Bringing Mama and Her World to Life
Mama's story began life as a competition entry which didn't quite make the word-count! Author Elaine Jackson decided to make an animated short film of Mama's first adventure, but having hired concept artist Amanda Fullwood and storyboard artist Dan Schaefer, the three creatives soon realised that a graphic novel or a comic book series would be a better way to go.
Bringing the expertise of almost thirty years in the industry to the project, Dan felt that story-boarding a 'pitch' video would be the best way to promote a campaign to fund production of Issue One, and Portsmouth-based videographer Sue Turner joined the team. The hunt for 'Mama' was on!
"Bristol actor Kate Davies-Speak is a perfect fit," says Elaine. "Kate is drawn to strong, action-woman roles, and Mama - as a young mother living in a very hostile environment - ticks that box nicely!" Kate is well known in the indie horror film community. Her credits include 'Escape from Cannibal Farm' , 'The Barge People' and the Bristol-based web series, 'Horizon' (series 2 is due to air in September 2018).
But finding Cyril the FarmBot (Mama's 'Alfred', as Dan describes him) was more problematic. On a limited budget, the team couldn't afford to build a robot that would be convincing enough, and CGI was also out of the question. So it was decided to use a mix of art, a prop robot and video editing to give the illusion of 'life'. Which just left finding the right voice for our friendly FarmBot.
"Back in 1980 I started what is still the only official appreciation society for 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy", remembers Elaine. 'As the founder of what was then still a small and very enthusiastic group of fans who were looking forward to seeing the BBC TV series (in production at the time) , I would organise meetings for our growing membership in my home town of Aldershot. A young actor named David Learner - who had played Marvin the Paranoid Android in various stage productions of HHGTTG and in the BBC series - came along as a guest to one of those meetings. I got in touch with David, he agreed to be our Cyril, and we were ready to go!"
Well... not quite ready... "Finding a venue within our budget took some time, as did sourcing Cyril's physical components. My husband and I had a lot of fun converting an old 'I, Robot' prop head I found on eBay into Cyril - which included propping Cyril's head on a pole in our back garden and spray-painting him silver! " The venue the team used was a drama studio belonging to a local school, Kings International College. 'We hired the studio for a day, and managed to get almost all the shots we needed.'
Aldershot-based photographer Stephen R Cox was on hand to record the event as a series of stills.
Mama's costume was created by concept artist/production designer Amanda Fullwood. "My usual approach is to gather visuals and make mood boards, " says Amanda. "I look at what is visually pleasing but also try to think practically. With the costume it was a similar process. The script and guidelines stated that the clothing was “make do and mend” reuse etc and that cotton was scarce. I did some research into futuristic fabrics and found that some plants could be grown with little light. These would probably produce different weaves, smooth to rough like hemp. So the costume became a combination of fabrics, sourced, rewoven and dirty. The costume itself was a process of buying new and wearing down with a cheese grater, dying fabric, sourcing rough fabrics to rebuild sections of the cloak and visiting the army surplus store for accessories and so on." Amanda also provided concept art for the Dome, where Mama and Cyril live, the Minding Mama logo, and a publicity poster, which is available as part of the backer rewards.
No trailer would be complete without music. Elaine went back to young musician Matthew Thomason, who provided the haunting theme for a trailer to Elaine's novel 'The Methuselah Paradox'.
Depicting Earth with a severely damaged ozone layer was "a very interesting process" says Elaine. "Space Weather Events - coronal mass ejections from the surface of the sun - have the capacity to damage electrical systems here on earth, and to strip away the protective ozone layer. This would leave the Earth's surface vulnerable to UV radiation, which would eventually affect all plant and animal life by causing cancers and breaking down the cellular structure of plant life. Even life in the oceans wouldn't escape. "
More to come: we'll be speaking to Dan Schaefer about story boarding 'Minding Mama' and creating a comic book from long form prose.