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Friday, February 04, 2011

Fiat Lux - the art of Lucy Georges

Lucy Georges, or LuxAeternam as she’s known to Moviestormers, lives in an historic town called Saint-Nicolas-de-Port near Nancy, where she works as a lecturer in English at the Science University. Originally from Stockport, in Northern England, she moved to France in 1992 to get married, and now has four children, aged 3 to 17.

She’s entirely self taught. She started off making a few home movies with a camcorder, which she describes as “about as good as family snapshots, and a lot more bother to edit.”  Then in 2007 she and her husband, Pascal, gave up smoking to invest in photographic equipment, a hobby they had both enjoyed in their teens. After about a year, she started thinking about how to take what she was learning in photography and transferring it to moving images.

Her initial foray into digital movies was using The Movies, which she bought when it came out.  She enjoyed it, but found it limiting after a while. “I thought it was a fantastic idea, but the gameplay got in the way of the creativity, and it was just a lot of effort for a set of ready-made scenes put end to end.  It really is a shame that the Microsoft buyout effectively killed off what could have been an excellent product had they ever made version 2.”

After a while, she switched to Moviestorm, because it seemed simple and affordable.  “I was looking for a replacement for The Movies, by which I mean dedicated movie-making software without the game element.  Antics 3D was no longer available, and so I was left with a choice between Moviestorm and iClone.  After watching a couple of ‘how to’ videos on Youtube I decided that it looked straightforward enough to use, and the structure mimicking the movie making process made it very intuitive, too. I have yet to find anything better that doesn’t have a steep learning curve or require great expense, and despite its quirks and limitations, there is a workaround for most needs.”

Her first Moviestorm films were a series of comedy sketches, Northern Lasses. She was inspired by one of the stock characters and her memories of schooldays in England.  “It had to be the pink tracksuit that did it… It conjured up images of girls I’d known at school who were unashamedly vulgar, so I created hapless Shelley and her naughty friend Kelly and put them in various situations.  They made me laugh when I was writing the sketches, and even now when I watch them again and I can see all the flaws, they still make me snigger!”

Northern Lasses, Episode 1

After that, she took a break for about a year, until she entered a contest for French language directors last year. “Writing comedy was what came naturally, but it doesn’t really go deep, and I wanted to explore other avenues.  However, the muse was on vacation, and child number four was at the ‘running around causing havoc’ stage.  So I didn’t just stop making comedies, I stopped making films, for a year. During the break I played Sims 3, and had a look at its movie-making potential, but Moviestorm was still the best tool for me, so when I got a message about the French language competition, I thought, ‘why not?’. Making a film in French was a first for me, and it was a challenge to write something other than comedy, so I went for something intimate, a ‘huis clos’, and once I had the opening scene it was a question of more or less seeing where it led me. Somewhere over the summer holidays I managed to find a way to tap into my creativity and developed an approach that meant I was not half way through a film thinking ‘how is this going to end?’  Since then I’ve not once been short of an idea.”

L’Intrus (warning, contains nudity)

Lucy is now one of the most prolific members of the Moviestorm community, turning out a movie every couple of months. “A lot of my free time is spent in related activities, reading, trying various tools out, and thinking ideas through.  Fortunately regular holidays allow for bursts of activity in terms of actual film making.  It very much depends on the nature of the film.  There’s a period of ‘mulling’ during which I will work through some of the aspects of a story, usually in a half-awake state, then I’ll fire up XMind and CeltX and after about a month I find I can write.  A 20 page script takes about half a day at this stage.  Casting can take time, but I find that most people are happy to join in the fun.  I like to give voice actors a month for their lines, during which I can work on sets and see if there are any parts which require me to learn new things.  A two to three minute scene usually takes about a day to produce in Moviestorm.  After that comes the editing and sound, and this phase can vary in length.  Betrayals, which is my longest film (so far) took approximately 4 months from start to finish.”

One hallmark of Lucy’s recent movies is that they’re considerably longer and more complex than most machinima films. Anything under 10 minutes is a rarity. A Change of Art clocks in at 18 minutes, and Betrayals is nearly half an hour. She allows plenty of time to develop both plot and character, and she explores her themes in an unhurried, thoughtful way. Her dialogue is always sharp and emotional, and her cinematography is, as you would expect from a photographer, excellent.

Like most machinimators, she likes getting involved in every part of the process. “I’m a bit of an all-rounder so there’s nothing I really dislike.  I get as much of a buzz from the initial spark as I do from finishing the first draft, and equal pleasure once all the scenes are ready to be edited together.  I don’t dislike so much as fear the initial reactions to a project I’ve put a lot of time and effort into.  I still find my sound editing knowlege is too superficial, and it is the one thing that is hardest to find help on which is specifically related to the machinima movie making experience.”

She’s also a proficient modder. “Now that I’ve nailed normal maps I’m able to make almost anything I require that isn’t provided in one of the official packs, except animated or hand-held props.  I’m hoping to learn how to do both, especially given the fact that Blender is finally beginning to look usable.”

However, despite the fact she can seemingly turn her hand to anything, Lucy doesn’t work alone. She’s full of praise for her many collaborators.  “The people I’ve been working with recently, either on my own films or their productions are too numerous to list.  There are so many people who are great to work with, and the Moviestorm user base is a good place to start looking.  I was, like most people, a little shy at first, and therefore self-sufficient.  I found, however, that most people are happy to chip in, in the same way that if I can be of any use I’m quite happy to do a voice or help out in some other way.  On the Moviestorm forums there are some great modders, many of whom are happy to help out if something specific is needed.  For the opening scene of Betrayals I wanted a weathervane that swung from east to west and back again, and Primaveranz built a beauty for me.” 


Lucy has several things planned for 2011 already. “I have eclectic tastes, so I’ll try any genre, except perhaps horror.  I think the broad scope of topics reflects the many facets of my personality and interests.  AlterEgoTrip and Scripter both said ‘yes’ when I asked them if they would consider co-starring in a sequel to Betrayals, so production of part two of the Rodina trilogy is underway.  The film is called Taboos, and I’ve got a teaser featuring a specially built prop. The synopsis for part three, Origins, is written and I have some ideas on casting, so once Taboos is in post-production I’ll be writing the script and contacting actors. I aim to have Taboos ready for Easter and Origins for the beginning of the summer.  Of course, this is assuming no other projects get in the way between now and then!”

If Betrayals is anything to go by, Taboos and Origins should be well worth watching.

Read more:
Lucy Georges: Moviestorm | Facebook | Vimeo

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Ricky Grove on 02/04 at 09:28 AM

Very enjoyable profile. I think Lucy is an excellent filmmaker. Thanks for putting this together.

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