Filmmaking | Interviews

2005 Space Odyssey

1 Dec , 2005  

Written by Sara Faith Alterman | Posted by:

If you can dream it, you can do it... even if it takes a decade. Ted Cormey took a dream about an astronaut ventriloquist dummy and turned it into his latest film: 'Aerodynamics.'

If you’re a filmmaker, you’re likely familiar with the ‘hurry up and wait’ phenomenon that plagues the production atmosphere. (Especially if you’re a production assistant; come on, you don’t actually enjoy crawling out of bed at 5 am to race to a location, dress the set, help the grips, and then sit around waiting forever for the ‘magic hour,’ do you?)  If you’re an independent filmmaker, you understand that this temporal marvel extends beyond the set; it taints pre and post-production with the same fervor. Does this sound familiar? Production can’t begin, for lack of funds. So, you hurry, hurry, hurry to write a grant by deadline. And then… you wait to see if you represent the one production out of thousands to receive seed money. Or worse, production has halted, and you’re stuck with a bunch of footage that you can’t use, a project you can’t complete without the necessary resources. So, you hustle to write a grant, or organize a fundraiser. And then wait.

And then there’s Ted Cormey, who awoke from a dream over a decade ago, determined to make his somnambulist vision a reality.

Personally, if I had a dream about a singing dummy I’d be freaked out — I’ve seen enough episodes of the X-files and horror films about knife-wielding talking dolls to know that toys that can speak and move without a battery are likely going to stalk and mutilate me. And a dream about an astronaut ventriloquist dummy singing in front of the American flag would be enough to jolt me from my bed and send me running around the apartment, screaming and sweating. Ted Cormey had a different reaction to this experience.

Inspired by a dream about an African-American ventriloquist dummy donning astronaut gear and bellowing the national anthem, Cormey set out to write and direct "Aerodymanics," a hybrid of genres including blaxploitation and 1960s science fiction.

Quelling my suspicions that any cinematic endeavor that includes a walking talking doll will scare the pants off of me, "Aerodynamics" actually spins the tale of a heroic underdog destined to save the world. The film’s official website promises that "Famed African-American ventriloquist dummy & astronaut, Lil’ Moe, is sent into space to save Earth from a colossal Man O’ War Jellyfish. The alien creature is defeated and the eleventh hour mission is considered a success…But the fatal return trip will have repercussions for Lil’ Moe’s ex-partner, the timorous ventriloquist, Willy Jefferson." [At the time of this interview, the film was still in post-production and unavailable for screening.] Don’t be fooled by the feel-good premise, however. After all, "I want the films I make to be films that people are discussing afterwards," says Cormey, "Not something with a cute little puppet."

Production of the film took nearly as long as preparation for an actual space mission! Stunted by cast and crew scheduling conflicts, funding drainage, a reliably unreliable carpenter, and emotional exhaustion, "Aerodynamics" took the classic ‘hurry up and wait’ cliché to new heights, as time and time again Cormey jumpstarted his vision only to be cut dead in the water. It took approximately 10 years to complete production of the film, which is just now moving into post-production.

Cormey himself is no stranger to the inevitable melodrama that accompanies filmmaking. An accomplished director, screenwriter and playwright, he has penned theatrical pieces that have been performed at the Boston Theater Marathon and the New Haven Short & NEAT One-Act Play Festival. "Aerodynamics" has earned him accolades in screenwriting competitions such as TuCann and the British Short Film Screenplay Competition, and he has been a writing finalist in the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the Fade In screenwriting competition. As a director, Cormey’s credits include the digital shorts "Landfall!" (2004) and "Paulie" (2003), and a self-financed feature film "What I Did When I Was Away" (1999), which screened at film festivals including Park City’s ‘No Dance’ (one of the many Sundance reactionary film festivals), the Woods Hole Film Festival, and the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Despite all of the creative and logistic obstacles that have plunked themselves in Cormey’s path, with all of his filmmaking experience and expertise, putting a fork in "Aerodynamics" should be no problem. He will begin editing the film in January 2006, finally completing the manifestation of his vision from nighttime scenario to big screen glory. Proving, of course, that when it comes to creative tenacity and artistic dedication, Ted Cormey is no dummy.

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