28 April 2007

Drew Does Strings

This is unknown territory for me. I've had an interest in marionettes as long as I've been interested in puppetry, but I've been a bit scared of the art form. So many strings!

Well, when I find myself scared of something, I find it best to just jump right in! I've put myself out there for marionette work over the past six months or so. This past week, I booked a marionette gig!

I had the pleasure of working with The TeenieTones today in their public debut at B.B. King's Blues Club at Universal City Walk. I had an absolute blast!

Marionettes are difficult, but the principles are the same with rod puppets or hand puppets. It's all about the little details that make the figure "come alive."

24 April 2007


I grew up in the Nazarene Church, a fairly strict protestant denomination that absolutely forbid such sinful things as rock music and going to the movies. When other kids were beside themselves with joy over seeing The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen, I was reading the novelization (at age five) and collecting all of the Topps collector cards. At the age of nine, I had been to the movies exactly twice (to the best of my recollection): In 1980 mom took us kids to see Popeye, and in 1981 we saw The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

All that changed in 1984. While my dad was sorting his life out (one of many times,) Mom threw in the towel and took me and and my sister to the movies. The movie that kicked off our mad romp into "sin" was the hellacious Star Trek: The Search for Spock. We found a cheap-o "dollar" theatre in Longview or Tyler, Texas. Maybe it was Shreveport, Louisiana. We moved around so much, sometimes it all blurs together.

Anyway, we saw a lot of crap movies for cheap. Once, Mom took us the the movies on a school night, thus inaugurating my all-time favorite dinner: nachos and popcorn.

When I first caught wind of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino joint project Grindhouse, it was a no-brainer. I can't say that I had the same experience that the filmmakers had growing up. I wish I had! So I don't speak fluent "exploitation" the way they do, but I love a good "popcorn" flick. With Grindhouse, we've got two.

Pamela and I trundled down to The Vista in Los Feliz, a gorgeous one-screener decked out like an Egyptian tomb. The seats were damn uncomfortable, but the popcorn had real butter!

PLANET TERROR is Rodriguez's film, a more-or-less zombie flick with the sort of non-stop cartoony violence he does best. The make-up effects are absolutely disgusting. We're talking pustules and tumors and blood -- lots and lots of blood. Rodriguez carries the "grindhouse" affectation further than Tarantino, playing with scratched film, jump-cuts, missing reels and even a frame burnout as narrative tools. What he does is take the cliches of crap-cinema, and churn out a great flick couched in a crap cinematic dialect.

DEATH PROOF is Tarantino's offering. He doesn't use the "grindhouse" affectation as much as Rodriguez, but when he does it's pretty damn funny. The best thing about this flick is Zoe Bell, hands down. She's an incredible stunt performer and, as it turns out, one hell of an actress. Tarantino kicks off the big car chase with Zoe Bell clinging to the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, blasting full speed down a country highway. No CGI, just old fashioned car stunts.

(I haven't even commented on the faux trailers that accompany the two features. Hrm. Probably best not to. Except for this one thing: Eli Roth is one sick, twisted guy.)

I felt like a little kid again, clutching my popcorn and finding myself engrossed in the giant screen before me. And you know what? That's the best way to go to the movies.

UPDATE: My dad did try to compensate for the rigors of Nazarene life. He would, on occasion, rent a projector and screen "Christian" movies for the congregation (or just the youth group, depending on the selection). I recall seeing an "End Times" grindhouse flick at the tender age of four or five, the 1972 classic A Thief in the Night.

We lived next to railroad tracks back then, and every time a train would whistle it's way past in the dead of night, I'd wake up with cold sweats, worried that Gabriel had blown his horn and called my family home. I've since become a preterist, so I don't sweat the rapture.

So I guess I did have a grindhouse experience (of sorts) as a kid. Personally, I think I would've better enjoyed Death Race 2000 or Shaft.

20 April 2007

I enjoy consuming a wide variety of viewpoints. I'm like Pac-Man, only with memes instead of pellets.

Anywho, one guy I check in on every now and then is Tim Boucher. He's an eclectic thinker and an honest spiritual seeker. He traverses vast tracts of thought like a Titan strolls across continents. He also has Google AdSense. The combination of interesting conceptual juxtapositions and Google AdSense leads to a webpage that sometimes looks like this:

Slash as Jesus? I think Tim would be proud!

18 April 2007

Ever one to shove as many irons in the fire and/or oars in the water as possible, I have taken it upon myself to pursue writing with a bit more vigor. To that end, I am writing a couple of spec scripts to shop around in an attempt to snag myself representation and/or a freelance writing job or two.

I'm also reading Alex Epstein's wonderful Crafty TV Writing. I highly recommend it as well as Mr. Epstein's insightful blog.

So hey: fan wikis kick ass. Seriously. They're like show bibles only better, benefiting from 20/20 hindsight.

Here area few:

The Office Wiki

Ah hell, just google "TV Series Wiki." What a great tool!

I would not be surprised if this format eventually replaced the traditional series bible.

17 April 2007

DAHT Lessons

For episode one of the new season, I decided to do something very different from season one: I am spending more time and effort on the actual disembodied animal head portions of the show. The truth is that for the first season, I was much more enamored of Tex than I was of the "ensemble." Looking back at the original episodes, I believe this is clear as day.

Well, Tex is a pain in the ass. The rubber is starting to degrade (he is at least four years old, and not made of very high quality rubber to begin with) and the mouth mechanism is unreliable. I need to rebuild him from scratch, but I have yet to find a suitable rubber chicken replacement. (I can't believe that I've become a rubber chicken connoisseur. For some reason, my wife is not surprised.)

I think that focusing on the actual reason for the show is a step in the right direction.

Another lesson: I need to sort out my sound recording issues. Seriously. I had to ADR the "ensemble" bits because my external mic was on the fritz. I wasn't wearing my headphones (I couldn't find them!) so I didn't know the sound was f-ed up until I captured the video. I then used the on-camera mic for Tex's bits, and the sound is just atrocious.

Next, I learned that I need to compose a shot list before doing this thing. I storyboarded this episode, but somehow missed the fact that Cesare Piazza needed to walk from camera right to camera left without a log. Whoops! So I had to do a quick pick-up. (You can tell. The lighting doesn't match!)

Finally, we shot the Lost-esque "The Tempest" title card all wrong. By "we" I mean Pamela and I. She manned the camera (on the tripod) and the manual focus while I tilted and moved the card. It would have been far easier to place the card on a flat surface, light it, and move the camera. This is the most frustrating mistake for me, because I went to the Robert Rodriguez ten-minute film school (i.e. watched the special features on his DVDs) and he covered this very thing on the Spy Kids 2 disc.

So there are my lessons learned.

I want to add an additional note regarding what I call "Thrift Store Aesthetic." Obviously I'm shooting these things with no budget whatsoever. I'm actually trying to play that to my advantage. I could have done the Lost-esque "The Tempest" title card with slick, 3D graphics. It just seemed wrong. Sure, DAHT looks like crap. But I think that's part of the appeal.

Next up for DAHT: Twelfth Night, or What You Will!

15 April 2007

Been a Long Time Since I Rock and Rolled ...

Season Two of Disembodied Animal Head Theatre has begun. Check it out.

(Yes, I have been watching too much "Lost.")

06 April 2007

The final episode of "season one." Also the longest episode. I got pretty good at improvising (nonlinearly) both ends of a conversation!

05 April 2007

Tex does Shylock. Need I say more?

This episode is very uneven, but I learned a whole lot doing it.

04 April 2007


I've had the sad looking stuffed dog to the left since I was four. Maybe even earlier than that.

I've been doing his voice for as long.

I remember naming him Pepper. It was a cold, dark night in the family car, Mom and Dad in the front seat, me in the back with my new toy. The way I recall it, Pepper was a gift from my grandmother. I struggled to read his little tag, to see what his name was. In retrospect, it was probably something like "Patchy," but lit by random streetlights it looked like "Pepper" to me.

Pepper was my 'best friend' in the way that only a stuffed toy can be. We went everywhere together. At age five, I had a habit of falling asleep to music playing on an old 8-track player. "Best of the Beach Boys" and Elvis and Herb Albert's "Rise". That music would serve as my soundtrack as I fell asleep clutching Pepper close, dreaming about the two of us flying around in a biplane and sword fighting with crab monsters.

When Pamela and I were first engaged, and a staph infection sent her to the hospital in Little Rock, I brought her Pepper on my first trip to see her. (This is the only time I've ever given Pepper to another person.)

Our beloved dalmatian Holly got a hold of Pepper once, and chewed one of his ears off. Felicity yanked out his stuffing and bit off his eyes. So naturally, he is not looking so hot these days.

Well, I'm doing a duet with fellow Write Act Rep company member Jenn Scuderi for our upcoming 'Vaudeville' fund raiser, and I need a puppet. I was struggling to come up with an idea when it hit me. I'm going to resurrect my old friend Pepper. You can see the sketch in the pitcure: A simple puppet that matches the original coloring and captures the spirit of who Pepper is. I'm even planning on laundering my old chum and recycling him into the very fabric of the 'new' Pepper!

Disembodied Animal Head Theatre really went off the rails with this episode. But this is one of the very few times you'll ever see a puppet manipulated by Pamela! She's behind Mario de Netta's strings.

Pamela is not really "into" puppets like I am. She's a huge Muppets fan, and she enjoys tagging along to puppety things I occasionally drag her to. But she's not a puppeteer -- she's an actress who pretends to be a puppeteer every now and then.

And you know what? I'm okay with that! In fact, I am very happy that she has her own interests and pursuits.

03 April 2007


Note:  If you enjoy this project, you might also enjoy my Tennis Ball Rod Puppet Project.  A classroom of kids in Belgium sure did!

Not a day goes by that I am not approached by some stranger and asked "hey, how do you make a pair of those 'practice eyes' that I've heard so much about?" It doesn't matter if I am in the grocery store, at my favorite coffee shop, or in a public restroom. The question rings in my ears like a ubiquitous alarm clock, plaguing my waking hours and haunting my dreams.

In the interest of showing that I know how to do stuff, I present ...


[NOTE: Kids, do not try this at home. This project involves deadly, sharp objects and you will poke your eye out and/or cut off something important. Seriously.]


Ping pong balls
Adhesive back felt pads (round)
1/4 inch stretch elastic
Needle and thread


Carefully cut two parallel lines approximately 1/2 inch long, and spaced approximately 1/4 of an inch from each other. Do this to two ping pong balls.

(I used the printing on my ping pong balls as a guide.)


Being careful not to crack open your incisions any further, cram one end of the 1/4 inch elastic into one cut and out the other.

Do the same with the second ping pong ball.


Measure the elastic around your middle finger, ensuring a snug fit. Cut off the excess elastic, and sew the ends together.


Carefully place adhesive back felts on the ping pong balls to simulate pupils. As you do, ponder the words of great and powerful Jim Henson, who once said that the key to a character lay in the placement of its eyes.

Don't screw this up.


You're done!

(Be sure to bring your creation with you on dates. You'll score for sure!)

The thing you just made is the exact same thing you'll use when and if you ever audition for a puppetry gig through Disney (unless something has changed with their process.) It's good for practicing eye focus, movement and lip sync, and it costs a heck of a lot less than a "real" puppet.

Next Time on "Project Corner": How to improvise a bandage when you slip and cut yourself with an Xacto knife!

UPDATE:  Muppet Central forum user Rick has a few refinements to the above tutorial.  I would quote them verbatim here, but I haven't been able to secure Rick's permission to do so (if you are Rick or know him, ask him to drop me a line, would you?)  You can read his forum post here.  Thanks, Rick!

So far I'm really liking Revver. So much better than YouTube.

For starters, I'm not competing with pirated clips of popular shows. Secondly, I've already earned a (very) small amount of money.

I have to give mad props to Felix Pire of Los Titieres for encouraging me to go with Revver. (I did a day of work for Mr. Pire on Saturday. When the stuff I did is put online, I'll be sure to announce it here!)

02 April 2007

Yeah, that's right. "Disembodied Animal Head Theatre" is on Revver now!

So maybe I'll make a little moolah on this. Emphasis on the "little."

My computing issues have been handled for the moment, and I will be able to return to regular blogging. Regular for me, which is once or twice a week.

I am working on a few projects, and I can't wait to share!