We currently celebrate 20 years of monochroms with an exhibition at MUSA in Vienna. As part of the show we also present an anecdote about Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, dating back to 2001. We chose the format of two jumping jacks connected to an audio player. The piece tells the story of an Austrian police officer who tried to question Commissar Chrusov (played by Johannes Grenzfurthner) — and fails.
Oh yes, Johannes Grenzfurthner will talk about Sierra Zulu and the Kickstarter campaign at Think out Loud! 2 / Crowdfunding in Linz.
Crowdfunding in Österreich – Paneldiskussion: Erfolgreiche CrowdfunderInnen und BertreiberInnen von Crowdfunding-Plattformen sprechen über die Möglichkeiten und Erfahrungen in/aus Österreich mit Hilfe der Community ein Projekt zu finanzieren. Moderator: Christian Henner-Fehr (Kulturmanager, Co-Founder der stART-Konferenz)Panel-TeilnehmerInnen:
Johannes Grenzfurthner (Sierra Zulu), Lena Robinson (Three Coins), Robi Faustmann, Lisa Keiner (Keiner mag Faustmann), Reinhard Willfort (1000×1000)
November 15, 2012; 4:15 PM at Klub Kantine/Tabakfabrik Linz, Linz Austria.
Why is the digital revolution such an important theme in your film? (But please, no spoilers!)
Movies are exciting. People go to the cinema in order to experience new worlds. But cinema is about to lose its prime source of narrative, having been tethered thus far to physical action that can be easily filmed. Cinema needs tempo, it needs speed. The “movement-image” (oh Gilles Deleuze!) depends on tangible, concrete physical action onto which the cameras can point. Yet in contrast, the real world of non-cinema is losing physical action day by day. It is a time of the abstract, optically intangible processes of networks and data systems. This regress of visual displayability is rather daft. Cinema has thrived on the visable for more than a hundred years. It’s easy to create a feature film about a bank robbery, but that’s anachronistic. Some of the most important crimes are invisible, such as electronic money movements between international stock exchanges. Hollywood cinema on the other hand still hasn’t evolved beyond anything better than banal sequences straight out of an Errol Flynn movie. How can we portray the stories and fairy tales of our (new) world? All those dramas and comedies? All those stories and atrocities? Well, we want to try it. We want to distill our view into a 90 minute narration of a dark, humorous story about the problems of the 21st century.
So it’s a funny film about serious topics?
Indeed. It’s something for everyone. Friends of a good old LOL as well as people who like to delve into the many layers of cultural criticism and nerdish references. We aim to use stylistic elements of the black comedy and the farce to deal with the fundamental questions of the digital frontier while also tackling problems of national supremacy, international conflict solving strategies, national and international legislation, the power of the media, and the diplomatic impotency of international organizations. Sierra Zulu wants to explore the perspectives of people who live on the fringes of what we would call “history” or “the world”. This fringe area – surrounded by the European Union – is where we find the microstate Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, the almost forgotten ‘last autonomous republic of the Soviet Union’ which has fallen victim to its geo-political, historical, cultural, and economical irrelevance. This village of 1,500 people is the last paragon of ideals which have been eradicated from the face of the earth with Soviet-Communism. Sierra Zulu is about implanting false memories into the political and cultural record of our modern world, simulating the effects of this partial and local rewriting of history through the initiation of an entire network of events caused by this transposition. Or to put it differently: how would our current reality react to a Soviet Unterzoegersdorf? And what does a “Soviet Hicksville” have to contribute to the betterment of humankind? In a time of global discussions about topics like internet censorship, leaked cables and robot killer drones, the world needs to hear the answers offered by a couple of Soviets in the middle of nowhere. Really, we mean it.
Prop Masters control all aspects of property departments. They oversee, and are responsible for, the procurement or production, inventory, care and maintenance of all props associated with productions, ensuring that they are available on time, and within budgetary requirements. They also ensure that selected props suit the film’s style and overall design, and that they accurately reflect the production’s time period and culture. Property Masters oversee the staff, and the smooth running, of the property department, working to high standards of accuracy and detail. As much of the work involved is administrative, the role is often office based. Property Masters are responsible to production designers, and work as part of the art department.
We will have a ton of props at Sierra Zulu.
And we are glad that Hans Wagner will wrangle with that stuff.
Hans is prop designer, set decorator and art department extraordinaire and can already look back on a long and successful career. He has worked on such diverse film productions as Caché (Michael Haneke), Immer nie am Meer (Antonin Svoboda), Schlafes Bruder (Joseph Vilsmaier) and Der Überfall (Florian Flicker).
The “Digital Versatile Disk” is an optical disc storage format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, and other class enemies in 1995. Soviet Unterzoegersdorf tried to establish its own standard, but failed, because they didn’t embrace the porn market.
Nevertheless: Donate over $129 and you will receive a limited edition DVD (signed by celebs) plus a Sierra Zulu movie poster (signed by even more celebs), plus a special Soviet gift (signed by an unknown soldier). (Disclaimer: DVD is a dying medium. It might end up being a Blu-Ray.)
Link to Kickstarter page!
Our idea is to have a musical score that uses a Casio MT-100 keyboard as the primary instrument, but over time expands to also use a classic brass band.
Backstory: Yaphet Okuna — the Nigerian UN soldier in the camp — is playing a Casio MT-100 in his spare time. It helps him to forget his troublesome past and functions as an outlet for his emotions.
The first act of the movie is only using Okuna’s cover versions of pop songs as the soundtrack. We consider how Okuna would perform songs, given the actual limitations of the keyboard, and what kind of arrangement will serve the tone of the scene where the song is used. We like the verité aspect of this truly diegetic introduction. Here is an example, a draft version of Okuna’s (aka Damien DiFede’s) take on “Crazy”: Crazy Draft MP3.
The second act uses the keyboard as the main instrument for the actual original score.
The third act introduces the Soviet brass band, joining the keyboard and making the soundtrack richer and more forceful for the big showdown.
Mark Mothersbaugh wants to compose the original score. Damien DiFede is arranging the pop songs for Okuna’s play.
Our director Johannes Grenzfurthner will give a talk at HOPE Conference in NYC in July 2012: How To Create A Feature Film About The Digital Age — And Why That’s Pretty Hard
Movies are exciting. Things crash and burn. Bolts and fists fly. There are bangs and kabooms. People go to the cinemas in order to experience new worlds. But cinema is about to lose its prime source of narrative, having so far tethered to physical action that can be filmed. Cinema needs tempo, needs speed. The “movement-image” (Gilles Deleuze) depends on physical action onto which the cameras can point. Yet in contrast, the real world of non-cinema is losing physical action day by day. It is a time of abstract, optically unpresentable processes in networks and data systems. This regress of visual displayability is rather daft. Cinema has lived well on it for more than a hundred years. It’s easy to create a feature film about a bank robbery, but that’s anachronistic. Some of the most important crimes exist as electronic money movements between international stock exchanges. Hollywood cinema on the other hand still hasn’t evolved beyond anything better than banal sequences straight out of an Errol Flynn movie. How can we accurately portray the stories of our (new) world? All those dramas and comedies? All those crimes and stories?
That’s why we at monochom are working on a feature film called SIERRA ZULU. Let me tell you about our challenges and hopes – and why we think you might be able to help us.
July 13, 2012; 9 PM (Room: Dennis, 18th floor of Hotel Pennsylvania, NYC).
Link / HOPE
Sierra Zulu proudly presents a new member of the workforce: Ryan Finnigan!
(Above: Ryan Finnigan and Roland Gratzer seal the deal by pressing a button; March 2012)
Ryan is a metal artist, roboticist, musician, inventor, and “hardware hacker” (someone who modifies there own existing electronics to make it do new things) based in Durango, Colorado. He is self-taught in do-it-yourself electronics and arduino development, and has been an active participant in the electronic arts. He is a DIY enthusiast to the fullest extent and is deeply passionate about sharing his knowledge with others.
There is no better bolshevik to help us with a special technical gadget that will be of importance in the plotline of Sierra Zulu! Nastrovje!
Our creature effects maestro Steve Tolin sent pages and pages of impressive new designs. He will soon start with the creation of 3D models. And we are not talking about computer graphics here… we are talking about real models!
All is — of course — top secret, továrišči! We just want to tease you with meaningless (yet fancy!) details.
Want to learn more about Steve Tolin? Check out our post from September 2011.
Another day at the United Nations Offices in Vienna. The Austrian Foreign Affairs Ministry invited members of the European Protocol Service, the UN Strategic Command Center for Central Europe, the United States Air Forces and a regional politician from Lower Austria to talk about the future of Soviet Unter-WHAT?!
Want to learn to know our film team?
Well… have a look! Here is the entire list of our heroes of work!
How did we do it?
Here are all blog posts about the production of Earthmoving!
On its most fundamental level, film editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling shots into a coherent whole. It is usually performed in dark, smelly places.
Director Johannes Grenzfurthner and editor Tom De Roeck can tell you how dark and how smelly.
(Above: Tom De Cutter)
We are currently preparing for a major shoot in January 2012.
No, it’s not a shoot for Sierra Zulu. And yet, it is. We want to create a short film prequel of Sierra Zulu, to spread the word, tell the prestory, and to have material for possible partners.
The film will be called “Earthmoving.”
Another day at the United Nations offices in Vienna. The Austrian Foreign Affairs Ministry invited members of the European Protocol Service, the UN Strategic Command Center for Central Europe, the United States Air Forces and a regional politician from Lower Austria to talk about the future of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The tiny microstate, an enclave created after WWII, is surrounded by Lower Austrian farmland.
It escaped the ravages of time and is the last proud member of the grand Soviet Union. The border between Soviet Unterzoegersdorf and Europe is disputed, or — let’s phrase it more correctly — so unimportant, that no diplomats are willing to deal with it. But a citizens’ initiative started by land-owning farmers in the border region demands formal status for the Soviets. No official recognition is bad for business, especially lucrative subsidies…
We have a great cast (Jeff Ricketts, Lynsey Thurgar, Alexander Fennon, Adrienne Ferguson and Martin Auer) and a wonderful production team…
…and today we started to take still images of heavy equipment for composting work!
It was great that Johnny Dibon (who is working for Zeppelin-Cat Austria) made it possible to do the photo shooting — from the roof of their building.
(More images on Sierra Zulu’s Flickr page)
Part of Sierra Zulu’s storyline is an animated sequence. Johannes Grenzfurthner has been talking to a number of animation studios, but he’s proud being able to announce a collaboration with the glorious comrades at ShotShotShot.
ShotShotShot is a motion design boutique that opened its doors in Graz in 2006. Their concepts and work are based on experiences and influences from rock music, architecture, computer graphics and film.
In the beginning they did a lot of music videos, exploring visual ideas and narrative concepts. Soon they attracted commercial clients. Today the team gives the same effort for local bands and brands as they do for big names such as T-Mobile, Austrian Airlines, A-TV, Microsoft, PKP-BBDO, Young&Rubicam and Jung von Matt.
ShotShotShot is a full service agency that offers clients any thinkable format of digitally produced moving images, from concept to delivery, without letting go of their “do it yourself but without compromise” attitude. Soviet Unterzoegersdorf is thankful.
(Above: Daniel Bauer and Richard Techt, ShotShotShot)
The International Festival of Independent Games currently takes place in Culver City/Los Angeles. We are paying a visit, because Sierra Zulu will be the first feature-length film that is (at least partially) based on an indie computer game series.
monochrom launched Soviet Unterzoegersdorf: The Adventure Game in 2005 — and a sequel followed in 2009.
We wanted to combine (retro)gaming and (crypto)humor to delve into political discourse. We wanted to harvest the wonderful aesthetic and historic qualities of adventure gaming. It is a commemoration and resurrection, and one more reminder that contemporary gaming (in its radical business-driven state-of-the-artness) should not dare to forget the (un)dead media of the past — or they will haunt them.
Adventure games are nearly extinct, but for many people in the Soviet Unterzoegersdorf team, adventure games are part of their media socialization. For the computer industry it is one of the most successful gaming formats of the past. And for the feminist movement it is proof that a woman — we are talking about Sierra On-Line’s Roberta Williams — was able to shape the form of a whole industry totally dominated by men.
Computer games are embedded in the cultural framework of technological developments. In the study of technological development and creativity, focusing attention on the failure, the error, the breakdown, the malfunction means opening the black box of technology. Studies have convincingly demonstrated that the widespread inability to understand technological artifacts as fabricated entities, as social and cultural phenomena, derives from the fact that in retrospect only those technologies that prove functional for a culture and can be integrated into everyday life are “left over.” However, the perception of what is functional, successful and useful is itself the product of social and cultural — and last but not least — political and economic processes.
To quote Langdon Winner:
Is it not the point of all invention, technique, apparatus, and organization to have something and have it over with? (…) Technology, then allows us to ignore our own works. It is license to forget.
Sierra Zulu wants to continue this thread — in a different media format.
Today I visited SFX luminary Steve Tolin in his studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Steve is our creature effects specialist, an overall great chap, and I think he just offers what we need for Sierra Zulu.
(Above: Steve, working on a small action figure in his basement creature shop.)
What’s Steve’s background?
Steve is the award winning owner and operator of Tolin FX, an American special effects design and fabrication studio. Tolin FX focuses on the design and fabrication of Special Effects Make-up, Special FX Props, Radio Controlled, Cable Driven, and Hand Operated Puppets, and Computer Visual Effects. From conceptualization to execution, Steve and Tolin FX provide cost effective, creative solutions to complex and specialized problems. And that’s exactly what we need in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf: cost-effectiveness.
Steve has also made his film production debut as a member of Clear Conscience Pictures, creating a feature length science fiction adventure entitled, It Came from Yesterday.
To learn more about Steve Tolin and Tolin FX and to see some of their work, please visit http://www.tolinfx.com. To find out more about It Came from Yesterday and Clear Conscience Pictures, please see http://http://www.itcamefromyesterday.com/.
Creature effects? WTF?
Yes. But we are not telling you anything more. Period.