A Note From The Director

As a self-confessed film fanatic growing up in a small Midwestern town in the early 1980s, I devoured anything movie-related I could get my hands on. And before the Internet and “Special Edition” DVDs with director commentaries and even ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, about the only thing I could get my hands on were magazines with titles that my parents couldn’t pronounce, publications with names like Fangoria, Cinefex and Cinefantastique.

Everybody else had subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, but I saved up my pennies for genre publications devoted to the films of my youth – the sci-fi, horror and animated epics that inspired me to make movies in the first place. I spent many rainy (and probably too many sunny) days with my nose buried in these magazines. My favorite articles were the “making of’ cover stories, the ones with lots of behind-the-scenes photographs, where effects artists, model makers, and animators would pose with their creations and spill the beans on their methods of madness. They did a great job of explaining how my favorite movies actually made it to the silver screen.

Today, it’s easier than ever to find behind-the-scenes information about the movies (Peter Jackson puts enough supplemental information on his DVDs that watching them is like getting a free class in film school with the coolest professor of all time). And if you’re interested in actually making movies, the tools are more accessible than ever. I animated all of ARTICLES OF WAR in a home studio I built from scratch, using off-the-shelf equipment and software available to the average consumer.

In the spirit of my favorite childhood magazines, here’s my own “spill the beans” article on ARTICLES OF WAR. This feature speaks in broad terms about the making of the film, which for a scrappy little independent film feels a bit like overkill (to those who’ve heard it all before, feel free to browse through the many artwork examples accompanying the story). I also want to focus on the creation of one specific shot in the film - shot #149, which shows up about 10 minutes into the movie.

Script

ARTICLES OF WAR is filled with visuals that I couldn’t stop thinking about when I first started imagining a film set from the point of view of a B-24 bomber pilot. My best ideas usually arrive as images, and for ARTICLES OF WAR, I crafted a script to connect those images together.

I wrote my film in the New York Public Library – the famed 5th Avenue branch, with the lion sculptures in front (and, if you’ve seen the opening minutes of GHOSTBUSTERS, a seriously pissed off ghost librarian in the basement). I love my home studio, and it’s got the perfect amount of diversions to keep me sane while I animate, but writing requires a whole different level of concentration, so when it’s time to write something new, I head for the library.

I described shot #149 in the first draft of my script, dated December 23rd, 2002. Though the scene didn’t survive the various drafts that followed, I ultimately decided to restore it right before I started animation. In my final cut, the action follows closely to what I described in my first draft:

EXT. VIENNA RAILYARD - DAY

Black smoke drifts towards the heavens.

PAN DOWN to reveal the corpse of an enemy soldier, floating facedown in a brackish puddle of water. CONTINUE PANNING across the lifeless body until we’re DRIFTING OVER the surface of the water. A hint of sunlight reveals the rippled reflection of a B-24 flying overhead as we...

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. DAKOTA ZEPHYR COCKPIT – DAY

MATCH ACTION as we DRIFT OVER the surface of the pilot’s letter. Jim’s familiar handwriting fills the frame...

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