Sunday, January 31, 2010

BarnYard History Blog #1

Well, it’s the end of January! We are well on our way into the year 2010. When I first started working in Hollywood, 2010 was still considered a topic of Science fiction! As a matter of fact, one of the earliest films I worked on was a failed TV adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two. I was just a kid, but I remember talking about the actual year as if I would never actually see it! But here we are, on the last day of its first month. I wrote in my last entry that one of my new year’s resolutions was to make a point of blogging more than once a month. Well, I have a few hours left to keep that promise!

If you follow me on twitter, you may have seen mention of my first video blog. I started filming last weekend, and will be editing for a few weeks more. I plan on having that out for Valentine’s Day, with a very special guest. But in the mean time, I thought I would try to do an entry that actually gives some background of my work and how the BarnYard came to be. I have gotten a lot of tweets and emails asking what films I have worked on, and were my work can be found. So hopefully this entry will provide a little insight, and maybe open up some new tangents to blog about in the future!

I have literally thousands of images from the over 300 film and television projects I have worked on, and it started feeling overwhelming sorting through them. Not to mention the constant fear that I would bore you to death! So I decided to just pick a few projects that represent the times when I shifted gears and added a new outlet for my art. I figure that will answer the questions about the scope, and save material for any future project-by-project blogs. If anyone is interested!

Photo 01: So here we go! This film kind of jumps the time line, but Spielberg once told me that this image should always be the leading page of my portfolio. This model of the T-Rex being captured was a study of an idea I was kicking around the Jurassic Park: Lost World art department with some of the other artists. Production designer Rick Carter (Who currently designed James Cameron's AVATAR) presented it to Steven along with a sequence storyboarded by Matt Codd.

Photo 02: Steven didn’t think the idea fit into the original script at first, but when he put production on hold to re-write a bigger ending, he came back saying that this model was the single image that kept surfacing in his mind. The concept of the T-Rex capture sparked a whole new direction, ultimately leading to the beast being brought back to San Diego.

Photo 03: Which I also got to build! Steven liked the concept model I was making for the Jurassic Park: San Diego arena so much he used it in the film. He couldn’t wait for the Triceratops to crush it!

Photo 04: This is me showing Spielberg my design model for the Dino Lab and island town. The final set was made significantly smaller, but the design model was huge! I had to build trap doors in the middle of it so we could poke our heads through to look at different angles. The full sized set was built on the Universal back lot, right behind the Psycho house. Originally, the studio was open to tearing the house down, but I begged to have a shot at figuring out how to build around it. Luckily, both the house and the Lab are still there. You can see the lab through the War of the Worlds set if you go on the studio tour.

Standing behind me is one of the greatest storyboard artists ever, Dave Lowery, making the “He’s the man” gesture as Steven compliments my work. Beyond cool. And that’s me making the “I can’t believe I wore my Raiders shirt today” face. Beyond nerd.

Photo 05: But before I started in design and FX, I was an illustrator. In high school, I did commercial art and window installations. But I started doing art for hire as early as 8 years old, painting things like this denim jacket. I have probably done several hundred of these over the years, and every once in a while I’ll do one as a gift or to clear my head.

Photo 06: Yes, I actually do work to take a break from doing work! But I love making things, and since I hardly get the chance to do “personal” art, when I do I usually like to paint. (Acrylic on canvas, 36x48)

Photo 07: Sometimes I get to split the difference, and do a painting that has an end purpose, but no commercial restraints. This is a piece that appeared on a concert flyer for my friend Emma Ejwertz (the first winner of the Swedish version of “Idol”) (Acrylic on canvas, 9x12)

Photo 08: But those opportunities are pretty rare. Usually when I illustrate, it’s for purely commercial reasons. I like this painting (Acrylic on canvas, 9x12) but I can’t imagine it will ever hang above anybody’s couch!

Photo 09: I’ve done a lot of comic book work, too, but Ill save that for another blog. This piece was a crossover, though. It was a fictional comic for an episode of “Criminal Minds”

Photo 10: Speaking of cop shows, it seems like I had a few years of working on nothing but! It’s a safe bet that if you see a pair of hands doing a police drawing or an artist’s rending on a recent cop show episode, they're probably mine! This was done by a “character” in an episode of "Cold Case".

Photo 11: The first film I ever worked on was an ultra low budget sci-fi movie that is impossible to find. But I met some great people on it that recommended me for the second film I worked on, originally titled “Martians!!!”. I was hired as an art department assistant, and graduated to illustrator in the first week. This was also a low budget film (I was making $150 a week!) and the director had a very ambitious vision. Every few hours he would rush into the art department and ask if anyone could build a model, or do a matte painting, or sculpt a prop. I always said, “I’m not sure how to do it, but I’ll try!” I guess the lack of funds didn’t leave much else of a choice, so he let me have at these huge tasks way above my pay grade! Luckily, I had my trusty "Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects" book (If you don’t have it, seek one out! Everything I know is based on what’s on those pages!) and I fumbled through the creation of miniatures, costumes, make-up FX, and even some second unit directing! It was the experience of a lifetime, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity. It set the tone for how I would pursue the rest of my career.

Photo 12: That movie was seen by Spielberg, who called his buddy Katzenberg at Disney and suggested that he buy it. The film was released under the title Spaced Invaders, and did quite well in its limited theatrical run. The Martians themselves were amazing, the animatronics being the work of the super talented John Criswell. When the film was complete, John called me and invited me to work in his FX shop, Criswell Productions. The “shop” was actually his garage, but we did a lot of great things out of there. I worked there all that summer, and after a series of successful projects, John asked me to be his partner. We expanded the company and got a warehouse in Van Nuys. We did all sorts of effects, but we were best known for the creature work.

The above image is one of my favorite characters to come out of that Van Nuys shop: Spewy, from Chris Elliot’s Get A Life.

Photo 13: During the first year we were in business together, John and I were introduced to J. Michael Straczynski. He was working on a new sci-fi series called Babylon 5. He had a 10-page treatment and a few colored pencil sketches. He was prepping to pitch the show to the networks, and wanted to have a broader presentation for his vision. John and I signed on to do design maquettes and test makeups. JMS made it very clear that he didn’t want “Star Trek”. He saw the aliens as being as far from human as possible. He wanted puppets and animatronics, not nose and ear applications.

There was no money for the pitch process, so we did it as side work for several years. Every few weeks the phone would ring and we were put “on hold” for a green light. But then it would go away. Finally we got a call from Robert Brown, a producer at Warner Brothers. This time it was actually going to happen, but after years of prep work, we now only had 6 weeks to make 60 characters. Oh, and all of the design work we had done was scrapped and we were starting over!
There ended up being huge internal feuds over the actor vs. puppet concepts, and in the end majority of the characters ended up as make-ups, with the puppets being used in a few rushed scenes to show the scope of the universe in which the story took place.

We were able to convince production that we could still pull of “movie quality” make-ups on television production time. G’Kar is one of the best examples, being a full head application that we were able to have camera ready in under an hour.

Photo 14: B5 was one of the shows that helped me evolve the concept of the BarnYard. The project was very make-up and puppet oriented, yet there was still room in the designs for model making and wardrobe-based characters. Ordinarily, these things would be handled by other shops specializing in those categories. But I felt it was important to keep all of the characters under one roof, so I split the shop into make-up, puppet, model, and costume sections. Ambassador Kosh is a great example of how the model shop was used to create characters. I sculpted him in clay, molded it to pull a fiberglass shell, then worked with Ron Mendell to construct the mechanical parts. I have always referred to this character as my ode to a 57 Chevy painted by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Photo 15: It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I actually end up IN FRONT of the camera! I was cast in the role of the Mimbari assassin who attempt to destroy the space station. Being ratcheted across the room and set on fire was not the most fun, but having the moment captured on a trading card is definitely a career highlight!

After we shot the pilot, there was over a year lag before WB decided to pick it up for series. The studio declared that they didn’t want a “bunch of kids” handling their make-up department, despite all the great press and awards. So negotiations for doing the series fell through. I was only 20 at the time, but it still felt like a burn after all the groundwork we had done. In hindsight, I’m glad I got to set the initial tone for the B5 aliens and then move on to new and interesting things.

Photo 16: Criswell and I did a series of animatronic projects, including a movie for the producers of Spaced Invaders, called Adventures in Dinosaur City, and the live stage show version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These two projects caught the eye of Jim Henson productions, which had done the actual TMNT suits for the films, and were working on a project called DINOSUARS. They had started the production in London, but were in the process of moving it to Los Angeles, and wanted some locals to helm the LA Creature Shop.

I sculpted many of the dinosaurs, and became the paint shop supervisor for the first few seasons. This photo shows my typical morning: I had a pre-call, getting to the shop before the film crew got to set, usually around 5am. I would have to go through every head, body, hand, and foot, checking for damage that had been repaired the night before, and repaint it. Yes, that’s my real hair. The only thing more embarrassing are those pants. Seriously, if I could go back in time to 1991, the only thing I would change would be to get myself a pair of jeans and a pair of scissors!

Photo 17: Criswell opted to stay in the Henson camp after Dinosaurs wrapped, and I moved on to form my own shop. The interesting thing about Hollywood is that every time you switch ladders, you have to start from a few rungs lower then where you just were. So I went from being a staff member on one of the most expensive fx shows ever made to being the title card fx guy on one of the cheesiest movies ever made! But you have to start somewhere. This is my interpretation of the Wasp Woman for the Roger Corman horror flick of the same name.

Photo 18: The basic mantra for my new shop became “Small pieces of big movies, big pieces of small movies!” It definitely allowed me to do more things. I was also able to stay very diverse, which has always kept the job interesting. This photo shows two design models I built for Warner Brother’s first attempt to make Speed Racer as a live action movie. At the time, Johnny Depp was playing the title role. I think Nicholas Cage was slated to be Racer X, and these were two proposed designs for his car. The amazingly talented Tim Flattery was supervising the X racer designs, and we created many versions. The producers were always afraid that the different designs looked like the Bat Mobile, but we realized that any black car with fins on it looked like the Bat Mobile! These two were my favorites.

Photo 19: Speaking of the dark knight, "Batman Forever" was when I moved into set design. This is the design model I did for Val Kilmer’s version of the bat cave. Ron Mendell and I got to work together on this project again, and we built detailed models of all the sets for that film. Say what you will about this departure from Burton’s vision, but you have to admit that Production Designer Barbara Ling created a pretty epic version of Gotham.

Photo 20: Besides doing the set models, I got to freelance on a lot of the props. I made a ton of bat weapons, but this photo shows some of the rarely seen Riddler props. Or, more accurately, Guesser props. In the film, the faux merchandise versions of the fictional Guesser ultimately inspire the design theme for Jim Carey’s character. Every prop, such as the bank, the jack in the box, and the snow globe, were shot individually, but I think only the bobble head and the life sized fortuneteller version get any screen time.

Photo 21: Despite the fact that the Riddler snow globe ended up on the cutting room floor, prop master Brad Einhorn liked them enough to offer me what to this day I still consider to be one of the greatest challenges I have ever had: the Gotham City Atlas snow globes for Batman and Robin. The globes were custom blown glass, designed with a small cat’s eye shaped opening that could easily be concealed in the bronze statue’s shoulders. Each building was made individually, and the city had to be assembled like a ship in a bottle. The buildings all had dozens of little LED lights that wired down to a battery hidden in the statue’s back. Then the whole thing had to be leak proof. Water, electricity, super fragile glass. I feel like I still need therapy just thinking about them! Creating the prototype was a hair-raising experience. Then I had to make 11 more!

I carried these things to set like delicate eggs. Then production said, “You should probably make some more, cause Arnold is going to smash a bunch of them!”

Photo 22: I ended up doing a lot of the hand props for Governor Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. Lots of water clear casting. Never easy to do. But I got a few really cool pieces out of the gig, including this ice sculpture of the doctor’s wife. I have a great Joel Schumacher story that goes with this piece, but it’s only really funny in person. Ask me to tell it to you next time we run into each other!

Photo 23: Arnold held a lot of my pieces for that film, but I never imagined that I would have to hold some of his for the next one! This is me and my team doing the Govenator’s body cast for Jingle All the Way. HBO was there to film behind the scenes, and of course my close up was taken right as I am plastering Arnold’s, um, special area. I tried to be quick and subtle about it, but Arnold thought it would be funny to call me out. I swear I speak the truth when I tell you these where his words verbatim, “My bicep has had plaster rubbed on it sixteen times, but my willie thirty nine! What the hell is going on down there, little man!?!” Imagine that in an Austrian accent. I was completely embarrassed. But now I think of it as one of the best stories ever!

Oh, and the guy to the right is my buddy Ken Scott, who was Raphael in TMNT: Secret of the Ooze!

Photo 24: Okay, so this jump in the timeline is sort of a cross-pollination of the last two topics. While I was working on Batman, I had the realization that merchandising was really were the big money was at. Creating the designs, props, and sets was really fun, but it was always a one-time paycheck. I would build a bat weapon, and as happy as I was for the pay I received, I discovered that the toy and collectible companies would take what I did and turn it into potentially millions of dollars. So I decided to try and move in that direction, also.

I did a lot of freelancing for companies like Mattel and Ron Lee, but in 1994 I established my own company, Legends in 3 Dimensions. It was a sculpture house, specializing in ¼ scale busts. The concept I had was to create high-end art pieces of pop culture characters in such a way that they could fit into sophisticated environments. After all, lawyers and doctors can be film and comic book fans, too. But would you trust your doctor if he had a desk covered in action figures? I thought there might be a better chance of things like this endoskeleton replacing the bust of Beethoven on the bookshelf.

Photo 25: Being an avid collector myself, I didn’t want to rehash my favorite characters without being able to bring something fresh to the marketplace. So I had this idea that I wouldn’t do a sculpture unless it was somehow directly connected to the production of the source material. One of the best examples of what I intended is this bust of Locutus of Borg. I actually sculpted the original in Patrick Steward’s trailer during the filming of First Contact. He would come in between takes and sit for me, making comments and changes as I went. He also signed the certificates of authenticity with me, which, I think, makes it pretty authentic!

Photo 26: It’s the little things that make me the happiest, and I have piles of random clips from where my work has shown up that I seem to treasure the most. If you got this Borg coupon in your visa bill at some point, you most likely tossed it. I’m cool with that! I just find it amusing that I actually ended up on junk mail!

Photo 27: When I first started L3D, my partner and licensing guru Henry Unger asked me to make a wish list of all the properties I would love to create product for. I think I had about 30 in all, and of course, the list started with Star Wars. I figured we'd get five or six of the licenses, and I never imagined that Star Wars could ever be a real possibility. Well, be careful what you ask for! Henry got me all 30, plus 10 or so more, including my dream of dreams, SW. This was in the mid 90’s, when there wasn’t a lot going on with the property, and Lucasfilm was very open to the ideas I had for hard-core fan friendly collectibles. I really wanted to move away from the central characters, as much as I love them, and dive into the wealth of secondary characters that, as of that point, hadn’t really gotten any attention other than a 3 ¾ inch action figure from the original line up. I started with this Boba Fett, and if I could I would still be working on more!

Photo 28: I have been a huge SW fan since the first time I saw the film as a child, and I’m pretty sure that was the same day I decided that I wanted to be a filmmaker. But not just any kind of filmmaker, THAT kind of filmmaker. What I loved about Star Wars was that every element was from the imagination. The sets, costumes, vehicles, every fork they eat with, every weapon they wielded was custom made. And you believed it. I knew I would make my own movies, but I also really wanted to be a part of the Star Wars universe. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Lucasfilm chose to do a cover story on me and the L3D busts! I think I even did a short “how to” in the article, which was like a mini version of the BarnYard blog!

Photo 28a: People always ask me why I don’t care about giving away trade secrets and revealing my techniques. I guess I don’t really consider what I do a secret, and I hope that within the community of artists, sharing techniques will lead to discovering new and improved ways for everyone to do things. I think Star Wars was also the inspiration for me feeling that way. It seems that Lucas was always creating behind the scenes specials and special effects documentaries, “art of “ books and “how to” magazine articles. I would not be the person I am today without that stuff. To me, “the making of “ is synonymous with Star Wars itself. I guess that’s why I chose to show steps in the bust creation process for the Star Wars certificates of authenticity.

Photo 29: I created over 50 pieces in 4 years under the L3D banner, (so I should probably dedicate a blog entry just to those in the future!) but I think the best piece to segue this blog would be the Battlestar Galactica. I’m sure it’s hard to imagine, but it was only a few years ago that BSG was considered by Universal to be a “dead property”. The franchise had laid dormant since the short-lived spin-off GALACTICA 1980, and there hadn’t been any merchandise for 15 years.

Monogram released an injection molded styrene model kit of the Battlestar in 1978, which went out of production as soon as the original series was cancelled. Again, hard to imagine, but there was actually a time with no eBay or Google, so fans that wanted a collectible from the past had to scour thrift stores, conventions, and collector trade papers. The Galactica was pretty hard to come by. I think I spend $450.00 for an open box version in the early nineties. I felt that the fan base was probably in some proportion to that of Star Wars, as the kids that became the SW generation all got their sci-fi fix from BSG on TV. There was just no supply for the demand. So I convinced Universal to let me do a more screen accurate series of collectibles at a more accessible price.

Once again, I called Mr. Mendell, the best model maker I know. Together we crafted the first two pieces of the series, the Battlestar and the Cylon Base Star, which was also an insanely difficult to find 1978 kit.

Photo 30: And here is where the story gets interesting! At the same time I was forming L3D, I was working with Image Comics. The infamous Rob Liefeld brought me in to create “Hollywood quality” props and costumes of his Extreme Studios characters for the convention circuit.

I made a lot of great friends at Extreme, and it was a really inspiring place to hang around and talk shop. Everyone was experimenting with this new revelation called “Photoshop”, and computer coloring. Rob and I would talk about movies and television for hours, as he would draw issues of Youngblood or Prophet. A common conversation in the bullpen was BSG, and Rob and I often talked about using our combined influences to bring the series back to television. In 1994, the focus turned to trying to do so through comics and merchandising. I got the collectible license for L3D, and Rob got the comic rights for his Maximum Press studio. I sat in on many of the initial story meetings with writer Bob Napton and editor Matt Hawkins. The first arch of the new BSG series, The War of Eden, was so successful, Universal put BSG back on the hot list and started reissuing old licenses to new vendors. Revell re-released the Monogram Galactica model kits for under $20.00 each, totally taking the wind out of my L3D “only merchandise available” sails. (My Galactica was a prepainted cold cast porcelain statue with pewter parts retailing for $129.00) I had to cancel the rest of the Galactica line, so my Viper, Raider, and Cylon bust never saw the light of day. So I learned that fandom and business sense are two traits that need to be separated at times to create a successful venture!

I was still enough of a fan, though, to pitch Rob a storyline for the second arc of the Maximum Press BSG comic. The mini-series was titled “The Enemy Within”, published in 1995, and it focused around a lost pilot who claims to be the last of the 13th tribe. He seduces Athena, and works his way into the favor of the council. His arrival creates a rift among the Galactica survivors, those with hope against those without trust. The latter turn out to be right as Apollo discovers that this imposter is actually a human cyborg created by the cylons to get inside their ship as well as their heads. Sound familiar? Well, we’ll talk about that later, too…

Photo 30a: Comic conventions are huge events these days, with hundreds of thousands of people attending cons in a single weekend. Whether you are pro or con (no pun intended) Image Comics, you really have to give those guys credit for making that circuit what it is today. Up until the legendary “X-Odus” by Liefeld and co. in the early nineties, the average convention was just a few hundred dudes looking through white cardboard boxes of Golden Age B&Cs. Trust me, I was one of those dudes! But when the Image thing burst on to the scene, it was suddenly like a rock concert! All the major players had to step up their game to stay in the spotlight. Bigger booths, more swag, actual live women dressed as characters! It was a whole new world. And, for better or for worse, even the Image partners were in competition with each other. Of course, Rob went all out, and I had the benefit of traveling the world with the characters I brought to life, like this 9’ tall Badrock from Youngblood, and the 40’ Youngblood Battlecruiser behind him!

Photo 31: Image was having its ups and downs, so in 1998, Matt Hawkins and I decided to branch out and form our own studio. We created a slate of titles, and a companion series of action figures. I’ll have to get into details later, because this, too, is a huge tangent, but I wanted to show my favorite title, BLUE. It’s the story of a girl who discovers that the fate of the universe is on her shoulders, but she is having a hard enough time just dealing with growing up. I did this with Edwin Rosell and Jason Johnson. Drew Struzan did the covers. Oh, Drew! My favorite artist in the history of art! He should be yours, too! I’ll put up a link to his site to prove it…

31a: Speaking of super heroes, I finally got to direct a television show, thanks to my great friend Dave Blass. He recommended me to helm the series finale for Sci-Fi channel’s Black Scorpion. Produced by Roger Corman, the series was about a cop who lost her father to a criminal, and becomes a vigilante dressed as a creature of the night. Stop. I know what you are thinking. But how about that Michelle Lintel…

Photo 32a/b: I love creating characters, but I also have this secret desire to create a version of every famous pop culture character ever. But not just as a tribute, I set the goal at making it only count if it’s for a consumer product. Impossible, I know. But you have to have goals! If there ever were a chance of me pulling it off, though, it would have to be via my friends that manufacture food and beverage merchandise for theme parks. Because of that contract, I have crafted product for almost every major theme park in the US, and many more thought the world. This has allowed me to do renditions of icons from Disney, Pixar, Sesame Street, Looney Tunes, Universal Monsters, Hanna-Barbera, and more. I also scored the 7-11 contract for summer movie straws, so that opened up the Marvel universe, and allowed me to participate in things like Transformers, Terminator, and G.I. Joe.

Photo 33: When I was working on Drew Struzan’s biography (Drew Struzan: Oeuvre, Dreamwave publishing, 2005) we joked about what my biography would be called if I was ever lucky enough to get one! The title “One Hundred Thousand Things” was the funniest to me, because the number seems so far fetched. But my producing partner, Sheri Bryant, did some quick math. She said that if we counted by original pieces, and not by overall product, I was well on my way! She used my prototyping work for Jakk’s Pacific WWE figures as an example. Although I consider that to be a single project, I actually produced close to 700 individual items for them.

Photo 34: Some projects are big with many small parts, taking years to do, like the WWE figures. Other projects are small, lasting only weeks, to create one giant product! If there are any hockey fans reading this, you may recognize this castle that the LA Kings skate out of at the beginning of every home game this season.

Photo 35: And just like there are films that are worked on for years, there are also commercial projects that turn around overnite! I impregnated this dude a few years ago for an Xbox campaign. Wait…that didn’t sound quite right…

Photo 36: You may think I built this giant “G” out of ego, but it was actually for the recent Spike Lee Gatorade commercials. I made 2 in two days, the other was with the famous orange lightening bolt. I sooo wanted to keep this, but it ended up in the lobby of the ad agency.

Photo 37: I thought I would throw this in there just to touch on one of the other things I like to do. The first guitar I ever made was for Eddie Van Halen, and it was the most amazing thing to watch him play it on stage. Whenever I get the chance, I try to add a new design to my line up. Most are one of a kind, but every so often I get to put one into limited production, like this Devil Girl I did with ESP Guitars. It’s ended up on a bunch of magazine covers, even a few album covers, but I think the coolest place it’s ever been is in the hands of composer Danny Elfman.

Photo 38: I have to say that the most frequent question I get asked is which outlet of creativity do I like the most? The truth is, it’s the combination of them all that makes it the most fun. The different venues come and go in waves, but I couldn’t imagine ever having to consciously decide to stop doing one of them. But in the end, it’s the film work I am most drawn to, probably because it is the one outlet that allows me to combine all of my favorite mediums. At every level of film production, the main objective is to tell a story. I love the challenge of doing this, even when I am not the writer or director. This set design model I built for Tomb Raider, based on a Matt Codd design, is a great example. I wanted to present the ideas in such a way that even a momentary view sets the imagination in motion. Everyone who looks at this may have a different version of the story that is about to take place within the image, but the potential for a story is there. Or, at least I hope so!

Photo 39: I always love working with Matt Codd, and I feel like the models based on his illustrations were always my best. This is probably one of the coolest of them, although there are many, and it was hard to choose! This was the design model for the submarine in Disney’s Atlantis. I’d love to post more images of this some time, because there are little environments inside all the tiny windows, and detailed, lit up hatches underneath. You can still see this model in a plexi case if you wander around the Disney animation building. It was my first experience working on a Disney animated film, which was actually my childhood dream prior to seeing Star Wars!

Photo 40: Despite the many films I have worked on, there are very few that I can say I am 100% satisfied with the complete end product. Even fewer that I am actually proud to have worked on. At the top of that short list would have to be CONTACT, based on the Carl Sagan novel and directed by Bob Zemeckis. I personally thought that the film handled all of the delicate concepts of science versus faith with amazing aptitude. And Jodie Foster was incredible, as always. I had the honor of making the space suit that she wore to protect her in the pod.

Photo 41: Which brings us back to Spielberg. When Steven decided to complete Kubrick’s vision of Artificial Intelligence, he only brought on 3 people to initiate the design development. Production Designer Rick Carter, illustrator Warren Manser (The Matrix, Spiderman) and I got to comb through 20 years of Mr. Kubrick’s personal notes and sketches, helping piece together the puzzle the legendary director had left behind. The project took almost 18 months, and I got to build dozens of fully detailed concept models. My favorite was this bridge to Rouge City.

Photo 42: My design model was shipped to the VFX guys at Lucas’s ILM, and they scanned it to create this final version for the film. Steven felt this image captured the tone of the whole movie, and it ended up on the poster. Being able to participate from the ground floor in a project of this magnitude was a dream come true, but it also got me thinking about what it was I was really after. I love working on all these films with these amazing people, but I really wanted to branch out on my own and create things that I could truly call my own. The blockbuster movies treated me well, but they are very consuming, and in the end, I was always just executing a piece of someone else’s vision. So after A.I., I decided I would get my ass in gear and start making my own films.

Photo 43: I’ve been fortunate enough to have made a few so far, with many more on the way. I try to make films that focus around themes that also allow me to still do all the things I love, like make-up, models, and puppets. This little guy is the title character from my film, LABOU. The making of this movie was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I got to work with my best friends and create the movie I wanted to make. Some people will like it, others will hate it. But what you watch is what I wanted you to see, and that makes me happy.
That’s the most I think any artist can ask for, and I hope that there are a few tips or techniques within my blog entries that help other artists get closer to reaching their goals.

Please always feel free to ask questions or offer suggestions in the comments section. And let me know if there are any past projects, either mentioned above or ones I haven’t talked about at all, that you may be interested in hearing more about. I have tons of images that I’d love to share!

Oh, and keep an eye out for that video blog, coming soon!