Thursday, December 10, 2009
Xom: Curse of an Intergalactic Vampire Hunter
Xom. Meet the spur of the moment joke idea that turned into years of Hell. I have tried to remove myself from its power but I keep getting drawn back in. Xom began a long time ago as a very simple idea, basically a monster who fights vampires.
Not the loftiest of themes and one of my "lower tier" projects, nonetheless it struck a chord within me. It was partly influenced by comic books as well as a film which I had heard about many years ago but never seen until the early 2000s, that centered on a vampire hunter and his hunchback assistant. I wasn't impressed by the direction the movie took and started to think about monstrous vampire hunters again. The idea of a knight-like vampire hunter from space and his robot assistant came about as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me.
I had planned to do something with it as a self-published comic book, but I had many other things in the works so it wasn't a high priority. I did a concept painting for it, and planned to make a small sculpture, but grew tired of it due to the ornamental armor that I felt the character should have(partly because I was unnerved by the thought of sculpting something with a machined look), which would depict all the alien vampires he had encountered on various planets. It was just too much work although I started to make one. A few years later I met someone who was making very low budget films as direct to dvd releases. I had been interested in filmmaking for a long time but various circumstances forced me to abandon the pursuit after a couple of short films and an aborted feature length silent movie project. During a meeting he saw the concept art for Xom and suggested I turn it into a movie proposal. I thought he was crazy, for I knew the amount of work required. Just designing the costume for Xom would be a monumental task. It would take millions.
However, a few months later I found myself thinking about filmmaking and the digital tools that were becoming available which solved many of the problems I had encountered years before with traditional film. I pondered what sort of project I could do. I initially thought about doing an eyewitness video version of War of the Worlds, but a major studio motion picture was announced the very same day I had settled on it, and the field became crowded. So I looked to Xom. I envisioned it as a very low budget B movie, although more creative options appeared as I learned more about computer graphics.
Later on I began to ask myself why I chose to start something as HUGE in scale as this? I had never made a suit of armor before but I knew I could do it. It was if I were possessed. I have never worked so hard or had such energy to persevere. And for 3 years I worked steadily to prepare the required materials, props, costumes, pre-production paper work, everything I could think of and do all by myself to bring this project to life. Along the way I had some highs, many lows, fatigue, exhaustion, mental and physical collapse, toxic burns, as well as dealing with a great number of unpleasant people(the few nice ones know who they are). I did accomplish the creative goals I needed to achieve--the costume was complete--with the engraved armor I had found too much work to do in 1/6th scale but for some reason found myself determined to build in life size! I had a robot prop with a somewhat functional rotating head to serve as his robot assistant and stand in reference for a computer model. I had the entire script storyboarded in colour-some 300 pages.
Shot list, script breakdown, I was as prepared as I could be.
There was only one problem, I was working alone. I did not have people who could help behind the scenes as either on set moral support or co-planner. This turned out to be the death blow for the project. I could design a costume with over 1000 figures carved into it, I could make robots and vampire masks and all sorts of things that few others could do as well under the circumstances, but what others took for granted, namely friends, I did not have locally.
I was forced to try strangers, and I fielded hundreds of people and interviewed some, but no success.
It became unbelievably frustrating. And without that help, the film could not easily proceed. Someone with more production experience had commented that if I didnt find help, I would come to hate the project-and at that point I truly did. I wanted to hurdle the helmet across the room and smash it to pieces.
The Xom costume is literally, a big problem--because it requires finding someone who is close to the height of the mannequin I built it on, around 6'7(I wanted him to be imposing).
But I just cant give up on Xom so easily. I have looked at filming something else, but in the end I always come back to this. It remains the only project that I am compelled enough to attempt at this stage(especially if I must work alone). I am working to finish the computer model of the character(very tedious due to the armor detailing) so I can use that instead of requiring someone to wear the costume(the less you need from others, the better, I have come to believe).
In the end I may just use the model towards a comic book format as originally intended. At some point I should feel I have done enough and can put it aside completely to concentrate on the other things I am interested in.