Herman, The Legal Labrador - A New Animated Australian Film


Latest entry: Entry 32, Friday August 12, 2005


Entry 13. By David, Monday, May 12, 2003

It's been a very very good couple of weeks.

I've been working on the animatic. I have about eight minutes of the film roughly plotted. It's nice to watch, even with temporary dialogue, temporary sound, stills standing in for animation and missing sound effects.

I spoke again to Shaun, who said he's still willing to do the voice of Palumbo, and that he's able to do his recording in early June. I was also contacted by several voice actors who saw one of the press releases I sent out (so they have been good for something), and now it looks like we've got a full (and good-sounding) cast.

To backtrack a little bit: I met Santo Cilauro at the Newcastle Young Writers Festival last year. In the course of visiting him at his place of work the other day, I asked if he would voice the character of Sal, the hot dog vendor/informant, and he said "yes"! Words fail me, really. You sort of need to see the expression on my face to understand how juiced I am. My friends have, and I suspect they're only going to put up with it for so long.

As if all this wasn't enough, it looks like I've (provisionally) got a small but extremely useful grant from Next Wave, which means the big May 2004 premiere screening I described earlier is that little bit closer to being a reality.

Truly, everything's coming up Milhouse.

I have no idea how long this insanely good fortune is going to hold out, but HERMAN is starting to feel like a really big deal. Can it live up to the hype? Absolutely! Just look at this:



Entry 14. By David, Wednesday, June 4, 2003

The animatic is finished. I had hoped that once it was done I would be able to look at it and have a completely convincing preview of how the film will come out, but unfortunately it doesn't quite work that way.

There are many moments which are let down by temp music (or no music), flat dialogue or just because there's no animation to properly express them. But these are mostly small, and will be fixed when the real stuff gets laid in.

I've gone back and played script doctor on a couple bits that are overwritten, added a little bit more funniness (I think) and I've got a good idea how everything will be done when party rock animated frame-by-frame fun time starts. And I'm surprised at how good some parts of the animatic play already.

Next job is recording the final dialogue.

Obviously I've now met the people who contacted me about doing voices for HERMAN (seeing as I've recorded them for the animatic). They are all nice and all sound good, which seems like an unlikely occurrence to me. I would've thought I'd hear from at least one person who kind of sucks. I guess it's because I never placed ads announcing a "casting call". The right people just happened across my press garbage. If one were cynical one might suggest that they're all nice because I'm employing them, but that, of course, would be a load of tot because they're not getting paid and they will soon learn that I'm a perfectionist taskmaster on a Kubrick level; David "let's do twenty takes and sell 'em a load of clams" Blumenstein, that's me. We'll find out how nice they are when I have them repeat the same two words over and over and over in a steaming sound booth for hours on end while I hold down the "oxygen escape" button, slowly draining their air supply so they choke on their words, delicate foamy bubbles forming on their lips as their lifeless heads thump down on the microphone, releasing screaming feedback into the studio which blends seamlessly with the shrill howling of the wolves I release into the booth to messily gorge on the carcasses.

"Hi" to any of the HERMAN actors who may be reading!

I got a nice e-mail from some animators who are angling for grant money for animation pilots. My reply to them featured an over-long coalescence of my thoughts about how the whole "grant" thing works (although I doubt I know much more than they do). After this, I will try not to mention grants in this journal again if possible.

As far as I can tell, it works this way:
Funding bodies need to justify their existence to the government, else they won't receive money to give out. So they look out for projects which are low risk, commercially -- meaning, they've got recognisable names attached to them, either as PRODUCER (a good producer will make the film happen), DIRECTOR (someone with a track record) or maybe ACTORS (if they're famous, the film has a good chance of being commercial).
Then, when their low risk projects pan out (or even if they don't), they can turn to the government and say, "Look who we funded this year: successful, talented PEOPLE YOU'VE HEARD OF. Can we have an increase next year?"
If they took risks and funded projects by nobodies, they might have an accidental success or two, but the worry is that they'll end up with a bunch of films nobody is interested in, or worse; films that didn't even get off the ground because the "unknown" people making them were incompetent. And chances are, even those accidental successes won't be BIG successes.
The funding bodies are forced into this position because there's only so much government cash to go around. What they do is, I think, understandable. And yet it means a lot of poor-to-average films are being given money, being made and being sold because they have "names" attached. This is unfortunate, but I can't think of a way this could change.
So the way people get started is by (a) knowing people who can help them, or (b) by having powerful drive combined with great talent such that they simply CAN NOT be ignored for long.
That's how it looks to me, from where I am. People I've spoken with inside and immediately outside the mysterious realm of "the Australian film industry" seem to confirm this assessment, more or less (but I'd be really interested to hear a rebuttal).
Some of the help I've received so far has been because I knew people. Some has been because people had confidence in my ability, and/or liked the idea. In the end, I'm not sure it matters where your stepping stones come from, as long as you use them to do creative things (badly scripted feature films starring soap actors "making the leap to the silver screen" do not necessarily qualify).
So in conclusion (and jesus have I been crapping on, for which I apologise, but I guess it's because I've been sorting thru these things in my head lately), probably all you can do to help ensure you get funding (and this is of course coming from somebody who's barely gotten any), is:
1. Have famous people on board. If you can't promise that, then
2. Have a producer who is well known within the film industry as a "mover and shaker". If you can't promise that, then
3. Have a production team made up of people who are famous within the film industry. If you can't promise that, then
4. Have a production team made up of people who have a body of work which proves they can get things done. If you can't promise that, then
5. Have a letter from a TV network or film distributor which says that they will buy and screen your project when it's made. If you can't promise that, then
6. Have a letter from another source of funding which says that they will co-produce your project.
I guess I'm an optimist, because I like to think that cream will rise, even if it doesn't get free money from the government. I hope you have good luck with your funding applications. I feel so full of shit having said all that stuff up there, because I clearly have little experience with such things and I'm basing all my assumptions on extrapolations and guesswork. It sounds right, though, doesn't it? Let me know if it sounds at all helpful, and if it is I'll put it up in the MAKING HERMAN journal.

I haven't heard back, but I thought I'd stick that up there anyway.

Oh, and in the news:

* Bill Murray will voice the title role in GARFIELD, based on the Jim Davis comic strip, for Twentieth Century Fox and director Peter Hewitt. Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt also star. Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (TOY STORY) wrote the script.

Jesus H. Christ on a cracker.


Entry 15. By David, Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Recorded a lot of the final dialogue yesterday. Managed to get most of the main actors in the studio in the one day (Shaun, Katrina, Brian, Thomas). Been listening back to what we got, and I reckon it's all pretty nice.

As it turns out, I was pretty on the money with my predictions of last entry (steaming sound booth, twenty takes, but no "oxygen excape" or hungry wolves). The actors were all very gracious and willing to oblige me with endless variations on a single line. Met Shaun at last (had already met Katrina, Brian and Thomas to record rough temp dialogue, see previous), and we all agree he's a nice guy who took the occasional geek-outs ("Will you ever do Milo again?") with good humour. Katrina is very sweet and very professional, and sounds very sexy saying "Jesus flaming Christ". Brian is a lovely gentleman (the type we're not used to dealing with). He handled my relentless pummeling ("one more time, louder and quicker") very well, and only swore once. Thomas is a nutbag, but he's our kind of nutbag, and his impression of an inbred hillbilly Ku Klux Klan member is truly exemplary.

Adam was on hand to feed everyone lines (the written kind) and toss in observations and comments (and occasionally usurp my God-given DIRECTOR-POWER). Jake did a nice job sitting on the outside of the booth making sure sound levels were OK and there was no clipping (distortion due to high volume) on the tape. There was bottled water and cookies on hand.

Soon I will schedule a time to record all the other dialogue from all the other people, including Adam, who seems impatient to record, probably because he's unemployed again.

The latest issue of if Magazine is out. "if" stands for INSIDE FILM (although when I worked there as an "intern" -- or more accurately, "schlepper" -- it stood for INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER). This month's issue has got a two (!) page HERMAN article. I tip my hat to them for that, and to the writer particularly for removing all the ummms, errrs and welllllls from my quotes.

I took ten minutes or so today to whip THIS together. Eh? Eh?


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"Dogs Of Law": The Music Video
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About the creator
Making Herman
Latest entry: August 12
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The production of HERMAN has been kindly supported by
Next Wave