ATLFF 2011 - The Puppets across the street

Everybody loves puppets, or so it seems. Whether they live on Sesame Street and teach kids the alphabet or make prank phone calls or entertain at marquee shows in Las Vegas , it seems that puppets can do little wrong.

That idea is put to the test in Sam Carter’s short film Shadow Puppets. It deals with a neighborhood that may or may not be invaded by fluffy puppets.

The movie follows Stan, a self proclaimed 'fluff-o-phobe', who must live out his worst nightmare when a group of puppets move into the house across the street.

I was able to talk about this short film with Director and Co-Writer Sam Carter.

Questions

How do you come up with this story?

My writing partner (Evan Fowler) and I heard that the Center for Puppetry Arts was accepting submissions for Xperimental Puppetry Theater and knew that we wanted to be involved. We started bouncing ideas back and forth, and began focusing on how comfortable everyone in the Muppet world is with talking frogs and pigs running around. The natural progression from that was "What about the guy who's suspicious of puppets and assumes their innocence is just an act?" The entire story and script were written in a few hours over a pitcher of beer.

How were you able to incorporate puppets into your film?

As I mentioned before, the film was made in association with the Center for Puppetry Arts XPT, which is a yearly showcase of puppet shows and films geared towards a more mature audience. I approached Raymond Carr, a local puppeteer and filmmaker to help produce the movie and through him I linked up with my puppet builder Beau "Sloppy Possum" Brown. I've always been interested in puppetry. In fact, the first film I can remember seeing in a theater and inspiring me to make films was Jim Henson's "Labyrinth". I'm very thankful to live in a city that has such a large puppetry community.

What was the biggest challenge in making this movie?

The challenge is trying to hide a 6'2" puppeteer in almost every shot of the film. Make no mistake, the puppets are the stars and have A LOT of screen time in this movie. And, regardless of how carefully I plan my shot list, inevitably when you've got lighting, a dolly track, and four puppeteers in a twisted pile on the floor, you're gonna run into some complications. Thankfully, my cinematographer (Darrell Hazelrig) and I have a good working chemistry and can make changes on the spot that will still work in the editing room.

Had you worked in the puppetry arts prior to this project?

I interned at Angela Beasley's Puppet People in Savannah during college and worked on a few stop motion films, but this was my first attempt at a live action puppet project. Of course, since "Shadow Puppets" my production group (The New Puppet Order) has shot two more films and are planning another for this summer.

After the festival, what is on the Horizon for the film or yourself?

At this point, "Shadow Puppets" has been to more fests and gotten more attention than I ever expected. I've entered it into another five or six fests, but I'm so proud to be involved with the Atlanta Film Festival that if this is its last show, I couldn't be happier. As for me, I'm currently working on my first feature film, a very dark comedy called "Good Grief Suicide Hotline". We hope to shoot it this December. In the meantime, I'm sure there will be more puppet films and weirdness to keep me busy.

Shadow Puppets screens as part of the Other Worlds Shorts Program at the Atlanta Film Festival May 2 at 9:45pm and again May 3 at 1:30pm at the Landmark Theater in Midtown.