White Space and Kissing Strangers, and documentaries on Kilimanjaro and the shipbreakers of Southeast Asia.
Production Designer - VIVIAN DOMINGUEZ
Vivian is a Texas born, New York City trained actress, writer and papier-mache artist.
After auditioning for the lead role in The Squirrel King, she landed the job as head of production design. She is the mastermind behind the squirrel puppets, and has worked closely with Rufus on the fierce feline, a miniature forest, and the series title card.
Her eclectic background ranges from papier-mache snails and ferrets, to writing "Fly My Way", the number 1 pop song in China for 3 weeks in 2010. Viva Vivian!
Editor - MEG DECKER
Based out of Therapy Studios, Meg has cut content for Nike, Toyota and Spike TV. She and Rufus first collaborated on Rufus' debut feature Butterfly Dreaming which Meg edited.
Since then she has brought her cool, level head to a number of documentaries, including Transcendent Man which played at the Tribecca and AFI film festivals. We are delighted and blessed to have her prowess on board The Squirrel King team!
Sound Designer - ROBERT KELLOUGH
In a world of papier-mache spacecraft and woolen-water showers, the requirements on a sound designer are simple: a genius is required. Enter Bob.
Having cut his teeth as a sound effects editor on shows such as Fringe, Flashforward and Lost (on which he was a member of the Emmy-nominated sound-editing team), Bob has more recently worked on high profile feature films such as X-Men: First Class, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Beyond his obvious technical expertise, Bob's personal aesthetic is perfectly positioned to create an alien language from kids' laughter.
Composer - MATTHEW McGAUGHEY
Through his company Serial Musique Matthew has scored title themes for hit TV shows including Real Housewives of Atlanta, Top Chef: Just Desserts, and The Fashion Show. Indeed Matthew, and his co-conspirator, Kyle Johnston, have score elements throughout the Real Housewives and Top Chef franchises.
Matthew's wonderfully haunting score elevated Rufus' Butterfly Dreaming to an ethereal plane, and the two have been close friends since, always in search of the next project on which to collaborate. The Squirrel King, offers a unique venue to really push the frontiers of score with discussions already involving a plethora of playful percussion, all to be synthesized by the Doc (Matthew's nick-name referencing his strong theoretical background).
Production Company: PRIVATE UNIVERSE FILMS
After an academic career that started at Oxford University and included over 300 publications in prestigious journals such as Nature, Keith parlayed his scientific expertise into a more business-focussed life. As a founder and director of several successful biotech companies Keith has raised over $100 million dollars and structured partnerships with major companies and institutions including IBM, Dow Agrosciences, Beckman, Bayer, Nestle and the Bill Gates funded FIND Foundation.
The head of the scientific lab that coined the term "Proteome", Keith founded and grew the biotech company Proteome Systems from 12 to 150 people, ultimately leading the company to a listing on the Australian Stock Exchange; doubtless one of the contributing factors in his being awarded an Order of Australia.
Complimenting these professional credentials, is Keith's belief in GNH (Gross National Happiness), the Bhutanese measure of prosperity. Further with five children, and four grandchildren, of his own, he is perfectly placed as a driving force behind the world of The Squirrel King.
Executive Producer - PAYTRE TOPP
Otherwise known by the pseudonym The Trouble and Strife, the elusive Paytre would be more accurately referred to as Her Saintliness. Far from torment and conflict, her presence on the Squirrel King team ensures precisely the opposite. Trained as a lawyer at USC where she held an executive position on the law review, she is, by day, an entertainment attorney.
Beyond her legal prowess, and undergraduate background in physics and biochemistry, Her Holiness is a fashion guru and designer; skills she is harnessing as the visionary behind the Squirrel King clothing lines Little Nut (kids), Big Nuts (mens) and the yet unnamed women's line.
She met and married Rufus over 10 years ago while working in a lab at MIT.
Landlocked by Carmageddon (the closure of one of LA's major arterial freeways), we spent our weekend pottering around the house, the Aliens and the Trouble and Strife each enjoying gardening in their own way.
It's funny how big milestones sometimes drift by almost unnoticed.
While the Aliens have been feasting on fresh mango and drawing diminutive Chinese elephants, I have been toiling with the last delivery requirement on my first film, Butterfly Dreaming. Specifically, I've spent much of the last couple of weeks noting time-code ins and outs for the dialogue (so that our foreign distributors can add subtitles).
In consequence, I have now re-watched my maiden voyage yet again! And I'm pleased to report that I'm still proud of that first outing :) If you haven't seen it, check out the trailer below and rent it on Netflix or the like (unless you're overseas, in which case hold tight - I know it's coming to Serbia soon).
And now, back to the new decidedly different aesthetic and sensibility that is: The Squirrel King.
Coldplay is a band with a slew of fantastic videos to steal from, and Strawberry Swing is one of their best. It serves as much as an inspiration as it does a reference. If you haven't already seen it, take a few minutes to enjoy:
Particularly exciting to me is the interaction between the different elements, best shown when the drawn scissors cut the real cape - very much genius :) Our own scale of animation is much smaller, and will usually occur on top of live action, more in the spirit of my first reference post on Buildings and Vampires.
Of course the squirrel's arrows bouncing off the umbrella has it's own charm, and it's always fun to see squirrels in other works.
At long last we determined that the papier mache on Robin's shelving was done. Simply put we couldn't wait any longer to pick up the paint brush.
And so, the Aliens dived in with an initial white-wash.
Closely followed by some pretty pink.
Who knew that underneath it all our Aliens were hippies :)
It is kind of nice, and fitting, to think that the substructure of Robin's furniture is layered in love.
Then, after apply the final touches to Robin's shelves, the Aliens moved on to their, now-traditional, post-painting celebration (look carefully at those hands in the final photo). Suffice it to say a twenty minute shower was required!