In classic movie-making fashion, I found myself chatting with animation and visual effects icon, Mr. Ray Harryhausen. My close friend, visual effects wizard Steve Jaworski and I were attending a celebration of Ray’s 80th birthday, hosted by Tom Atkins, then President of the Visual Effects Society in Hollywood. Steve and I had the honor of being invited to participate in the evening with a short film we had made for Ray, and this evening, were were to present the stop-motion puppets to him personally. Crazy. Of course, Steve and I were completely blown away, being a part of this monumental birthday-party-to-top-all-birthday-parties. We had a wonderful time hanging out with Ray.
The three of us chatted, poolside. Ray shared his affinity for Edgar Allan Poe, one of his favorite authors. Off the cuff, Steve and I pitched Ray the possibility of producing a short film with his involvement, ideally, a film based on one of EA Poe’s classic stories. Ray was intrigued, and we collectively agreed to pursue the idea in the coming weeks. How cool would that be?
Little did we know, like Edgar Poe’s writing career, our proposed project would start and stall for years before we would gain traction with our efforts.
Disparate schedules, infrequent availability, and ever-present funding concerns impeded forward motion beyond the conceptual. Again, in classic Hollywood style, our dream project quietly slipped into a shallow grave as work and life pressed us onward. Thankfully, things turned around and in April, 2006, I received word from Ray’s producer; Ray was keen to exhume the project. What was the viability of producing the short film? Ray’s initial preference was The Fall of the House of Usher. Artistically, a goldmine; logistically, a Pandora’s Box of potentially nightmarish proportions. A an alternative, I pitched The Pit and the Pendulum, thinking; “A lone prisoner in a dark, dank dungeon, some rats, a pit and a pendulum. What could go wrong?”
Our effort would be ‘off the radar’; we were on our own for funding and staring down a compressed production schedule and of course, our team would handle all production aspects. Being on a book tour, Ray would oversee the project as an executive producer ( approving all creative aspects) meeting with us whenever when schedules and geography allowed. With the promise of local support from friends, associates and generous funding from Bravo! and the National Film Board of Canada, we pried open a gap in our own schedules, committing to this crazy scheme. Producer Susan Ma fired up the production engine and and started work immediately.
The script was ready and animation began. Visual Effects and post-production work followed intermittently, as we finished the final post production work in April, 2007. Nearly two years to the day Matt Taylor started the first draft of the the script, we completed the film.
The Pit and the Pendulum was a labor of love for all involved, and a hugely rewarding experience for the entire crew. Much blood, sweat and tears went on to the making of the film, and in the end, we’re all proud of having the chance to have gone through the experience of adapting one of E.A. Poe’s classic stories into a gem of an animated short film. Since it’s release on the festival circuit, The Pit and the Pendulum short film has won numerous awards, screening as an o an official selection in over 250 film festivals and conventions around the world . To date, The Pit and the Pendulum short film has screened in Spain in over a dozen film festivals.