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A little over a year ago, my creative co-conspirator, Connie Toebe, and I decided to embark on a new project, our biggest to date.  Inspired by the Mexican legend of La Llorona, we set out to make a shadow puppet film about a woman on a journey to find her children and her true heart. One year and four months later, we’re happy to announce that “The Weeping Woman” is now online for all to view!  (See the link below)

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From a story we both imagined, I sat down for a few months to write a script while Connie got busy making shadow puppets and backgrounds.  Each puppet is crafted from a different paper with Connie adding beautiful fabrics and textured papers  that speak to their characters but are not necessarily seen on screen.

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In the film, you’ll notice that each character has a gel “cut-out”.  These color touches illuminate through the back light of the film and help to tell each person’s story: Maria’s heart, Tez’s blue mirror, Anton’s red slashes, and Ixchel’s green snake.  I loved each one of the puppets, but I think my favorite was the bats! Connie cut out several bat silhouettes and strung them on to crossing rods, so they could swing and fly around. We affectionately called it “The Bat Mobile.”

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The story takes influence from Mayan mythology – the Underworld of Xibalba and its Houses of Cold, Fire, Jaguars and Bats.  Cityscapes of Chicago actually stand in for our Xibalba. Connie used a technique called “TTV” (through the viewfinder) in which she photographed houses, streets and museum dioramas pointing her camera through the viewfinder of an old, larger format camera.  The result is a beautiful, warped landscape with heightened color – vividly haunting.

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Last May I flew to Chicago, where Connie lives, to film the movie.  We set up a studio in her basement, and with cats in tow, spent three days making our story come to life.  Making a shadow puppet film is quite an challenging experience. It’s not easy to lay on the floor all day under the camera’s eye and work a puppet in front of screen. But we had a lot of fun doing it and welcomed people into our insanity during production via UStream b’cast.  You can watch that here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/22849359  (under videos)  We only broke our filming marathon to go out for tacos, tapas, and really good fish & chips. Chicago has some amazing restaurants!!  –

Once done, I loaded the footage onto my drives and flew back home to start editing, while Connie created all the dialogue plates and sent them to me.  Last October, one year after we had started, the final cut was done and sent back to Chicago, where Connie’s husband, Neil Jendon, scored the film.  (It’s amazing what you can accomplish as filmmakers in the age of airplanes, Skype and Dropbox)

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Neil’s score is more than music – it’s a soundscape comprised of drones, chimes, and classical guitar. It’s fascinating to me how musicians complete a film, and Neil has given another layer of life to each character, each house and every scene.  I just love it!

During pre-production in 2012, Connie and I submitted “The Weeping Woman” into an auction to benefit author and artist Terri Windling. We auctioned the opportunity to create a character for the film.  And to our delight, fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss outbid everyone else.  And we can now reveal that the Pat’s character was modeled after fellow fantasy author Anton Strout – whom Maria meets in the House of Jaguars.  Connie says, ” Probably my biggest challenge was to create a puppet of Anton Strout. Author Patrick Rothfuss won the auction and said he’d like friend and fellow author Anton Strout to be the character in the film. Neither Lisa nor I know or have even met Anton so it was a bit tough to know what to do with him. Patrick said that he would like Anton to be in the House of Jaguars and to have been killed by jaguars (just for the movie!) It is a long standing joke that they are mortal enemies. With jaguar inflicted death in mind, I thought it would be fun to have Anton as a Victorian explorer, pith helmet and all.”   We had a lot of fun working with Pat and bringing Anton to life – in puppet form.

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Every once in a blue moon you’ll come across a collaborator whose brain is just like yours, and for me – that’s Connie.  We started with “Through the Cobweb Forest” and graduated onto a few single edition books, and now “The Weeping Woman”.  And our next project is in its early early early stages.  It’s always an experiment and new adventure.  In fact, we had time to try something new while I was in Chicago.  Connie has a love of cameras of all types and had just purchased a Lomokino camera. In short, these cameras shoot on 35mm film, while you hand-crank the camera – and you really don’t know what you’re getting until it’s developed.  We put on some Victorian dresses, brought the shadow puppets out into the sun and let them get their Revenge.  Take a look: Revenge of the Shadow Puppets

It’s been quite a journey, I’m very proud of this film and most especially happy to share it with all of you.   Come with us into the Underworld…

VIEW THE FILM HERE: THE WEEPING WOMAN

To view a UStream b’cast of us filming, click HERE

For more on how Connie created the Puppets visit: http://www.flowerquetzal.com/2013/01/25/the-weeping-woman-part-2-the-puppets/

And for her behind the scenes look at the TTV photos visit: http://www.flowerquetzal.com/2013/01/24/the-weeping-woman-part-1-the-photos/

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