Some brains have so much power that one wonders if they get secretly connected to a nuclear power plant.

My new set involves a brain:

– Why the brain is on a wheel? And what’s that string attached to the strange mechanical device? – you may ask.

Hold on to your panties. What you see is not just a brain sitting on a set, this is a serious display of power of a brain that belongs to Sturgis Warner, the Official Lighting Designer of this project.

Sometime in September I had introduced Sturgis to my problem: the project’s script requires a slow turn of a paper mache face (one of the characters flies over her grandmother’s face like an airplane over Earth’s surface) and the first thing that came to my mind was to use Lazy Susan, a table device for an even food distribution among impatient and perhaps mute guests (instead of asking :- Can you please hand me that Dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaf wrap)? you just turn the device and the desired Dolmadakia is facing you, hungry to be eaten). Instead of food I’d put the paper mache face on a Lazy Susan and turn it till it gets sea sick. Inspired by the practicality of this idea I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and discovered that the Lazy Susan I knew some 10 years ago didn’t exist in the BB&B Universe. They only had fancy, pricey, heavy clay things that didn’t turn and didn’t deserve the proud name of Lazy Susan because to use them one would have to talk, maybe walk and maybe even fight with a fork for his/her food. It was Calorie Burning Susan.

I thought maybe Bed Bath and Beyond was too upscale for the cheap but efficient plastic thing I was looking for, so I went to Lot-Less stores. Lot-Less sales girls denied that there was such a thing as Lazy Susan in their store and it’s immediate surrounding.

– We work hard for our money, – they explained to me. And they do, God bless them. What would we do without Lot-Less sales girls – all that stuff would rot in China.

On my way to Home Depot I started to think that even if I got Lazy Susan, it would not solve my spinning problem. In stop motion, background moves – be that panoramas or zooms – have to take place in even increments, otherwise they come out jerkily. That’s why Jimmy Picker lent me his Oscar nominated steel stop motion rail, to be able to control the distance between each camera shot. How would I control the turns of Lazy Susan that spins with an enthusiasm of unstoppable five year old?

The flames of my inspiration went down.

– I’ll do without it, – I decided. But part of me wanted to give it another shot – and I told my problem to Sturgis. He listened to me and didn’t shake his handsome head once.

– Aha, – he said after I was done with throwing hands up in the air and railing against Retail Store Ever Changing Gods and their Shifting Loyalties. – Stay calm. I might think of something.

And he went about his business as usual. I quietly went back to work, too, figuring out how to go around the script’s need to have Lazy Susan.

Six weeks later – last week on Thursday Sturgis called.

– I did some thinking and now I know how to make Lazy Susan for you, how big do you want it? – he asked.

– Er…. Ah… Medium? – I stumbled. I had thought when I see Lazy Susan in the store I would know how big the set to make to fit on it, but I never anticipated to have the control of deciding the size of a handmade Lazy Susan.

– Expect me on Saturday. I’ll bring some materials. – Sturgis said and hang up.

He arrived on Saturday with two pieces of wood tucked under his arm. I am a woman who proudly owns a circular saw (don’t ask why a woman need a circular saw, she simply must have it!) so Sturgis used that saw to cut a circle out of one piece of wood. To the sides of that circle he attached Caster movable wheels for large platforms, evenly distributed. In the middle of the wheel he put a round hollow piece of a hardware that fit perfectly inside another round hollow piece of hardware attached to the second piece of wood. He turned the construction around and Voila! there was a big Lazy Susan in front of me! – the most amazing example of Inventive Problem Solving. The wheels, the two pieces of wood, the strange round fitting harware of unknown real life purpose – how do you even think to put them together to make something like this?

– Wait, this is not all, – Sturgis said. – You want to control increments of the platform moves? One more thing to do.

He pulled out a long string. One end he attached to the platform, the other end he attached to the mount of Jimmy’s steel stop motion rail. He coiled the string once along the platform.

Now when one spins the handle at the end of the rail the platform would move at the desired and even increments. Here’s the whole view of the contraption:

If Brain has any power this is the power. To have an idea, then take 5 separate disjointed things and bring the idea into a material existence.

I am very lucky to have Sturgis Warner and his Brain on my team.

As to the paper mache brain on the set – it was made by the talented Sam Hayes last summer. It waited for 1 year and 3 month to have it’s brief moment in the spotlight.

Power to the Brain!


About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
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1 Response to Brainpower.

  1. Pingback: The Art of Signe Baumane « trippplevision

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