We’ve been blessed with a series of great, fascinating puppetry documentaries in recent years and it looks like another is on the way!
Filmed in Supermarionation is an upcoming British documentary about the work of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s AP FIlms. Directed by Stephen La Riviere and based on his book Filmed In Supermarionation: A History Of The Future, the film will be “hosted” by the famous Anderson characters Lady Penelope and Parker, seen in the clip above. The film promises “a wealth of previously unseen archive footage, brand new interviews with the surviving casts and crews and clips from the shows themselves,” in addition to new sequences created using the puppetry and model photography techniques that Supermarionation made famous.
Stephen spoke to Glotime.tv – a web site founded by Sylvia Anderson and her daughter Dee Anderson – about the challenges of re-creating the signature Supermarionation style for the film:
Filming the puppet scenes in particular was a nightmare I shall never forget. I’d heard the stories – the whole of my crew (made up of fellow fans-turned-professionals) was sure we could do this because we knew so much about how the original shows were made. How wrong we were – however bad the original crew had claimed it was – it was 100x worse! The puppets really can do nothing with ease. Everything has to be carefully manipulated to get them to look good and the camera and lighting (rarely mentioned in books) was perhaps the most important element.
It was the most depressing, yet simultaneously brilliant filming experience I’ve ever had – recreating this lost art form. It took a lot of time, and off-the-scale-I-think-I’m-going-to-die stress, but I think we finally got there. How on earth did the original team do that for twelve years!?
In a short clip from the film, special effects artist Brian Johnson explains how models are blown up:
Filmed in Supermarionation is slated to premiere at the British Film Institute later in the year, followed by a wide release in the UK and possibly elsewhere. Until then, the book Filmed In Supermarionation is available from Amazon.com and you can subscribe to the Gerry Anderson YouTube channel for more clips .
6/5/14 Update: Gerry and Sylvia’s daughter Dee Anderson contacted me after this post was published to quite correctly point out that her mother Sylvia co-created Thunderbirds and most of the other AP Films-produced “Supermarionation” series (my original post failed to properly acknowledge Sylvia’s contribution). This post has been updated accordingly.