Illinois

photo by Colin West McDonald

photo by Colin West McDonald

I came across this wonderful old hangar in the middle of rural Illinois and had to get my camera out…

photo by Colin West McDonald

(Published on April 2, 2014)
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Panoramas from the moon (thanks to NASA)

image from NASA

credit: NASA

Back in the late 60s and 70s when NASA was sending U.S. Astronauts to the moon, some unbelievable large format photographs were taken.  I was parsing through the Apollo 15 mission photos and came across some incredible panoramas I had to share…

Just a little inspiration for The Robot Scriptures

image from NASAimage from NASAimage from NASAimage from NASAimage from NASAimage from NASA
image from NASAimage from NASAimage from NASA

More of these images can be found via NASA on the Apollo 15 mission site (free to use and greatfully paid for by your tax dollars):

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/pao/History/alsj/a15/  Thank you to Kipp Teague for doing most of the scanning.

 

(Published on March 25, 2014)
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The Latent Germ of Madness

The Latent Germ of Madness from Colin West McDonald on Vimeo.

A woman confronts death in the wilderness.

“In every parting there is a latent germ of madness” – Goethe 1788

Written & Directed by: Colin West McDonald
2013 / USA / Stoker Motion Pictures / 16:33


Woman: Anna Hebblewhite
Production Assistance: Andrew Maynard
Music: Arnold Dreyblatt
Title Design: Jeff Brush
Foley Assistance: Tina Matthews
Thank You: Ben McArthur & The Estate

Shot on location in:
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park – Tasmania, Australia &
Fiordland National Park – Southland, New Zealand

More about the making of the film can be found on this post.

The Latent Germ of Madness - a film by Colin West McDonald

 

 

(Published on March 18, 2014)
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Distant Universe Spins

distant universe spins Colin West McDonald

Sometimes you find real gems floating around the studio…

This one was a quick shot sketch from The Robot Scriptures.

(Published on March 13, 2014)
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Composer Arnold Dreyblatt scores my short film The Latent Germ of Madness

Arnold Dreyblatt Choose

Choice, 2013
LP, CD, Choose Records, Berlin
Selected by: Jörg Hiller Mastering By Rashad Becker Sleeve Design By Hendrik Schwantes Choose Records, Berlin


Aronld Dreyblatt
, the extremely talented American Composer and Fine Artist living in Berlin, Germany, has allowed me to use three of his tracks (from his most recent album, Choice [Choose Records, Berlin]) to be used to score my upcoming short film The Latent Germ of Madness.

I have been a listening to Dreyblatt for a few years now and am particularly partial to his use of unique instrumentation, unabashed playing lengths, and repetitive, trance-like patterning.  A wonderful voice in sound.

[from MIT, where Dreyblatt is currently in residence as an artist in CAST, the Center for Art, Science, & Technology]:

Arnold Dreyblatt is an American media artist and composer. He studied music with Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, and Alvin Lucier and has been based in Berlin, Germany since 1984. In 2007, Dreyblatt was elected to lifetime membership in the visual arts section at the German Academy of Art (Akademie der Künste, Berlin). He is currently Professor of Media Art at the Muthesius Academy of Art and Design in Kiel, Germany.

Dreyblatt’s musical and artistic practice has ranged from large multi-day performances to permanent installations, digital projections, dynamic textual objects, and multi-layered lenticular text panels. His visual artworks create complex textual and spatial visualizations about memory, reflecting upon such themes as recollection and the archive. A member of the second generation of New York minimal composers, Dreyblatt continues to develop his work in composition and music performance, having invented a new set of original instruments, performance techniques, and a system of tuning. He has formed and led numerous ensembles under the title “The Orchestra of Excited Strings” for over thirty years.

Needless to say I am thrilled to have one of my favorite composers scoring my short film.

The Latent Germ of Madness will be released publicly very, very soon.

Arnold Dreyblatt Choose

Choice, 2013
LP, CD, Choose Records, Berlin
Selected by: Jörg Hiller Mastering By Rashad Becker Sleeve Design By Hendrik Schwantes Choose Records, Berlin

(Published on February 20, 2014)
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National Geographic, October 1982

National Geographic October 1982

National Geographic, October 1982

 

A little A.I. inspiration…

(Published on February 13, 2014)
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The Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot [trailer]

[trailer] The Robot Scriptures, part III: “The Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot” from Colin West McDonald

An ash-collecting robot witnesses the collapse of the universe as he slowly drifts through outer space.

Coming Spring 2014.

Adapted from “Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot” by cartoonist Joel Priddy [pulpatoon.tumblr.com]
A Stoker Motion Picture // StokerMotionPictures.com

(Published on February 11, 2014)
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Screenwriter’s Calendar 2014 – Competitions and Festivals

photo by Colin West McDonald

Last year I created a condensed calendar of important dates for screenwriters:  Screenplay Competitions – 2013 deadlines (new year, new opportunities)

Well, this year, 2014, the Black List did it for me!  And, admittedly, much better…

Thank you, Black List.

HERE IT IS.

I like it so much I’m putting it on the sidebar… over there—>

For those of you who don’t know what the Black List is, it’s a pretty cool (and trustworthy) place to upload your screenplay to for feedback – like the social media platform for Screenwriters.

The Black List screenwriting screenwriters logo

(Published on February 4, 2014)
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Adapting Joel Priddy’s Comic into a short film…

Joel Priddy The Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot

Panel from The Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot – by Joel Priddy, in the anthology Project: Telstar, published by AdHouse books.

 

Big news!  Recently I acquired the rights to adapt Joel Priddy‘s wonderful comic The Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot into a short film.  The comic is a short story about an ash collecting robot floating through space over the course of eons, slowly witnessing the collapse of the universe…

It will be part III (of three) of The Robot Scriptures.  I’ll be creating the trilogy over the next year or so (in reverse chronological order) conceptualizing an origin story for Artificial Intelligence.   

This particular story, though being quite simple, alludes to very complex ideas and theories – time, space, creation, seclusion. In the comic, Priddy has taken a simple 9 square panel format and ripped apart conventions and expectations through his use of composition and form, in many cases allowing the panels to be read both like a normal book (left to right, top to bottom), but also as a whole – really quite genius.

I’ll be making the film as a live action puppetry piece (yet maybe not what you’d think about as puppetry…).  That being so, I am currently in the midst of building a robot…  The Ashbot:

Colin West McDonald Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot

Ashbot… almost done…

 

Keep an eye out for the film this Spring… and Parts I & II coming later this year…

Joel Priddy is a wonderfully talented illustrator and writer in his own right and I highly recommend checking him out.

Another one of Joel Priddy‘s graphic novels, Pulpatoon Pilgrimage is no doubt one of the best out there – an honest and sometimes brutal account of the adventures and history of three unlikely friends.  The graphic novel won him an Ignatz Award in 2002 for Outstanding Debut and was also nominated for an Eisner for Best Graphic Novel.  His illustration work has appeared in the New York Times, Playboy, and Cricket Magazines.  Basically, his work is amazing.  check him out: http://www.joelpriddy.com/   http://pulpatoon.tumblr.com/

For those of you interested in reading the The Long Slow Flight of the Ashbot by Joel Priddy – it is featured in the incredible comic anthology Project: Telstar, published by AdHouse books.

 

(Published on January 28, 2014)
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NEA Article

Denizen – pyramid video from Colin McDonald on Vimeo.  [this video was projected on the pyramid as a backdrop set piece for Denizen]

 

The N.E.A. Arts Magazine featured Denizen (a performative work I co-created) in an article titled

Defining Creative Placemaking

By Jason Schupbach

http://arts.gov/NEARTS/2012v3-arts-and-culture-core/defining-creative-placemaking

Denizen

Denizen is a performance, sound, and video projection based work that draws inspiration from local native mythology.  It is a two-part piece that explores life and the therefore imminent approach of death; using the Coyote as a central character.  The coyote is a native to the California area and has prospered through all the human developments. Even though its natural habitat is being reduced, its population has grown by assimilating to the human culture and living off human bi-products. In the time of the Ohlone people, native to the bay area, the coyote was a main figure of their mythology; portrayed as a character of wit and cunning and contributing to the creation of humankind. The coyote is an instigator, and an animal that has the ability to adapt, while remaining wild and uncontrolled.

Denizen was directed by Tina Matthews, eve Warnock and Colin McDonald and performed in the Zero 1 Biennial 2012 – San Jose, CA for hundreds of onlookers in Oct. 2012

More about DENIZEN: http://www.zero1.org/blog/denizen-emma-polster

Photography: Patrick Lyndon

Denizen - Media Director Colin West McDonald

Denizen - Media Director Colin West McDonald

Denizen - Media Director Colin West McDonald

Denizen - Media Director Colin West McDonald

Concept by:
Tina Matthews
Colin McDonald
eve Warnock

Performers:
Luke Wilson
Tina Matthews
eve Warnock
Catalina Giraldo
Marina Fini
Clair Frey

Costume Designers:
Tina Matthews
eve Warnock
Clair Frey
Brooke Jennings
Colin McDonald

Media Director:
Colin McDonald

(Published on November 4, 2013)
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Studio and On-Location Lighting (from leading light manufacturers)

image by C. West McDonald

Currently at work I am kitting out our new appliance video and photography studio with… well… everything.  From lights to sound panels to set pieces and everything in between.

In doing research on lighting kits I came across two very useful guides for those getting into both studio and on-location lighting situations…

Two of the leading light manufacturers for indie (and pro) filmmakers, ARRI and Kino Flo, both have PDF guides for lighting scenes using their lights.  They of course are a bit skewed with trying to sell their particular kits and they don’t go too overly in-depth, but, they certainly would come in handy as simple guides for beginners trying to light a variety of situations.  Here they are in PDF:

ARRI_Lighting_Handbook_3rd_Edition_March_2012

KinoFlo-lighting-handbook

www.kinoflo.com, www.arri.com

(Published on September 19, 2013)
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Quotation Mark (“”)

image by C. West McDonaldjoe.

“There would be no Greek tragedy if the Greek writers listened to their audience.”
- Roman Polanski

 

“You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system.

When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.

That is what happens on the film’s simplest level. Since an encounter with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with the bare plot outline itself.”

- Stanley Kubrick

 

“The tremendous world I have in my head. But how to free myself and free them without ripping apart. And a thousand times rather tear in me they hold back or buried. For this I’m here, that’s quite clear to me.”

“Man cannot live without a permanent trust in something indestructible within himself, though both that indestructible something and his own trust in it may remain permanently concealed from him.”

-Franz Kafka

 

“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”

“My life has been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it.”

- H. D. Thoreau

(Published on August 7, 2013)
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The Latent Germ of Madness (in production…)

Latent Germ of Madness Production Still ( Colin West McDonald ) - image by Andrew Maynard

“In every parting there is a latent germ of madness.” – Goethe, 1788

Back in February, a feat of film production was accomplished.  The shooting of both a music video and a 10 minute short film over the course of one weekend.  Pshew!

The short film is titled The Latent Germ of Madness -

It is a story, drawn from the Goethe quote above, about the value of struggle.

In the recent past, I’ve read a hell of a lot of theoretical essays on “The Epic of Gilgamesh” (ancient mesopotamia, circa 2700BCE, the oldest written story known to man) - – the feature length screenplay that I recently wrote is loosely based on this story.  These essays and texts are on a range of topics – anthropological, mythology, sociological, scientific, poetry, etc.  One of these essays I came across was called “Reaching for Abroad: Departures” by Eric Leed and it really struck a cord with me with all of my recent global traveling.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh – the hero Gilgamesh goes on a very long journey to find immortality, but in the end cannot find it, or looses it really, but is left with a more broad appreciation for life because of this journey.

This short film was meant to explore this exploration – and what/why it brings value to our lives.  How fear is perhaps the reason traveling is so worthwhile – taking one far from comfort to make them realize the value of life – the power of life is much stronger when one knows what the face of death looks like.  And so I took an almost literal approach…

Acting in the film is a woman by the name of Anna Hebblewhite.  She is a wonderfully talented musician and actress who I got to know while in Tasmania and can now confidently call a friend.

Over the same weekend we shot the Latent Germ short, we also shot a music video for Anna – a song of hers titled “Awakening”.  We approached the shoot with a similarly circular structure to the short film, but went about it in a loosely composed way, shooting in and around the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.  Annnnnd we all got to go swimming – which was understandably the best.

More of her music can be found here:

https://soundcloud.com/anna-hebblewhite

or

https://www.facebook.com/annahebblewhitemusic

Andrew Maynard, her partner in crime, and also my good friend, was instrumental in helping out on the shoot, acting as a production assistant and overall good spirit during the long, hot days in the mountains.  Like a warm weather sherpa.  Many thanks go out to him.  ps – almost all the photographs in this post were taken by him.

The films, both shot in Tasmania, Australia, are currently in post-production and should be done in the near future!  Keep an eye out for more pics and words and etc etc in the near future…

(Published on July 11, 2013)
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Free software for NO BUDGET filmmakers (no excuses)

Image by C. West McDonald

So I ran across this a while back and thought it was an incredible resource for those looking to make a film with NO budget.  All these programs are free and/or open source.

When I made my feature length film, SO IT WAS WITH US, a few years back, a bunch of these programs were really helpful for me.  It also helps to get your foot in the door with no harm done to your wallet.  Movies can get made with no budget.  It is no excuse to say “I dont have the resources” – cause here they are.

This list comes from the Raindance Film Festival… Thank you Raindance.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Zero budget software suite for filmmakers:

raindance.org:

Money is, by definition, always a difficult issue for the low budget filmmaker. The challenge is in getting as much of your meagre budget up on the screen as possible.  With that being the case do you really have the money to throw around on overpriced software packages? Luckily, by the wonders of open source development, just about every £500 software package has its freebie equivalent. These packages give you an entire office set up for every stage of the filmmaking process, from drawing up budgets and schedules, writing your script right through to advanced editing and special effects.  All for a most reasonable price.  Free.

OFFICE ESSENTIALS

Open Office – Equivalent to Microsoft Office
MAC/PC/LINUX
Word and Excel, absolutely essential in running your office but at an annoyingly high price.  Not to mention the need to buy it all over again to run on a Mac.  So why bother?  Open Office has all the features of the Office package in a nicely familiar layout.  As a bonus it’s compatible with Mac and PC and can work with Microsoft files.  So long Bill Gates.
Get it here

Celtx – Equivalent to Final Draft
MAC/PC/LINUX
If you’re going to get anywhere as a writer then you’re going to have to make sure your scripts are properly formatted.  Final Draft’s £200+ price tag mocks the penniless writer, whereas Celtx welcomes him with open arms.  Celtx’s range of features is very impressive, functioning perfectly as an intuitive screenwriting package and also offers a complete scheduling and scene breakdown solution.
Get it here

KOffice
MAC/PC/LINUX
An impressive collection of software, the KOffice project is similar to Open Office in many respects but has a couple of extras thrown in too.
Get it here

Skype – Equivalent to expensive international calls
MAC/PC/LINUX
It’s a wonder anyone is paying the extortionate rates of international phone charges anymore.  Get Skype, talk cheap.
Get it here

EDITING AND GRAPHICS

Lightworks
PC ( LINUX public beta released early 2013, MAC TBA)
An incredibly powerful editing package that is head and shoulders above all other freebie editing packages.  Just take a look at their website to see some of the high profile projects that have used Lightworks.  Lightworks has features that even some of the big packages don’t have without the addition of expensive plugins.  With a strong community supporting it, this is only going to get better. Get it here

HyperEngine-AV – Equivalent to Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro
MAC/PC
A decent editing package.  A step up from the likes of imovie though still not up to the professional standards of the pricey packages.  For simple edits though, you could do a lot worse.
Get it here

Avidemux
MAC/PC/LINUX
One of the best free editing packages out there.  Avidemux allows you to do basic cutting, apply filters and work with a wide variety of different file types.  It gets better with each release.
Get it here

windows movie maker, pinnacle videospin
PC
These lightweight freebie editors should not be overlooked entirely.  For quick edits and changes there’s no need for the big guns.
Get Windows Movie Maker
Get Pinnacle Videospin

Avid Free DV
MAC
This was a great idea but has sadly been discontinued by Avid.  Avid Free DV is a free version of their high end editing software, preserving the interface but removing many of the advanced features.  Great for simple editing whilst also learning your way around Avid.  Copies are still floating around online, though now it’s unsupported it is just going to get more out of date with time.  Get it while it’s still useful.
Get it here

MPEG Streamclip
MAC/PC
Another powerful, professional encoding and conversion tool.  It accepts even the most obscure video formats and can even download YouTube videos.
Get it here

ffmpeg
MAC/PC/LINUX
A powerful encoding tool that can read and convert just about any video file format.
Get it here

DCP Builder – Equivalent to taking your project to an expensive post house
MAC/PC/LINUX
Want to screen your film at the utmost quality?  Modern digital projectors require something called a DCP (Digital Cinema Package).  Most post houses will charge you several thousands for the privilege, even for a short.  DCP Builder is free.
Get it here

Open DCP
MAC/PC/LINUX
Another DCP package.  Personally I’ve had better results with this one than with DCP Builder.  But hey, they’re both free so give them both a shot and see what works best for you.
Get it here

Black Magic DaVinci Resolve Lite
MAC/PC/LINUX
A good colour correcting job can make your budget movie look a million dollars.  Black Magic now offer a lite version of their powerful colour correcting tool absolutely free!
Get it here

Gimp – Equivalent to Photoshop
MAC(Requires X11)/PC
Photoshop is the worlds most pirated piece of software and for good reason.  It mixes an essential, practical and intuitive set of tools with an obscenely high price tag.  So if piracy is not your thing, then try out this brilliant, yet strangely named, free alternative.  Gimp’s impressive set of features rivals that of Photoshop and is expanding all the time.  The ability to open and save photoshop files also makes it very easy to jump back and forth.
Get it here

Inkscape – Equivalent to Adobe Illustrator
MAC(Requires X11)/PC
When creating titles and logos, you are going to need to use vector graphics.  Once upon a time that meant the man from Adobe ransacking your pockets.  Not anymore.  Inkscape does it all.
Get it here

Seashore
MAC
Lighter on features than Gimp but a lot less clunky.  If you just want to do a basic image touch up then give this a shot.
Get it here

AUDIO

Audacity
MAC/PC/LINUX
For basic audio recording and editing give Audacity a shot.
Get it here

Frinika
MAC/PC/LINUX
The perfect way to compose a score for your movie.  Frinika offers MIDI sequencing, audio recording and mixing.
Get it here

PREVIZ AND ANIMATION

Blender – Equivalent to Maya, 3DS Max
MAC/PC/LINUX
The big 3D modelling and animating packages will set you back thousands of pounds, a price that sets a solid barrier against the beginning 3D modeller.  How are people able to learn to use it?  The answer is Blender.  The results that Blender has produced are truly stunning and it has already been used to create effects for feature films as well as animated shorts.  There is a heavy reliance on shortcut keys which makes it a very steep learning curve for beginners.
Get it here

Muvizu
PC
This animation package takes a lot of the pain out of creating 3D animations, allowing you to construct environments and characters with ease out of thousands of customisable templates.  Perfect for practising animation or for creating previz for your film.
Get it here

Synfig – Equivalent to Flash
MAC/PC/LINUX
Whether you’re looking to create simple web animations or looking for a program to animate film quality images then Synfig is for you.  Offering much of Flash’s feature set as well as tools entirely of it’s own making, Synfig provides an outlet for the budding 2D animator.
Get it here

Jahshaka – Equivalent to After Effects
MAC/PC/LINUX
You’re heading into complex territory here.  Recently renamed CineFX, Jahshaka aims to be a one stop visual effects suite.  While Jahshaka does have an impressive feature set, it is possibly too unreliable and glitchy for use on larger projects, but for simple effects you can’t go wrong.
Get it here

Cinepaint
MAC/LINUX
Perfect for finalising your film.  Cinepaint allows you to do a careful retouch of your footage, frame by frame, or just clean up still images.
Get it here

WEB DEVELOPMENT

kompozer – Equivalent to Dreamweaver
MAC/PC/LINUX
You are going to need a website and you are probably going to want to put your own one together rather than relying on well worn template tools like wordpress.  Kompozer can do it all.
Get it here

Cyberduck
MAC/PC
An FTP management tool for your website.  Sure, it’s not fun, but it is important.
Get it here

HANDY TOOLS

ColorSync
MAC
You may already have this one without even knowing it.  I did.  Try doing a search on your Mac’s hard disk.  This little utility can shrink PDF files down to minuscule sizes with very little drop in quality.  Ideal when sending out screenplays, press kits etc.

DVD Flick
PC
A simple DVD authoring solution that allows you to work with multiple formats, add subtitle streams and create menus easily.
Get it here

Handbrake
MAC/PC
Rip DVDs at high quality.  A simple design and workflow gets the job done in a couple of clicks.
Get it here

MediaInfo
MAC/PC
I only just discovered this one and am now not entirely sure how I coped without it.  Mediainfo opens any video file and tells you exactly what codecs and settings were used to create it.  Essential.
Get it here

VLC Player
MAC/PC/LINUX
The video player that plays everything.  Essential.
Get it here

Teleprompting
PC
Turn your laptop into a teleprompter with ease.  Perfect when doing on the spot reports or perhaps dealing with a particularly forgetful actor.  The demo version is free and retains many of the essential functions.
Get it here

It’s also worth noting that most of the big software packages offer free 1 month trials.  And with so many competing packages, you can easily jump ship from one to the next as your trial runs out. Total RRP of all the above packages is approximately £5780. Save your money.  Make a film instead!

(Published on June 16, 2013)
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HUMDINGER

Here’s – the new short film I just finished up creating with Corbin Jones!

“HUMDINGER”

Mike reluctantly listens to his eccentric friend tell him a story about what happened to his uncle Lester on a Saturday morning in 1969 – the ultimate humdinger.

Written and Directed by:
Corbin Jones & C. West McDonald
2013 / USA / Stoker Motion Pictures / 7:44
www.StokerMotionPictures.com
www.cwestmcdonald.com

Some production stills:

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger production still colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

Humdinger still frame colin west mcdonald corbin jones

 

 

(Published on March 17, 2013)
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