Friday, September 30, 2011

When your thing gets wild, chilly down.

Or one of them, at least.

I have to tell you that yesterday was awesome. Mostly last night, but I figure class wasn't so bad either, and we had a pretty good visiting speaker from a printing press. I'd devote more time to this if I weren't impatient to tell you about my night. Our speaker was from St. Martin's, and he spoke about the actual process of printing and binding books, different paper, digital books, ebooks, and so on. The process is really complex, and I would have no idea in that career field. Seriously, I would probably fall into the press and end up as large red blots in the middle of a self-help novel. Not that they would sell those copies. That would be unprofessional.

On to the best part of my day. I tagged along to a showing of Labyrinth (David Bowie, codpiece, puppets - watch it if you haven't) in the macrobert theater, with a Q&A session with one of the many, many puppeteers after. The film, as always, was wonderful, with the possible exception of the quality. 'Bout 15 minutes in, the sound cuts off, then the theater goes dark. I'm pretty sure they were using an original copy. After the film all of the children left (thank God), and we sit waiting for a couple of minutes before this 60s guy gets up and says, "Well, I'm just going to jump in because I'm not sure anyone's going to introduce me."

Aside: By 60s guy, I mean that he was in his 60s, and his hair was influenced by the 60s. Double whammy.

Our speaker's name was Toby Philpott, and he controlled, in addition to various smaller parts on other puppets, the legs and body of the lead singer of the fire gang. Remember those red fiery guys in the forest who try to remove Jennifer Connolly's head? Yeah, he was dancing with those guys. He worked more extensively on Dark Crystal, where he was shoved up near someone's armpit in one puppet and worked on Jim Henson's team. Pretty legendary, yeah? Stick with me, my story gets better. Toby also operated the head, tongue, and left arm of Jabba the Hut.

Yeah. Take it in. Jabba. The. Hut.

Thinking back on it, I guess it's somewhat strange that I would probably be more excited by meeting the person who worked on R2D2 than I would Carrie Fisher, but that's just the way I am. The technical aspects of film are exciting to me. Don't get me wrong, I could probably work up a good fangirl gush if I ever met Samuel L. Jackson (are you listening, Universe?), but meeting this guy was pretty great. He explained a bunch about how they worked the puppets (with a lot of funny little demonstrations - sans puppets) and about all the little process they went through on the film to make the goblins and other creatures believable. who would have thought blinking was so important?

Mr. Philpott had a pretty interesting back story. Hi father was a puppeteer and his mother was an actress, but he decided to run away from home and school to tour the U.S. and Mexico and be a street performer. He learned how to juggle, walk on his hands, etc. making a little bit of money. He got wind of a juggling class and joined up, where his teacher/instructor/whatever-call-master-jugglers told him about an add in the paper for a puppet workshop audition for this movie. Wham. In the business. He did 6 films total, then moved on to teaching and working in the circus again. Now he's moved up to Cardiff where he works at a library doing semi-techy things. He says he'll probably go back to doing stuff for the circus when they retire him from the library.

After the Q&A, someone approached him about signing a card for a friend because they couldn't make it, and the floodgates opened. He sat signing things and talking about his life and answering questions for a good hour after the show. He's a wonderful person, and I probably have a slight high from this experience.

So there you go.  After all the information slammed at me this week and the future pressures of next week, it was a pretty pleasant way to spend 4 hours of my time. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

Until next time,

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