Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blood Jam

I'd like to take a moment to recommend a relatively new company producing fake blood for stage and film, using a unique recipe. The company is called Gravity and Momentum and their product is called Blood Jam. They are a local Chicago company, headed up by Greg Poljacik and Chris Yurwitz.

On a recent production, I decided to take a chance on something new, I'd been hearing a bit of a buzz around about a new blood that people wanted to try, but hadn't specifically talked to anyone who had tried it. I read a few testimonials online, was impressed by the ease with which people claimed the blood washed out, and decided that a show with a white painted set, where the actress in the white cotton dress gets coated in blood was a good place to test that.

I ordered a gallon of the blood jam. The costume designer and I tested the blood on some scraps of fabric and were very impressed. On the first preview, when the actress walked out onto the stage, we were disappointed, the yellow light was reacting all wrong with the colors in the blood. As the director told me in notes, "I wasn't sure if she'd just murdered someone, or if a cat had peed on her." Not the reaction you want.

I called up Greg and asked him what I could do. The blood needed to be darker and more opaque. He immediately offered to make me a whole new gallon in a darker color to suit my needs, and offered some advice on adding a few drops of green food coloring to the batch we had, in order to adjust the color until a new batch could be created. The adjustments worked fantastically, and the new batch I received two days later looked even better.

Also to the delight of the costume and set designers, we have yet to see a stain on either the costume or the set after a full week of previews.

After working with the blood, and hearing from many others who knew Chris and Greg about how awesome they are, I wrote Greg to ask a few more questions. Here are the questions and his answers.

I heard from someone at Oak Park Festival that you taught yourself chemistry in order to figure out a way to make an edible, non staining blood. Can you tell me a little be more about how this came about? Where you went to for information? 

I still remembered the chemistry basics from high school and I looked up information needed to fill in gaps as I experimented. I had worked on a show where I claimed I could make a blood that was edible and washed out (before I created Blood Jam) and was extremely embarrassed/humbled when I realized how truly tough that is! I went through and played with every known recipe out there. It didn't make sense, however, that it couldn't be done. So I put together some ideas and would chase each one down to see what happened. It took a full year of non-stop failure till I finally, accidentally, created the recipe for Blood Jam. It was a process that built on the successes and failures of each previous experiment to capitalize on what worked/didn't work and why. The best way to learn the practical side of chemistry!!

I went all over for info. I asked people, searched the web, read blogs and interviews of other blood makers, looked at other blood products, and tracked down product info from companies to figure out the chemical pieces I needed. Some stuff was hard or impossible to find so I had to infer many pieces and extrapolate info from one area and trust it would hold true for what I was doing. Much of the chemistry came from trying to understand what I had created after the fact! The original hypothesis would work (or not) and I had I figure out why the result was doing or not doing certain things before moving on. Fun and frustrating at the same time!

How do you two know each other, and what gave you the idea to partner on this venture? 

We have been close friends for eight years. My wife met Chris first through theater friends. Our close circle is considered family, when I told them what I was working on, none were surprised id be tinkering with this sort of thing, and everyone wanted to help in some way (and everyone definitely has!) Chris was able to financially get the company started and his business sense is what keeps the company grounded. He likes to say he is the Gravity and I am the Momentum (our company is Gravity and Momentum LLC). Without his grounding I would have flown in too many directions after the next project interest and ran the company bankrupt real fast!

What's next? Any new products in the works?

The immediate goals for the blood is to continue to tweak the color so that its the perfect blend for thickness and for when it gets thinned out. We nailed the washing/edible obstacle but the color obstacle is still quite difficult to get. Small adjustments one way or the other can make the blood look too brown, purple or orange when thinned out. Ideally we get it to the sweet spot where it looks like a nice, real red when first deployed and settled to a realistic dried bloodbrown over time.

We are also continuing to tweak the powder so its able to be applied to the skin more easily and discreetly. The powder works wonderfully for caplets, and would be crazy cool as a water activated effect on skin!

I am also playing with Fire Gels and starting data research on the effect of performance on the actor and audience. (See why Chris is vital! All over the place!). This is on top of still teaching, doing stunts and choreo! Soo, it may be a while till we finish but we planning on being around for a bit.

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