"Lisl and the Lorlok" 1st American Feature to Utilize Blender Exclusively
Press Release from Elender
(January 28, 2011) – “Lisl and the Lorlok”, winner of the Best Feature award at the 2011 Idyllwild Independent Festival of Cinema, features a creature character animated solely with the opensource 3D animation program Blender. This is the first American feature to use Blender exclusively for animation and compositing in a live-action project.
The film, described by its creators as a “dark fairy tale”, was a hit at the 2011 IIFC, gaining a nomination for Best Director as well as winning Best Actor for Ivan Borntrager in addition to Best Feature.
“Lisl” is the first feature from director Ignatius Fischer. Fischer got his start in the film industry fabricating miniatures and visual effects on features such as Titanic and The Fifth Element. “I was always a writer at heart, writing short stories, attempting a novel, etc. Once in the film industry, I began toying with screenplay format.”
A feature-length science fiction screenplay he’d written and helped produce, The Men Who Fell, was picked up for international distribution.
“It was the best film school ever,” said Fischer, “It became a no-brainer that I'd want to write and direct my own film.”
Fischer met his co-producer and “Lisl” screenwriter Brian Dillon, of Temecula, on the set of one of Dillon’s projects. They began a partnership that started with short films using local actors and crewmembers. They found their work styles meshed, and this evolved into a professional partnership. Both wanted to do a feature film and began discussing possible story ideas.
“I have always read a lot, and I love suspense stories, fantasies, and science fiction. I had written a hefty short story, almost a novella, called Queen Of Heads (The Harrow, 1998) in which I explored this sort of twisted Alice-In-Wonderland nightmare space, but one classic element was the monster that came out from under the bed and dragged people down to nightmare land. It was this particular scene - the monster under the bed – that intrigued me as far as making a small independent movie.”
Dillon's roots are in similar soil.
“My earliest memory is watching Poltergeist and being terrified out of my wits, so the notion of toying with those irrational fears was always in interesting one,” said Dillon. “Also, I've always been a fan of dark material, and everyone can associate with the fear of what lurks in the shadows, under the bed, in the closet, etc - exaggerated by the filter of a child's imagination. To breath life into that monster was an easy step for me.”
“Brian and I discussed what kind of a story I wanted to do and what kind of a story would fit in that location. The classic "fairy tale" and the "monster under the bed" became the two themes powering the script ideas. We eventually settled on a little girl stuck in a large house with a creature. We also based the story elements on an allegory (addiction as seen through the eyes of a child).”
The project was cast using local actors they had worked with or seen in community theater presentations. Fischer was able to involve Kimberly Parmon, one of the stars in The Men Who Fell, who had achieved some fame as the demon-slayer. And then something happened which they could not have prepared for, something that almost derailed the production.
“We hired a professional creature effects fabricator - whom I'd worked with on other professional productions - paying him to create a 1:1 scale puppet of the Lorlok,” said Fischer. “Ten days prior to our shoot date, he vanished. He stopped returning phone calls and literally disappeared. So we were out the sum we'd paid (nearly 20% of our budget) and we had no creature.”
They faced a tough decision: postpone production until another creature could be fabricated (setting them back months) or plow ahead and add the creature in postproduction using computer graphics. They forged ahead, opting to shoot "Lisl" and hoping for the best.
“After we'd completed principle photography, a close friend of mine, artist Sohail Wasif, designed and sculpted the Lorlok in Maya 3D software.”
But the creature still needed to be animated.