Contrasting the big budget projects is the world of the Independent Filmmaker. There are no luxury items in the indie world, and no one is there to bail you out when you get into trouble. You have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. This is a world where much of your creative powers are used to get as much on screen as possible, with meager or no resources. To accomplish this, you must wear many hats and broaden your understanding and capabilities of each aspect of film making.
My wife started creating stop motion animation shorts years ago, and soon after I saw the appeal of creating your own project from beginning to end. We collaborated on House of Monsters, a funny little premise where all your favorite monsters live together and trouble soon follows. What resulted was quite an education, and incredibly fun exploration in film making that crossed all disciplines. This is an experience that larger budget films cannot provide.
It stands as a highlight in my career, showing that with a little bit of financing, incredible new technology, and a lot of hard work, that dreams can be fulfilled. Including securing and working with the supremely talented Christopher Lloyd, one of the most iconic and beloved actors in film history, and culminating in a television run of one of our episodes!
Here are a few highlights:
Television Debut: EL REY NETWORK, September 2017. House of Monsters episode 2, Frank and the Zombie Girl, aired on EL REY's The People's Network Showcase - Animation Edition.
We ran a Successful Kickstarter Campaign: Generated production funds for several stop-motion animated shorts.
Supervised: Christopher Lloyd dialogue recording with Playback Recording Studio, and Studio Audio Mix with Chainsaw Post Production.
Co-Wrote: Episodic stories of classic monsters that all live together in Count Christoph’s castle, under the watchful eye of Dr. Gaulstone (Christopher Lloyd).
VFX & Technical: Created artwork for, and animated multi-plane Matte Paintings with ‘sunrise/sunset’ FX and integrated live action footage; Time Lapse Photography; Slow Motion Photography; Editing; Color Timing; Lighting, Fire, Smoke, & Plasma-like Electrical VFX; Sculpted Zombie head for melting Practical FX, and blasted said Zombie with a heat gun for time lapse effect; Created Final Video Codec for deliverable, and other technical film making crafts. Used multiple Camera hardware systems, Gimbal Arms, Lighting Rigs, Computers, etc.; Software programs including Final Cut, Compressor, Pixel Film Studios, Pond 5 Stock Footage, M-Title, Photoshop, Z-Brush, and Keyshot.
Character Concept Art and Fabrication: Created 3D Digital character models including multiple phonemes/expressions; Engineered stop motion replacement face magnetic interface; 3D Printed Face Models with numerous expressions on Formlab’s SLA printer.
Delivered: Broadcast quality assets to the distributor.
Merits and Awards: Comic Con International Official Selection; Kickstarter Project of the Day; Winner Zombific Film Festival; Winner Accolade Global Film Competition; Winner Best Shorts Competition; Winner Best Director UCLAx Film Fest 2016 (Dawn Brown Director)
Deus Vult, Second Unit Director:
Many many years ago, my buddy Matt decided to make a Lawrence of Arabia scale film, but set during the Crusades, and on a comparatively tiny budget. We turned our apartment into a mini film studio, ran a real budget, cast a few principles, clad them in armor, gathered hundreds of extras in period costumes, horses, wagons, medieval torture cages (don’t ask), and went out into the blazing hot California desert to make a mini epic. He gave me the chance to shoot second unit with our friend Greg, an AD, a DP, and a small crew of our own. While he shot principle photography, we grabbed as much footage as possible - run and gun style. It was great fun, and we got some great shots in the can. Ultimately, Matt cut together a really beautiful show reel that got him other directing gigs.
Creating an illustrated story is very rewarding as an artist and writer. This cannot be overstated. Your artwork picks up where your words leave off, and vice versa. Just like in indie film making, part of the attraction is that you are responsible for everything. Cover to cover. Because of this, your scope widens, your skills broaden, and your knowledge and awareness grow exponentially. Its a way to reconnect with your deepest creativity and then share it with others.
I originally created Constellation Orion for myself, because I believe that self expression is very important. As the project grew in scope, I realized it would benefit from collaboration. I brought in Erik Rakoczy to share in the fun, because of his wonderful writing style and insight into mythological storytelling.
A re-imagining of the most ancient heroes journey story in history - The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh the tyrant king finds life’s true meaning in his search for immortality. Written with Erik Rakoczy, created and illustrated by yours truly, this book is a labor of love and fulfillment of my desire to further connect with art and storytelling.
More to come…
Creating concepts has always been one of my favorite parts of a project. You can let your imagination roam, combining and re-arranging artistic and intellectual ideas. Sometimes with only a cursory regard for reality. Anything is possible in the concept phase. Working on ‘A’ list movies with gargantuan budgets and super talented people is quite a thrill. Plus, you get to work at the big movie studios, Warner Bros. Disney, Universal, etc., and work with top directors, meet famous actors and draw their likeness’. (Yes, I’ve met and worked with ‘Her’, and yes its everything you always thought it would be) Sycophantizing aside, the scale of these productions affords the ability to create incredibly fantastic and very refined imagery that gets turned into everyone’s favorite superhero, robot, dinosaur, …you name it, even film title graphics. It doesn’t end there though. With my Industrial Design background, I’ve also contributed to, and supervised the fabrication process on a few projects.
Over the years, I’ve racked up quite a few of these diverse projects. This section highlights a few with bullet points on my contributions:
Character Concepts and Designs, Sci-Fi Tech, Vehicle Design, and Graphics: Concepts of the worlds most famous superheroes, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Thor, Dare Devil, Enchantress; Transformer’s Robot Designs - Bumblebee, Optimus head studies, and numerous other robot characters and their vehicle counterparts.
Vehicle Designs and Fabrication Supervision for Jurassic Park II: The Lost World: Created concepts, finished designs, and worked directly with fabricators and vendors to accomplish on-camera practical mechanical FX and aesthetic design elements for multiple vehicles. Designed ’Snagger’ vehicle with pincers that articulated to capture Stan Winston Studio’s mechanical dinosaurs. Co-ordinated vendor deliverables and general schedule for Art Department and Production.
Props, Sets, & Environments: Created concepts for numerous groundbreaking films including The Matrix and Army of Darkness; On camera mural designs for Jurassic Park II: The Lost World and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and backing designs for the latter. VFX digital character concepts and abstract visual FX concepts for various productions.
Title Treatment Concepts: for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and Sam Raimi’s OZ The Great and Powerful. Logo Concepts for Tim Burton’s Big Fish.
Layouts, design diagrams and backgrounds, characters, props, and vehicle designs for animation: Concepts for major Universal Atlantis theme park; Concepts for early, pioneering computer generated theme park attractions, and 3D video games.
X MEN CAST AWAY
JURASSIC PARK II:
THE LOST WORLD
MEN IN BLACK
LAWNMOWER MAN II:
THE TOWER (TV)
BLOOD TIES (TV)
EVIL DEAD III:
ARMY OF DARKNESS
BATMAN V SUPERMAN
TRANSFORMERS 4, 5
MAN OF STEEL
OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
THE HUNGER GAMES
ALL YOU NEED IS KILL
THE LAST AIRBENDER
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN II:
DEAD MAN’S CHEST
WONDER WOMAN (Unproduced)
ROAD TO PERDITION
A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
THE HUNGER GAMES
ALL YOU NEED IS KILL
THE THIEF OF BAGDAD
Warner Brothers Consumer Products:
Batman v Superman Style Guide
Wonder Woman Style Guide
Man of Steel Style Guide
The Dark Knight Rises Style Guide
Speed Racer Style Guide
Character Design Instructor
Visual Communication Instructor
Ford Motor Company
Defenders of Dynatron City
Super Mario Bros.
The Immortal Hunter
VIDEO GAMES/THEME PARKS:
Evans And Sutherland
Steiffel and Company
SECOND UNIT DIRECTOR
I’ve had great opportunities to create and collaborate on some of the largest and smallest entertainment and industrial projects, with some of the most talented and interesting people I could have ever imagined. No matter the scale or budget, each project has presented an opportunity to apply my skills. Drawing, designing, creating, have all been the dominant driving force in my life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a wide variety of experiences. I’ve tried to merge my interests in the visual arts, fantastical concepts, storytelling and characters, vehicles, etc. into a career that cannot limit the future’s undiscovered possibilities. It is my goal to continue to expand my abilities, embrace new challenges and above all, learn and master new territories of art. Here, I’ve detailed a few of the many projects that I’ve had a hand in, which cross or combine disciplines, technologies, techniques, but always with any eye to push myself and the boundaries of art, design, and media.
Illustrating provides a wonderful clarity. Most concept work is never shown, leaving a disconnect between artist and audience. I very much enjoy illustration because it bridges that gap. The primary focus is to communicate directly with the viewer and give them the best visual experience possible. I’ve created quite a few pieces over the last few years for some really great projects. I’ve incorporated the latest technologies that were only fantasies years ago, and serve to increase the dynamics and realism of each piece. 3D sculpting with Z-Brush gives me the freedom to create, pose, and position characters like never before. Keyshot renderer provides lighting, materials, and lensing to stage a character or scene. And the estimable digital painting capabilities of Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter complete the process.
Here are a few projects:
Art Ludique le Musée is located in Paris. Their mission is to create world class exhibits for popular media and show artwork that normally does not get an audience, as well as credit the artists. I had the honor of creating the superhero poster artwork for the Art of DC Exhibition. My poster art has been used for numerous advertising venues, cover of the exhibit’s guide book, and various merchandise, as well as larger than life wall graphics at the museum. I also contributed to the DC Universe with film concept art displayed as part of this extremely thorough and well thought out exhibit.
Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, The Dark Knight, Speed Racer; Created numerous high resolution illustrations of characters and vehicles for merchandise packaging, full size standees, wall stickers, blankets, t-shirts, phone cases, and print on fabric artwork for Under Armour shirts; And as an added bit of fun, a few of my Illustrations have even inspired additional figures/toys merchandise.
Devised a method for creating highly detailed illustrations for consumer products concurrently with the 3D assets, etc. as they were being created by Speed Racer film makers, thus saving time and enabling merchandise to be released sooner.
With great concepts, comes great responsibilities. The world of superheroes have exploded onto the big screen and I’m fortunate enough to have a front row seat. I’m a lifelong fan of these characters, and have contributed pioneering work in superhero costume design and fabrication. The counterpart to concept art is the harsh painful reality of what is possible to build on a living breathing human form, on budget, on schedule, and still look fantastic. My first foray into custom costume fabrication was on Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. The goal was to create a suit that looked like Spidey from the comics, but was flexible enough for the dynamic action and flexibility required of that character. The result was I learned a great deal about creating concepts that are aesthetic, but also can be translated into reality. Also, just as with other fabrications, this requires an understanding of other disciplines and the ability to interface and co-ordinate with other artists, technicians, etc. I’ve developed and expanded my repertoire of techniques and knowledge to create artwork that can directly be applied to fabrication techniques. Like illustrating an image for poster prints, these prints on fabric are a kind of moving canvas for my artwork. As a fun offshoot, my artwork can not only be used for custom costumes, but directly applies to merchandise like t-shirts, blankets, and even scale toy figures use my files to complete their replication of film characters.
Here are a few examples:
Spider-Man 1 & 3: Created concept art, and vector files of Spidey suit’s 3D webbing for CNC machining. Full size suit digital artwork for sublimation printing of Spidey and Venom Character’s costumes.
Superman (Man of Steel): Concepts and scale technical drawings of Hope - ’S’ Glyph, belt, design style shapes, their chain mail texture details and placement for Superman (Man of Steel) digital models for 3D printing by vendor.
Superman (Batman v Superman): Screen artwork created for printing design elements onto costume fabric, including Kryptonian writing, and warping chain mail texture to match Superman’s musculature. Modified existing, and created new screen print textures to overcome technical manufacturing hurdles.
Batman (Batman v Superman): Screen artwork created for Batman chest logo, suit and cape texture for screen print.
Batman Armored Suit: Concept art refining the suit’s aesthetics, depicting armored suit exploded view, and diagrams depicting various states of damage for scheduling and budgeting as per script scene.
Faora (Man of Steel): Concepts, and scale technical drawings of Kryptonian chest Glyph. Full scale sublimation print on fabric artwork for suit fabrication.
Ring Girl (Real Steel): Concepts, and full scale sublimation artwork for print on fabric, to work in conjunction with Thierry Mugler fashion armor.
Liaison: Between Costume Designer and 3D Model Maker for technical execution of designs. Participated in, and contributed artistic and technical expertise in fabrication meetings and between various vendors and costume fabricators.
By being born in Detroit, I think cars have always had a definite hold on me. When I found out that you can become a car designer, you couldn’t stop me from drawing. After a few years of education I found myself working with three other classmates on a secret concept car for Ford. My exterior design was chosen as the final design for subsequent fabrication and Auto Show display. It was a wonderful experience. Hopefully not once in a lifetime, but very special indeed. Vehicle design will always be a part of what I do, but alas I eventually chose to explore my creativity in the entertainment industry. My industrial design training has paid off manifold as many of the disciplines, techniques, and design theories translate very well to entertainment based projects.
I jotted down a few notes:
Designed the Ford “Splash” Concept Car. Created design artwork and full size design drawings. Oversaw clay modeling, participated in fabrication and promotional videos. The show car was a fully running prototype, and featured many advanced features; reversible side view mirrors with off road lights, variable height suspension, fiber optic tail lights, neoprene interior, and custom tire treads. The Splash toured various international auto shows after its debut in the 1989 Detroit Auto Show.
Internship at Concept Design Center in California. Designed vehicles, created full size design drawings over vehicle package, and provided direction for scale modeling of selected design.
GM Hummer: Provided design sketches and concepts for the production version of the Hummer vehicle.
Way back in the ’80s. No, not the 1880s, I studied Industrial Design at the Center for Creative Studies: College of Art and Design. It was an incredibly tough program that turned out world class designers, but I managed to survive. We called it Center for Creative Suffering. Well its just College for Creative Studies now, but it will always mean the same thing to me. It was my first eye opening experience into the world of design and creativity. A place where you realize that your ideas can manifest into reality.
Studied transportation design. Various vehicle assignments, automotive styling and aesthetics, ergonomics, fabrication, model making, and rendering.
Teaching is not only rewarding its energizing. The variety, quality, and sophistication of student’s artwork is greater than ever. As an instructor, I believed my main goal was to give students a fundamental knowledge of how to start a character design or piece of artwork, and then let them explore their own creativity and giving feedback as they progress. What I didn’t expect was that they also kick started my creativity as well. Unfortunately, due to the demands of other high profile projects I’m not able to teach continually, but will absolutely return in the future.
Here are a few thoughts about my approach:
Created specialized projects and syllabus designed to teach students a greater understanding of concepts, aesthetics, functional design, and how character design serves a story. Students completed three distinct character design assignments focusing on Multifaceted Protagonist, Transformed Antagonist, and Abstracted Fictional but Science based Characters with a Family and Environmental Dynamic: Each project included; Gathering research; Creating character bios with psychological, environmental, and social settings; backstories and biological concepts; Physical descriptions; Medium their character fits best - Film, Games, Animation, etc.; Sketches; and Finished illustrations for aural presentation with both informative and dynamic renderings of their designs.
Provided assignments that challenged each student depending on their chosen subject matter. Advanced rendering techniques were stressed, as well as using color, angle, and lighting to create desired effects to engage the viewer, and aid in telling a visual story.
ART AND DESIGN INSTRUCTOR