Movies with Puppets: The Felt Life

My filmmaking team and I are working on our first feature length film, titled The Princess Knight! It is exciting, it is fun and it is an extremely difficult process, for a few reasons. For one, this is still an all-volunteer project, so weekends, week nights and all the time I’m not working at TDS, I’m either making the movie or thinking of the movie. The bigger issue, though, is our cast. Every one of them needs at least 1 if not 2 people helping them out at all times, and when you have 5-6 of them on frame at any given time, it makes it difficult to find enough people just to help out. It is very challenging.

Did I mention that The Princess Knight is a puppet movie?

Early on in the pre-production, the decision was made to go with puppets instead of people. The thought was that puppets would be easier to work with, we wouldn’t have to schedule around actors or actresses, and we could pre-record all of the audio—all things that would very much help production. While this hasn’t ended up 100% true, there have been many new lessons learned and valuable skills gained.

One thing I’ve noticed after working with puppets, you find that certain people are much more skilled than others at conveying emotions through them—it is amazing to watch how some people can just bring a puppet to life. If you don’t believe me, take a look at any of the Muppet movies. There, the voice actors are also working the puppet and the way they work their craft is stunning. If you want a cry, watch Kermit the frog sing Rainbow Connection. I’m serious – such a sad song, right up there with Its Not Easy Being Green.

 
Back to The Princess Knight, what I’ve also learned is that working with puppets presents some unique challenges as well.

The puppets have their own issues as “actors”– different costume changes stitching coming out, and other general repairs plus human arms getting sweaty and stinky inside the puppet. All of the puppets were made for this movie, so they come to us new, fresh, and ready to go. But after filming a few scenes, you can see the movie business is taking its toll on the poor puppets. We have a very talented team who are making sure all of their needs are met and they look their best for every scene.

We’ve been working on just the filming now for just about a year, and we have probably another 6-7 months until principle photography is complete (this is very long for making a movie, but remember it is mostly nights and weekends, when people are available, that we are doing the filming itself). I have a newfound respect for Jim Henson and his creature shop after this experience!

I’ve included some of the Behind the Scenes pictures from our last shoot at Magnolia Bluff County Park, just south of Madison, Wisconsin.

Princess Knight 1

Princess Knight 2

Princess Knight 3

Since The Princess Knight won’t be out anytime soon (but you can watch the trailer if you want an early preview!), you can get your puppet fix by watching the latest Muppet movie – Muppets Most Wanted, On Demand, on TDS TV!

 
 

About Kris Schulz

Kris Schulz has been with TDS for just about 6 years, being part of HRA Training the entire time. His current role is the Training Project Manager, where he has the opportunity to work with every group at TDS Telecom. He has been in the training industry for over 15 years. In his extra time, he makes movies with Firmament Films and is a two-time Best Director winner for the Madison 48 Hour Film Festival. His movies have also won Best of Madison 48 for 2012 and 2013.
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