production notes: special effects
Early in the production of black nance, the first project in the Eastern Shore Trilogy, I researched the use of model boats in filmmaking. I read a lot about the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! in a how-to book for early special effects. The book outlined several general rules for the use of models in film production. The most general and important: you can scale a model to any size but you cannot necessarily scale the density and properties of water accordingly. You could make a realistic and highly detailed model at quite a small scale but you cannot ‘scale’ the water. You can make attempts to alter the viscosity by adding detergents or other agents but the density of the water and its relationship to the model will generally remain the same. A sixty foot boat that weights several tons will behave much differently in water then a six inch model that only weighs a few ounces. It is understood as the scale of the models increases so, too does the realism of the shot. The models built for Tora! Tora! Tora! were massive at 1/16 scale. The largest of the models was over 40 feet in length.
This principle became central to the Eastern Shore Trilogy. The models I built were purposely small and were made to exist in the very real ocean. I wanted the scenes I created to move between illusion and reality. There are moments where the illusion is seamless and the boats look very real but others where the movements of the boat are too quick or where the swells are simply impossibly large in comparison.
In contrast, when a seagull flies through the sky in the above water film from the black nance project it actually adds to the illusion despite the reality that the seagull was twice the size of the boat. The form of the work in exhibition offers another major indicator since the petit boats are themselves included in the installation.
With periwinkle blues, I was interested in finding new ways for the work to move between illusion and reality. I thought of my dad’s old story of catching bluefin tuna and the idea to use a model boat in the real ocean with a real fish came.
— Chris Boyne