fairies

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Pixie Dust: A Journey Into The Fantastic With Director Damon Colquhoun

Published December 23, 2014 by vfdpixie

PillJarPosterPortrait

There is a lot of great talent within the indie film scene, and social media is making that more than evident.  All it takes is a follow here, a tweet there, and you are exposed to writers and directors who have a unique vision.  One such person is Damon Colquhoun.  Based in Harlem, New York, this photographer, writer and filmmaker used his multi-faceted talents to create a short film which was a 2013 finalist in Ron Howard’s Project Imagint10n, based on his winning photo “Manhattan’s Many Moons”.  The film, entitled Transporter, is about a young man Darien, whose family is involve in shady, criminal activity.  Darien has a unique ability that is doomed to be exploited by them, unless he can escape.  This 10 minute film is a dark, grim tale of a young man trying to leave his harsh reality behind.  I was really intrigued by this short, which will now be a feature film, and I loved the style and tone of it, so of course when Colquhoun let me know about his next project, Pixie Dust, he got my pixie attention.

Pixie Dust is an urban fantasy about a powerful 13-year-old girl named Faye and her mentally ill mother. Faye’s mother suffers from a mental illness which sends her into violent spells. She refuses to take her medication, forcing Faye to find a way to get her back on track. Through Faye’s journey, she discovers a magical family secret which could help her save her mother, but it could also kill Faye.”   (Excerpt from http://www.damoncolquhoun.com and the Indiegogo campaign currently underway to fund the project, but more on that later…)

I wanted to find out about the mind behind these dark and fantastical stories, so I got a chance to ask him a few questions about his life as an artist, the project and his process.

 

1.  You started out with an art degree, and through your artistic journey, made a stop in the film world.  What got you interested in film?
 
I actually started as an actor. I studied at a pretty serious acting conservatory, and was in few indie films. During my training I kept getting into trouble because I had this urge to control staging, and other actors’ performances. I would get really frustrated if one of my classmates didn’t deliver what I thought they were capable of. Finally, one of my instructors told me I might want to consider directing.
 
I directed a couple of things, got fed up with the no budget process and went back to school. I studied art because I wanted a career in VFX [visual effects]. I figured, learning VFX would allow me to make films on my own, but once I got a job in the industry, the 9-5 hustle took over. Plus I really didn’t care for the tediousness of the work.
 
I went back to directing because all-in-all it’s the right place for someone like me: a jack-of-all trades who’s a control freak with stories to tell and a clear vision through which to present them. Plus, new technology allowed me to make movies the way I wanted to.
 
2.  Tell us a little about the melding of fairy and fay lore with the story of Pixie Dust.
 
I wanted to paint a picture of a modern urban fairy. Some fairy traits are incorporated in an anecdotal way to tease those who know fairy lore. At the start of the film, it’s not obvious that Faye is a fairy, but, for those in the know, there are hints. The most obvious hint is her name, then there’s the fact that Faye doesn’t care for salt. Their landlord is going to wear her sweater inside out as a way to protect herself when delivering the bad news to Faye.
 
Fairies are nature spirits, so Faye is there to restore balance within nature’s black sheep, humans, hence her ability to see people’s inner beast (a metaphor for [their] psychological issues).
 
I also wanted to subvert the popular image of pixie dust. Faye ends up finding her own kind of pixie dust in the form of her mother’s medication, but medication is a double-edged sword: they have side effects. A fairy can be both “good” and “bad,” the viewers have to ask themselves, are Faye’s actions ultimately good or bad?
 
3.  Your cast for Pixie Dust looks amazing! (Mia Guzman as Faye; Rocio Mendez as her mother; and Mary Looram from Orange Is The New Black as the Landlord) How influenced are you by diversity, and in light of the recent Chris Rock essay, how difficult is it to stay true to your community and how it is represented within the independent film world?
 
Thank you! Getting your hands on a great cast is tough. So, yeah, I got lucky.
 
In terms of diversity, it comes organically for me. Growing up in NYC’s Upper West Side means that my world was full of diversity, therefore, diversity is essential to an honest retelling of my experiences. It’s the story that dictates the specific variety of diversity. In a film like Transporter, diversity meant a cast that was African-American, Haitian, Nigerian, and Israeli.
 
Filmmakers have to be true to their stories. Color is not the important thing, ethnicity is. Americans are products of their ethnic backgrounds, which are steeped in history and culture, which create a distinct POV. But look, if you’re a filmmaker who grew up around nothing but middle-American White people, then please don’t add a token Black person to your film. Instead, make certain that you look deep enough into your world to reflect in your film the cultural isolation you were raised in and what effect that had on you and therefore your story.
 
 
4.  With your short film Transporter, your main character Darien is an introvert and lives in his head.  I wondered at times how mentally fit he was.  In Pixie Dust, the film focuses Faye and her mother’s mental illness.  I can see a thread with both films that deal with mental illness using a fantasy backdrop, making it easy to open the subject up to discussion.  Was that your intention in order to address this seemingly still taboo subject in the African-American community?
 
Believe it or not, I had no intention of focusing on the theme of mental illness in the way I have, but it’s a personal topic to me, so it happened organically.
 
I was shot when I was 8 years old. The bullet fell out of the sky, hit my leg, just missing my head, ripping a chunk out of my thigh. I didn’t tell my parents about it, just my sister, so the only treatment I got was a gauze pad and some ointment. From that point on, it felt like death could just descend upon me, seemingly out of nowhere. Many years later I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and OCD. Through therapy, I’ve learned to manage it all pretty well.
 
Once I came to understand the symptoms of anxiety-based mental illnesses, I began to see it everywhere in my Harlem neighborhood: it’s a look people have in their eyes; it’s in their breathing pattern; it’s in the way they communicate or fail to communicate. It’s wild. So yeah, I guess as a filmmaker, mental illness is my raison d’être.
 
5.  Tell us a bit about Faye’s character and where she draws her strength.
 
She’s actually modeled after my wife who is 5’, 100 lbs, but grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The schoolyard chant [in those days] went something like this:
 
Come from the Ville
Know I’m chill
Picture me runnin
Must be buggin
Walk up in your face
Beat you down and walk away
 
So yeah, Faye is a fighter. She’s uncomfortable showing emotion, but is full of love. Unfortunately, her mother’s constant need for care absorbs most of it. Faye [is also] a naturally attractive girl – the type who attracts boys without trying to, or wanting to. The boy-girl dynamic is still foreign to her – she’s got a lot on her plate. The fact that the boys like her means that a lot of girls don’t like her. Faye has to prove her toughness once every couple of school years.           
 
Faye draws her strength from her grandmother. Her grandmother was a fairy as well. There’s a confidence that comes from knowing that you have one more weapon than everybody else. For some people, it’s brains, for some it’s brawn. For Faye’s grandmother, it was brains and magical brawn – likewise for Faye.
 
6.  Do you find you have more freedom for storytelling in the fantasy genre?
I would say so. Reality is a bitch! It’s often hard to digest. So trying to get an audience to explore a difficult subject head on is often asking too much of people. The things you explore and say in a fantasy film can certainly be more overt. At the same time, it’s easier to lose the subtleties – the humanity – when you make an all out fantasy film. That’s why I prefer something closer to a hybrid, like Urban Fantasies.
 
 
7.  You mention films like Take Shelter (which I loved), and Melancholia having a similar vibe to Pixie Dust.  What are some your favorite sci-fi, fantasy or horror films?
As I mention earlier, I like hybrids. There’s nothing like watching human beings interacting without reservation. At the same time, there’s nothing like watching a human being fly!
Here is his list (which is pretty darn great!):
Sci-Fi:
La Jetée – Delicatessen – Children of Men – Battle Royal – Stalker – 12 Monkeys – Alien – Empire Strikes Back
 
Fantasy:
Tin Drum – Blade – Beasts of the Southern Wild – Pan’s Labyrinth – Brotherhood of the Wolf – TLOTR Trilogy (epic) – The Dark Knight – The Wiz
 
Horror:
Let The Right One In – The Birds – Rosemary’s Baby – The Shining – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Suicide Club – Halloween
 
  

Now that we know a little about the film and the mind behind it, I hope the insider info makes you want to see it as much as I do!  This project is in pre-production, with an Indiegogo campaign that will close on January 2, 2015.  $15,000 is needed to create Pixie Dust, with majority of the money going to actually paying cast and crew.

Let the holiday spirit inspire you!  If you can make a contribution, please do, and if you’re not sure, go to the link below where you get a chance to read his great script to help make your decision.  How unique is that?!

I think it is important that we support independent filmmakers who make genre films that defy cookie cutter cinema these days.

Make your contributions here:

http://igg.me/at/pixiedustfilm/x/3950522

and check out all the in-depth info about the production!

Thanks to Damon for taking the time to answer a few questions so candidly, and I can’t wait to see the finished film.

Good luck!

Face Off Season 7 Episode 12: “Fairy”-ly Disasterous!

Published October 16, 2014 by vfdpixie

As Drew put it, the “top 5” artists were left to battle it out to the finale.  For the Spotlight Challenge, they went once again to the Universal Studios backlot, where they found the set of the plane disaster from the 2005 movie War of the Worlds.  In the ruins of an actual 747, McKenzie introduced their new subject:  Fairies!  They had to create a beautiful elemental fairy, but this fairy had to be born of a disaster courtesy of Mother Nature.  The gang had to run through the set to find a t.v. monitor showing a natural disaster of their choice in order to create their fairy.

George chose the earthquake.  His fairy lived under the earth’s crust and came out to fix the damage created by earthquakes.  He had a plan for the nose and chin sculpt but wasn’t sure about it.  He felt out of his element with this challenge.  Mr. Westmore advised him to use silicone and scrap the cracked, magma look because this makeup called for beauty, and the lava might look like gore.  George had to make a good casting and mold so that the silicone would look flawless.  He used giant banana leaves for wings and during last looks, realized there was an odd wrinkle on the corner of the prosthetic mouth.  He made it into a crack, and hoped for the best.  The outcome was interesting, and the judges loved his fairy.  The cracked shoulder detail and balance between angular and softness in the face impressed the judges.  The thought the facial prosthetic was beautiful and a good use of silicone.  Lois thought she looked like a fairy from the movie Legend.  What a compliment!  His sophisticated alteration of the nose and chin put him in the top looks.

Stella picked wildfire.  Her fairy spread fire, but also inspired regrowth.  Stella wanted to sculpt flames for this makeup.  Mr. Westmore told her to focus on the paint job and to avoid black.  Her mold of the flames didn’t fill out, so she had to redo the cowl.  She had to power wash her mold to get all the clay out which wasn’t what she wanted.  If her mold got wet, that would lead to air pockets in her cowl.  Unfortunately her flame points ripped right off and she had to patch them frantically.  She was late to start her paint job, but her fairy looked better than expected.  The judges could see her edges but liked the colours of her makeup.  Generally speaking, her fairy fulfilled the challenge, had a good concept and image, but it was not inventive enough and her transitions were too abrupt.  They also felt she should have incorporated wings.  She was in the bottom looks.

Drew got an oil spill.  His fairy cleaned up the aftermath of oil spills and he wanted a high fashion runway look for her.  He took Mr. Westmore’s advice to turn the fairy’s nose up and he took a selfie with him, as did everyone else!  Drew experimented with creating a drippy, oily look, and after trial and error, decided on creating a dress with the drips on it so the model could move freely.  He created some lovely wings with sheer fabric and peacock feathers, and his paint job incorporated the rainbow iridescence found in oil slicks.  The edges on the facial prosthetics started to crack, and they were quite visible. His fairy was pretty but missed some impact.  The judges noticed the edges right away and thought it looked like a Venetian carnival mask.  They wanted to see more oily gloss on different parts of the fairy and darker eyes.  They thought it was disconnected and this put him in the bottom.

Dina went with floods.  Her fairy would bring life back to flooded lands.  Mr. Westmore took her idea of creating sandy looking skin and told her to use gelatin crystals to get that effect.  She also added pebbles and bark into the makeup too.  She used chocolate syrup as part of a concoction to create a workable mud, and painted her fairy from head to toe to ensure a beautiful makeup.  She did a great job, and the judges thought it was “rad”.  They liked all the transitions of a large range of colours and how she used the model’s beauty and captured a lightness to the makeup.   It was dark without being muddy and graceful.  She was in the top looks.

Cig got the avalanche.  He was a little worried as he had never done a beauty makeup before, but he approached it like a beautiful piece of art.  Mr. Westmore reassured him that if he kept it soft, he would be fine.  He wanted to add ice spires in the makeup, and created some great wings out of vaccuformed clear plastic.  His fairy was really beautiful.  The judges liked the use of warm and cool tones in his colour palette.  Lois called it delightful, and they loved the sculpted wings.  They thought he made excellent decisions and sustained consistent harmony with his forms.  He was in the top looks.

The winner was Cig!  He really deserved this win because his fairy was so beautiful.  They thought it “oozed fairy”,  was a well-handled makeup and picture perfect!  The person going home was Stella.  They thought she captured the essence of the challenge, but it was unfinished, and at this point in the competition, she couldn’t afford tiny stumbles.  They were sad to see her go, as was I, but they knew she would do well.

it’s coming down to the wire!  Can’t wait to see who makes it to the finale!

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