close menu
Brendon Small on the Making of GALAKTIKON’s “Nightmare” (Exclusive)

Brendon Small on the Making of GALAKTIKON’s “Nightmare” (Exclusive)

Last year Nerdist talked to Brendon Small ahead of the release of “Nightmare,” his seven-minute homage to practical effects heavy movies. Now he’s back with a behind-the-scenes video about how he brought his trippy sci-fi short to life, and we have your exclusive first look at it.

Because his passion for the world of the tangible was already on full display in “Nightmare,” and sometimes pulling back the curtain can take away the magic of filmmaking, we wanted to know why it was so important for him to bring fans behind the camera. “I thought the making of this thing was almost as exciting as the thing itself,” Small told us over the phone. And he’s right, because the more you learn about who and what inspired him, the easier it is to become immersed in the world he created.

Many fans know Small as the creator of the popular cartoons Home Movies and Metalocalypse, but “Nightmare,” featuring songs from his album Galaktikon II: Become the Storm, the second record for his sci-fi world of videos and comic books, is a tribute to three-dimensional storytelling. “I knew that I was obsessed with the world of the tactile, of actual practical effects that hold volume and occupy space,” he said, “And maybe I’m extra obsessed with it because I come from a 2D world where you don’t get to touch anything. The most you get to do is point at a computer screen and go, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ Or maybe every once in a while touch paper, which is rare.”

That wasn’t the only plus he cited of working with actual props, lights, and sets in the moment. “I know that I’ve been in a room where we’re either animating or editing, and I would want to see more angles of something,” he said, “And I know that if I’ve got a model of a spaceship and it’s in front of a green screen, I can move a light over it. And if I move a light, it just changes and shifts where the shadows are going, and I can see that there’s volume. I can see that this is actually real and tactile. I’m blown away by it”

While he found a new kind of freedom working with practical effects, he did set ground rules for himself on what he could do–or more accurately “when” he could do it. Calling it “Corman ’82,” after legendary special effects artist Roger Corman, Small only used techniques that were available in 1982. That inspired his use of ink in a fish tank, which created the video’s dreamy, colorful skies, a method he taught himself through trial and error. “My brother and I spent a whole day by ourselves just going, ‘Let’s see if we can make this thing work just like it worked in The NeverEnding Story or Indiana Jones.'” He might have mastered that, but not everything he attempted was a success.

Despite wanting to use rear screen projection for backgrounds, the kind Alfred Hitchcock used, Small said it just never looked right. “I couldn’t get my projector bright enough or focused enough to really show what I wanted to show in the cockpit interior.” But even abandoning that idea had its benefits. When he was forced to experiment with his ink-tank skies, the cockpit was influenced by the light from the sky outside the ship, which makes the effect more believable.

But even though he has grown “a little bored with” animation, it would be inaccurate to think he only made “Nightmare” to get away from the world of cartoons. He calls his music short “a love letter to a genre of movies that I grew up watching.”

Small said, “The whole reason I’m in this industry was because I watched a bunch of movies when I was kid and got excited. I watched Flash Gordon. I watched Poltergeist. I watched horror movies and sci-fi genre movies. The truth is I kind of lucked into animation, and I’m very happy I did, because I think it makes you extra decisive when you do get on a set.”

He also credits Michael Jackson’s short film “Captain EO” as a major, visible influence on “Nightmare.” Unlike Jackson’s work though, Small’s short film doesn’t rely on dialogue. So was he worried people might miss out on the larger story? “All you need to know is that our cool guy, in a cool spaceship with his robot friends, are abducted and need to get out of this thing,” Small said. “He goes through his own little dream journey and finds the power to get out. It’s really that simple.”

In actuality, it wasn’t that simple. He told his lead actor, David Dastmalchian (Ant Man And The Wasp), that the short was loosely based on The Blues Brothers and a toxic relationship in space. See if you get that vibe watching the original video.

For some, this behind-the-scenes look might be an introduction to the world of practical effects, especially for younger viewers who are used to CGI-heavy films. So which films would Small like to see with his newfound appreciation for all things practical? “Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce is a really great. It’s a combination of a horror film and a sci-fi movie all at once with really cool practical effects.” He also pointed to a movie called Message from Space, and of course Poltergeist, whose influence is felt throughout “Nightmare.”

As for the future of Galaktikon, Small announced at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con that the comic book series (written by Eric Powell) will be released in a trade paperback with extra features this November, but what about his future as a filmmaker? Does he think he could return to the world of practical effects to tell a longer story? Maybe a feature film?

“Without a doubt.”

Todd Phillips Reveals First Look at Joaquin Phoenix in His JOKER Movie

Todd Phillips Reveals First Look at Joaquin Phoenix in His JOKER Movie

article
What Are Captain Marvel's Superpowers?

What Are Captain Marvel's Superpowers?

article
Toto's

Toto's "Africa" Gets a '50s-Style Cover from Postmodern Jukebox

article