BAG MAN | A Short Film
Earlier in 2014, our good friends and Directors Josh and Jon Baker approached us to work on their latest project, a short film titled BAG MAN.
BAG MAN is the understated story of a 12 year old African American boy, who takes us on an introspective journey out of the city and into the remote countryside of upstate New York. With a mysterious duffle bag in hand, its contents unknown to us, we journey from the urban hustle of Harlem, into the winter-ravaged woodlands a world away.
On the road, we slowly discover his real intentions, and the significance of what is hidden inside a young boy’s bag.
Inside The Bag
Joining forces with directors so aware of the process and open to collaborating on the ever changing goal that is early conceptual design work, has always been what we look for when taking on a new project. The Bakers are this in spades, always open to ideas, and able to articulate the abstract in a way we can work with.
Still coming down from the high of finishing work on Kaiju, the Bakers were already talking about a new project they wanted to get us involved in, something Right up our alley.
They tend to do a lot of projects that are "right up our alley", so we know they're serious when they spell it out like that.
Of course, not to disappoint, they delivered every 10 year old kids dream request: Design a gun, make it cool, make it different.
Designing something different.
There is no shortage of good, and interesting, weapons designs out there at the moment. With a new first person shooter game or Hollywood blockbuster released seemingly every other month full of armies with future weapons, we had to think outside the box, even if the end result kind of was.. a box.
The key element to the design process was that if you were to hold this object in any way other than what we know as being a "gun" position, you would be left wondering what it actually was.
We explored all kinds of non specific shapes, and in many designs, played with the idea of it being a shape that is so far removed from being a "gun", that it was folded in a way that abstracted any notion of what we regard as a weapon silhouette
We also played with more natural forms such as the shapes of insects, in some cases making it resemble the form of a wasp, as some kind of reference to a non human origin.
Ultimately we all agreed that the idea that this object could have been human brought the reality of it home, and the origin even more mysterious.
After a few early rounds of rough ideas, the preferred option was tentatively titled the "Block Nosed Rifle", given its front heavy profile, and elongated "rifle" format. As the initial images weren't entirely removed from what traditionally passes for a gun design, we built into the design a compact mode, and an extended mode. Further obscuring it's purpose.
Furthering the mystery of the gun, the texture was posed to expose more of the backstory, but not give its origin away entirely.
With an open brief, and the script still open to suggestions, we worked some possible origins into the look and feel of the gun.
We covered the basics, steel, chrome, hard metals and known materials. We then had room to venture into territories that could influence the entire film.
Some ideas that we explored were a very rough, almost apocalyptic DIY finish, that included bandaged grips and leather bound straps suggesting some kind of rebel war or resistance origins.
We explored unusual materials such as Marble and stone, something so far from what is what we know as "gun" as possible. We also worked on elaborate paint schemes, and the use of foreign languages on the gun to suggest that perhaps it is current tech, and very real.
Ultimately we all agreed, a tough, battle weary exterior worked best without giving away too much, or cornering the creative into something that might ultimately change. The colour palette of yellow and dark grey worked well as a unique theme that carried through the rest of the film, posters and logos.
One element that was yet to be decided was what the end of the gun would look like. Given that it was featuring prominently in the film, it needed to have a similarly unusual form.
Given we all agreed that the projectile wasn't going to be any kind of physical object, ala bullets/shells, we were able to be pretty abstract with the end shape. In the end we decided a simple open ended design with a visible internal structure would work best with the script, and allowed for interpretation down the line as to what kind of "blast" is emitted from the gun when fired.
When Supervixen Met Legacy VFX
The transition from a design on paper to a physical object is rarely a straight forward one. The design needed to be a practical prop therefore we designed it with this in mind.
We worked with the Bakers to find the right overall size and fit of the gun, making numerous mockups to test the reality of what is a fairly unconventional design.
Despite the unknowns, holding a mock up of the original design felt mostly natural, with only small adjustments to the overall size, and the realisation that hands are a whole lot bigger than we first realised, so areas where the hands were placed needed to also be upsized.
We struck a balance between the size of a real gun, and the practicality of having the hero, a young boy, be able to hold it confidently.
During the course of the design work, the Bakers garnered the attention of Legacy Effects, noted for their formidable reputation as the standard in film prop manufacture, with such credits to their name as the Iron man Suit, Total recall, Terminator.
They were interested in building the design we had, it was a huge boost to the production value of the whole film.
With this new information at hand, we set about figuring out the finite details of how the gun would function, design it in a way that would leave no questions unanswered, and helped Legacy do the best work they could do while spending little time on solving design flaws.
Legacy Effects wasted no time in getting into the manufacture of the designs we came up with.
First of all the gun was built in 3D to iron out any aspects that might need attention, and then right into 3D printing and CNC machining the guns internal collapsable system.
Some elements required tweaking after transitioning to a 3d space. When an element involves a complex design, we made 3D models to communicate what we were after.
The finish of the gun was a complex combination of textures and colours, all tailored to the story of creating intrigue as to its origins. Battle scars were etched into the surface, the edges were chipped in a convincing pattern, and everything folded neatly into a compact, abstract form that fit into a small bag.
In addition to the physical structure of the gun, Legacy built into it a system of lights and switches for on set use, these included lights that highlighted the open and closed states, lights recessed into the surface of the main outer shell, and of course, the end of the gun lit up when the trigger was pulled.
Aside from actually being able to shoot someone, the gun was completely functional. The design was exactly as per the images we supplied them, a testament to their incredible ability to translate an idea into reality.
Large flat surfaces of the guns outer shell allowed for all manner of interpretation as to how the user would aim at a target.
Given that a traditional scope, or iron sights would have given away the form of the gun if they were permanently attached, we went with the concept of their being an adaptive view finder that contained all the information about the gun that was holographic, non physical, and adaptive to the current situation, again, future proofing the design stages for further script development.
Keeping away from what we know as a "gun sight", we used intricate planes, imagery and crosshairs to communicate the idea what there is a plethora of information built into the gun if you know what you're doing with it.
Our hero has no idea what it all means, so without explanation, it mostly needed to look functional at first glance.
Moving on from Stages 01 and 02 in the holographic sight design, we refined our approach. This we helped out once we were able to use scenes from the actual film, allowing us to design to the shots used.
In this stage we were able to see how the protagonist holds the gun, and how he used the sights in specific shots. This helped us decide on the position and heights of the scope designs.
We kept the designs small and intricate, with only practical data and minimal displays without the usual cluttered noise of "futuristic" design elements.
Basically, we wanted it to look useful.
Along with the guns physical appearance, we also had the opportunity to explore the way that it fires. Again the brief was, something different.
The barrel of the gun left much unanswered as to what exactly it does when it is fired. We looked at that as an opportunity to play with some options focusing around the idea of a sonic boom, a force of energy so strong it bends the light around it like heat from the surface of a desert road.
Mixed in with some light trails, some wave effects, and a yellow theme to package it all together into a unified look and feel of the guns appearance, we ended up with some concepts to take to the Mill, who did the realising of the final effect.
We were all in agreement that a graphic dismembering of the thugs was out of the question. Instead we chose to explore the idea that people vaporised in a spectacular fashion.
In a bid to push this project online as much as possible, we created a series of posters that we feel capture moments in the film we liked the most, while keeping the gun from view as we all agreed it should only be seen in the film.