Perhaps the main difference between artists you hear of, and the many more you don’t, is the former’s peculiar ability to see things through. To shepherd a great idea into a fully realized piece of art is difficult. Normally a project stales — a new, next, bright and shiny idea takes hold, and left is a trail of half-polished gems.
Consider seeing a project through over six years. Six years is a long time.
Movie making, in particular, is an act of creation requiring an uncommon focus and endurance. Movie making is a marathon. Over six years, movie making is an ultra-marathon in the wilderness.
Meet Anton Doiron, the Geoff Roes of the Juneau film making community. After six years of running alone in the wilderness, Doiron has given the world a feature-length science fiction film: “Space Trucker Bruce.”
“Space Trucker Bruce” is set in 2067. Regular folks by this time work on Earth, in space stations and in between. Bruce, as the title informs us, is a space trucker. He’s hauling 20,000 tons of hog fat from earth to a far off space station (hog fat, of course, is used to synthesize food).
Bruce is a happy guy, but he’s lonely out in space. He picks up a hitchhiker, Max, for company, but Max poorly copes with the sparse environs of Bruce’s ship. As Doiron puts it, Bruce is not the kind of guy who brings a book onto the ferry. Mysterious things happen to the two, adventure ensues and we, the audience, are entertained.
At least, it is Doiron’s hope we are entertained.
Doiron’s own filmmaking journey began in high school when he made shorts for his Spanish classes. These beginnings gave him a nascent understanding of filmmaking, but also introduced him to his future leading man, Karl Sears.
Doiron’s college and early professional years did not offer many filmmaking opportunities. However, these years did bolster his technical skills. Doiron earned an engineering degree and developed interests in computer programming and robotics.
Doiron’s artistic side is nurtured by a love of science fiction cinema. He is the first to tell you that most people do not recognize the first Star Trek motion picture, called “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” as a classic in the sci-fi genre — but he loves it. And Doiron loves it because there is no pure villain bent on revenge — instead, it’s a mystery.
Further, he enjoys the Star Trek movies because they’re a little more scientifically grounded than most science fiction. There are a set of rules and the world the movie inhabits sticks to them. Even the ships’ layouts in Star Trek make sense. This utilitarianism of the Star Trek movies appeals to Doiron.
But this biography doesn’t really quite capture the essence of Anton Doiron. To really know Anton Doiron is to know how he heats his home. In each room is a motion detector, electric heater and temperature sensor. All the sensors feed into a computer. If you walk into a room, the motion sensor detects your presence. The computer turns the electric heater on and then off when a preset temperature is met. This system, Doiron humbly allows, gives him to precise temperature control in his house and saves money. It demonstrates the kind of ingenuity Doiron has been applying to making “Space Trucker Bruce.”
Doiron started writing in 2007, took a year off, then filming began in 2008.
Staying true to movies he admires, there is not villainy so much as mystery in Space Trucker Bruce. And the design of his spaceships, like Bruce’s ship, The Nexus, make sense. Each part of the ships has a purpose.
Consider the full scale set of the Nexus’ hallway. Doiron built it first in his living room, but it didn’t fit. So that August he built a framework with one-by-twos behind his house. It was 35 feet long and held together with wood screws. Doiron painted the inside, and covered the masterpiece with plastic. But even sturdy construction can fail. Juneau winds rolled in and, while at work, a call came from his wife: your spaceship just blew down. Panicked, Doiron called his main actor and good friend, Sears, who came over with extra lumber. They rebuilt it the next day. Doiron admits it was an emotional time.
For the outer space shots, Doiron initially thought he’d film models of his spaceships. Fairly quickly, he realized building them with software, a computer program called Blender, was a better use of his time. Even then, it was the computerized shots — the special effects — that took most of those six years.
There are more than 400 composite shots in “Space Trucker Bruce” — a composite shot is where disparate elements are combined into one frame. For example, inside the spaceship, Doiron placed a green screen in a window and then removed the green screen and replaced it with an outer space shot during editing.
Doiron often used green screen techniques, but it didn’t always work. When that happened, Doiron had to manually edit. If an actor walked in front of a composite shot, he would have to trace around the actor and, as they moved, remove the green screen manually frame by frame. One shot can be thousands of frames. He could spend five days on five seconds of footage. He felt like he was going nuts (so, Doiron is human after all).
Yet, despite the frustration, this process of combining the live action shots with green screen and 3D animations is something that truly excites Doiron. He’s proud how the final shots took shape and became believable.
I asked Doiron about the theme of “Space Trucker Bruce.” Doiron answered: Bruce lives the theme; he lives in the moment. Most of Bruce’s life, Doiron figures, is spent on his ship. Bruce would probably go crazy if he thought about his eventual destination — the station. To survive, he lived every day for that day. Doiron calls it “The Zen Space Trucker Philosophy.”
Perhaps not coincidental are the similarities between the journey of Space Trucker Bruce and Anton Doiron. There was a great idea and a far away goal probably best not dwelt upon. And, for six years — from concept, to writing the script, to building sets, to primary filming, to rendering graphics, to the final edits — he lived every day for that day. Eventually, bit by bit, day by day, month by month, year by year — and two glue-gun scarred hands later — we can finally enjoy “Space Trucker Bruce” on screen.
And now you’ve heard of Anton Doiron.
“Space Trucker Bruce,” starring Karl Sears, Anton Doiron, Cachet Garrett and Amelia Jenkins, will premiere Friday and play over the weekend (7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on March 14, 2 p.m. on March 15, and 2 p.m. on March 16) at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. You can rent “Space Trucker Bruce” March 18 by going to www.spacetruckerbruce.com. The movie will also be available for purchase off amazon.com next month. Soon you will be able to rent the movie by clicking on previews of the film on the “Space Trucker Bruce” Facebook page.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.