From the opening pair of whisker topped feet in Luke Randall’s The Walrus it’s immediately clear that you’re in good hands. Hands which are about to guide you through a world both painfully familiar and wonderfully strange. Making its way onto the much coveted Vimeo Staff Pick list this week, we invited Randall to tell us how he journeyed from dog to walrus with a masked performance which reveals a wealth of bitter emotion.
The initial concept came about because I wanted to make a live action film but didn’t really know any pro actors or crew. I decided to try and conceive something where a friend could do the acting, something without dialog and maybe something where the actor would wear a mask. I have a long history with the ocean myself, I was feeling restless and my dog’s face kind of looks like a walrus. These few things all coalesced into the walrus concept which was intended to be a super simple, little film with a universal theme.
My friend Rodrigo Huerta had the right build and he agreed to play the walrus. It happened his girlfriend Samantha was a makeup artist. I was very lucky, my initial plan was to do the prosthetic and makeup myself which would have been a disaster. Samantha who has experience and tools needed 3 or more hours to build the full Walrus. It’s not like a mask you pull on and off, it’s multiple latex pieces glued on then blended together so it can articulate. Of course they fall apart after 1-2 uses so that makes it kind of high stakes because they aren’t cheap.
I shot the film myself, with Jordan Chesney acting as my right hand man. I used a consumer DSLR (the GH2) with some cheapo $50 old soviet lenses from eBay and a very old, finicky anamorphic adapter on front to help take the edge of the digital look and give it a bit of a painterly feel. The anamorphic made things hard, you couldn’t pull focus with it so you have to set it and then try to maintain the same distance. I used a consumer ‘glide-cam’ myself to get the steadicam shots – it is it’s own art form and I had to practice quite a bit just to get the shots I did. The beach in particular was an issue, trying to walk in sand whilst keeping the steadicam stable was near impossible. Trying to run in circles around someone in sand is even less advisable. I had to work a lot in post to stabilize and clean things up.
There were a lot technical issues that popped up during shooting, I crashed and broke the helicopter and so I had to do some shots with it on a string. One of the lenses gave out and had to be manually held in the socket to work, whilst hanging out the back of a car. It was 100 degree heat but Rodrigo was a total pro, never complaining even though he must have been super uncomfortable. I was really impressed too, all he had to work with were the eyes, but he managed to hit every acting beat I asked for pretty much first take.