Peter Kominek was once called a lazy slug by a joking relative.
“My aunt said to me, ‘Do you have a job yet? Or are you just a slug, like your slug brothers?’” recalled Kominek, who’s getting the last laugh.
He just won a $10,000 Telus Storyhive prize to make his live-action Slug Brothers short film, which was inspired by that comment.
“I thought it was funny and, because I’m a filmmaker, I decided to make a film about three brothers who are slugs,” said Kominek, a recent graduate of the Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts program.
His garden gastropods are called Ernest, Elmer and Garth — which messes with alliteration, yet mirrors Kominek’s own family’s naming pattern. “My brothers are called Alex and Andrew and I’m Pete,” said the 27-year-old, with a chuckle. “It makes no sense…”
The 10-minute Slug Brothers is a quirky comedy. Metre-long mollusc puppets — made of molded silicone — share scenes with real people.
The script has the eldest slug brother, Ernest, going on a date with his human crush, Tracy — only he’s so short, he can’t see over the table top, so the restaurant people have to give him phone books to sit on, said Kominek.
Needless to say, Tracy isn’t keen to get romantic with her slimy date — but Ernest’s brothers Elmer and Garth don’t know that. Ernest’s free-loading siblings will do everything possible to sabotage the relationship, afraid that Tracy will move in with Ernest and kick his two brothers out of the house.
One of the special effects will be making Ernest seem to temporarily shrivel after his brothers pour salt all over the restaurant meal he’s eating. Kominek is experimenting with suctioning the inside of the puppet with a vacuum cleaner “to make him to look all dried up and raisin-y.”
The Slug Brothers was a decade in the making. The Calgary-based filmmaker said he had to let the idea germinate for a long time. The project became seeming more feasible after he gained film-school experience at RDC, and worked for two years at Calgary’s Studio Y, which creates Styrofoam sculptures for themed commercial spaces.
Studio Y manager Nick Bellemore as brought on board as official slug-maker. The puppet-making process is hugely complex — each silicone character has to have moving tentacle eyes and opening and closing mouths. This requires manipulation by two puppeteers, per mollusc.
Kominek, a former Vancouver resident who’s very familiar with large slugs, wants to get his puppets as realistic as possible. He’s grateful to Telus for the $10,000, since just the silicone alone costs $700 for each puppet.
“Basically, we have no room for error,” said Kominek, who’s hoping to get more mileage out of the puppets in future films. If Slug Brothers is a hit on Telus’s Optic TV and YouTube channel after it starts airing in early February, Kominek is hoping the short will get enough viewer votes to get screened at the Banff Media Festival.
If the right people see it, it could possibly get picked up for screening on the Comedy Network, said Kominek. From there, he can see making a whole season of Slug Brothers films.
This could make for an extra close relationship with his real-life brothers — Andrew is working on music for the short, and Alex is helping him with the script.
Demonstration videos for the film can be seen on the Storyhive page at www.slugbrothers.ca.