Friday, October 26, 2007

Immerse yourself in total inspiration

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John Dods website

A massive megadose of inspiration, that's what John Dods has been providing at the message board lately. To me it's been a revelation - because somehow, unlike apparently everybody else of my generation who's had a lifelong interest in stopmotion, I failed to discover Cinemagic magazine. It was one of the plethora of sci-fi/fantasy type movie magazines abounding in the 70's, but it featured a strong focus on stopmotion, particularly with "how-to" articles for aspiring amateurs. Many of those articles were written by John Dods. I didn't find out about this phenomenon until discovering and joining the stopmo message board in 2001, but since then I've read about this guy and his incredible pictures and articles that so many of my fellow stopmo enthusiasts have drooled over for most of their lives. But still I wasn't able to see any of it, until recently when John joined the board and started posting images all over the place. Pictures to melt the mind, and to excite the imagination.

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I'm serious - this guy liberally peppers all his posts with these huge pictures. Every thread is a visual feast. His life has been the dream the rest of us aspire to - sort of a modern Harryhausen. He's done many types of special effects work.... prosthetics, stopmotion, puppets masks and makeup effects among other things, has made his own films and been involved with various TV shows commercials and movies, generally as the creative genius behind the look and imaginative aspect.

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This is probably his most famous character Grog - featured in the films Grog and Forest Story. I'm pretty hazy on the details, but I believe Grog was an early film John made - probably the one on which he honed his skills and ideas. On his website you can see the evolution of the character from early rather crude (but always enchanting) home-made puppets to the more sophisticated ones he developed later. Forest Story is a later film, not finished yet, featuring the same character, but now benefitting from John's extensive experience in the SPFX field in between.

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Upon joining the message board, John made the exciting announcement that he wanted to trade in his old Bolex for a digital camera and proceed with Forest Story in the digital realm. I believe the film has been in limbo for some time (years?) but now it looks like he's going back into production on it. Exciting news indeed!!! I can only imagine how it must feel to those faithful fans who have followed John's progress through Cinemagic magazine all their lives and only been priveleged to see the pictures and read his words, to learn that one day they might at long last be able to see Grog in action! And yes, he has said that he will get Grog digitized and posted online somewhere.

Looking at his site (which he just put together and posted quite recently) my head starts spinning with sheer inspiration. It's a testament to what's possible for people like us... those who were fuelled on Harryhausen and King Kong and dreamed of doing similar things. John obviously works hard and is able to focus his energy to an astonishing degree, and he seems to be bubbling over with creative energy.

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This post would be woefully incomplete without mentioning 'Mysterious' Ron Cole, John's friend and fellow SPFX artist/stopmo wizard who joined the board before John did, and in fact convinced him to join AND to dust off his surface guage and fire up Forest Story again. I do Ron a disservice by posting this small bit about him at the end of John's article, but then he's mysterious, and little is known about him aside from the incredible film he's working on In The Fall of Gravity, for which he developed his own incredible cable-controlled facial apparatus. You can see the trailer plus Ron's amazing tutorial about his cable control device here (many thanks to PaulVortex for hosting it - the generosity and helpfulness of the stopmo community never ceases to amaze me!).


Brian said...

I have a book on special effects that re-prints the Forest Story article. Can't wait to see a finished film using modern effects enhancements.

Paul (Vortex42) said...

Having John and Ron suddenly explode onto the message boards the way they have recently really is hugely inspirational!

I am really excited about seeing Grogs!

Shelley Noble said...

Thanks for talking about this, Mike. I never function on the boards so I would be in the dark otherwise.

You did tip me to Mysterious Ron's amazing trailer and now I can't wait for that masterpiece to be finished. Et tu Grog?

It's all happening. Now that the interhoosin gives everyone total control and autonomous creative powers. yay.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

I remember seeing John's work in Cinemagic and seeing a clip of Grog in the making of The Empire Strikes Back documentary on TV when it showed you what younger and amateur filmmakers were up to. I do remember John was a very good sculptor.

Mysterious Ron said...

John just recently turned 60 and I think he's trying to use that as an excuse to go a bit more slowly jumping back into stopmo. Think I'll need to plan a visit to his studio so he'll boogie fast to be able to impress me with all he has done so far!