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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

from the man behind the mask, 10/13/04

From Ned Hastings.

As both a co-worker of Jay Edwards on Aqua Teen Hunger Force and also as a – shall we say – feature player in Stomp! Shout! Scream!, I am adding my own diary entry on the production of Jay's little opus.

Well, week two of production is under way, and week one was a real blast for me. The first week was shot here in Atlanta, and this second week is being shot in Florida (or what's left of it). As you may know from an earlier diary entry of Jay's (with the accompanying ridiculous picture of me), I am playing the monster at the center of the movie. He is a Florida Skunk Ape, which is the state's native name for Bigfoot. The costume, cinematically, leaves much to be desired, but Jay promised me that he was planning to show the creature only in long shots, and shadows, and such. This I liked because a) I am not an actor and b) as I said, it's a pretty funny suit. Imagine my pleasure when I saw that photo on the Web.

That was sarcasm, by the way.

I kid because I love.

With Jay away for the two weeks of his shoot, I have been helping to hold down the fort at Cartoon Network. This has meant that I have had only two shooting days so far. But I've been to the set on two other days, just because it's so cool. In fact, I've been telling everyone in the office to go watch Jay shoot, because no one quite understands the scope of this project. There is somewhere around 25 to 30 people working or waiting to work at any given time, there's a 35mm camera with operator, there's a Director of Photography and an A.D. keeping the whole thing on track; and it's just really fun and totally cool.

And there's Jay at the center of it all, cool as a cucumber.

I, on the other hand, am usually anything but 'cool as a cucumber.' Besides the fur suit pictured elsewhere in these diaries, I am also wearing a black long-sleeved under-suit like the kind athletes wear. I also wear ridiculous feet (two different versions – the suit is evolving), and some black gunk all around my eyes. I'd like to say that wearing that stuff makes me feel like Michael Keaton in his batsuit, but it's closer to the truth to compare this to Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca. For a variety of reasons.

To put it mildly, that suit is hot as Hell. It's not too bad when I don't wear the mask and gloves, but as soon as they come on the sweat starts to pour. My chin sweats so much that the stuff comes out the mouth of the mask, making the creature appear to drool. Which, come to think of it, is not a bad way to play the poor beast.

Right, Ned – you're 'playing' this character.

Actually, I'm merely attempting to embody the character. I put on the suit, do whatever Jay tells me I'm supposed to do, and use my eyes a little to show what I'm 'thinking.' I knew I should have paid closer attention in those mime classes. So far, I've stormed a stage at a rock and roll show about 30 times, grabbing the heroine lustily nearly every time (perk). I've also killed one character, which is cool. What else? I've sort of 'danced.' Lots of people would say that whenever I dance, it's 'sort of dancing,' but this is different. It makes sense in the movie. OK, no it doesn't, but it was fun anyway.

I've also done a couple of 'stunts,' which involved a good bit of the usual movie-making chicanery to pull off. I will neither explain these moments nor divulge the tricks behind them here – you'll have to see the movie and/or the DVD extras. But, again, it was really fun.

I also had a fun moment on screen in which I do not play a rampaging, hairy, sexually aroused beast. Dana Snyder, who is the voice of Master Shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, was in town the latter part of last week. I didn't have to shoot on any of the nights or days that he was here, so I got to hang out with him a lot. I took him down to the set so that he could see how awesome it was and, lo and behold, Jay asked not just Dana, but also me to be in one shot of the film. That was cool. He had a line, and then we peeled out in a vintage car. Cool – my first appearance in a movie in which I wasn't wearing fur and make-up around my eyes. (I was also in The Birdcage. Again: sarcasm.)

I am jealous of my cast and crew mates. Everyone else went down on Monday via caravan, but here it is Wednesday and I am not going down until tonight. In fact, I'm flying in a few hours. Oddly, the guy I "killed" the other night volunteered to pick me up. What a stalwart band of troupers we are! Seriously, I've had such a good time hanging out with everyone that I hate not being able to experience these travel and shooting days with them. All of the actors have been really great to watch and to get to know. They actually treat me as an equal, even though they are all trained professionals and I'm just there because I'm the largest mammal the director knows. They are really great actors and watching them has been fascinating. I hate that I've missed out on these few days of travel, work, and bonding time with everyone.

But, I'm heading down soon to talk Jazz with Adrian, kid with the girls, and prattle on about movies with any poor soul who gets within earshot of me. Of course, I'll also put on the suit, "kill" a couple more people, and continue to attempt to drag off the heroine for my own nefarious aims; and hopefully sweat off a few pounds while I'm at it.

I'm looking forward to getting down there and back on set. This is in spite of the fact that the crew's tendency to call all of the actors by the name of their character means that I am called "Skunk Ape" by nearly everyone.

I thought I'd shook off that nickname back in ballet school, but it's back?

- Ned Hastings
Skunk Ape
Stomp! Shout! Scream!

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