String Punk Studios LLC


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The History of String Theory

Posted by J. B. Waskul on June 8, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

String Punk Studios was founded in 2009 shortly after the Great Recession of 2008. Many of its founding members were part of the film industry training programs that had formed in response to the film incentives Michigan had in place at the time. It was through an Oakland Community College film arts class hosted by S3 Studios that J.B.Waskul met up with many classmates that would later become his crewmembers.

Since the early 1980's J.B.Waskul worked in many areas of the auto industry and spent more than half of his time in the unemployment line because of it. He received an Associates in Art from Henry Ford Community College in 1985 and a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies in 1989. He used his talents as a Graphic Artist and Sculptor to create many works of art that followed his interests in science fiction and fantasy. He also showed an interest in writing which he applied toward advertising, technical writing, studies in anthropology and science fiction.

As part of the certification program from Oakland Community College, J.B.Waskul immediately began working internships for the film industry. While going to an internship at Precinct 13 in Ohio, he went on a road trip with Maria Vespa and K.C.Bath. It was during the three hour drive they discussed the possibility starting up their own film project. Having extensive backgrounds in art, the three of them hoped to work with a film crew’s art department. They wanted to apply their talents on a Sci-Fi or Fantasy film but there was nothing of that sort coming to Michigan at the time. It was then that J.B.Waskul began working on several storylines for his own science fiction screenplay.

The inspiration for the String Theory storyline came when J.B.Waskul helped friend and former coworker, Bill Wardrop to set up an exhibit for his Steam Punk / Retro-Futurism sculptures at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia back in February of 2009. He was admiring the quality of his Bill Wardrop’s work and wondering what it would take to be a model maker for the movie industry.

While working on several feature film projects, J.B.Waskul would create a series of screenplays that followed his lifelong interests in art, science, history, philosophy, mythology, archaeology and of course puppets. It was while writing one night that he was looking at a couple of marionettes he had made during an automotive layoff back in 2002; the first being Mary Kay and the second being an old gypsy fortune teller. When the idea all came together for him; a Sci-Fi puppet show! It would feature two scientists, one representing Steampunk and the other Retro-Futurism. The timeframe would be the 1950's when puppet shows were popular and America was on the verge of the space age! In spite of the Cold War, America was prosperous and the ethics of science went unchecked. The sci-fi series that would come to be known as "String Theory" was born and would feature the themes of retro-futurism and steam punk design. To build the cast of characters he used the head of the fortune teller for the head of Dr. Rathburger and the body for Jeanetta, Professor Balonium puppet was an all-new construct. Lynne Wardrop sewed and knitted the first outfits for the original four cast members. Having established the primary characters for the storyline, he quickly developed his first outlines. By June of 2009 had his first few scripts written and was making marionettes and props out of his garage along with two of his film industry classmates; David Calabro (who eventually became Assistant Director) and Maria Vespa (who became a puppeteer).

It was while working an internship on an independent film project called 'Tuckers Wind' when J.B.Waskul began presenting his concept to the crew and developed a network of friends in many areas of film making. Makram Ferhi was the director of photography on Tuckers Wind and offered up a free studio space in Dearborn Heights, Michigan to start the String Theory film project. With an established workshop, cast and crew members came together with relative ease especially due to the lack of employment opportunities from the economic downturn. Many of the crew members would come by just to escape the depression of being unemployed. Although the first studio was an unheated warehouse space without electricity or plumbing which was used for storage of auto parts for a taxi service next door; there was enough space to construct several stages and room for a film crew. By the winter of 2009 - 2010 many film students from the film school stopped by to contribute to the project by one means or another. Some of the students stuck around for the long haul. Many of the crew members offered up a rich variety of skills to keep the film production going. Dan Bisaro, Bob Barry, Steve Catherman, and Rob Aurbach joined the crew to help out with set construction. J.B.Waskul acted as set designer assisted by David Calabro. William Wardrop worked on props as well as Richard Waskul, Bob Barry, Greg Rich and Steve Catherman. Carol Smith became the seamstress at this time as well.

By the time springtime came around the sets were almost ready for filming but the studio lacked the voice talent needed for production. Monica Chavez, the script supervisor, helped out with casting voice talent. It was during the process of setting up a casting call when actors suddenly started showing up at the studio's doorstep. Each of them had the exact voices needed for the voice over recording session. Within a matter of weeks, the studio acquired acting skills of Rick Smith (as Prof. Balonium), Rita Smith (as Mary Kay), Michael Overbay (as Dr. Rathburger) and Cindy Furdero (as Jeanetta). In addition, Geof Bush, Chris Coldren, Jesse Nagy, and Peter Brown would also lend their voice talents to a variety of characters. A sound booth was constructed and Dan Bisaro along with his friend Mark Hankins would become the sound engineers. Mark Hankins, would also bring his talents as a musician and also introduced the studio to the musical artists Jeff Faust, Victor Peraino and Sparing the Ace to put together the musical track.

With a full crew in place the production of String Theory had begun. However, over the following months filming moved slowly and awkwardly and the details of post-production had not been worked out. Footage was not properly organized and many scenes were lost and the process of editing had not been worked out. A few of the members experimented with editing software but could not make any progress due to missing footage. To this day Episode 1 from the filming at the first studio remains incomplete.

Even in the face of a failed production the cast and crew wanted to press on. It was late spring of 2011 when a new opportunity for free studio space opened up and all the physical assets from String Theory were moved to the new location in Redford Michigan. The new studio was far more comfortable and had many more amenities than the previous studio. Within a month of moving to the new studio everything was set to begin production once again. With Aralia Almendral-Todd taking over as the new Director of Photography in place the entire first episode was reshot in five sessions. Joe Dinda who was also a film student took over the process of editing and by September 2011 Episode 1 of String theory was on DVD. Episode 2 soon followed and was filmed in just three sessions. Each episode had its own unique problems and new cast and crew members would come and go. Over the next five years 13 episodes were created due to the commitment of its cast and crew members.