Class #9: Monster Suit Performance (Stan Winston School Diary #8)

Tom Woodruff Jr., whose credits including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Terminator, Jumanji, Mortal Kombat, and a bulk of your iTunes movie collection, has spent what for me would feel like an eternity in a stuffy, hot costume. At times, a gorilla suit. Blindly, really in the meaning of blind, unable to see outside the suit, hired for multiple roles in gorilla suits!

Wearing a gorilla suit might never become your reality. As a live action filmmaker, you will be directing people who DO hop into these uncomfortable suits.

The class goes over a history of monster suits, four types of large scale puppets and the intermixing of them with suits, with examples on all. Fat suits. Monster suits. Creature suits. Alien suits. The “how” of how suit actors build realism, or surrealism, into great acting performances. By the lesson’s end, you feel sympathetic towards the actors in these heavy, humid suits. A key takeaway: as a director, include your suit actors with everything your regular actors are doing, or you won’t have a seamless production.

For further details, follow along with the lesson! You’ll see Mr. Woodruff act out body suit acting with pieces of the suit missing. How much of body suit acting is almost like dance, where you act with your movements.

My original plan was to take both of the longer storyboard classes this month. Things changed when I felt, you learn by doing. I’m going to do digital storyboarding first this month with an actual little goofy 3D animated short film. Next month will be pen and paper storyboarding for wrapping up a 2D animated film I had started on and need to finish. Can you guess the themes? Yes, both will be on target with the Stan Winston School science fiction world!

The 3D animated film, and I warn you, it is going to look very silly because my new 3D skills aren’t putting Pixar out of business for the time being, is about aliens stealing cows off a farm in the olden days of vintage Roswell stuff. Drama! You’ll see it soon this month, hopefully, because my deadline falls during the fourth week of June. This will be my fourth short film I have ever animated myself. A pal in Belfast has so far agreed to voice the farmer. The other two actors are stage fellows I have worked with before.

The 2D short, my fifth short film, was started right before I began with Stan Winston classes, though I wanted to begin having shoutouts to the movies covered by some of the Stan Winston crew. When I was in eighth grade, my math teacher made us learn about a matrix in algebra, or the plural form, matrices. Many, many matrices on homework. I’m someone who never enjoyed doing my homework. The teacher told a joke about The Matrix, a film that had come out in theaters the previous year. I told myself, “When I can, I want to remake The Matrix about math homework.” Math appealed to me once I understood how much sharper it made me with my music goals, almost instinctively. All I wanted to do then instead of homework: fall asleep watching movies on cable or pretend I was like Pharrell Williams with my beats, replicating whatever he did on my keyboard when I wasn’t trying to get extra credit in music class learning stuff on my flute. My grown up self with Stan Winston classes said, “Hey, I can toss in shoutouts to all the movies I loved on cable! I can make this girl bored by math class go into The Matrix, but she can be chased by some guy like a Terminator, stick in the Men in Black type guys there quickly, and more!”

Storyboarding that much in that short of a time frame won’t help me learn. On the contrary. Getting excited about learning something doesn’t happen when you crunch it all together.

When I get those films together up tied with diary entries to their specific storyboarding class diary entries, I will give you some more information about each short, OK, lots when I’m ready for you to watch my learning experiences come to work! Some people excel at masking their inner selves. Anything I do is a reflection of who I am. Does that make things better or worse? It depends. For something where you might need to write a realistic young female teen lead into a movie series, and the guys you work with aren’t cutting it nor does the middle aged woman who doesn’t have a silly bone in her body, you could hire me. I’m not good for every film but I’m good filling in the missing need for you in terms of that because I forever feel like I am 15 years old with the maturity and business savvy I need but not much else of a grownup person. No problem! My grasp of the Stan Winston School so far is working with your best personality assets makes you successful in the end. You see the instructors on here working with the kinds of projects they enjoy versus taking on everything in every genre. The attitude is welcoming because when I was younger, I heard plenty about how as a journalist or an agency model, you’re supposed to do everything including things that make you uncomfortable, or you are ungrateful and my fav word “difficult.” Stuff like being uncomfortable with an inappropriate outfit you don’t have to wear because you’re sent to model hair care that doesn’t show the outfit, or people trying to bully you into doing shallow “pink journalism” for very low pay because every other twentysomething female is supposed to aspire to that. I enjoy seeing people in control of their surroundings with a collaboration mindset within the FX world.

See you soon, diary readers!