Before jumping into today's matte blog I'd like to make a moment to mention the long awaited and eagerly acquired memoir of visual effects artist Jim Danforth, DINOSAURS, DRAGONS AND DRAMA - THE ODYSSEY OF A TRICK FILM MAKER which has just been released. I've waited years for this to come out and finally have it.
The good news is that it's chock filled with wonderful anecdotes, production details and fascinating stories from the earlier part of Jim's career from boyhood 8mm film experiments right through to the big time effects showcase that was When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1969). Jim's talents as a matte painter were my primary reason for purchasing the memoir, though naturally I am also a big fan of his stop motion animation. There are terrific chapters on Jim's involvement with Albert Whitlock and Peter Ellenshaw, as well as rare as hens teeth examples of many of Jim's own mattes and trick composites.
The bad news is that the memoir isn't a printed 'book' as one would dearly have preferred, rather it's actually all in CD-ROM format, no doubt to make publication so much cheaper. For many this won't make any difference, especially those who are of the 'iPad', 'Kindle' generation (I don't even own a cell phone). For me, I find this mode of reading incredibly cumbersome, awkward and downright annoying and prefer without question the old fashioned printed volume. In fact I've gone and printed off a number of chapters to facilitate a much more pleasing reading experience.
That said, the Danforth e-book is jam packed with illustrations and clocks in at around 800 'e-pages'..... and this is only Volume One, with a companion volume promised later, which I'll no doubt grit my teeth and buy as there's just no other way to acquire the content.
The publishers were also responsible for the titanic master-works MASTER OF THE MAJICKS on maestro Ray Harryhausen (on actual 100% genuine printed paper!!!) and utterly essential tomes.
For those who want to know more, contact Ernie Farino at www.archive-editions.com
Well here's another blog, although a fairly small one again, though on this topic it's really down to sheer lack of available material more than anything else. Today I'm presenting a little tribute to one of the lesser known matte painters of the late 70's through to early 90's, Jena Holman - possibly the first female matte artist (at least the first I'm aware of) in the US until Michelle Moen and Caroleen Green came along in the 80's.
The little I have on Jena came to me largely from her frequent collaborator and visual effects cinematographer David Stipes who had nothing but kind words for Jena as both a skilled matte painter and as a person. According to David, Jena was active in matte work from around 1977 or thereabouts through to her untimely death as a result of a brain tumour in the early 1990's. David and Jena worked together at David's VFX house, David Stipes Productions, on a number of projects, many illustrated here, including the 1979 tv series BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR (1986) to name a few.
Among her other matte jobs were the Jeff Bridges courtroom drama JAGGED EDGE (1985), the unfinished David Allen stop motion adventure THE PRIMEVALS (1977), Phil Kauffman's THE RIGHT STUFF (1983), the controversial nuclear strike film THE DAY AFTER (1983) and John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) as well as various television commercials.
By all accounts Jena was a somewhat shy, quiet woman who kept a low profile. David told me how tricky it was to snap a photo of Jena at the easal as she'd shield her face from the lens much of the time.
As I've said, there isn't much material on Jena so I'll try to make do with what I have as I'd particularly like to pay tribute to the lady...possibly the first time many of my readers would have even heard the name 'Jena Holman'.
|Snapshots of Jena working on a matte for BUCK ROGERS and, at lower right, THE PRIMEVALS.|
|Jena's painted view of New Chicago for the 1979 series BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY. The pilot episode was released theatrically in many countries with dazzling matte work by Syd Dutton (and I'm sure, Al Whitlock, uncredited).|
|A slightly different variation, flopped and with a near cloudless sky from BUCK ROGERS (1979-80)|
|The New Chicago matte painting still in progress at Universal Hartland.|
|Another BUCK ROGERS matte, presumably by Jena Holman.|
|Again, another BUCK ROGERS glass painting.|
|Before and after BUCK ROGERS matte shot painted by Jena and composited by David Stipes.|
|Matte cinematographer David Stipes with multi-plane glass painting set up - maybe BUCK ROGERS?.|
|Jena was one of three painters on John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK along with James Cameron (yes, the future AVATAR director) and Robert Skotak. I don't know which individual matte shots were done by whom.|
|Another terrific ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK matte painting, possibly a combined effort. John Carpenter's outstanding score adds so much to these shots (and the film in general) as I've written before, "the music maketh the matte".|
|Jim Cameron with a foreground glass shot from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.|
|Composite of the above glass shot.|
|Jena Holman's post nuke neighborhood in THE DAY AFTER.|
|Before and after.|
|Jason Robards in the matte painted rubble of Washington DC (I think?).|
|Robards surveys the devastation. Jena Holman painting with Robbie Blalack overseeing photo effects.|
|Nice Holman matte suggests some Al Whitlock - THE DAY AFTER.|
|The bizarre reincarnation of Agent 86 Maxwell Smart, THE NUDE BOMB (1980) aka THE RETURN OF MAXWELL SMART featured this minimal set that would be expanded considerably by Jena and David.|
|Jena's painting and the final composite by David Stipes - THE NUDE BOMB.|
|Two matte augmented shots that Jena painted for JAGGED EDGE in 1985, with the house, hills and a moving sky added.|
|Jena.... caught at last by roving photographer!|
|Jena busy on a substantial painting for an unknown television commercial in the late 80's.|
|Another of Jena's multi plane paintings from possibly the very same commercial. The set up shown here is for a dolly in perspective move.|
|Holman at work on one of the numerous lunar module POV's for Philip Kauffman's THE RIGHT STUFF (1983).|
|At work on the aborted David Allen stop motion sci fi show THE PRIMEVALS in 1978.|
|Close detail of Jena's mountain top fortress painting shown above.|
|Another beautiful painting which Jena completed for THE PRIMEVALS.|
|Close up detail showing Jena's brush style and choice of colour.|
|The 1985 kid fantasy FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR required a number of stunning stratospheric views such as this.|
|The eternally shy artist with stunning painting in progress - FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR.|
|FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR - Jena Holman POV painting.|
|Effects D.O.P David Stipes (top, with coffee cup in hand) sets up Jena's 'earthly' vision- FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR.|
|As part of a special promotional short produced for the then new 'Galactica Cylon attack' ride at Universal Studios around 1980, the Stipes-Holman duo shot this original negative matte shot. I particularly like Jena's sky here.|
|Actual location plate or the movie CRASH ISLAND.|
|Plate photography with mask in place: CRASH ISLAND.|
|Jena Holman's matte painting of the island, sky, sea and even most of the plane: CRASH ISLAND|
|Final original negative composite by David Stipes: CRASH ISLAND|
|An unknown Holman painting on the matte stand at David Stipes Productions.|
|Jena cleaning her brushes after a day 'on the matte'.|