Zee’s LEGO Journey, Part 1

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The porn sounds were what pushed me over the edge.  In that moment, I decided I was done making narrative films.  “After this, only documentary-style,” I said to myself. 

The last straw: Porn Noises

If I hadn’t been a frustrated filmmaker, I would never have looked at construction toys or had this much fun creating sets and costumes with shiny little pieces of plastic. 

Every filmmaker runs into problems.  I certainly had.  From filming a pregnant actress who’d had contractions the night before the shoot, and accidentally cutting my foot and trying not to bleed all over my set, to fuming at balloons filled with fake blood that refused to break and dealing with actors who hadn’t learned their lines.

This time the actors were having fun, but as the director and cinematographer, I had so much on my mind that I thought they were behaving like children.  My sound guy . . . Let me not even get into that.  

With 5 actors, 1 sound recorder, 2 assistants, and equipment in place, I opened my mouth to say, “Action!”  That’s when we heard the porn sounds. 

You read that right. “Ah. Ah! AH!” Thump. Thump. Thump. “Ahhh!”

Where was that coming from?

In the foyer to the Dallas MakerSpace, where we were filming, there was a large flat screen monitor where I had seen only slideshows of photos of impressive items the DMS members had created. However, now it was showing a message from YouTube to parents, something along the lines of  “If you use parental controls, your kids won’t see things like this.”  “This” was fully-clothed people making porn noises for fun.  Do a search on YouTube and enjoy, if that interests you.

Anyone could use Chromecast to control the monitor in the foyer, so I ran around the building, trying to figure out who had interrupted my shoot with this prank.

I never learned the identity of the guilty party.  I say “guilty party” but you know I mean something rude, crude, and uncharitable, right?

Something inside me snapped then and there, and I decided I was never going to make a short film with actors again.

At least I got to use those rubber feet I’d obsessed over in a toy store!

Here it is, the last narrative (fiction) short film I made with humans: “The Pitch”

When I finished editing “The Pitch” (which you can watch above in its 5.5 minutes of glory), I briefly changed my mind about making another: an action film with stage combat.  I even ordered a crucial prop: a squirrel hand puppet.  Unfortunately, I had lost my drive to find actors, a location, crew, all the other props, and costumes, and to work around everyone’s schedule to find a good time for filming.  The squirrel hand puppet is still in my closet, hoping for his moment on any kind of screen.

The book that changed everything

Sometime later, I followed my sister into a craft store, and while she was shopping, I strolled over to the book section.  My eye was drawn to a book with a bold invitation: MAKE YOUR MOVIE!  

“Are you kidding me?!” I thought.  Then I had a closer look.

It was a Klutz book!  Klutz Press had changed my outlook on life when I was a teenager, so I started paying attention.  The book promised to show me how to make films with little plastic LEGO people using stop motion animation.  

Klutz publishes how-to books that are always packaged with exactly what you need to follow along with its instructions.  In this case, the book came with several plastic people, props ranging from handcuffs to a pizza, various changes of clothing, and paper backgrounds for sets. 

SOLD! I’ve even written a review for your reading pleasure.

The book had everything you would need to make a stop motion animation video, but not one that looked the way I wanted.  I would need more LEGO.  I went in search of the LEGO sets in the toy section of the nearest Walmart.  When I saw a caravan set, my mind went straight to a script I had been wanting to make for years.  

My first attempt at making a Brickfilm

The script called for a café. Filming in real café would mean getting the owner to let me film, probably at night when it was closed, or somehow filming without disturbing patrons, and probably for an amount of money I couldn’t pay.  

I could adapt the script and turn the café into a food truck, though.  I also felt confident that I could successfully turn the LEGO caravan set into a food truck.  After all, it was suitable for ages 6 and up!

Within a few weeks, I had read the book, built the food truck, and filmed the movie.  

It was a big, fat, disaster.  I didn’t take enough photos, so my movie ended in, literally, 15 seconds. Half the photos were blurry, too.

I didn’t have a buddy, wasn’t sure how to search for help online, and had lost my motivation.  I put the book and the LEGO set on a shelf and forgot about them.  

Don’t let this happen to you. 

Discover the wonderful black hole that is the LEGO world and start your own journey in plastic.  I know you’re wondering how to make a LEGO stop motion animation. Don’t worry.  I’ve got you covered!

The video below was my second attempt at making a brickfilm. You’ll see the converted caravan. You’ll also notice that there isn’t a lot of movement.

Hopefully, you won’t notice the hair that made it into one of the photos. Yikes!

I had a lot to learn!

The same person wrote the scripts for both “The Pitch,” (my last narrative short film with human actors), and “Chronology,” the brickfilm above: Robert J. Lee.

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