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Two Audio Interviews on Cinemaniax.net

Damien Valentine and Hugh Hancock were interviewed for Cinemaniax (.net) during the Roadshow at Festival Arcadia, and so I thought I would supply the link for your listening pleasure. It's almost a half hour long, and starts with DV followed by HH who was setting up for his big presentation at the time.

Both give very different and very interesting interviews. Damien's is more about his film and then turns into a Star Wars geekfest, but don't get me wrong - it's quite entertaining. Hugh's starts out sounding like a rush to get through it, but it ends up being very informative. For those new to machinima, they give interesting insights; for veteran machinimators it's very interesting to hear their individual perspectives.

I definitely recommend a listen on cinemaniax.net. :)

Link

http://www.cinemaniax.net/modules.php?name=Video_Stream&page=watch&id=159

Good luck to Mass Effects Cinematics Team

Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 has been released today (Nov 20th) after years of hard work. The cinematics team headed by Ken Thain, has a lot of great machinima filmmakers that have contributed significantly to the development of machinima as an art form. Nathan Moller (Ours Again, Just a Game), Paul Marino (Still Seeing Breen), Jonathan Perry (Inside the Machinima) and Michelle Petit-Mee (Snow Witch) have spent a considerable amount of time pushing the limits of the cinematics for Mass Effect. From what I've seen and heard, their work on the cut-scenes should be extraordinary.

Machiniplex would like to wish them the best of luck for a very successful launch of Mass Effect.

Here is the official trailer:




And here's a short article where Paul and Ken discuss some of the ideas behind their approach to the cinematics in Mass Effect.

Cinematics Article

Ken Thain's 3dfilmmaker.com has some interesting comments on his work with the cinematics team. And you can find reams of information plus more trailers and scenes at the main Mass Effects site

-Ricky

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BEAST: the Premiere, the Interview & the Animation

Note: this article contains SPOILERS. If you haven't seen the film yet, please watch it at Machiniplex.com before you read this article

BEAST is a machinima film created by Leo Lucien-Bay (aka Dr. Nemesis) which Machiniplex premiered a month or so ago. I wanted to post this article closer to the premiere, but wasn't able to. My apologies to Leo. I hope that this longer post will help to make up for being so late. Please not that the premiere chat appears at the bottom of this post (because it's so large). The audio interview appears right after the interview section and my short film on the animation in BEAST appears just after my comments for that section.
.....................................................................................................................

The Premiere


The premiere for BEAST was well attended with about 10 to 15 showing up on our Skype channel to discuss the film with the director. This session was a bit more lively than our first chat with Frank Fox (and Morning Run Amok) and some of this had to do with the fact that more people knew about our "premieres", but also because we (Ingrid and myself) were more comfortable technically with running the chat. There is also another factor, I believe, and that was because BEAST is a movie that presents an ambiguous moral drama with a violent climax. It was this ambiguity that forced the viewer to determine their own background story to fill in for the one that was only suggested. Of course the film is technically at a very high level for machinima (or any animated film) and we were all interested in how Leo achieved lip-sync and animation effects, but most of our discussion centered on the moral situation presented in the film. It's the first discussion I've been at for a machinima film where there was more passionate disagreement on the subject and characters of the film than the film itself. I think this is a testament to Leo's fine accomplishment with BEAST. One that has gone largely unacknowledged outside of our premiere and an intelligent and sensitive blog post by Phil Rice (overman).

BEAST is that rare film in machinima that is able to make us believe in the story, the situation and the actions of the characters completely. I mean that all of the elements that go together to suspend our disbelief in BEAST are so well considered and well executed that the viewer is immediately involved in the situation the film presents (one man has another tied up in a room and is taunting him) rather than standing outside of it. Leo succeeds in doing this by providing a very simple situation and presenting it very simply (at least the mis en scene appears simple, the technique is not) until the climax of the film when the camera, the animations, the script and the action all come together in such a violent killing that the viewer is left shocked at the finality of what has just happened. Has a murder been committed? Or is it a just execution of an unpunished murderer?


Is this the murderer? Or the victim?

Frankly, no other machinima film I've seen has provided such a realistic depiction of violence (both physical and moral), nor have I seen animation and cinematography that so perfectly match the action in the script. Phil Rice wrote of this moment (the climax of the film) as one of those "moments" in machinima that set everything that came before it apart; a kind of "next level" of artistic achievement. I agree with him and I'd go further in saying that we will come back to this film at some point in the future and not only discuss the artistic achievement, but the technical one as well. For Leo did not use a game engine, but he essentially combined a real-time engine in Autodesk's Motion Builder with a lip-sync software, Reallusion's Crazy Talk 4.0, in such a creative way that I believe it has set a new standard for machinima filmmakers; one that points to the future of non-game oriented machinima. I can't honestly imagine this film being shot in, say, Sims2 or, The Movies, and be half as effective or believable.

And it's beyond me why the European Machinima Festival passed this film over in the nominations (along with several other excellent films, I might add). Some of the other films nominated for the festival didn't have anywhere near the quality and craft that BEAST has. The nomination panel for the festival really dropped the ball here. I hope they will work harder next year to improve their critical skills. I'm glad Leo had the opportunity to show the film and answer questions. At least the festival had the wherewithal to ask him to at least present the film.


Remembering that violent night

Leo created BEAST in 5 weeks with a blitz period at the end which left him "sick", as he said in the chat and the interview Ingrid and I had with him soon after the premiere. However, the plot/situation for BEAST had been growing in his mind for some time. It wasn't until he say the brilliant Korean film, Park Chan-wook's, OLD BOY (itself an incredible tale of revenge and passion), that his imagination created a context for him to express his ideas and his feelings. The film BEAST speaks for itself. When I initially watched the film, I felt it was too short, but after watching it several times (it gets even better when you know what is coming at the end) I realized that it was the exact length it needed to be. The story Leo wrote is so simple and well executed that it is almost perfectly self contained; a work of art.

Leo's blog, Dr. of Machinima, has excellent production notes that provide more detail regarding the making of BEAST and it's connection to Old Boy. There is also a fascinating entry on the techniques he used for facial animation. The integration of Crazy Talk with Motion Builder is very creatively done (as you can see in the film). Leo's writing is smart and filled with a kind of wry humor unique to this talented director/actor. Highly recommended.
....................................................................................................................

The Interview


Our chat went on for almost an hour and a half. I was disappointed with myself that I had not scheduled more time since the momentum of the chat was still very strong and I could tell Leo was enjoying himself answering questions and talking about the film. Ingrid and I managed to close out the chat and set up a short voice interview with Leo. I rushed this interview ( I had friends waiting for me) and didn't pay a lot of attention to it until I had to edit it for this article. It really is a much better interview than I thought. Our questions were good and Leo's answers were even better. We covered the basics of how BEAST was created, the technical issues around animation and lip-sync, the editing and finally Leo's feelings about the film and it's reception. I wanted to cover a bit more on the animation in the monologue that the protagonist has where he finally lets it out where he and "skiff" came in contact with each other, because the animation (particularly the face) was outstanding. I know that the final beating and killing scene is amazing film work, but I found this poor man's monologue to be a remarkable moment.

The audio interview with Leo Lucien-Bay







.....................................................................................................................

The Animations


Motion Builder is a professional tool that produces quality animation. Leo's work with this complicated tool has become my favorite aspect of the film. He smartly set up a situation where by having one person tied up, he only had to animate from the neck up; whereas, the other person could be animated fully, but simply. Almost static camera shots at eye level gives the viewere the sense that he/she is an observer on some private moment. And, in a sense, we are; at least that's how the script treats us since we know almost nothing of why these characters are set up the way they are, or what it is they are doing to each other. By focusing on simple body animations/facial expression through the first part of the film, the monologue scene is set up perfectly. For one, it's the first time the camera moves (a long dolly/pan shot) and it's the most animated we've seen the protagonist. Not surprising that this is the emotional climax for the protagonist, although one could argue that it's the final act of killing his enemy in revenge, but that's not how I see it because the murder will not make the protagonist feel any better.


"How much is a child's life worth?"

I decided to focus on this monologue and examine it in increasingly greater detail. I wanted to see more closely what Leo was trying to do with the animation at this particular moment. The short film I've created examines the scene. I've provided a commentary where I think it's merited. For those who may not remember, this monologue comes after several minutes of taunting and power struggles between the protagonist and "Skiff" as the tied-up-man is named (or so we are told). The protagonist almost desperately wants "Skiff" to remember how they happen to know each other. He even offers the man his freedom if he can remember. Now, of course, he knows that this man is not going to remember. It's the protagonist's way of punishing Skiff by trapping/teasing/taunting him. The entire scene has been so well planned that every moment is familiar to our protagonist. Except....for the moment where he remembers what happened. He doesn't think it will affect him remembering the murder of his family, but it does and he shoes a moment of weakness to this "Skiff". This makes the protagonist even angrier, not only with "Skiff", but with himself as he thought he had turned himself into a murderer like the man in front of him. Of course, this is my own interpretation, but I think the facts of the scene give credence to my ideas. At least it's a viable way to look at the monologue.

A short commentary on the animation in BEAST



You can download this film here (Divx, 58.8 MB) and here (QT, 34.5 MB)
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This is the BEAST premiere chat archive. I've edited it slightly, but it's pretty much how the chat went down. You can read the chat here by scrolling, or download the chat in multiple formats (the pdf is recommended). Thanks to scribd.com for this feature.

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Update from the Machinima Roadshow

Greetings from the Machinima Roadshow at Festival Arcadia 2007 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada! I don`t want to do too much cross-polination of Machinima Roadshow and Machiniplex as they are two separate entitites, but since I`m learning so much here about perceptions of machinima, the making of machinima, and promoting machinima (particularly machinima tools like MovieStorm), I thought this would be a good place to share it.

Byootiful Montreal (The Village) and the crew during set-up with our sound guy.

Various shots of people playing and working with Jedi & MovieStorm

I`m thrilled to be here with Damien Valentine, who has premiered his third installment of the Star Wars: Darkness Saga , Star Wars: The Darkness Unleashed. However, Damien`s primary purpose is to assist me both technically and as a machinimator, and I will say I could not have survived the show without him. Also with us is his wonderful and very supportive mum, Marilyn, and our French-speaking assistant, a Montreal local and cousin of one of my hockey teammates, Allison Medina, who has been absolutely amazing. She basically learned what machinima is - with neither a gaming nor filmmaking background - and has become the ambassador of machinima to French Canada. So far she`s been on at least one television news program, one radio program, and one podcast - and who knows how many others.

Damien gets interviewed for Cinemaniax (.net)

We`ve been showing about two dozen machinima movies and bits of series as a sample of music videos, dramas, action films, comedies, and experimental films, as well as running live workshops in both MovieStorm and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Academy. More about that later. We`re fortunate to have a booth in a quieter corner right next to concession, and there are tables set up and people relaxing at them throughout the day with a great view of our screen and within earshot of our sound, though our theatre seating is often empty. The back of the booth has the workstations set up. We`re meeting all kinds of people interested in machinima and MovieStorm, some wanting to learn more, others with products that might become fantastic tools for machinimators in the near future. But more about that later!

Conducting a workshop... and people playing with MovieStorm.

This morning we took Hugh Hancock back to the airport to head off to Edmonton for a Bioware visit. Bioware is the black hole of independent machinimators - who get sucked in to amazing jobs working on in-game and interactive cinematics at what is probably the most respected game development company in the world. (Okay, my humble opinion, but I`m not alone...) Yesterday we had a special screening of BloodSpell (the feature, which you can watch in its entirety here at Machiniplex) which went very well. The audience varied, as can be expected when other eye candy lures people away, but overall probably 200-300 people saw some or all of the film. Maybe more - it`s hard to count during an 83-minute screening.

People watching BloodSpell
After the screening Hugh gave a presentation in the Academic Zone (aka lecture hall) which was, as can be expected from Hugh, good for both a laugh and some serious learning. He talked about what machinima is, demonstrated a quick live session using World of Warcraft, and showed some behind-the-scenes / making-of footage and details from BloodSpell. The audience wasn`t large (maybe 20 people overall, some of whom stayed the entire two hours), but they were very interested and asked serious and intelligent questions, and the feedback afteward was excellent. So my special thanks to Hugh for coming all the way from the UK to introduce Canada to machinima!

Hugh Hancock presents with French translation from Ali.

All in all we`re getting a lot of exposure in the press, at the show, and in general. MovieStorm is also getting quite a bit of attention, and watching the kids (I should say, young men and women, as I`m an old lady and everyone is a kid to me) come in and just futz around with MovieStorm for a while is quite a treat. Making an actual movie seems to be the challenging part, but once we walk them through the camera set-ups and show them the basics, they seem to get it. Let`s hope they`re all downloading it from home so we can get more talent into the community.


Machinimators need to eat too!

But again, more on that later. Click to enlarge photos. I apologize for the quality - hard to take photos in the foggy dark!


--Ingrid--










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Electronica Artist Moby Gives Free Music to Filmmakers

Couldn't believe my eyes when I read on digg.com that the excellent electronica/alternative music artist, Moby, has decided to make 44 of his music tracks available for free to "indie, non-profit and student filmmakers". You simply have to register at his website, mobygratis.com, and start downloading any tracks you'd like to use and it's all free.

It seems that the recent radiohead "pay what you want" release of their new album, in rainbows, may have started something good.

Here's the original digg article:

http://www.triggerstreet.com/gyrobase/TriggerDigest?oid=1236268

Strange Company Releases Trailer for Bloodspell

Hugh Hancock and his Strange Company have released a trailer for Bloodspell. I've been fortunate to see the development of the trailer over various iterations and this one is certainly the best. Nice work! I think it represents the film very well. There was some question about how YouTube would re-encode the movie file sent to them, but it looks like they did a pretty good job with Hugh's original DivX source material.

Larry Lessig on How Creativity is Being Strangled by Law: The TED conference

How synchronicity works its magic: I had just finished reading Michael's exellent post over at Free Pixel on "What Makes a Machininima Film Good", when Overman blogs on the Larry Lessig speech at the TED conference: exactly what I needed to hear. Larry Lessig is perhaps our most eloquent spokesperson for the new internet/digital age. He's a smart, compassionate and creative thinker with an amazing grasp of what we as content providers are up to and up against (i.e., "the Law")

In a way, Lessig's speech points us in the right direction to answer the question that Micheal poses; what makes a "good" machinima film. It's the ability to take already created content, re-create it and express a an idea differently. I was struck by Lessig's statement on amateur culture, "not made amateurishly, but made for the love of making, not for the money". This is exactly why I am involved in machinima, to make and help make films that are made for the love of making them.

Every machinima filmmaker should watch this video. It is absolutely essential for understanding where machinima fits within this new world of user generated content and the real world traditional business models of the past.

Really. I'm not kidding, just watch and you'll see what I mean.

My thanks to boingboing.net for the original video post, to Overman for bringing this to my attention and to Micheal at Free Pixel for his smart and challenging post.

On the Acting in Bloodspell



Thom Tuck's performance as Jered anchors the film with
a superb
combination of humor and grit. His voice
perfectly expresses
the wonder and sensitivity
of his character.


Let me be honest here; acting in the majority of machinima films is, unfortunately, very bad. Productions are poorly cast and under-rehearsed, resulting in unconvincing and over-played performances. Add to this the fact that voices are often recorded poorly and you have acting that does not support the story being told; in fact, this kind of acting takes the viewer out of the story entirely. Those machinima films with effective acting that enhance the story are few and far between. Which is why when a film like Bloodspell comes along, with it’s carefully rehearsed, thoughtful and convincing acting work which not only enhances an excellent script/story, but has it’s own style as well, I find myself not only enthused, but eager to share these ideas and conversations about the acting in this excellent film. I've been mulling over ideas since I first saw the original series a year ago. Here I'll share some of those ideas along with a recorded conversation I had with Paul AJ Hamilton (who plays "The Master") and Director Hugh Hancock. Part of that conversation focused on one particular scene which is the cornerstone for the acting in the film, in my opinion.



Paul AJ Hamilton is superb as the Master. His voice work
suggests a
background story that colors every line.

Right from the beginning of the series (and the film), I was impressed with the consistent low-key style of each episode, even in comic scenes. Style in acting is frequently misunderstood as being something artificial or phony, but in my experience it is often the natural result of careful consideration by the director, good use of the actors imagination and effective, fun rehearsals. The end result is a creative combination of acting elements that draw from the shared experience of movies, theatre and, in the case of Bloodspell, role-playing games. Most importantly, the style and content of the acting should serve the story that is being told. In this aspect, the acting in Bloodspell succeeds almost perfectly. There is not a single performance in the film that does not convince you of the scene being played and add to the slow revealing of the plot and the secondary world behind it, not to mention nuances that reveal character.

For example, early in the film, a well-healed townsperson (you can tell by their clothing; another nice touch) is complaining about how "the young people of today have no vim, no vigor, no lust...", just as the main character, Jered (dressed as a woman), bursts through them in his attempt to flee his captors and thereby comically contradicting the startled townsperson. The actor who portrays this characters (Ezra Ferguson) perfectly capture the characters patronizing tone and at the same time avoids playing the character too broadly for comic effect.


Ezra Ferguson (on the left) as the "Old Man" does a
sweet comic turn.

Underplaying a part (the avoidance of “acting” in a broad sense) can be an effective way to create believable characters, but it’s a technique not often used in works of fantasy, which is shame because this style is often most suited to creating more believable characters existing in a fantastic world. Certainly, the Lord of the Rings films used this technique to great effect and I think you can see a slight influence here in Bloodspell.

But, as I discovered in conversation with Paul Hamilton (who plays “The Master”) and director Hugh Hancock, a larger influence comes from the great television series by Joss Whedon, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. You can see this clearly in the script with Hugh’s use of women in strong, central roles, but also in the combination of ironic humor and personal drama, which was the hallmark of that wonderful series.


Charmaine as Carrie and Jehane as Shona play off of each
other beautifully in this Buffy-like scene of subtle
character conflicts




Jehane as Lanni, Caroline as Arianne and Sian as Shona
are each individually characterized as powerful women
with their own drives. Here they make a formidable trio.

While there are many great scenes with women in Bloodspell (the witty “morning after” scene where Arianne, Shona and Lanni tease the hell out of a naked Jered; Carrie's coming home scene, Lanni's betrayal scene, etc), it is the men who stand out in the cast. Performances by Alan Cross as Gad , Russell Loten as the Barman at the Spitted Bull and Alex Mark as Karak add to already excellent work by Thom Tuck as Jered and particularly Paul AJ Hamilton as the Master. Hugh's obvious detailed work with the actors paid off handsomely since the main performances grow over the course of the story and each small part contributes perfectly in advancing the plot. This is no small achievement even for productions with a much higher budgets.




Alex Marx as Karak gives a creepy Machiavellian
performance that suggest more than what you
actually see. His silky voice perfectly captures
this enigmatic character.

Unlike stage or film acting, which includes the actors physical characterization, a machinima actor creates their character entirely with their voice. Now, it is not always an easy task to get the right feel for a scene while standing in front of a microphone in your street clothes with a cup of coffee. I was curious if the actors in Bloodspell tended to memorize their lines and in conversation with Hugh and Paul, I discovered that they did (for the most part). Combine this with the fact that the Bloodspell cast had to perform their entire roles at least twice (the first performance was lost in a hard-drive crash) and that director Hugh Hancock worked with the actors using visualizations and had the actors work out a background story for their characters, and you have ensemble acting that is so good it rivals many regional theatre productions of classic plays like Shakespeare's “The Tempest”. Moreover, Hugh's spot-on casting of each voice so that it matches the visual look of the character makes audience suspension of disbelief that much easier. And, of course, we shouldn't forget the fact that the acting is only half of the performance since the character's animation must match their performances. Fortunately, Justin Hall, the character animator in Bloodspell, did a superb job in supporting the vocal performances. Even such simple effects like raising the eyebrows just a bit, or having a character blink at just the right time can make all the difference in suggesting that the animated character is alive and reacting to the scene (and the other characters).




Alan's performance as Gad is a superb combination of arrogance,
humor and pathos. He hits the right notes in every single scene.

The acting (and animations) in Bloodspell are two of the key elements which make the story and the world believable. Both director and actors were smart to treat the story seriously, while at the same time not forgetting that there is humor in the characters as well. Hugh at one point in the interview reluctantly shared the fact that the character of “The Master” was partially based on his father (and I suspect other in the cast have their own lives invested in their characters in some fashion). It's this kind of personal involvement that makes the Bloodspell actors so appealing and, ultimately, so moving as well.

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I was fortunate to be able to have a conversation with Hugh Hancock and Paul AJ Hamilton about the acting in Bloodspell. You could tell that both Paul and Hugh were still passionate and engaged with the characters and world of Bloodspell even after four years, a point that impressed me. We spoke for almost an hour on how the actors were cast, the rehearsal techniques and the recording set up. Most of these subjects are covered in the first part of the conversation; the second part is a careful examination of a specific scene in the film between Jered and The Master. I'd recommend listening to the first part, watching the scene and then proceeding to the more detailed conversation in Part Two.

Listen to Part One here:






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The Jered /Master scene occurs early in the film, after Jered has rescued a young woman (Carrie) and revealed for the first time in public the fact that he is a blood mage. Since the Master is the one in charge of rooting out and destroying "the blooded", as they are called, he is furious (and frightened) with Jered. Their confrontation on the steps outside of the cathedral signals the start of a conflict with Jered and the Master that will eventually lead to the climax of the film. Paul AJ Hamilton plays the Master while Thom Tuck plays Jered.

As you watch the scene, note how a lightly comic tone to the scene is established by Jered's friend, Arran (played by actor Ian Mulliner, who also has a sad and touching recognition scene with Jered later in the film), who kids him about being very popular due to his capture of Gad's iron arm. Suddenly the Master appears and the the mood immediately becomes much more formal and restrained. As the Master carefully separates Jered from the group, we see his true motive; to excoriate Jered for revealing his nature and to shock him into understanding he must never use his power again. Jered is no fool (despite his looks) and he intelligently debates with the Master who silences him with news that the rest of his raiding party are "no longer with us". At this point, the Masters character is becoming more complex (he is a fascist, but why is he protecting Jered?) as is Jered's predicament. The pace and timing of the actors lines, along with excellent simple character animations give the impression that much more is being said just beneath the dialogue. Eventually, Jered gives in (not really) and we imagine we see relief on the face of the Master.

This scene, placed as it is so early in the film establishes belief in the story and creates both mystery and empathy for these two major characters. Despite the fairly crude look to the character models, I found myself feeling for both characters point of view as the scene progressed, although the Master's motive's are ambiguous at this point. Much of this is due to the fine acting and careful direction by Hugh Hancock, but Phil Rice's ambient sound scape; the slight, high wind and the single cry of an eagle are masterful touches to the developing conflict between these two characters. Justin Hall's simple animations and the beautiful natural setting make this scene one of the most memorable in the film.

The Jered / Master scene:



You can download a wmv version (26mb) here, or a QT version (19mb) right here.

And here is the second part of my conversation with Hugh and Paul where we discuss the Jered /Master scene specifically and how they both created this excellent scene.

Listen to Part Two here:






....................................................................................................................

The following is a gallery drawn from the company of actors in Bloodspell who impressed me with their work, along with the characters they portrayed. I've added some brief comments on each actors work underneath. I'm sorry I couldn't include every actor in the film, but the length of this article would be much to long for a single post. I do send my respects to the company; even if I didn't discuss everyone's work, I certainly admired it.

A gallery of actors in Bloodspell
along with their roles




-Andrew creates an very effective character who is not
what he appears
to be. The slow, somewhat flat delivery
contrasts very well with the
characters helpful and
friendly attitude. The audience knows something
is
wrong, but somehow Jered doesn't quite sense it.
One of my favorite
performances in the film-




-Brother Anoslus is not as simple a character as he
seems. David's performance, especially in the scene
with the Master, is ernest and effective. You really
feel for the poor guy-




-Hugh's comic turn as the slightly sleazy Door
Monster to Karak's home, is very understated and
glib. I was telling Hugh that I was very sorry that the
character died, as he was so interesting and alive.
And it's not often a director can do what he directs
others to do: very good work-





-Jehane plays Lanni very quietly. Even in the
early
scenes you feel something is going on with
her that
she isn't talking about. I like her work
very much.
The betrayal scene in particular was
very well played-





-Ryan's performance as Bram is a nice comic
bit. There is also something odd about the
boy. His voice is strange and I kept
wondering if
he'd appear later in the film as some
kind of
spy or monster-





-"No small parts.." Mike was made for this role.
I like
the actors insistence on being smarter
than Jered.
This was a very nice comic bit that
impressed me
with the timing and matter
of fact delivery-





-Tom's work was helped by very good voice filtering,
but
the blunt, a-rhythmic delivery really gave a
sense of
how violent and depraved the character
of Marrog
really is. Another almost throw away
performance
that was among my favorites-





-A stone-like face and body focused the characterization
of the Barman almost completely
on Russell Loten's
excellent voice. Perfect casting; perfect
delivery. A
simple, strait-forward bit of
comedy that stood out
for me. Russell also did
a nice job doubling as the
character Quaen-


Summing up:

The lessons of good casting, effective rehearsals, use of techniques from various acting methods, lots of patience and an excellent sense of focus are evident in the acting in Bloodspell. Performers like Thom Tuck, Alex Marx, and Caroline Dunford provide the heart and blood for the body around the bones of this well-written story. And the fact that the acting is not “showy” and doesn't stand out on it's own sake, but fully supports the development of the plot, is a great example of good directing as well. Even if you don't have as large a cast, you can still look for actors in your area and audition them. Rehearsing, discussion and fitting the acting to the script should be of prime importance to the machinima director;right behind creating a good script.

Some of the performers were not recorded as well as they should have been though. One or two of the actors voices are not up to the recorded standard of the other voices (notebly the captain in the first scene at the cathedral and the "helpful gentleman"). I know both Hugh and Phil did everything they could to get the voices right, but sometimes with such a large cast and considering so many variables, it's understandable. And fortunately, there was no real impact on the actors performances, so the flaw is slight.

I hope that this article has gone some way to to helping filmmakers (and actors) to understand that good acting is a craft, but can also be an art. It doesn't matter if you are being paid or not. What matters is your attitude and desire. The Bloodspell actors, the director and the animator have plenty of both. I applaud your excellent work.

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Up Next: Close-up look at the final scene in the Cathedral in Bloodspell + the continuing conversation with Hugh Hancock.