Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Cthulhu Project

I mentioned this very briefly, and somewhat abstractly, over on The Monkey Rodeo Facebook page this week, that I was starting work on a new project (amongst many others) that very well might be the most awesome thing I've ever done.

And if I can pull this off, it will indeed be the most awesome thing. So, I'm going to officially state what this Cthulhu related project is, and it is a full foam latex Cthulhu body suit. For those of you suddenly yawned, this has never been done to my knowledge - there's been a few homemade Cthulhu cosplay costumes but they're nothing compared to what I want to do (with all due respect to the creators who must have spent a long time doing these things), I want to create a good, old fashion "guy in a monster suit" version of Cthulhu. It won't be scrapped together from random materials, it'll be a fully sculpted, moulded and cast in foam latex traditional monster suit.

Now comes the question "why?" Well, there's a lot of reasons, one being simply because I've never done something like this before and I think now's the time to give myself another push and see what happens. But the main reason is I've been finding it really difficult to draw any attention to what I do. I've done over 100 different Demon photo shoots, tried using more iconic characters in hopes someone might care - but nothing. I have to come to the conclusion I either actually suck at what I do or what I've done just isn't enough to stand out.

I'm hoping it's not that I suck at this and just the later that might be the case. I don't have hundreds or thousands to shell out on all these dodgy internet add things. I've tried Facebook and other than getting a few more likes to the page it has yet to translate to anything meaningful, like actual money being made from new customers. So, why not try this and see what happens rather then just resigning myself to whine about not being noticed.

Of course creating a custom made Cthulhu monster suit isn't going to be easy or cheap, which is why in the early part of 2014 I'm going to try another fundraiser. I'm hoping with the Cthulhu name attached it might be more visible and folks will be more interested. And every single reward will have a Cthulhu related prop to it, so you won't just be spending money for me to do a little monster in a suit project. I've already got a few related props made, so over the next couple months I'll be creating a few more just for this.

I've already got the guy in the suit already picked out, John MacDonald for those who might know him - I mean if you're going to make a human into Cthulhu, you want the biggest guy you know, right? I'll be moulding his entire body and the suit will be made bit by bit over the course of next spring/summer. Once it's done I've got a photo shoot planned, we'll be doing a commercial/video of sorts as well and it'll be a bit of a stepping stone in moving towards the Lovecraft/Hitchcock movie I want to do.

First comes the design phase, which I might be starting in the next couple weeks and looking towards how much money is raised I'm aiming for two versions, the "Modern Cthulhu" and the "Classic Cthulhu". The Modern is be the cheaper, easy to make for around $750, and be a Buffy the Vampure Slayer inspired character, not a full suit, but head, hands and feet in an actual suit. A little campier, but it'll still look cool. And the Classic being way more expensive and the full complete suit.

I'm not doing animatronics because I want this to be something that just stands on its own without group of people tied to it with cables following him around. Although I might see about rigging something simple like a lense that blinks and it would be awesome to develop something that shifts and wobbles the tentacles when he speaks. I have met a pretty good animatronics guy whose brains I might pick on this to see if there's something that can be done - and self contained, more importantly.

It'll be totally made using Monster Makers foam latex as well, I've spoken with the guy who runs Monster Makers briefly a couple times and I'm hoping this is something they might be interested in as well - not as a sponsor or anything, but just helping promote it since it will be their product on display should it get some attention.

So there it is, that's my awesome Cthulhu project. To my knowledge I've never even seen something like this in a movie - I'm not saying it HASN'T been done, just that I've never seen it or heard of it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Hal-Con 2013 Aftermath

The trip to Hal-Con was pretty informative about the business. I'd mentioned in my last Hal-Con post I was thinking of taking some new directions with the business and I've been sub-consciously mulling it all over, thinking about ways of breaking out of the method I'm currently using to make things, the ideas and uses for the things I do and how to change them so they still stay in line with my current product line, but branch out to lure in a more general audience.

A lot of folks just stopped, looked and asked "So what do you do?" I would think that was obvious, but apparently not when you see it all in person sitting on a table - at least not to everyone. That could have been a signage issue, and the abstract name doesn't hurt. Although I do rather like the possibly obscure nature of the business when I think about it.

So the things to "fix"? Making products with a more immediate use, different - and cheaper? - materials, but still all handmade. Definitely more recognizable concepts, not stealing from licensed or already established IPs but things that have a more general appeal. Cthulhu is obviously something I should really take to using a little more, although I feel like I'm cheating taking something already completely thought out - but folks love Cthulhu. I sold a bunch of the large Cthulhu statues I make, all the Cthulhu fridge magnets, several of the Mayan Cthulhu idols and as well, once people realized it, several of the "fetal Cthulhu" things in jars. Some of the zombie related stuff moved okay, but didn't go over fantastically.

While I love creating my own stuff, I have finally learned I have to pander to what people like in order to sell or get noticed, so expect more Cthulhu related stuff, some of which might be one offs. And some of which your cat might like.

One thing I've finally settled into understanding - and this isn't just a sudden thing, it's been a very long time coming - is how things get noticed by folks on the internet. It's really hard to get your work seen unless you're on forums (which I hate, so that's never going to happen) or you use sex to sell things. It's an old concept and it's used for everything. It finally came to the forefront of my thinking when I saw an artists post about Instagram, it said something like "I post images of my work and get 3 likes, bitches post pictures of their tatas and get 10k." (He used the word "bitches" not me), and I do have to agree with him for the most part.

Now this doesn't mean I'm suddenly doing naked demons, that's just going way too far and something I don't believe I'm really comfortable doing - but I will be doing a project aiming more towards the beautiful/sexy side of demons. One shoot I did featured some okay makeup on a very darkly lit demon with a low cut lingerie-ish looking top, I didn't feel it to be overt in any way, but it did get some notice, so I don't believe I have to go too crazy with the concept. We'll see how it goes or if it even happens.

I was going to do a whole bloe post on this idea, but never did, the idea is taking the original Universal Monsters, but re-imaging them as women. Not a simple genderswap to show boobs, but to see if I can create a convincing female alternative that matches what the original filmmakers might have done back in the day should these characters have been written as women. Some will work better than others, some will be really hard (Gil-Woman? That'll be a tough one) and some will be pretty simple.

Other than that, I've been thinking about a short film to do over the winter, something nice and simple, a one day shoot if possible and it's done. Something pretty dramatic and surreal hopefully and totally live action as far as things stand right now. Again, we'll see where this goes.

And that's pretty much it. In creating a new product line I'll be learning some new skill, so they all depend on how decently proficient I can become over the winter. I'm looking at wood carving for one in order to create some one off pieces and even knitting and sewing for some new weird little ideas. Not like there's much else to do around here in the winter, might as well make it productive.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hal-Con 2013

So, Hal-Con happened.

I'm kind of a little on the fence over this whole experience, and while there was an oversight in selling passes that caused a 4 hours (or so) disaster that got spun way out of proportion by people, I didn't really care about that and none of that really affected my experience there.

I'll start at the beginning. I wanted to do Hal-Con last year since it was right before Halloween, thinking it would be a little more successful than if it was after Halloween, which is was this year. I didn't get to go then and decided maybe it didn't matter when the con was, so went ahead and booked a booth this year.

I worked like a mad bastard trying to get stuff ready for it and in the end only really scrapped bringing packaged up prosthetics - which I'm not sure really would have sold anyway, so it didn't matter there.

It was a bugger getting everything organized, but I was able to get a few hours sleep before heading out, everything went fine until it came time to find my way into the convention. It was clearly marked from the side we were on where I was supposed to go and ended up having to do through all these hallways to the the fourth floor and take an elevator down to the first - when later I realized there were doors right there as well, but nothing outside that said "Hal-Con this way", just posters inside the doors that were barely visible through the tinted glass. But really, no big deal - the confusing layout of that place had nothing to do with the convention itself.

We got in, got settled and just waited to see what would happen. I'll start with the bad first and end with the awesome.

Sales weren't great. I'll be honest, I barely managed to break even and if I bothered to sit down and count every cent, I know I lost money doing this - not a lot though, but I don't feel like I could call it a success on the sales aspect. For this reason, I don't think I'll bother next year.

However, I spoke briefly to another vendor at one point who said he didn't really see the con as a outlet for big sales, but an outlet for making contacts, introducing people to his store and so on. Public relations and marketing I guess, if you like boiling it down that way. So that actually made me feel a little better about the poor sales given how many business cards I was giving out and how many "I'll definitely be looking you up online" comments I got.

I had a feeling, upon seeing what else was being sold there, that I wasn't going to walk away rich from this. While there were some local artisan type vendors, it was mostly factory made, licensed, recognized brand stuff. And while some of it was really expensive, everyone was snapping it up while I sat with my handmade stuff and no one really cared other than to come by and touch some severed fingers.

Am I disappointed? Sort of, but to dwell on that is just a little on the stupid and even on the arrogant side. These people weren't my target market, I knew that going in, I was just hoping there was a decent percentage that might be. So I took it all in as a learning experience and with that I do consider that it was well worth the effort in going. I learned so much in what can I push to the general public and what is just a curiosity worth pausing to take a quick look at before moving on to buy sometime else.

I'm definitely expanding my product lines over the winter and in doing so expanding my skills in order to create totally different stuff from what I'm selling now. Things that actually have a use, other than looking cool on a shelf, is something I always knew I had to do, and now it's something I HAVE to do, dropping everything else to create a whole new aspect to the business - while still keeping in the horror area of things.

So, the money was lacking, but the experience was invaluable.

Next, there was an oversight (yes, I'm just calling it an oversight, a very naive oversight) that caused the convention to come to a halt Saturday afternoon. Rumour and speculation and pissy people blew it all out of proportion, and shitty media coverage didn't help either. They sold day passes, but neglected to indicate what day they were for and everyone showed up at once and the fire marshal shut it down. No one could get in and we couldn't get out.

Now I know some folks who'd flown into the province had every right to be pissed and I don't blame them really. I know vendors complained about lost sales, and yes, I get that (I don't know if it had any impact on me or not though). But people bitching, saying the event was poorly organized is just too much, it was just a naive oversight - one that had a huge impact, but just a simple oversight none the less.

See, they had sold passes this way since the beginning, but the number of attendees weren't astronomical so there was never an issue. This year the con was so well attended that it finally came to a head and that oversight blew up in their faces. It happened, it only lasted a couple hours - lesson learned. Stop bitching. No one died, no one was hurt - just a bunch of geeks and nerds couldn't get to see Jewel Staite or buy Doctor Who stuff - big fucking deal. And by the way, I don't say "geeks and nerds" insultingly, since I am apparently one of them - which one, I'm not sure.

The rumours and pissy comments about the incident cast more of a shadow over the place than the incident itself as far as I'm concerned. There was no greedy or malicious intent on behalf of the co-ordinator, I don't believe she was sitting up in her office twirling her imaginary mustache as she gazed upon the masses below - in fact, I was told she'd locked herself in her office and had a wee bit of a breakdown. Can't blame her and I feel bad for her, whoever she is.

This kind of thing happens at most conventions, even the "big, well organized" ones. Folks got a refund, no lasting scars or dead children in ditches, so there's no need for the blown out of proportion hate. The folks running it are all huge geeks and nerds, just like those attending. They're all volunteers doing something they love - there's no need to cast so much venom in their direction for a couple hours of chaos. Really, the little bit of drama just kind of broke up the day for me.

With that out of the way, on with the good stuff.

I didn't get a chance to chat with many of the other vendors, it was just too busy unfortunately, but the few seconds some came by I felt the overall energy of the place was really positive and everyone was really nice. I can't think of one person I could tell a story about because they were a huge dick - not even a costume that resembled one even.

The volunteers were tireless it seemed, handling all the crap thrown at them as best they could while most of them still seemed in good spirits. I would've punched someone for sure if I was in their shoes. They tried their best and managed to make it out alive, so congratulations them for all their hard (and mostly thankless) work.

But the absolute best part of the whole thing were the cosplayers. Those folks who got all dressed up and wandered about for hours in sometimes huge, bulky costumes. I've been following cosplay a lot since I started the demon photo shoots and I've seen some amazing pictures online, but never expected I'd actually see that quality at a con in Halifax.

There are some really amazingly talented, and dedicated, folks out there, doing some really brilliant costume work. And now on with the best part of the post, the pictures of these folks. It took a while for me to warm up to the idea of asking for photos so I missed a few great ones in the the beginning, but this guy here was what started it:

How can you not want a photo of this guy. And he was a really nice guy at that. This was pretty awesome.

I got to speak to this girl for a second, turns out this was her first costume and first prop build. The photo doesn't do it justice, but the work on the staff was really impressive.

No so much a costume, but very much awesome.

I think these two had a hard time getting around since every 5 feet someone was stopping them for a picture. Really impressive costumes.

One of the gorier/creepier costumes. I loved this one.

This was a great example of "I've only seen pictures of this sort of costume" kind of deal, I've never seen this sort of costume in person was so totally impressed by not only how massive it was, but how easily she could get around and the sheer amount of work put into it.

These two really stood out, it was great to see not only one, but two Kratoses there.

You might look and this and think, "what's so great about that?" Those are my horns. I caught a glimpse of him walking past and saw the horns, it took me a second to realize but they were ones I'd sold to a local Halifax Halloween place where he'd bought them. It was just a little weird for the first time seeing another actual person wearing my prosthetics and I had nothing to do with it.

Now this was just the coolest thing ever. A brain hat. Apparently, this wasn't a professionally manufactured product, a friend had made it for him.

I have to stop commenting on every photo, this will take forever, so enjoy the rest.

Apparently she made this hat herself, that's pretty damned awesome.

 There were a few Kaylee's there, but this one was easily my favourite.

And then there was this guy. Awesome, just awesome.

I was so impressed to see an AndrAIa there and even moreso to see one so well done. I didn't think anyone remembered Reboot after all these years.

And there were so many more I never got shots of. Easily the best part of the experience.

In the end, I'm glad I did it. I really had to think about how I felt about this whole experience, it was so up and down and long and exhausting, sometimes boring and draggy, but it was definitely an experience and I think I made some really great potential contacts for the future, whether they're retail related, models for more demon photo shoots or even custom work, I think it'll pay off in the long run. At least I really hope it does.

Next year, I've got my eye on a couple other events over in NS that I think are closer to my target market, so I'm going to start planning for them as soon as possible, and despite the overall positive experience I had at Hal-Con, unless there's some truly awesome celebrity guests or I somehow become insanely rich, I think I'll be passing on it and aim for two years down the road to attend again.