Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts Production Journal #3

This was another busy week in the production of Captured Ghosts, with two shoot days and a bunch of editing.Over the course of the week, I cut the film down a bit more, removing some redundancies, and trying to get the movie down to the essence of what it needs to be. We also interviewed adult film actress Stoya, professor Steven Shaviro and comedian Morgan Murphy.

But I’m going to talk a bit about the shooting we did on Sunday, where Jordan and I enlisted some actress friends to shoot visual elements for the film. If you’ve seen the Grant Morrison movie, you’re aware that we shot a lot of abstract footage for the movie, ranging from just colored lights in a void, to Superman sitting on a rock, reflecting on things.

On the Grant film, I always said I wanted him to shoot the idea of whatever we were depicting, not the reality of it, and that led to a movie where almost everything we shot was either blurred or out of focus and covered in layers of psychedelic color. On the Ellis film, I want to try a different visual approach, and go for more of a grainy black-and-white 16mm feel, in a gritty urban world.

The goal with all of these docs is to not only convey the person’s words, it’s to convey the essence of their self and their work. Ellis is much less day-glo than Grant, his works often take place in ugly, harsh worlds, and it feels appropriate to juxtapose a visual style that’s generally associated with realism with a variety of images taken from his sci-fi works.

Another thing we’re doing different from the Grant film is using a series of spoken word interludes in which Ellis reads from either his comics or prose work. We’re using these moments as chances to do some ambient visuals that illustrate the work in different ways. One of these excerpts is from the Transmetropolitan issue, “Another Cold Morning,” about a woman revived from cryo-freeze in a harsh, future world.

So we turned to Rebekah Nelson, an actress who’s actually a big Ellis fan, and brought her on to portray the character and had her wander the streets of Bushwick. The idea is to take these shots, then mix them with images from the comic and play them over Ellis’s reading from the issue. We found some great spots that evoke Transmet nicely and shot her in them.

I was very wary of shooting direct reenactments of characters or situations in the Grant film, but I feel like this one will work, and represent the story. Warren always said that Transmet represented the world we were living in, so I think it’s okay to use the real world to illustrate it.

The other sequence we shot accompanies one of Warren’s monologues in the film, in which he discusses the origins of the comic Hotwire. “Girls,” “Motorcycles” and “Leather” were three of the big inspirations, so I decided to shoot a stylized mock Grindhouse trailer for the comic, and that meant enlisting several actresses to pose in stylized ways and occasionally inflict violence.

It was a lot of fun, and will hopefully work in the film. The goal with all these sequences is to keep it as close to Ellis as possible. I feel like the closer we are to Warren, the more secure I can be in making artistic choices, since, even if people don’t like it, they can’t really fault it. And if it works, it’s magic.

For more information on Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, click here or here. You can also make pledges towards the film’s production and earn cool rewards here.

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