Friday, February 25, 2011

Reconstructing Grimm: Episode 1: The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Hello All;
As promised here is the first behind the scenes video of Reconstructing Grimm shot by the wonderfully talented James Clark.  It'll give you a nice little look into the process of a photo shoot and you can meet some of the actors.

or if you can't view it on the blog here's a direct link to the youtube page.

Reconsturcting Grimm: Episode 1: The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Hope you enjoy. While I'm at it here's a shot that I wanted to add into the story but couldn't find a place in the text.

 Now I know what to us this image for, here's a caption for it: Check out the episode and leave your comments or I'll be sad.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Steadfast Tin Soldier


Once there was a toy maker who made the most beautiful, original toys in the world.  He made them so tragically beautiful in the way that they had very humanistic flaws.  The Porcelain Doll so fragile that one unkind word would shatter her into a million milky white pieces.

 The Wind-up Ballerina Doll who danced so beautifully, but always by herself.  She longed for a partner to ease her loneliness.

The Jack-in-the-Box who was clever, but made with out kindness so he was selfish and cruel.

 The three of them lived together, being watched over by the toy maker.  One day the Toy Maker created a group of Tin Soldiers for a little boy.  The Toy Maker had made twelve Tin Soldiers, but after the eleventh Soldier the Toy Maker ran out of bravery so he replaced it with loyalty.  The twelfth soldier did not go with his brother's he stayed behind out of loyalty to the Toy Maker and became simply known as Steadfast.

 As soon as Steadfast saw the Ballerina Doll, he was in love, but couldn't bring himself to talk to her.  And while Steadfast was watching the Ballerina, the Jack-in-the-Box was watching the two of them.  Waiting and watching.  The Jack-in-the-Box was also in love with the Ballerina, but whenever he tried to tell her the words came out wrong he found that what ever he said would bring her to tears.

Without kindness he couldn't express his feelings for her which only made him angrier and more withdrawn .  And so he sat in his box thinking terrible thoughts, making terrible plans.

The Ballerina Doll had also noticed Steadfast.  She noticed how kind he looked, if not a bit shy.  The Ballerina wanted him to talk to her, but he always stayed at his end of the toy box.  Feeling dejected the Ballerina spoke to her friend the Porcelain Doll.

"I don't understand why he won't speak to me?  Am I that terrible?" The Ballerina asked.
"I don't think that's it," replied the Porcelain Doll, "I think he's just shy.  Why don't you go talk to him?"
"Can I do that?"
"You can do what ever you want."
With a new resolve the Ballerina set out to speak to Steadfast. She found him in his usual spot. Her stomach was in knots as she approached.  But finally a word came out of her mouth, just one word.
"Hello," she said
Steadfast looked up with a start.  He hadn't expected this at all, and very quickly he responded back with a meek, "Hello,"
The Ballerina continued, "I noticed that you don't have many friends here, and I just thought you could use someone to talk to."
"Thank you."  Steadfast wanted to say more but the words weren't coming.
"I was also wondering if you dance, I like to dance..."
"I know, I like to watch you,"
"That sounded much creepier than I meant it too, I meant you're so graceful.  I could never move like that, I just like the way you move."
"Thank you.  Would you like to dance with me?"
"I couldn't, it's not that I don't want to, but I wasn't made to dance.  I wasn't made for any purpose it seems. I had eleven brothers, we were an entire battalion.  But when the boy who bought us came to pick us up I was too scared to go and I hid so I could stay here. Now I'm the only one.  It can be very lonely being a soldier without courage."
"It can also be lonely to be a Ballerina without a partner."
"I suppose I could try to dance with you. I'm sure I'll be very bad at it and..."
"You'll be amazing."
And so Steadfast and the Ballerina shared a dance. But it was more than a dance really.  There was that feeling that things were going to be different now, all because they had found something they needed desperately. Each other.

"Thank you," The Ballerina Doll said, " I don't suppose you'd like to try this again tomorrow?"
"More than anything." Steadfast replied as he started to leave.
"You were wrong about one thing though," The Ballerina called after him.
"What's that?"
"You were made with a purpose. You make me happy."  And both the Ballerina and Steadfast smiled.
The Jack in the Box had seen all of this, and wasn't going to stand for it.  Years of loving the Ballerina Doll, years of trying to tell her how he felt and in one afternoon she falls in love with this insignificant tin soldier.  He was going to have his revenge.

That night while Steadfast was asleep in his box dreaming lovely dreams of dancing he felt it rattling and shaking. He pushed open the lid to find Jack tearing his way in.
"She was mine!" Jack yelled "She was mine and you took her from me!"
"I didn't take anything, she can make her own choices."
"I have loved her for as long as I can remember, and now you're going to pay and so is she!"
For the first time since he had been made something stirred inside of Steadfast.  He wanted to protect the Ballerina.  Somewhere deep inside Steadfast found the courage so  he took his sword and fought back.
To his surprise Steadfast had won.  The Jack in the Box scurried away to lick his wounds.  On the way, he realized if he couldn't defeat Steadfast, he'd go after the Ballerina.  She was a much easier target. He went immediately to carry her off and complete his evil plan. The Jack in the Box went after the Ballerina, and the Porcelain Doll didn't know what to do.  She tried to stop it on her own, but the Jack in the Box turned and said something so cruel it cannot be repeated. Something so unkind it would make the moon weep and flowers loose their color.  It hurt the Porcelain Doll so, she could feel her self beginning to break.  The pieces of her heart cracking slowly, in one final act she knew she had to get Steadfast.
She crumpled on the stairs of her dollhouse and called out to Steadfast as loudly as she could.
"Steadfast! Come quickly!"
Steadfast heard her cry and came running, "What is it? What's wrong?"
"Jack's taken The Ballerina Doll."
"To the fireplace, you have to stop him."
"What about you?"
"Never mind me, it's too late for me.  But you can still save her."
"Thank you."
And with that the Porcelain Doll shattered leaving Steadfast alone to save the Ballerina Doll.
Jack was dragging her off when Steadfast found them.  The Ballerina Doll yelled to him and Steadfast grabbed her hand.
He tried to pull her back, but he'd forgotten his sword.  Without his sword Steadfast lost his nerve as well.  He wanted more than anything to save the Ballerina Doll, but Jack was fierce in his rage and overpowered both of them.  Jack took the Ballerina doll and continued to the fireplace.
Steadfast had never felt more alone.  He hadn't been brave enough to go with his brothers, nor could he save the Porcelain Doll, and now he couldn't save the Ballerina Doll.  Once again, Steadfast's fear turned to anger, and that anger turned to something rather like courage.  Steadfast ran to the fireplace to stop the Jack in the Box, but it was too late.  The Jack in the Box had started a fire and the flames were to high for the Ballerina to get out.  Steadfast jumped in the fire after her.
"No!" The Ballerina yelled, "There's no way out we're both trapped."
"I know," Steadfast said solemnly.
"Then why did you do this, you could've saved yourself."
"I don't want to exist if you're not there."
The Ballerina said nothing else, there were no more words.  She and Steadfast just clung to each other as the flames ate them away.

The next morning the Toy Maker looked around his work shop at the destruction.  The broken Porcelain Doll, the toy boxes opened and flung around the room. He also couldn't find the Ballerina Doll or the Tin Soldier.  Then he noticed a flash of light from as the sun glistened on something in the ashes of the fireplace.  He walked over, and there in the debris was The Ballerina Dolls beautiful tiara intertwined with melted tin.  From that day on the Toy Maker never made another toy again, and the Jack in the Box due to his treachery lived the rest of his days in lonely solitude slowly going mad.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tinker Toys: Completion

Last night was the amazingly successful Steadfast Tin Soldier shoot.  We unfortunately lost out on using Tamsyn, due to a rehearsal she was called into.  But the shots turned out great anyway.  James Clark filmed the entire shoot, it will be edited down into a 10 minute episode of Reconstructing Grimm to be posted within the next few weeks.

Some acknowledgments need to go out to the volunteers: 

A massive thanks goes out to Carte Blanche Studios.  They booked us their space very last minute and gave us a full four hours on the shoot to get everything we wanted to get done.

Also the models; Jon Porter, Adam Zastrow, and Wendy Rightler did an amazing job for their first time out on one of theses shoots.

And of course Perry Heideman, the photographer.  Phenomenal work every time. 

I also don't want to post too many pictures until the video is up, but I will give you a little teaser shot of some of the work we did last night.

More are coming!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tinker Toys: Locations

I had been hunting for places that I wanted to shoot The Steadfast Tin Soldier and after some searching I found the perfect place.  I was really excited, I told everyone... and then we lost the space.  It's disappointing but it happens.  So that's when you start all over again.  I was lucky enough to have Carte Blacnhe Studios donate their time and space to us so that we could finally have the last element to make this shoot work.  The shoot is coming up this week so come back for pictures.

Also; the process of this shoot will be filmed by a wonderful videographer by the name of James Clark. So now you also will have to come back to see the first live episode of "Reconstructing Grimm."  Hosted by myself, and guest starring, Jon Porter, Wendy Rightler, and Adam Zastrow. 

On a casting note as well we've also added one more character to the shoot.  A Rag Doll to be Played by Tamsyn Reed.  I had planned on using her in the doomed Hansel and Gretel shoot a while ago and finally got to bring her in.  So that's all for now. Here's hoping for a successful shoot.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tinker Toys: Design Elements

Now that I have casting firmly in place, and most of the location things taken care of (there will be separate blog in the future; I just want to nail everything down first.) I thought that I would discuss a little of the design element that I got through for a shoot.

I try and go in with a direct concept for each shoot or at least a jumping off point.  In the past this is what I started with in a nutshell.

Snow White: Hippie-Wood Nymph
Red Riding Hood: Indie it-girl in a gritty reboot
Alice in Wonderland: Classic styling in juxtaposition with Lewis Carroll's outlandish story
Wizard of Oz: Yellow Brick Runway
Cinderella: Vogue Magazine Spread Cindy
Nutcracker: Vintage Christmas with Ballet elements

For The Steadfast Tin Soldier the jumping off point came with this basic idea:
* Harlequin Tim Burton Toy Box

This is the first shoot that I did not make my dress for and I'll tell you why.  First time was an issue.  Planning the gala while starting up a new semester at school and a new job left very little time for sewing.  Second, The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center was kind enough to provide me a dress for the opening of our show at their space so I thought it would be nice to use it in a shoot. And three, with the time I saved making the dress I now had much more time to play with make-up and focus on styling for the other characters in the shoot.

Steadfast Soldier is coming up quicker than I think you might expect, so stay tuned.  More on locations and shoot day time line to follow. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tinker Toys: Casting

Here's your first update:

Currently I'm working on putting together The Steadfast Tin Soldier.  I set about casting almost a month ago.  There are three main characters to the story but we've added one more.  All talk about that in a bit.  First and foremost we needed a Steadfast Tin Soldier.  I didn't have to think about this for too long.  I quickly booked Jon Porter. Jonny Porter is my White Whale; Ahab style.  He has been offered a part in every photo shoot since the very beginning.  There were a myriad of reasons he couldn't make it, work... and well work... and... fine there was just one reason he could never do a shoot.  But never the less, in the past few months Mr. Porter has become much more available so he is going to be our titular character.  Jon is an actor who has worked all over Wisconsin.  He's a tremendous presence onstage, one of my favorite people to work with, and a dear friend.           

Then I needed a villian; a jack in the box.  Since I had used a main character I'd never used before.  I settled on Adam Zastrow.  Adam had offered to do a shoot with me about a month a go and I thought it was time to put him in the game.  Adam has this look about him, like there's something dangerous there.  I wanted that for the Jack in the Box.  Adam is also an actor.  He works a lot with Carte Blanche Studios; this is also the space that is opening the Urban Fairy Tale series after we close at MGAC.
Finally we're adding in our raffle winner from the Gala Night; Wendy Rightler.  To add more of toy box feel to the shoot Wendy is going to be playing a Porcelain Doll. This character is not in the original story, but it doesn't really matter to me, I think it will add some levels to the pictures.  Wendy is also and actress and performer.  I'm really glad to have her involved.
So those are the featured players for this shoot and that's all for now.  More on locations and accessories later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The amazing Alan Piotrowicz had set up the gallery showing at the MGAC just before the Cinderella photo shoot.  I however wanted to get one more shoot into the showing.  After discussing many, many, many possibilities of fairy tales, I decided to go with the Nutcracker.  This was suggested by both my mother, and Roommate.  Although roommate had mentioned it right away, I either ignored her or didn't hear her.  So when about a week later my mother said, "Hey you should do the Nutcracker," and I responded with, "Why yes! That's a brilliant idea! Everything is already decorated for Christmas, it will save me so much time!"  I ran to tell Roommate who responded with a sour face and anger as she had already said it.  There were many apologies and soon I moved on.

I did a brief sketch of a dress for Clara.  I wanted to do a dress that could be worn around in the day, but have the look or suggestion of a nightgown as that is how the ballet goes.  I also picked a very simple fabric, muslin and more ornate trimmings, this results in a super comfy functional outfit.  At least in my opinion.

One of the more difficult things about this particular dress was the vine embroidery around the neckline and waist.  I had never really done embroidery before, certainly not on such a tightly woven fabric. However after hours and hours of work I finished it.  That was most definitely the hardest thing I've tried to tackle so far.

Then it was time for locations!  I had wanted to use the atrium of Grand Ave Mall for ages.  In fact I had tried to get permission in the past and just couldn't get a hold of anyone.  However this time, with lots of persistence and a couple of emails I finally scored a this really lovely backdrop. 

The other location that we were going to need was a really nice house.  Like mansion nice house.  So what better than an actual mansion.  The nice thing about Milwaukee is that is has a lovely selection of B&B's that are pretty flexible with schedules and letting us shoot for almost nothing.  I put out feelers to three Milwaukee Bed and Breakfasts, then all I had to do was wait.  With in hours the Schuster Mansion responded and were willing to work with us on our time frame. Also an really perfect location for us.

We move on to casting.  It's no secret by now that one of my favorites is Mr. Chris MacGregor.  However, what is a secret is that I'm not the only one that pushes to get him in my photo shoots.  I'm about to open a great big can of worms that I will get in trouble for, so I hope you find this amusing.  My mother has a great bit old crush of the Dreamy Chris MacGregor and when she suggested the Nutcracker, she also suggested Chris. P.S. Roommate enjoys the look of him too.

So with all this pressure Chris was definitely in, but as who.  The logical choice would've been the Nutcracker Prince himself, however I wanted to see if he could be evil.  So I decided he would play my version of the Mouse King; which to seem more badass in some way I call the Rat King.

Badass Rat King: Another Triumph
Then it was time to move on to The Nutcracker Prince.  I wanted to pull in an actor named Cleary Breunig that I had worked with at school, I had cast him in the aborted Hansel and Gretel shoot as an alternate for Hansel.  Granted half of the male Milwaukee actor community was asked at some point for the Hansel and Gretel shoot.  But that's another story for another blog. Anyway I wanted to use Cleary because he had this boyish quality that I felt fit the Nutcracker for some reason.

Cleary was more than willing to do the shoot, but had none of the clothes (except for a white button up and jeans) that I wanted to dress him in.  So it was time do a little shopping in the mens section of stores.  It's a scary place that I only go to when absolutely necessary, and this time it was necessary.  I went to my favorite store again, Goodwill and hit pay dirt a Banana Republic sweater that matched the matched the Nutcracker prop I had perfectly.  Then I hit up another favorite of mine Closet Classics where I found the hat.  On the day of he showed up  in this great overcoat that we used in a bunch of the shots.
I had sent out the confirmation emails to Perry, Chris, and Cleary on the Monday before a Sunday shoot.  Perry responded Tuesday morning to confirm.  Cleary Wednesday afternoon, and Chris... well Chris didn't respond.  I sent another email.  Still no response.  Then I started to panic.  Chris is the source of much of my panic, I think he knows this and takes some perverse pleasure in it.  So as Friday night rolled around and I still hadn't heard anything from Chris, I decided to take drastic measures. I phoned him (he didn't pick up) so I left message basically saying that if I hadn't gotten confirmation by 9pm I was going to recast.  It felt harsh and I wasn't proud of myself, but I did not want to go through a Wizard of Oz fiasco again.  Chris called back at 8:48pm to say he was going to be at the shoot, but he was going to have to leave by 10am at the latest on the shoot day.  Now to put that in perspective; a shoot starts at 9am, so in actor time that actually starts around 9:30am.   We were only going to have Chris for basically a half hour.  This now meant we were going to have no pictures of Chris at the Schuster Mansion.  I was a little disappointed, but I figured we'd make due.

Shoot day cam quickly after that.  Hadn't slept all night again and I really needed to.  The boys showed up at around 8:30am and I put them through hair and make-up as quickly as possible.  Then Perry met up at my apartment and we moved to Grand Ave.  It was on the way in when I saw this great Christmas Tree and I decided that we needed a picture in front of it resulting in my favorite shot of the whole shoot.

Then we moved into the circular stair case section.  We picked the shots we wanted for Chris and got them done really fast.  The whole time we were shooting, there were security guard pacing watching the pictures. No less than three stopped to ask if we had permission, to which I would respond yes.  Then they would ask who gave it to us, I would say Tracy and then they would move on. It wasn't a big inconvenience but I could've done with out it.

Chris left us, and so Perry, Cleary, and myself moved over to the Schuster Mansion.  The woman I had talked to on the phone met us with all smiles.  She told us a bit about the B&B and then left us to our work.  The place was decked out beautifully, and if given the opportunity I could've shot there all afternoon.
Another successful shoot and we were ready for the showing.  Well sort of.  We had enough shoots for the showing, but the work had just begun.  The following weeks were filled with picking shots, framing, menu panning, and such.

And now you're all caught up with the past shoots.  All blogging from here on out will chronicle the upcoming shoots and the process as it happens.  Hope you keep reading, see you soon.