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Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice – Interview with creator Mike Mort

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UPDATE: You can now watch the full film in its explosive glory below!
Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice is the testosterone fuelled, madcap adventure from Gogs co-creator Mike Mort. The eponymous Chuck Steel is a fists first, questions later cop who is called on to deal with a hostage situation in a fifteen minute thrill ride that manages to cram every 80’s action movie cliché into a gloriously explosive flick.

What makes this film all the more impressive is that fact that something with such a high production value started life in the basement as a part time project before securing funding after the project had begun. Chuck Steel’s adventures have struck a cord with audiences eager to see more of the high octane adventures and will be pleased to know that the short has spawned a feature film Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires due for release in 2017

MMORT

Mike Mort

We caught up with Mike Mort to find out how the film was made and what the future has in store for Chuck Steel.

Who is Chuck Steel?

Chuck Steel is a character that has been with me for quite a long time, he is someone that I used to draw in my English book at school, so well over 20 years in the making, the short film, Raging Balls of Steel Justice is the culmination of me finally getting this film made.

Seems like quite a long time in the making then!

The earliest Chuck Steel film I did when I was 15 was a super 8 film called Armageddon Time which was done long before I learned to animate or went to college. That is when the character first appeared apart from the doodles in my schoolbooks. After that I decided to do another super 8 film called Hard as Hell whilst I studied at the Newport film school. The character has been with me a long time so he feels like my alter ego!

The short is clearly influenced by the films of the 1980’s, are you an animator making an 80’s action film or an action filmmaker using animation?

The films I watch now and the films I loved as a kid were the one of the 80s, they got me into filmmaking and although I still watch a lot of fantasy and action film now, after CGI came in I think something got a little lost. I still watch the old films with real fire and real explosions and the features with real prosthetics, animatronics and stop motion creatures. All of those films from the 80s were a big influence of Chuck Steel. When I first made the Super 8 films back in the 80s when this thing was still going on they weren’t so much of a homage but more like a film but because a lot of time as passed all of these ideas I’ve had stuck in my head have come out in one 15 minute film and because they’re all based around that 80’s action vibe it does feel more like a homage – Although its definitely not a spoof!

It difficult to know where the line is drawn really between spoof and homage given the nature of the film.

There was never an intention to make it a big homage, I just wanted to make a film full of the things I loved. Over the years I’ve tried to get the money together to get this project off the ground in various ways and encountered a few false starts and dead ends. Just before I started this short film I thought that I’d never get it made and I was ready to put the film on the shelf forever but something spurred me on, and it might sound ridiculous but it was the first Expendables film! Seeing all those 80’s action heroes getting back together and having another crack at it made me think of giving the film another shot on my own in my basement, like I used to make my old super 8 films. Gradually as I made the puppets and the sets we got some funding from a producer friend of mine Joe D’Morais who got me onto another producer friend of his called Rupert Lywood who happened to be a big fan of Gogs which I did many years ago. Rupert helped me fund the short and is now the key funder on the Chuck Steel feature film.

CHUCK

Where I would expect to see a long list of credits it appears you did the film with a small crew how did the film evolve through its production?

When the film started it was just myself. I had various armatures left over from jobs I’d done over the years so pulled them apart and reconditioned them. I had a friend called Dave Sethi, a model maker who came in to help me with the props and the little robot character. I started building the set after converting my basement into a working studio space and just cracked on with that. I had the shell of the set put together when the funding came through and so I could employ more people to help out.

Do you have any specific heroes of animation or influences?

To be honest, although I like and follow animation , I prefer live action films. I’ve always made my films using animation because making films on a small scale was the only option I had and I’ve continued with that throughout my career. In terms of animation I am a huge fan of the work of Ray Harryhausen and Phil Tippet who are more effects based. The actual claymation side of things I’d say Will Vinton probably is an influence more than any other claymation animator.

ACTIONS

Is the entire film stop motion? There is a smooth transformation scene that look live action or puppet based.

Its all stop motion. The way I approached the film was “how would they have approached this in the 80’s if this was a live action film” so we made heads that could stretch using mechanisms inside and filmed that frame by frame.

The short film is a wonderfully condensed view of 80’s action films, what have you have in mind for the feature?

That’s what I wanted to do with it. The feature fim is a standalone story, called Night of the Trampires – you can probably guess what happens with just the title, I don’t only wish to make an action film, I want it to be full of B-movie references and monsters, I don’t see why we should hold back on this we should just go for it!

How do you keep the fluid consistency of the animation do you use replacements?

No all the animation is sculpted, it’s a time consuming and tricky process to keep that consistency.

Would you ever consider using replacements in future or rapid prototyping?

We want to keep as much plasticine in there as possible, we don’t want to go into the rapid prototyping side of things because it is very expensive and a huge management task. I think we will use replacement lip areas but always encourage the animators to sculpt. Luckily the animators on the short had a lot of sculpting experience so we need to find more people like that just to keep the look the same. I really want to keep that plasticine feel where we can.

How are you finding the change of scale from short to feature?

I’m really enjoying it, we’ve got a huge task ahead of us setting up the new studio but moving ahead were due to start building the puppets in January. The process of making a feature film is fine as the idea has been in my head for so long I’m not daunted by it. I wrote the script in 2003, it’s the one I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a while so we’ve come back to it. I’m finally getting it made – its nice to get to that point eventually!

Click on the production images below for the bigger picture

You can download the entire film for just 99p over on the Chuck Steel website here or buy a physical copy on DVD by following the link below. Keep up to date with the progress of Night of the Trampires by liking and following Chuck Steel on Facebook and Twitter too.

Items mentioned in this article:

Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice

Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice

£2.99

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