A Mighty Wind

With an all-female cast and crew, “Space Wind”—a new sci-fi comedy short combining 3D animated objects, characters, and live action—is headed to a film festival near you.

Written by Rosalind Fournier; Portraits by Liesa Cole

Veronique (“Vero”) Vanblaere, a Belgian artist who has called Birmingham home now for more than 20 years and owns the popular Naked Art Gallery, made her first short animation film Bottomless in 2015. That film—which debuted at the Sidewalk Film Festival and also made it into 26 more independent film festivals around the world, including the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Short Corner—followed a plotline not unlike Vanblaere’s own, of a Belgian woman seeking citizenship in the U.S.

Vanblaere’s new short film, Space Wind—conceived, planned, filmed and produced in the blink of an eye earlier this spring—is a little less bound to reality. Or even Earth.

It started with what Vanblaere describes as an idea that’s floated in her head for years. “I always thought it would be awesome if people could fart in color,” she explains. It popped into her head again one morning while she was out for a run and thought of making it into a comic. Then, that night, she and her friend, local film producer Rebecca Pugh, happened to get together to chat over a bottle of wine, and Vanblaere shared her thought with Pugh.

Pugh—who has made a handful of her own well-received short films over the years—loved it. “We were just sitting there talking about what we’ve been working on, and she told me about this thought bubble in her head: what happens if you fart in space? Wouldn’t it be terrible if you were stuck in this little space station and someone farted?” Pugh remembers. “She had this idea about two girls who were astronauts in a spaceship, and they took this pill that would color code their farts and determine how awful they were. I laughed my head off.”

There was still more: “Then Vero brought up that she and her husband and their friends had started a club to make puppets, and she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had puppets in this?’ And I said, ‘Let’s do it! Why not?’”

The project came together at lightning speed after that. Vanblaere presented Pugh with storyboards the very next day. By then, they had decided to take advantage of the many talented women they knew in the creative arts in Birmingham, and Pugh put together an all-female cast and crew, a concept that delighted Vanblaere. “The fact that our subject is farts in space is even more empowering,” she laughs. “Today’s women are comfortable speaking their mind and acting like the guys. They have the self-confidence to entertain the art of self-mockery and make a film about it.”

The Space Wind cast and crew includes actresses Virginia Newcomb and Elise Mayfield; award-winning photographer Liesa Cole as director of photographer (who also lent her studio for the filming itself); Somica Spratley as makeup artist; Amanda Khorrambadi as video editor and camera operator; and Carrie Hill Smith, who created all the music and sound effects.

“We told everybody, ‘Okay, we’re doing to do this in two weeks!’ And everyone said, ‘Okay—let’s do it!’,” Pugh remembers. Props in hand—including  the puppets and costumes for the two actresses, all hand sewn by Vanblaere—they descended on Cole’s studio shortly after and shot the whole thing in just six hours.

At press time, the filmmakers were busy with final efforts to get Space Wind entered into the 2018 Sidewalk Film Festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. After that, who knows? “That is the beauty with a creative project,” says Vanblaere. “You ride along, and it is always an adventure. If people like our film, some great opportunities may arise, and we will take them.”

Quotes from crew:

I have been wanting to make another film since ‘Bottomless’ three years ago, but after a lot of different ideas, I lost interest in those stories because they were missing something that made the round and right. With ‘Space Wind’…when I told Rebecca about it, she loved it instantly, and that is all that I needed to take the plunge: just a little bit of support.

—Veronique Vanblaere, writer, director, and puppet designer/creator

I’ve wanted to get into doing more film, and to do it with this band of rock star women was my dream. I was all in without knowing a thing about the script. And then of course when I found out what it was… It’s just ridiculous, lighthearted fun, campy as can be.

—Liesa Cole, director of photography

We had a really good time. I tried to show my fiancé, and he just does not get it. He’s too proper. But I was laughing my head off listening back to it. The biggest challenge for me was adding in all the special effects…it was shot on the green screen, so you have to use special editing software, and I taught myself out to do it. It’s really good experience to have.

—Amanda Khorrambadi, video editor and camera operator

I did the music for Vero’s last film, and when she asked me to do music for this one I got really excited. Then I saw the screenplay and thought, ‘Oh boy, this will be interesting.’ I have a sense of humor, so it’s all good, and the music is very silly.

—Carrie Hill Smith, music and sound effects producer

This is the first film I’ve worked on that was all female. That’s what really sold me on it—I’m all about girl power. It’s also really quirky, experimental, silly, and fun. I don’t get to do that very often, and I got to do it with people I knew and make some new friends, too—so I jumped on the opportunity to get involved.

—Somica Spratley, makeup artist

I do so much drama, and I love it, but it was fun to do something super effortless and light. It’s all completely facial reactions, so this is my Lucille Ball ball moment. As soon as Vero asked me, I thought, ‘Yes! I get to finally use all my faces!’ It’s like being a kid again.

— Virginia Newcomb, actress

When Rebecca told me the premise, I said, ‘I am super in for an all-female film about farting in space.’ I’m really proud that this is an all-female cast and crew. In particular I think it’s pretty awesome that it was an all-female film about something really silly, where we didn’t have to take ourselves so seriously, and yet our artwork is still a craft. It’s a joy to be able to find those moments of professionalism and silliness at the same time.

—Elise Mayfield, actress

We’re definitely going to submit the film to Sidewalk, and then we’re going to send it to a bunch of film festivals around the world and see what happens, because who else is making a puppet live action movie with all women about farts?

—Rebecca Pugh, producer

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