Chuck Steel Review

What were some of the things you did not to make it look too slick, too smoothed out, leaving the artists’ fingerprints on the work?

We didn’t overplan the shots. We had storyboards and knew what we wanted to do timing wise, but we would put a lot of the responsibility on the animators and let them go for it. A lot of these films, they do a lot of tests to get the timing perfect, and I thought, “I don’t want it to get to that level where you film the actors doing stuff and then basically just rotoscope it or copy it.” We did a little bit of that but not a huge amount. I allowed the animators to put a little bit of spontaneity in it. It makes it look more handmade.

That’s a risky thing to do.

It is but it’s also a necessity because of the timing, and we were trying to do so many shots in this film that if we were going to be blocking them all out, we’d still be shooting it now.

Another film that came to mind in one of the climactic showdowns near the end was Killer Klowns from Outer Space, which I just saw again recently. You have these Trampires dressed as clowns, and each one has a totally different design. How long did it take to design 25-30 different clowns.

The drawing process is actually quite quick because I just sit down and draw; I like coming up with characters. I love that film; that’s a classic of the ’80s, and everyone is currently scared of clowns, aren’t they? We were determined all of the background characters have different faces, because one of the short cuts in stop motion is that people use the same head on all of the background characters and then change the wig or swap out facial features. But we sculpted every single one differently. One of the things we were worried about was continuity because we had so many single characters, it was like “If we have one in this shot, then we can’t use them in another shot.” And I said, “Don’t worry about continuity in background characters. There are going to be so many faces, and we’re going to mix them around all the time; no on is going to spot who should be where. It’s chaos.”

The amount of gore in this is really impressive. Is there a trick to shooting that? And how did you achieve that great melting effect when the Trampires die?

Sometimes if someone was hit with a bullet, we would destroy the puppet. The animator was told to rip the head and heart out—put hot glue in there and create a wound, paint it up, and throw the head back, and we’d add a little blood spray in post. For the melty stuff, we would construct the character as a melted skeleton that we could animate then we would cast the skin version on top of it with a bit of meltable wax, then we’d paint that with acrylic paint, which when you heat up the wax, the paint looks like skin, it sags. But you’d have to heat it with a hair dryer and take it away before it melted too much, take the frame, then put the hair dryer back in.

I can’t believe you have any control over the process doing it that way. That seems uncontrollable.

 [laugh] It is a little bit. Some of those shots ended up being very quick because you can’t make them last very long. But it works on screen. We added things like smoke and blood spray afterwards.

I couldn’t believe how many of the voices you did. I recognized Jennifer Saunders as one of the characters, but I didn’t know until the end credit that you voiced most of the other lead characters.

The main three characters, yeah, we stuck to the same plan as the short film. Because of the budget level we were at, we wanted the money on the screen. We were eager to not blow the money on voices. It’s been a conversation we’ve had all the way along, if whether that was the wrong or right decision. We’re still having that conversation now. Potentially, the voices might change; it just depends on how things play out. It’s all about distribution.

Where did you pull your American voices from?

I just tried it on the short film, and it was fun. I lock myself away; nobody is allowed to see it. [He points to producer Randhir Singh Heer] He’s seen it. It was just a bit of fun to start with, but we’ll see if that stays or not.

I hope at least one of the voices does. I never guessed you were doing all of the voices.

One of the reasons was, when I had the short film and had no back end, I thought “I have to find a way to do this with nothing.” And I watch things like Seth MacFarlane doing voices on Family Guy, and I thought “What the hell, I’ll give it a try. People do this.” And it was alright in the end, once you get past the embarrassment factor.

The action portions of this and the references you’re pulling seem uniquely American. What would you say is the most American thing about this film? You can say bad things if you want.

 [laughs] No, there aren’t any bad things. I grew up with American movies; I’m obsessed with them. I couldn’t watch British film because they were too depressing; they were always about council estate and people being out of work. Whereas American movies always had a fantastical edge or a good-and-evil vibe, always over the top. As a kid, a lot of it was stuff I was drawn to. There’s nothing bad in it; it’s a love letter to all of that.

We talked about horror film influences. What were some of the action films you loved the most?

Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, Sudden Death, which I know is a ‘’90s film, but I really like it, Under Siege, anything with Gary Busey in it. Eye of the Tiger, do you remember that one?

Vaguely.

The people who owned the rights to the song, because it was such a popular song, they thought, “We’re going to make a movie about this,” and it’s an action movie starring Gary Busey. Those films, I used to always find it hilarious that the off-the-rails cop was being shouted at by the boss, but he never got fired no matter what he did. I tried to push that to ludicrous extremes.

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