Exploring life inside Juneau's outer space studio

My first concise question to Anton Doiron in his rented studio space was, “What’s that thing that Stanley Kubrick did with framing? You know, the thing where everything meets in a single point off, you know, off in the distance?” I waved my hands like I was gesturing for someone to wait.

 

Doiron brightened. “One-point perspective!”

That’s the beauty of hanging out with real filmmakers. You can learn something. Doiron knew exactly what I was talking about. Kubrik used this technique in almost all his films. Think about “The Shining” and the big-wheel scenes in the Overlook Hotel’s long hallways. In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the spaceships walkways seem to stretch into infinity. All lines and planes of a shot converge on some point far away in the center of the screen. The technique confines a scene, gives it tension and claustrophobia. It creates a single point of focus.

It also sounds suspiciously like a metaphor.

I thought of Kubrik when I looked down the hall of Doiron’s built set. The set is of a spaceship’s center walkway. It’s so large it consumes the studio space. Yet it’s not large enough. “It’s only three modules. I wanted four,” says Doiron.

That’s the thing about Doiron; he doesn’t lack for big picture thinking. Doiron made Juneau’s first feature length science fiction film “Space Trucker Bruce.” The hallway set is part of his next full-length film, “Hidden Spaceship.”

Or, “A Girl, A Yeti, and a Spaceship.” The title kind of depends on the week you ask.

We talked about how he came to the story of “Hidden Spaceship.” Doiron is nonplussed about the flexibility in names. “I change the script all the time. Anything not filmed can be changed.” Currently, the story follows Alec and Sarah. They do not like their jobs. By escaping their mundane occupations they find themselves in space, saving an alien’s life. They get there in different ways. Alec is taken to a spaceship in the woods after an encounter with Bigfoot. (That’s the yeti part). Sarah quits her job to join a shady Men-in-Black like agency who are studying an alien spaceship probe. Not to give too much away, but there are minions, muppet aliens, a half robot-half woman, a bad guy, and reality television.

Doiron pieced the story together while his son attended camp at Echo Ranch. There was a yurt nobody was using. Doiron uses note cards to record scene ideas. He packed out his note cards, spread them out, and constructed a story arc. If there were gaps, he’d fill them in after a walk on the beach. At home, he pinned his cards onto his “Story Wall” and wrote the script based on the card arrangement that satisfied him.

Excitement and pride ring out when Doiron talks about this movie. Doiron read up on story and script while making “Space Trucker Bruce.” Now, Doiron believes “Hidden Spaceship” will be a better film. He’s happy about the sets and the acting, but especially the story. “Space Trucker Bruce” was an entertaining movie. The bar is high. You can see for yourself on YouTube.

Relative to his previous movie, Doiron is also more confident in his vision. He knows his effects and models are not something out of James Cameron movie. He’s going for “good enough to be fun.” For examples, Larry the robot doesn’t look like an actual robot. He looks like a muppet. He’s operated like a muppet. It’s not believable, but it doesn’t matter. Doiron likes the way he looks. If the story and effects compliment the world created, it’s great. “It’s B-movie fun. I see it and it’s entertaining.”

Another major difference between the two Doiron films is 50 percent of “Hidden Spaceship” happens in the woods. Almost all of “Space Trucker Bruce” was shot on sets and in the world of special effects. “I wanted to show the outdoors, hiking, and downtown Juneau.” Doiron looks forward to the contrast of Juneau’s natural beauty against his built sets and computerized renderings of outer space.

(Doiron also moved his sets into the rented studio space, freeing up much of his home. No doubt this leads to more amiable family dynamics).

Given that much of the principal photography so far has been on location in the woods, Doiron had to be organized. You can’t wing it in the woods when you’ve got a crew, a beagle, hungry actors, and a list of shots that have to be captured. You might need tape. So you bring tape.

To track it all, Doiron makes a daily to-do list. The list spells out in great detail and resolution what has to happen that day: Build a set. Make snacks. Move table. Set up lighting. Laminate scene list. Hand out scene list to actors. Actors? Where are my actors? Phone. Call actors! Does the haircut match the last time I filmed this guy? Determine which of 230 scenes will be shot today. “Running down hall front,” then “running down hall back.” Alphabetize the shots. List camera angle. Bring tape. Bring shoulder mounts. Create equipment checklist. (To bring everything back). Bring costumes. List and bring props. Paper, don’t forget paper. Make snacks. Scissors. Liability forms for any new actors. Load up plastic bins. Gas. Hope for good weather…

Yikes!

And that’s what so amazing. All this effort, for … the love of it! Sure, there’s a chance Doiron gets recognized and becomes a rich director, but that’s probably not going to happen. It’s just, if you don’t put yourself out there, it’ll never happen.

Doiron is about halfway done. All the outside photography is done and he expects to finish his set work this coming spring. Then there will be a year and a half of special effects work, building three-dimensional models, and rendering his animations against the green screen scenes. Whereas “Space Trucker Bruce” took six years, “Hidden Spaceship” will take five.

It’s a focus I marvel at. Doiron has that quality that separates the artists you hear about from the many you don’t – the ability to stick to a project until it is done. A single point of focus. Kubrikian, sure, but it’s a phrase that well describes Doiron, too.

• Clint J. Farr can be reached at cjfarr@hotmail.com.


Related links: 

Space Trucker Bruce - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcOaAqGBWLo

Dramatic super cut of Kubrik’s one-point perspective - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flq0t4jrqJQ

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