Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Guild "Game On" Video

It’s not every day you get to work on an independent music video that goes #1 world wide, and I’ve had the good fortune of doing it twice thanks to Felicia Day and the awesome Guild team.

I was introduced to the concept of this “Guild goes Bollywood” video via a series of conversations with Guild producer Kim Evey. She was very excited about the concept Sandeep Parikh had come up with, and made plans to co-direct it with Sean Becker, who just wrapped directing The Guild season 4. But they really wanted to push the boundaries of low budget production, and capture as much of the Bollywood style as possible. Kim asked me to design the video, and well, this is what happened…

Photo #1: We tried to make the sets look as lavish as possible, but as usual, the process started by looking around the BarnYard to see what was readily available. This always helps speed things up and keeps costs down. Luckily, I have a lot of handy things on my lot. You know, like elephants and stuff. I never really think about how ridiculous my world is until I actually write sentences like that!

A great way to cheaply expand the scope of sets and still keep them rich looking is fabric. My art director, Alina Khanjian, collected bolts and bolts of bargain fabrics and discount cut-offs from the fashion district. We had a loose color palette, and made final decisions based on the majority yardage in the colors she found.

Photo #2: We had a few weeks to put everything together, and Kim and Sean dropped by often to discuss concepts and get a sense of where everything was going visually. We usually talked while I was building, painting, or sculpting. This particular time, Sean jumped in on the fun and created a new character.

Photo #3: Tombie the tombstone! What shows that Sean is a true director is the fact that during the course of the 10 minutes he spent sculpting this piece, he created an entire back-story and vividly describe scenes with the character. Next time you see him, ask about the Tombie movie!!!

Photo #4, 5, and 6: Felicia and Sandeep wrote the song, and although it has a Bollywood rhythm to it, the lyrics are about gaming. Felicia asked me to incorporate video game themes into the Bollywood visuals, too. So we decided to bring in some 8-bit elements, such as these statues of Ganesha, Shiva, and the monkey god, who looks very much like Donkey Kong!!!

Photo #7: The 8-bit gods were used in the temple, each surrounded by the wheel of life. I originally intended for the wheels to be animated, but the art department was already way over tasked, and I was afraid it would slow production down during shooting, so I drop the idea. The wheels were hung up in the shop to keep them safe, guarded by the Lyke-Lyke from Legend of Neil!

Photo #8: One of the elements I really wanted to do was turn Amy Okuda into a golden goddess. I needed to do some make-up tests, but Amy was busy, so Marissa Cuevas stepped in as my model.

Photo #9: Here’s Amy fully golden! The entire make-up process took about 45 minutes. I used Kryolan bronze body paint, and highlighted it with gold Ben Nye Lumiere Luxe powder. I also used Ben Nye metallic crèmes to add a little color to her eyes, cheeks and lips.

I capped it off, literally, with the 8-bit headdress I made, and Alina created an impromptu costume out of gold lame. Then Amy was off to tear up the dance floor. Or, uh, temple…

Photo #10: And if you are wondering what Marissa looks like when she’s not painted gold, you may have spotted her amongst the dancers in Game On. You definitely would have noticed her in the royal tent, where she presents Bladezz and Clara with the guilded X-Box.

Photo #11: What you might not have guessed is that Marissa also bejeweled all of that herself! I like to call her the official bedazzeller of the Guild. Here we have the serving tray that she uses to present the game console. It’s actually made out of a clear punch bowl and a cheap plastic party tray, cabinet handle attached, sprayed silver, and bedazzled. We did this because we couldn’t find a real set that could house an X-box.

Photo #12: And this is the royal X-Box. And yes, it’s actually a fully functional console! We masked it off, sprayed it gold, and then Marissa went to town with the jewels. I made the controllers from plastic genie lamps from an Aladdin costume. I sculpted the buttons and put a ball and socket joint on the top to create a joystick. Sean and I decided to have them corded, even though X-Box 360s are wireless. The genie lamp turned controller just seemed to read better with a cable coming out of it!

Photo #13: To complete that set, I made a pair of royal thrones. Believe it or not, these where actually dinning room chairs found on the side of the road a block from my studio. We used plywood to make the bases solid, Sintra plastic to create the 8-bit details, and reupholstered the existing cushions with red fabric. Of course, Marissa added the jewels, and we had dumpster royalty!

Photo #14: We assembled the sets the day before shooting, and built and painted all of the fine details on location. Once we had all the walls of the temple standing, I realized it needed more purple! You can never have enough purple! So Kat and Gabby spent the rest of the day painting purple squares into the pattern of the columns.

Photo 15: The temple was actually a 3-walled set, no ceiling, and built outdoors. We could only have one location for the shoot, and the need for exteriors was as strong as for interiors. I came up with the solution of finding an exterior that was large enough for me to build a few interiors on! Luckily we had a friend with a yard big enough. If you look closely, you will notice that the “altar” the 8-bit gods are being placed on is actually a brick BBQ! And if you look on the left, you will see the fence that surrounds the pool…

Photo #16: …Where the royal tent was built. Alina really helmed this project. It is constructed from 2 10x10 pop-ups, draped in many yards of fabric and detailed with all these cool fringes she found. We covered the floor with pillows, and littered it with jewels and goblets.

Photo #17: When I saw the pool during the first location scout, I instantly imaged the tent and a wide camera angle revealing 8-bit lotus floating in the water. Kim rearranged the schedule so we could shoot that scene at night and maximize the cool blue illuminated water contrasting against the warm reds of the tent. The lotus flowers floated perfectly all day, until we where ready to shoot! Then they started bunching up, or floating to the wrong end of the pool!

Photo #18: Sometimes you lose track of time when you are crazy busy on the set. But luckily, I had the pups to remind me that I was gone 20 hours on the prep day. Nothing says, “Where were you!?!?!” like a demolished pet bed!

Photo #19: I wasn’t kidding when I said I had an elephant in my yard! Not a real one of course. That would be weird. But a full size one, for sure! This is a relic from a movie long ago, and I have been saving it for years, assuring everyone that “some day I’m going to need it!” Well, that day came when Kim called about Game On. She said, “It’s going to be a Bollywood video, so we need things that you would find in India.” And my first thought was, “I have an elephant!”

He is made of latex with a fiberglass skeleton, and he breaks in half for transport. Or to create bizarre modern lawn art.

Photo #20: Once we got the elephant to the location, he needed to be put back together. Bryan Fulk climbed inside, and bolted the two halves together as a large group of us propped them up. The key phrase to remember is “as a large group of us propped them up”. When we wrapped, Bryan decided to climb back into the elephant and unbolt him. Without the large group propping up the two halves. Needless to say, the elephant split in half as he released the last bolt, crashing to the ground and taking Bryan for a ride he will not soon forget. Not far away from this incident, @geekyfanboy was interviewing Kim Evey for the Knights of the Guild podcast(Microcast #19: Quest for Bollywood). If you listen closely at 00:58:02, you can hear the elephant impact and a moment later, Bryan yelling, “I’m alright!” Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt, and the moment caught on audiotape makes me laugh every time I hear it! Again and again...I'm gonna go listen to it right now!

Photo 21: Speaking of things splitting apart, the first thing Kim and Sean locked down creatively was the video’s opening, where Zaboo would attempt to convince Codex to continue gaming through song. The scene would start in Codex’s room, as most Guild episodes do, but on Zaboo’s command, the walls would fly away to reveal the magic of Bollywood.

Photo #22: I designed the walls to break apart into sections that a single person could carry, so it would be easy to choreograph the break away. The back walls had wheels so they could roll smoothly off to the side. Nick Carmichael helmed the construction, and it all went quite easily.

Photo #23: The difficult part in recreating Codex’s room is that the real set isn’t a set at all, but producer Kim’s bedroom! And practically everything you see in the room during the show is really Kim’s. Paintings her friends did for her, furniture from her family. Her curtains, her pillows. Books. CDs. Treasured heirlooms. It’s hard enough to let a film crew invade your space, but to let them take your belongings out to a field!?! Kim is 100% dedicated to the Guild, so she trusted me to take everything we needed. I tried to pare it down as much as possible while still giving the illusion that everything was still there. In the end, we only broke one lamp! I’m sorry, Kim! I’m working on fixing it, I swear!

Photo 24: Michelle Dunn, the costumer, made Vork’s 6-armed suit, but I had to show it in my blog. It was truly the funniest thing I saw on set, and as usual, Jeff Lewis was hamming it up!

Photo #25: Although he wasn’t the only one!

Photo #26: Our friends that own the property where we shot have a pair of pigs, and they followed us around all day. I tried to get a shot of Game On music producer Jason Miller with an apple in his mouth lying next to the pig, but I guess it smelled a treat and jumped up. Jason jumped up even faster! When 300 lbs of pig moves that fast, cute is no longer a factor.

Photo 27: After the break away walls, we shot inside the completed temple. Once each set was ready, and shooting was underway, the art department would move on to the next set so it could be fully dressed when the production was ready to move.

Photo 28: As the rest of the crew worked on the elaborate dance sequences in the temple, we finished prepping the elephant. Marissa made a saddle and headdress out of an old comforter set, and Bryan constructed and installed new tusks.

Photo 29: The night before we shot the elephant scene, Sean came up with the idea of Zaboo giving Codex a blue 8-bit rose. I was able to put one together on set right before we shot. Luckily it wasn’t a dozen!

Photo #30: To help bring life to the elephant, Nick climbed inside and puppeteered it’s head with his feet. It wouldn’t have been that hard of a job, except that it was nearly 100 degrees outside, and probably 10 degrees hotter inside the elephant!

Photo #31: To keep Nick from passing out, Mazin Dajani passes wind through the elephant’s, uh, access hole…

Photo #32: Marissa assisted the elephant even more by flicking its ear with some fishing line.

Photo #33: The whole time we shot this sequence, Felicia kept saying, “You guys, I can’t believe I’m sitting on an elephant right now!!!”

Photo #34: I can’t believe we were able to do that much work in so little time. But it was so much fun, and it’s always amazing to work with the Guild. Thank you so much to my awesome art department crew. You guys worked so incredibly hard. Take a break! You deserve it!


  1. I didn't notice, until I read this blog post and re-watched the video, how you made it look like the elephant is walking.

  2. Great write-up, Greg. While this lacked the sheer horror-film-level thrill of the Dread Dremel (nothing beats a dremel for sheer shock value and destructive potential), at least for once I completely understood everything you wrote! The sets and colors for the video really pop and were so creative,and it's amazing what you and your staff were able to build and improvise on a low budget. Congratulations on a great job, and thanks for this behind-the-scenes look. Really enjoyed reading this. Wish there were video of the debut and fan reaction at Comic-Con (Greg B. included a second or two from very beginning in his YouTube BTS Comic-Con video, just enough to hear some crowd reaction when the bedroom walls break away); the premiere in front of 1600 people must have been very gratifying!

  3. It is amazing to me how many people it takes to do such a short video. You and your crew are amazing! Nothing in the video looks like it was made for a "low budget production". Kudos to you all on a wonderful finished product!

    I've read through your blog, and you have done so much! It seems you have been majorly involved in a lot of the shows I've loved for years. Some of them have been part of the inspiration for me to try and get behind the scenes in shows and film myself. :) But my favorite part of your blog has to be how close you stay to the people you work with, like Marissa (who is great at bejeweling, btw) and Monica.

    Anyway, I love the video, and the blog. I look forward to hearing about the next awesome thing you do!

  4. This is fantastic! I love the Guild and so does the bf and I just love seeing how it all works behind the scenes and also that not everything has to cost an arm and a leg Hollywood style. Thankl you so much for sharing!

  5. You know, I didn't notice that the elephant wasn't real until Sandeep and Jeff mentioned it in their Dragon*Con panel. NOW I see it, but it was pretty convincing the first few times I'd seen the video. Fantastic work, I love this video.

  6. What a cool behind the scenes look, a lot of info different from what we've been hearing other places. Always neat to see what goes into the making-of things. Your art department is larger than what I thought it was but I love how cohesively everything comes together even on such a tight budget and schedule. Creativity rules in this field! --Lisa

  7. I bet is was so amazing working on the video. I'd love to help out in some way with an episode or music video for The Guild. I'd do it for free because I truly believe in the show and everyone that works on it.