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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Joseph Kwong - THE END IS NIGHt

Machinimator Craig Harbison runs a contest each year called the Passion Competition, which challenges creators working with any machinima tool to create films on the theme of “Passion”. This year’s challenge was to make a film showcasing the struggle between GOOD and EVIL, RIGHT and WRONG. The winner was Joseph Kwong, with his movie Scion, created with The Movies (below).

Scion from JosephKw on Vimeo.

As part of his prize, Joseph won a copy of Moviestorm. His debut Moviestorm piece was this stunning action-oriented film, THE END IS NIGHt. We were amazed by what he created on his very first foray into Moviestorm, and asked him to tell us about himself and his work.  (Skip to the end to see the full movie.)


Joseph’s been a filmmaker for about as long as he can remember. “I’ve always been interested in films, perhaps because I now Iive in Hollywood,” he says, “but actually my fascination goes back to even when I was a toddler. My mother told me that I frequently interrupted her bedtime stories by interjecting what I thought would’ve been better endings, or more exciting conflicts, and in other words had a knack for telling my own version of the tales. When I went to my first summer camp and discovered the joy of campfire stories, I was in narrative heaven. Even after I returned from those outings, I would gather some friends up, sequester ourselves in the school’s “lost and found” room, close the door and turn off the lights, and then whip out a flashlight and commence a session of indoor campfire tales. This love of the story later progressed to audio tales with dialogue and sound effects recorded on tape, and then onto short films on video. I even dabbled with claymation and stop-motion animated action figures with a super 8 film camera. Years later, this eventually led to my pursuit of a creative writing degree in college. Although I enjoyed writing, I found visual media to be the most rewarding since I was able to convey my ideas and vision through not only words, but sight and sound.”

However, he still found himself frustrated with the limitations of what he could do with the time and budget available, and started looking for other ways to create films. “It wasn’t until I came across machinima software that I was able to create my own visions in a quick and cost-efficient manner.” Machinima gave him an immediate success. His first machinima film was one of the 12 winners (out of 3,033 entries) in the 2006 Warrington Film Festival in England. Encouraged by this, he went on to create dozens of short films which ended up being screened in film festivals around the world in such esteemed venues as Paris, Geneva, as well as in the U.S.

“The freedom of Moviestorm allowed me to let my creative vision flow”

This still didn’t satisfy him, though, and he wanted to make more ambitious films. “Although I became well-acquainted with the machinima software I worked with, I was also very aware of its severe limitations. So when my friend and fellow machinimator John Norton (aka Nahton) informed me of a new, dedicated animation tool being developed, I looked into Moviestorm immediately. However, my computer configuration at that time did not allow me to run the Moviestorm program, and so I continued working with my old software. It wasn’t until I won the grand prize in the 2011 Passion Competition, and was awarded the complete Moviestorm package as a prize, that I was able to finally try out this software (which works well with my new computer setup).”
imageHis first Moviestorm film wasn’t something he deliberately set out to create. “The entire film was the result of a spontaneous desire to see what this new program could do,” he laughs. “I had no intention of actually creating a film - I had no script nor even an outline. I just ran the program, watched a brief introductory overview tutorial, and felt I had enough knowledge to shoot a simple scene at least. Due to the user-friendly nature of the software, that simple scene grew into a simple act, and finally into a complete eighteen minute film. I created this movie in my leisure time starting in late December 2011 and finished tweaking it in March, 2012.” The entire film is filmed with Moviestorm with no post-production touches.

He also found himself working in an entirely new way, shooting the film in chronological order starting from the first scene until the final frame. “I have never attempted or even dreamed of creating a film in this manner. Due to the limitations of my previous software, I always needed to plot out my shots, and storyboard the more complex scenes, and then figure out if I could feasibly shoot what I had in mind. The freedom of Moviestorm allowed me to let my creative vision flow and to actually transpose the images from my mind onto the screen.”

“I felt proficient with Moviestorm after my first evening working with it”

Two things made this creative freedom possible: the ease of use of Moviestorm, and the supportive community of filmmakers. “The best thing about my newfound filmmaking tool is the intuitive ease and logical layout of the program. I no longer needed to memorize the often haphazard names of animation scenes; all I need do is select a virtual actor/actress, then right click on the object or actor I wish him/her to interact with. A submenu of the available actions appears and I make my selection. I felt proficient with Moviestorm just after my first evening working with it - if even that long, and the results were, in a word, satisfying. I was again in narrative heaven. I did, at times, come across actions which I wish were available for the virtual characters to perform. For example, I needed one of the actors to pick up a fire extinguisher and put out a blaze. However, that option was not available with my “out-of-the-box” program. Fortunately there exists an extensive community of Moviestorm users (which I learned were affectionately termed “Moviestormers”) who are ready and more-than-able to assist their fellow animators. I approached one (Nahton) who promptly proceeded to create the prop I required, along with a variety of animations to go with it. Problem solved. Film completed.”
imageHe is currently re-rendering the film in a 3D format and planning his next production. “I always had a love of 3D movies, and am thrilled at the ease in which I can craft one with Moviestorm,” he says. “In fact, I have my heart set on filming all my future Moviestorm films in a 3D format. I’m working on three more stories which came to me while working with this software (one a satirical comedy, another a science fiction mystery, and finally a horror piece.”

That sounds like an ambitious task, and Joseph agrees. “I always have more stories than I have time to actually film, so I am currently working with another Moviestormer, Lucinda McNary (aka Lucindamc123) to create a full feature-length animated film. I wrote the screenplay, and I left her the task of directing and producing it. The film, Vautrin, is based on a true story, and Lucinda recently informed me it is halfway completed. I am eager to see her realization of my vision.”

“Stop contemplating making films and simply make them”

Joseph’s passion for filmmaking is clear, and he loves to encourage others to try it for themselves. “I have friends and family who watch my films and then express their desire to create movies and share their stories. I tell them they can, and with relative ease now with machinima programs. They just have to stop contemplating about making films and simply make them. It only gets better.”

We look forward to seeing more work from this extraordinarily talented filmmaker.


THE END IS NIGHt from JosephKw on Vimeo.

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