Major Grom: Plague Doctor / Opening Titles
Client: BUBBLE Studios
Capabilities: Film Design / IOpening Titles / Intro Sequence
Dear Friends! We would like to present you the opening credits for the feature film Major Grom Plague Doctor. The soundtrack for this work was a cover of Viktor Tsoi's cult song "Peremen".
Our studio received a request in the form of a detailed director's brief. We've deeply analysed the client's script, and came out with our treatment, in which we described the main idea in detail.
The director's script
We carefully studied the images suggested by the director, using them as a starting point in our brainstorming. These were images somehow connected with the narrative of the film - the statue of Themis, the dump, callous construction sites against the background of the St. Petersburg architectural heritage, as well as scandalous wealth and luxury. This was not an imposed obligation, but only offered as a starting point. We wanted to avoid just a "contemplative" narrative by showing only beautiful spectacular symbols, so we needed to find an idea and to subordinate everything to a single plan and dramaturgical logic. That was our main goal.
The idea was to take all the images described in the director's brief and combine them into one sculpture, the crown of which will be Themis. The sculpture symbolizes a sick society, as a consequence of suffering injustice, it exudes a black liquid and this liquid generates a mirror image of this world-sculpture, distorted, turned upside down, the crown of which is now the Plague Doctor - the personification of perverted, sick justice. It seemed to us that this idea wittily and broadly reflected the main plot of the film, and so with minor changes, we stuck to it until the end of the production.
The next step was to turn the main idea into a full-fledged scenario with a storyboard, to think over the action, characters, camera angles and the mechanics of camera movement.
Based on a storyboard and a rough musical track (where the second verse is still sung by the composer himself) we have assembled the boardomatic - the foundation for all our subsequent work.
Themis, one of the main images of the opener, is the top of our megalithic sculpture. Initially, we planned to make it modern, stylish, in the spirit of high fashion, with a rich decor and a variety of textures.
Nevertheless, after having done some search, and tried different variants of clothing and attributes, we came to the conclusion that the complication of the image does not help us in perceiving the original idea, but rather leads away and complicates the overall perception.
And then, despite a fairly significant layer of work done, we decided to abandon the complex fashion design and came to a classic, elegant and simple, recognizable image of the ancient Themis.
The Plague is the antagonist hero in our narrative, its movement subordinates the entire internal dramaturgy of the opener. Born from the tears of Themis, she strikes the city and society at all levels, and eventually gives birth to a Plague Doctor.
Initially, the Plague was conceived as a black liquid flowing limply down a megasculpture, but later we decided to endow it with will and character, to give it the opportunity to move in the desired direction and to have intricate choreography.
It was very important to make the plague dangerous, unstoppable, but not vile and disgusting. Another task was to distance ourselves from the "Venom" effect, since these films were released at about the same time, so we decided to make the plague of a more discrete, "rocky" entity.
The city plays a crucial role in our opener. The film is set in an alternative St. Petersburg, and we wanted to metaphorically reflect the confrontation between a living, historical city and soulless construction sites that oust an incredible architectural heritage. To emphasize the drama of what is happening, we came up with the idea of making an abyss instead of the street along which we are moving.
The White Bird is a symbol of the gentle and bright soul of the dying city, trying to escape from the raging chaos. We originally conceived it as a realistic seagull, but later it was reborn into a luminous silhouette - a more poetic, gentle and immaterial image.
The dominant feature of this small scene is a gigantic bank safe door, which was originally conceived by us as part of a gloomy and chic skyscraper, but later we decided to abandon it, since Art Deco is an unusual style for St. Petersburg, and it was very important for us to preserve authenticity. Then we came up with the idea of drains, from which gold flows down like sewage.
The main character of this scene is also a metaphorical, collective image — a bored fat man tired of life, mired in luxury and debauchery.
We invented and created such a sculpture from scratch: an indifferent man surrounded by naked girls. If you look at it carefully, it becomes clear that the man, despite the fact that he is in the center of everything, is left to himself — no one pays attention to him, and he does not pay attention to anyone.
Due to the 12+ rating of the film, we had to literally "cut corners" and remove all the "adult" anatomical details from the sculpture, nevertheless, the composition, in our opinion, acquired even more eroticism because of this.
In addition, at the very last moment, we came up with the idea to completely depersonalize a man by adding a mask to his face.
The dump is the lowest layer of our Megasculpture, a place that, according to our idea, should be as much as possible contrasting to the previous scene, but at the same time be its logical continuation. So the idea of a giant chandelier at the dump was born.
Initially, dogs were assigned a more significant role in the plot of the opener, but later we abandoned this, for the sake of simplicity and purity of the story, and left them with a nuance, in the form of sculptures at the dump. And the only animate object in the titles remained a bird.
Another idea was to "dump" the objects of the historical architectural heritage of St. Petersburg, thus another colorful metaphor found literal embodiment in the opener.
А few early dump concepts:
Some early sketches:
The atmosphere in the opener plays a very important role in creating the right mood, but it was especially crucial to implement in the general plans — to build a deep, artistic, balanced frame with the help of a heavy smoky atmosphere.
Plague Doctor is the main antihero, and the moment of his appearance in the opener is in fact his first appearance in a movie. It was important for us to show him not literally, "head-on", but just like everything else in our opener — figuratively and poetically, in the sensitive and emotional sense.
The landscape for Plague Doctor is a mirror image of Megasculpture in a distorted form. We decided to make it stone, rocky, like the Plague itself, from which it was formed.
One of the early concepts is the headshot of Plague Doctor, with crazy empty eye sockets. This image was abandoned, since the Doctor's canonical image in the comics does not imply its frontal image, being an unfavorable angle.
In order to preserve the imagery, we also decided to make Plague Doctor of the same material as the Plague that gave birth to both him and the landscape. It turned out to be a rocky gloomy sculpture, the antipode of Themis.
This is an early sketch of Plague Doctor. Despite the fact that the Doctor's face had already been worked out in detail, at the very end of the production the director decided to put the doctor completely into the dark so that it wouldn't be possible to make out the details, only the silhouette. It was done in order not to destroy the mystery ahead of time.
Some work-in-progress stuff — the birth of Plague Doctor:
Executive Producer: Timofey Penkov
Creative Director: Alexey Dimkov
Chief Technical Officer: Dmitrii Dolgikh
Art-Director, Concept Art: Danila Rusanov
Producers: Ira Vorobyova, Natasha Sorokina, Anton Goncharov
Supervisor: Stanislav Rykhlikov
Creative Group: Oleg Trofim, Alexey Dimkov, Danila Rusanov, Dmitry Smirnov
Concept Art: Anton Grechko, Darya Petukhova, Ivan Nikin, Andrey Osadchikh
Animation: Maxim Mikhailov, Georgiy Mamatov, Eugeniy Shestopalov, Maxim Solovyov, Anna Pozdeeva
Modeling: Marina Pustovaya, Alexander Likhovsikh, Danya Sativa, Azat Batyrov, Pavel Izotov, Sergey Kudryavtsev, Azamat Sayfullayev, Anastasiya Khromova, Rustam Algayev, Vadim Borzenko
3D Generalists: Artur Terletskiy, Alexander Tokar, Kirill Wygranenko, Ruslan Ziganshin
Visualisation: Dmitrii Dolgikh, Anton Veryovkin, Elena Rassokhina, Alexey Zhuravlyov, Sergey Movchan, Anton Mishenin
Simulation: Dmitrii Dolgikh, Alexey Konovalov, Artur Gadzhiev, Akmal Sultanov
Rigging: Pavel Korolyov
Motion Design: Nikita Shapovalov, Sergey Savvin
Technical Support: Vadim Dobrazhan