Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jersey Devil Expeditions

The Jersey Devil Expeditions is the movie diary of Fighting Owl Film's new independent monster movie of the same name. Over the course of the next several weeks and months, you'll get an insider's peek at what it's like for filmmakers to craft a new entry of paranormal pop culture from Erin Lilley, a producer and actress on the film. 

Fighting Owl Films now has its very own green screen. We'd borrowed a screen for The Night Shift (see if you can spot it!), so it was time for the company to have its own. In case you're wondering, a green screen (sometimes called a blue screen, or Chroma Key screen) is a solid-colored background that can be digitally altered. It's the same thing television meteorologists use for their animated maps.

Our screen is a crayon-green muslin photographer's background on a metal stand. It's nowhere near fully extended, and still takes up one entire wall of our office. It also requires two umbrella lights (like you'd see at a portrait photographer's studio) to make sure that there are no shadows to mess up the computer imaging. Basically, this thing is a monster, which is kind of appropriate, considering why we have it. See, we've got to make a devil fly.
Thomas' vision for this film dictates we have a mostly practical creature. That means that we won't be creating ol' JD on the computer. We'll have actors in suits, puppets, and other tangible means for bringing the creature to life. However, we will need to use the computer to *enhance* the overall look and enable some motions that just can't be done practically, like flying distances. For that, we have the green screen and computer generated imagery.

But, what kind of look are we enhancing? What does our buddy JD look like? Well, we're not one hundred percent sure of our JD's features, since we're still fundraising, and money will, sadly, have a direct impact on the final design, but Thomas has some very promising ideas, all based on folklore and legend.

According to The Shadowlands, a Mr. Nelson Evans, along with his wife, spotted the creature at 2:30 am on Jan. 19, 1909, and after ten minutes of staring at JD from his window, penned this description:
It was about three feet and half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo', and it turned around barked at me, and flew away.
The Cryptid Zoo points out that the description, with the exception that it's covered in hair, is very similar to that of a dragon. It's not surprising that many accounts of early sightings actually call the creature a dragon, and include claims that the creature could glow and breathe fire. In fact, in cases where the devil is scientifically considered to be an undiscovered species, it's actually thought to be related to the pterodactyl. Who knows? Maybe the Pine Barrens is a real-life Jurassic Park!

One thing is for sure: creating this creature is a serious undertaking, and if we want to get it right, we're going to need access to as many tools as possible. Having this green screen up and running is just the start of taming this dragon.

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