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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Seamus and Magellan – Day 1

This past weekend I’ve been puppeteering in Pasadena in Seamus and Magellan, a film by Allyson Schwarz. The main character is a 10-year-old boy named Sam (played by Dylan Sprayberry). The story is about when Sam’s older brother, Jonas (Callard Harris), leaves home, he is forced, in no small part by his mother, Anna (Cornelia Guest), to start growing up. When his Goth sister, Anna (Michelle Page), tells Sam about the ‘forgotten brother’ locked away in the closet, Sam’s imagination goes into overdrive and out come the seemingly harmless imaginary friends Seamus (Callard Harris) and Magellan (moi) who are all about fun and games, though not all of the games are harmless….

My job is to puppeteer Magellan, who is an adorable, talking koala bear who is comedic relief and sweetness to juxtapose the darker Seamus. He is always trying to get in on the action and be everyone’s friend. I think the writer/director is definitely giving herself a challenge by including a kid AND a puppet in a film, but hey, that’s also what makes it more fun.

So Saturday was Day 1 for me (For the project overall it was Day 2). I drove to the house that we are filming in. It was a house on some hill, and I wasn’t sure if I was at the right house until I looked up and saw some people rigging some lights outside the house. I was then greeted by the A.D. Maggie and taken into the house to meet the rest of the cast that’s filming that day. I already met Callard during rehearsal, pretty cool and energetic guy. And then I met Dylan and his dad. Dylan is such an adorable kid! We did some run-throughs with the director Allyson and then started filming.

This was definitely the most professional production I’ve been to. I’ve done a few videos in college with friends but nothing to this scale. They have a professional film camera instead of the cheap mini-DV stuff we college students (well, I was one) have gotten used to. They have a team of camera people where they are constantly checking to see which lense to use, measuring what to set the focus to with measuring tape, and using a slate and stopwatches to keep things organized. There’s a whole lighting team that’s always adjusting the lights in conjunction with using natural sunlight. And they keep measuring the lighting conditions they are getting at each part of the shot. And then there’s a sound mixer and a boom guy on headsets working together trying to get the best sound. There’s a make-up artist and production designer too. This is definitely different from the student group productions where we just ask whoever that’s not in the scene to hold the camera, ask someone to turn on a few lamps for good enough lighting, and cranking up the sound in editing because we didn’t record them well. I must say, the degree of professionalism and the attention to details is very inspiring. It definitely made me think about production values a lot more. (Of course, this kind of filming would take a lot longer compared to the home-movie style stuff.)

During the down time, I’m usually hanging with Dylan and Callard since we are on the same schedule. The sound, camera and lighting people just seem to be so busy all the time. When we are not filming, they’d still be running around grabbing things and setting up for the next shot. They are just so busy all the time, so I can’t really hang out with them. It’s funny that when Dylan and Callard interact, they are like real brothers. And I think it’s good that we three are hanging together in between shots, since that’s what our characters do in the story. It’s also more convenient for us to go over lines. And we’ve been talking about super powers. That’s always a fun topic. It was also interesting to watch Dylan and his dad interact. It was very sweet, and you can tell that they really care for each other.

It was nice to be given my own monitor to look at while I puppeteer. It definitely helped, since I was usually hiding behind or below something and couldn’t see what the puppet was doing without the monitor. Puppeteers actually tend to have more of a say in terms of what a shot would look like than regular actors, because actors just perform while the puppeteers are usually performing and watching their performance at the same time. To a degree, they help design the shots too.

Oh, and the lunch was way better than I thought. It’s good to keep the cast and crew happy, hehe. Will write about Day 2 soon.


  1. November 20th, 2010 | 11:10 am

    Sounds an interesting film.

    Rayme’s last blog post..The Meaning of Color

  2. November 22nd, 2010 | 12:16 am

    It was definitely interesting for me too see the finished product.

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