‘Black Sheep’ Diaries: Gathering the Flock

In a series of exclusive columns for MTV, New Zealand filmmaker Jonathan King is taking us inside the making of his new horror/comedy, “Black Sheep.” Last time, King described joining forces with Peter Jackson’s creature shop, Weta. Today, we learn how he pulled together the perfect crew for his hilarious take on animal mutation.

Once we were greenlit for our ovine extravaganza, we had to take our crazy script and a pile of concept drawings and turn them into reality. Weta were, at the time, deep in a number of other projects, but determined to honour their commitment to help us make the film. They enlisted the help of Dave and Lou Elsey – an English couple based in Australia.

They’d been doing a TV show called “Farscape” there — churning out almost a different alien each week — followed by a little film called “Star Wars: Episode III – Return of the Sith.” Dave was nominated for an Oscar for Make-Up for “Star Wars” while we were prepping “Black Sheep” and, in fact, he missed the first few days of shooting to attend the Oscar ceremony (as did our Art Director Simon Bright, who was nominated for a small New Zealand film called “King Kong”).

So, you may be saying about now, this guy had some pretty serious talent on his little sheep movie. No one was more aware of this — or more grateful — than I. What had been a slightly demented and ambitious dream a year before was becoming a reality with some incredible talent on board to help.

We took head casts of several of our actors (not done with plaster any more, but with algenate that dentists use to cast your teeth for falsies!). We also took moulds of teeth to have prosthetic sheep teeth fitted and getting their eyes ’measured’ for sheep-pupil contact lenses.

So as well as designing animatronic and puppet sheep to intercut with our trained live sheep, Dave and the team at Weta designed an incredible array of prosthetics to be worn in the film for various stages of transformation of man-to-sheep (and back again).

Check back next week for the next installment of the ’Black Sheep’ Diaries!