Monday, September 10, 2007

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 6 - Cory R. Starr - Special Effects master

Hello everyone –

This is Cory R. Starr, the weapons and special effects coordinator for The Lieutenant of Inishmore. We often read many interesting blogs from the actors, but not so much from the crew - well I thought I would share some of my viewpoints whilst working on this fantastic play.

It has been such a pleasure and privilege to work with Actors Theatre in this production, this is only my second theatrical project – and what a fun and eclectic challenge it is. The most amazing thing about working with Actors Theatre is that they love so much to push the limits of entertainment. It is so invigorating to see the caliber of entertainment offered to our community through Actors Theatre, everyone should take the time to come see this, or other plays of theirs.

I have been working as a special effects and weapons coordinator in the motion-picture industry for nearly twenty years, and the differences between on-stage and on-set are vast. For example: on the set, we can conceal cumbersome mechanical devices (blood cannons, for example) by moving them out of the camera’s POV, but on stage, the arrangement of the audience makes this impractical. On the set, we can load a particular effect just moments before the scene is shot, and still be able to cut just before something might become visible in the next camera angle. But on stage, this luxury is mostly absent – sometimes a pyrotechnic effect must lay in waiting for up to 90 minutes or more before it will have it’s glory. The problems presented are mostly issues of safety, and how to absolutely guarantee nothing will go off before intended. Perhaps equally important, to make certain they will go off when we intended. Sure, there may be goofs, but only in the latter. From a safety standpoint, it is far better to have something not function when intended, than to function without intention.

The most technical challenge on Inishmore was to conceal what I am calling “blood cannons” to project un-humanly copious amounts of blood. There was no way of attaching such an apparatus to the actors without it being visible from all but one angle, and to have the actors wear such a contraption throughout the play was out of the question. What I came up with is a neat device that…well; you will just have to see the play to see the results. If you want to learn more, attend the play during one of several Post Show Discussion nights.

Another challenge for this play was to coordinate all of the weapons and gunplay scenes. There are a total of five firing weapons and one non-firing weapon, totaling about 80 blank shots per show. This will be quite a rush for everyone – audience, cast, and crew included. The main characters even have their weapons tailored to their persona. It is important to note that just because a character is keen with their weapons, does not automatically mean the actor portraying that character is. Talk about dedication, many of the cast met at a local shooting range to understand how handguns fire, and to properly handle them. These actors are looking great in rehearsal, and the gunplay is just amazing. Speaking of actors, you could not ask for a nicer team. Kudos to everyone!

This week I get to install all of those gadgets, and perfect the timing of everything. I hope you all enjoy this show, because every one of us is putting in tons of effort to make this an astonishing show for you. Back to the workshop.

Take care - Cory

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