Tuesday, 27 January 2015

PROJECT 2501: HOMAGE TO GHOST IN THE SHELL - clip & Interview with artist / director ASH THORP

‘As I rewatch it every few months, I get something new from the experience’

Ash Thorp, a regular in our blogs, is a pre-eminent concept artist currently working in television and feature films. Based on the West Coast, he has contributed to films such as Prometheus, Total Recall, X-Men First Class, and TV such as Person of Interest, and The Walking Dead. 

Hugely inspired by his love of anime and manga, we caught up with Ash to discuss his inspirations, and his team's amazing homage to Ghost In The Shell, ( starring alt-model Christine 'IDiivil' Adams ), and ask for his thoughts on the recently green-lit live-action version, starring the distinctly un-oriental Scarlett Johansson.

- Ash, what exactly does GHOST IN THE SHELL mean to you? You seem to be obsessed with it, in the way that suggests it is a remnant from childhood fandom.

Ghost in the Shell was a breakthrough in my childhood growing up.  I was introduced to the Anime first and it literally blew me away at a young, impressionable age.  Shortly after I discovered the Manga and became obsessed with the concepts and ideas that the property was built upon.  I think the first thing that I connected with was the art and visual design of the world.  As I grew up and my mind matured, I began to take in all the other subtle details of the story. As I rewatch it every few months, I get something new from the experience, and I think that is because I am in love with the big concepts that creator Masamune Shirow and his team built, that are just under the surface.

- At what point did it go from being a homage photoshoot ( as it was originally intended ), to an elaborate tribute and mock-title sequence?

I think the moment I came home from the photoshoot I realized the level that we had to take things.  Tim ( - Tadder, the project's photographer ) had captured such powerful images that I only wanted to honor them by doing the best work we could, moving forward.

- It seems like colleagues from all over the world pitched in their talents. How long did it take to put together?

This project felt like it took many years but in fact I think from the first email Filipe ( -Carvalho, art director and designer ) and I exchanged about taking this task on until the final release was about 14 months total.  It was extremely intense at times.

‘I think it has certainly made me aware how far I need to take things and the level of work that I need to match’

- Was the plan to continue and do more Ghost clips? Or even complete a short, perhaps?

Right now the project is done.  I would love to do a short or even finish the title in full motion but as of now I am focusing all my free time and energy on my own creations.

- Has this whetted your appetite to adapt another big manga property? 'Xenon Heavy Metal Warrior' perhaps?!

I learned so many lessons working on this project.  I think it has certainly made me aware how far I need to take things and the level of work that I need to match.  

- So now that you've had a chance to throw your hat in the ring, what is your reaction to Scarlett Johanssen's casting in a brand-new big-budget movie?

I think that Scarlett is really pushing herself as an artist.  I enjoyed her work in Under the Skin and can see why she would be cast for the project.  Making films are a HUGE task.  You never know if you have a winner really up until the last bit and since art is subjective, everyone will have their own take away from it.  I think it's a tall task to take on this property and translate it to the medium of film.  The great thing is that they will have an amazing wealth of source material to use.  I wish them the best of luck.  As of now I think everything lives in the shadow of the original Anime, but that is just my personal opinion.

- Finally, so what else is new?

Right now I am focusing all my energy on my project Lost Boy ( - see Ash's webpage, link below ) which I intend to create in multiple mediums, one of them being film.  So many things are happening these days as I am constantly pushing myself into new and unknown territories as a creative.  2015 will be a big year and that is all I can say as of now. 

And here it is: Check out this amazing clip, by an international team of dedicated creatives...

Interview by Alexi K

Ash Thorp - Director / Producer / CG Artist
Anthony Scott Burns - CG Artist
Chris Ford - CG Artist / lookdev
Colin Thomas - CG Artist
Filipe Carvalho - Art Director / Designer
Franck Deron -  Editor
Furio Tedeschi - 3d lead / CG Artist
Gavriil Klimov - CG Artist / Environment Design
Hanno Hagedorn - CG Artist
Kevin Kwok - Web builder
Maciej Kuciara - CG Artist
Michal Misinski - CG Artist / Compositor
Milton Fernandes - CG Artist
Simon Jones - CG Artist - Simulation Artist
Vaughan Ling - CG Artist / Environment Design
Valentin Sorokin - CG Artist /  Environment Design
Wedge & Lever - Poster Designer


Juice Studios
Adam Tunikowski - Additional Compositing Artist
Aleksandra Rafalksa - Animation
Jaroslaw Handrysik - Additional rendering artist
Kuba Pietrzak - Sound Design
Michal Misinski - Supervisior
Piotr Bialousz - Additional CG Artist
Tomasz Dyrdula - CG Artist


Tim Tadder - Photographer
Dahlia Snyder - Shoot Producer
Mark Peery - Tim Tadder Assistant
Taylor Abeel - Tim Tadder Assistant
Kevin Joelson - Behind the Scenes Cinematographer
Rebecca Joelson - Behind the Scenes Photography
Natalie Bohlin - Hair and Makeup Artist
Christine "IDiivil" Adams - Talent


Fizah Rahim - Photographer
Rezaliando - Photographer


Our Family and Friends
Bahi JD - Advisor
Kaz Oomori - Cultural Design Consultant
Ryan Hawkins - Additional 3D modeling
Tomas Dyrdula - CG Artist
Vitaly Bulgarov - 3D asset contributor

All footage and stills used with permission, property of Ash Thorp


‘the fake moon landing seemed like an excellent way in to a story about Kubrick and his films’

In these times of media intrusion and internet paranoia, now more than ever, conspiracy theories are the modern equivalent of legends or folk-tales. A story about Stanley Kubrick making a fake moon-landing is just what writer and fan Stephany Folsom thought might have happened at the height of the Space Race, charged as it was, by the intense political atmosphere of those Cold War times. 

Stephany's script has won the author critical accolades since it made the 2013 Black List ( a career-boosting Hollywood survey of the 'most-liked' scripts not yet filmed ), and also given the honour of being performed in one-off Black List live special, in front of an audience.

- How did you come up with the idea for 1969? There are a lot of theories about Kubrick faking a moon landing, so as a fan, the idea must have greatly appealed to you.

I'm a huge fan of Kubrick and his films. DR. STRANGELOVE is my favorite, but I also love THE SHINING and PATHS OF GLORY. I came up with the idea when I visited the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at LACMA ( - Los Angeles County Museum of Art). I left the exhibit wanting to tell a story with Stanley Kubrick as a character. As I was leaving the exhibit, I remembered there being a crazy conspiracy theory that he faked the moon landing. I thought about it a little more, and the fake moon landing seemed like an excellent way in to a story about Kubrick and his films. So that's how I came up with the idea for 1969. I'm also a huge fan of all things NASA, and I love all things related to space exploration.

- For those of us who are not Hollywood insiders, did you submit to the Black List website, or were you separately recommended to the annual Black List survey ( - and did you have an agent at that time )?

I have never submitted to the Black List website. I heard it's a great service, but I'm not sure if or how submitting to the website is connected to the annual Black List. That would be a question for Franklin Leonard ( - former Universal executive who founded the list ). As for the annual Black List, the scripts on there are nominated and voted on by executives in the industry. They are scripts that have been set-up or have gone out to the town as a spec, but haven't been produced yet. I'm pretty sure that everyone on the annual Black List has reps. So yes, I did have an agent and manager before I made the 2013 Black List.

- When it came to the table-read in front of a theatre audience, and only one day with the cast to do a read-through, were you worried when you spent the night editing it for the stage, that you could badly mess it up and not notice until it was too late?

Ha, not at all. I was worried I wouldn't get it finished in time, but I wasn't worried I would mess it up. You have to have a good internal editor if you are going to be writing for a living. You also have to be good at cranking out decent pages under pressure.

- Was a stage performance a good way of getting a 'feel' for how the screenplay could translate onto film? 

A stage performance of your script is an excellent way to see if your dialogue is working. I highly recommend having actors read your dialogue. As for it giving you a feel of how your script will translate to film, not so much. There's no way to gauge the impact of the visuals in a table read.  There's much more to a screenplay than just dialogue, and reading it out loud doesn't really let you know if the action is working. A staged reading is an excellent tool, but it's limited.

‘If you're in it for the money or the fame, you'll be let down’

- You say you can't talk about 1969 since the reading. Excluding that then, what would you love to work on in the future? Big blockbusters, indie films, or both?

I'm working on a studio project right now, but I'm up for telling any compelling story - big or small.

- Which authors / film-makers / screenwriters are you a fan of?

I love Kurt Vonnegut, Shane Black, Kubrick, Hitchcock...I really could go on and on.

- Most people can only dream of being a prospective writer in Hollywood, let alone being the next Ben Hecht or Joe Ezsterhas. Do you have a day-job away from the craziness of the industry, or are you managing to live off the writing?

I make my living as a writer.

- Lastly Stephany, what tips would you give to those who are inspired to have a go themselves?

Write about something you care about, and do it because you love telling stories. If you're in it for the money or the fame, you'll be let down. There are easier ways to make a living. Care about the story you are telling and do everything in your power to get your story told.


‘You have to ask yourself – Why should a backer, back this project?’

Anyone who has loved comics or science fiction will at some point attempt to draw their own comic-book or fantasy art. Most will realise how hard it actually is, especially when they come up against the astonishing array of talent in the industry. The persistent ones will take it up as a career choice, with the ultimate aim of one day getting published. Now, with the global reach of the internet, a new breed of comic-book creator can take their destiny into their own hands, source funding, and publish it themselves - with the benefit of total creative freedom. 

We talk to Jeremy Biggs, co-creator behind the hit kickstarter 'comic-novella' METAL MADE FLESH, to find out the advantages and pitfalls of doing it yourself.

Jeremy, explain the genesis of METAL MADE FLESH.

The original creator of the world Tuaoni is Simeon Aston – the illustrator. It's kind of a unique arrangement, in that Sim came up with the design for the world and the character ideas and had one story fully finished before I met him. Since we worked together I've added little touches and characters here and there, but I always defer to him if there's somewhere we have to make a big decision about the world.

Metal Made Flesh is three short stories set on the same world. “Flesh” was the first published and that was based on a plot by Simeon. I came up with the story for “Made”, based upon a character idea from Simeon from an earlier story. “Metal” was written very collaboratively, with both of us pitching ideas to each other.

- How did you both meet?

I met Sim at a comic convention in 2012 where I was working with a company producing audio dramas. I had a small comic of my own that I was really trying to gauge reaction to, also. I saw Sim's work and was blown away and thought I just had to work with him. Prior to that I had been working in Sound Design and had just completed a Zombies in Africa film - “The Dead.”

- For people who haven't yet seen the books, give us the basic outline.

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction by a hostile force, the Veul, and they have taken refuge on a backwater “den of vice and iniquity” - the cyberpunk city world of Tuaoni. There they must survive against impossible odds as the lowest of the low in the crime filled streets of the city's notorious “Strip”.

‘One big influence on the story was Bangkok in Thailand’

- It looks very cinematic. What books, movies - or other formats - have inspired it?

Bladerunner is a big influence – Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger's influence is all over Simeon's artwork. Ghost in the Shell, Neuromancer, Judge Dredd, Akira, Hardware, The Fifth Element (and The Incal on which it was, ahem, “based”), Polanski's Chinatown I guess. Oddly enough, Game of Thrones has been an influence in that there's a series of overlapping storylines that are focused around individual characters.
One big influence on the story from both Sim and I, was Bangkok in Thailand, where we'd both travelled. The aesthetic of that place – and Hong Kong definitely feeds into the feeling of “The Strip” where all the action takes place.

- Is the story part of an ongoing cycle?

Metal Made Flesh is a series and is the introduction to the world and the main characters. We also produced a short comic follow up - “Infection”, which was really for the “fans” to show how the three stories link up, and pave the way for the follow up which we're working on at the moment.

- The project looks beautiful enough to have been picked up by a major publisher, yet you choose to go independent, and get funding through Kickstarter.

For us, the illustrations are integral to the whole story – they give you information about the world that frees up the narrative to be fast paced and, in places, almost impressionistic in tone – but for publishers, they tend to view illustrated novellas as bit of a risk we found.
They're not quite novels, not quite comics, so, although we haven't gone all out to pursue anyone yet, we thought it was wise to do this independently at first until we've built up enough of a fan-following that we'll be in a stronger position to knock on some doors. EL James is a great example of that with 50 Shades of Grey, where she built up a large viral following, then had publishers come after her.
Having said that, if any publishers come knocking on our door we'll happily talk to them!

- What do you say to the creatives who are thinking of doing a Kickstarter, but haven't yet galvanized themselves into action?

Creative control is a big plus. We can develop the world more and take more risks in the kinds of stories we want to tell. Monetarily, obviously, we're not sharing the proceeds with a large publisher, but truth be told, anything we make goes back into the world at this stage.
We're actually working on a bible and have already approached a few writers we know are up to the job, to come in and expand the world.

‘In the UK our main outlets have been online and at conventions’

- Getting your book on shelves is key to a publication's success. With a project such as this, how do you handle the practicalities of distribution?

We already have distribution through a niche distributor in the States called “The Distribution Engine” which exclusively deals with UK-based publishers. In the UK our main outlets have been online and at conventions. At some point in the near future we're going to have to bite the bullet and go the ( UK distribution company ) Diamond route though, we think.

- Any other tips for those who are tempted to ‘kickstart’?

Number One tip: Don't underestimate postage. 

Number Two tip: Whatever you do. DON'T underestimate postage.

It's a terrifying thought if you ever complete a Kickstarter and then realise that the bulk of your Kickstarter backers are based on the other side of the world. Postage is a significant amount of your total...

Other than that, Kickstarters should have a clear idea of what you're trying to achieve, then consider it from a backer's point of view. You have to ask yourself – what makes you different from anyone else? Why should a backer, back this project? Make it unique and don't just jump on a bandwagon unless you can bring something which is different.
Work hard, and be prepared to contact as many blogs as you can – not just to promote yourself – but because it's good to have feedback from people who are actively writing around the medium. It's not all about you. 

As altruistic as backers are, they also appreciate high quality rewards, and they deserve them too.

- Nicely said, thanks, Jeremy!


You want the METAL MADE FLESH hardback deluxe edition? Or a beautiful t-shirt? 

Then what are you waiting for? - Pledge your allegiance here.



Your editor here - In between painting, drawing, writing blogs, networking, talking, and procrastinating, it's easy to forget that I am also a avid photographer. To round off this edition of FUTURE-ROCKER, here's a look at some of my 'glitched' photography, inspired by science fiction books and movies, and taken while on walkabouts around Birmingham, the UK's 'second city'.

Below: The Rotunda and Bullring

Below: Bullring Shopping Centre at night

Below: Info-obelisk at Moor Street

Below: Bloc Hotel, Jewellery Quarter

Below: Google Earth's failed rendering of The Custard Factory and South Birmingham College

Below: Glitched Hannah, local model.

Below: Smallbrook Queensway, as seen from Radisson Blu Hotel.

Below: Smallbrook Queensway, as seen from Radisson Blu Hotel.

Below: Info-obelisk at Moor Street

Below: Natural glitch at Snow Hill Station.

Below: Glitched Becky.

Below: Bullring Shopping Centre

Below: Smallbrook Queensway

Below: Smallbrook Queensway

Below: Incredible glitch of wall mural at HUBB ( original art by Mohammed Ali / Aerosol Arabic )

Below: Birmingham's 'Interstellar' bus service.

All photographs property of Alexi K

Note: The most glitchy of the above glitches are accomplished using WORDPAD. You have ZERO control over how they will turn out, other than to alter them after they've been glitched, using the art software of your choice. But give it a's my guide:


1 ) Go through your archives, get a photo ( architectural ones work well ) and convert it to a bitmap.
2 ) Open it in WORDPAD, ( open > click rich text format > all documents ) then click on your file ( it'll appear on Wordpad as code ).
3 ) Press 'Save'.
Some people play with the code or delete bits before saving, but I find just pressing 'Save' is as good.
4 ) Go back to Photoshop to view the results...and hope for the best!

Don't get depressed if most look rubbish...occasionally it'll come out great!



As you will have seen, this edition of FUTURE-ROCKER features both classic and new anime / science fiction comic-book properties. With that in mind, we take a tantalising look at the art - and promo reel! -  created for the now-shelved live-action production of AKIRA. Even though Katsuhiro Otomo's epic is surely the greatest manga comic of them all, it has - as yet - not had any luck in achieving a live action remake. 

Nevertheless, enjoy this awesome promo material by acclaimed Oscar-nominated short film director, Ruairi Robinson.

All art and video, property of Ruairi Robinson.

Below: Kaneda's famous bike

Below: Street shot, before and after VFX

Below: The ESPer appears!

Below: Neo-Tokyo E-X-P-L-O-D-E-S

And here it is folks - the promo clip: A mood-short assembled from other epic genre movies, and offering brief glimpses of actual AKIRA LIVE-ACTION TEST FOOTAGE, it's pretty compelling stuff...

...for the next four and a half minutes, DON'T BLINK or you'll miss the best bits!

For RUAIRI ROBINSON'S WEBSITE, and even more cool art, go here

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Not-really-a-spoiler: I have a feeling that Melanie Griffiths being an android will be the 'big reveal' in this one..!

Alex Garland, author of The Beach, Dredd and 28 Days Later, directs ( with set design seemingly inspired by Beyond The Black Rainbow ):

Neill ( District 9 ) Blomkamp's latest speculative future epic...starring members of Future-Rocker-approved music act Die Antwoord:


Click here to get to Ash Thorp, Stephany Folsom, and all the recent articles, including Ruairi Robinson's Akira test footage.


Ethan Hawke stars in this Robert Heinlein adaptation, by the Australian team behind Daybreakers: