So I needed to draw three characters sitting in a helicopter. I know I’ve seen a ton of movies with this very shot, but I couldn’t remember off the top of my head where I could get that particular screen capture. I was having trouble drawing without reference, and I didn’t have two friends handy in which to re-enact the scene. What did I do to solve this artistic conundrum? I took three pictures of myself sitting in three different chairs. Then I went into Photoshop and made a quick combination of the three pictures. Results below:
It’s crude and wouldn’t stand up to much scrutiny, photo-wise, but it totally worked. I sketched out the figures (me, me, and me) and got a good drawing to work from. I’m beginning to wonder if I should start drawing crowd scenes using this method. If nothing else, it would make for some pretty funny doctored photos.
Behind the scenes, a small black cat wanted to be on the helicopter crew:
Sometime after Helicopters Make It OK, I began thinking on the true power of helicopters across all media. The thin rotating blades have held the movie business aloft for years, but what about other commercial art forms?
It turns out that the same theory can be applied to music. Check out Guided By Voices and their song Everywhere With Helicopter:
Indeed, even I used a helicopter in the grand finale of my college comic strip Atticus and Glen. I knew intuitively that to cap off three years of drawing, I needed the woosh and whirr of modern technology.
Helicopters do make it OK, no matter what you’re selling.
Films are complicated endeavors, and there are many things that can go wrong while making a movie. Conversely, there are relatively few things that a director can do to save a doomed movie. One of the most reliable ways a director can save a movie is by adding a helicopter.
Chuck Norris made more than his share of cheap, undercooked action films. Yet, even after all these years, they are enjoyable to watch. He knew that, by featuring helicopters in key scenes, he would transcend the very genre – nay, he would transcend commercial filmmaking itself. And he was right. Helicopters saved Chuck Norris from being a laughingstock. He is internationally feared and admired, with no small thanks to helicopters.
Sylvester Stallone made a small movie in the early 80’s called First Blood. How ironic that the series, later known as Rambo, would achieve fame only when Stallone co-starred with helicopters in Rambo II and III. How would the world look today if there had been no helicopters in the Rambo movies? We’d still be up to our eyeballs in the Cold War.
Predator, a fantastic movie already (featuring two future governors), propelled itself to international renown by featuring helicopters. Echoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s line, “Get to the chopper!” can be heard in almost every speech he has given to the California State Congress.
Even in an otherwise irredeemable movie, helicopters make it okay. The Steven Seagal direct-to-DVD movie Against the Dark is poorly written, directed, lit, edited, and acted. Seagal, looking like the fat, sweaty Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now (another helicopter movie), shuffles his way to another paycheck. Yet, it has a helicopter in it. I am proud to say I finished watching Against the Dark due to this very occurrence.
Hack directors like Michael Bay manage to stay in the movie-making business because of their reliance of helicopters. Bay has used a helicopter in every single one of his movies. Is this the sign of a desperate man? Yes. But he’s also made a boatload of money.
Helicopters elevate crap movies to okayness and good movies to greatness. It is on their swiftly rotating blades that all our hopes and dreams lie. Maybe one glorious day every movie will feature a helicopter. Until then, we have the Chuck Norrises and Sylvester Stallones of the world to keep us afloat.