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Hello [inaudible] Alumni Association.
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What can you do with an art student?
You can create international blockbusters with [inaudible] Class of 1975 as a highly regarded production designer, art director with more than 30 years experience in feature films, television, theater, and interior design.
He and his wife Kim, are also Miami mergers.
As a production designer, bills, feature film credits.
Universal Pictures recently [inaudible] Furious 7 and international box office hit franchise, Iron Man for Marvel.
Those repeated collaboration with Director Tom Phillips include the mega HIT comedy the hangover, for which he received a best production design nomination for the Art Directors guilt.
The [inaudible] will reunite for their fourth thumb the upcoming arms and the dudes for Warner Brothers Pictures.
Rescue other feature film credits include James L.
Brooks, Oscar winning, as good as it gets.
Rob Reiner's The Bucket List.
Stuart Little, Stuart Little 2 flipped Blue Streak.
Jumanji and Matilda, our conversation today with bel be facilitated by the College of Creative Arts dean Hi Liz high bell.
Thank you guys for joining us.
And before I turn it over just a quick reminder that you can submit questions or comments during the live session at the link to lows the video player or in the comments section on YouTube and with that, I'm gonna go ahead and turn it over to the two of you, and I'll see you later we will have some of your questions.
Well, it's a joy for me to be here with Bill.
Bill, thanks so much for joining.
Us from London where you are on location with Aquamen 2.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you're working?
[inaudible] in London, which is the town of, Well, it's right next to a town of [inaudible] and we're just outside the loop of about 30 maybe 25 miles outside of downtown London and I'm on the studios Im in the offices of where they made all the Harry Potter movies.
It used to be a little Airfield here about 25 years ago when they started doing all those movies that are built into a huge studio.
So behind me, which we probably cannot see to good because the sun's directly as they did all Harry Potter [inaudible] is right back there.
[SPEAKER] How long have you been in London?.
[SPEAKER] I've been here since around the first of the year, so about two months now.
[inaudible] it's the first.
[SPEAKER] It's great to know that Hollywood is up and running again a little bit of so many things are shattered because of covid.
[SPEAKER] It's a lot of work though we get tested three times a week.
[SPEAKER] Yeah [SPEAKER] I mean, it's really there's so many protocols, but have an office out there were working and we have conversations and we have our everybody has our masks and that I don't have it on now because there's nobody here today.
[SPEAKER] Yeah all new normal.
So Billy you were not a theater major at Miami.
And then after you have gone on to have this incredible career in Hollywood, can you talk a little bit about your journey after Miami and how you came to be an art director, production designer after having graduated with a theater major.
[SPEAKER] I graduated and I went to I moved back home to Boston where I grew up and I was working in [inaudible] theater, which was stator.
And I started to realize I needed a little more education to get to be the guy who got to design the [inaudible], put them up and do that kind of stuff so I went to NYU, I applied to get into why you were Oliver Smith was teaching at the time.
And Burlingame was running the department.
And I got accepted luckily.
And this is a 76 about and I went there and got an MFA for three years and lived in moved to New York from Boston.
And that's where I kind of figured out what to do.
When [inaudible] got through school, theater was available to work in, but it was very in New York in the seventies, was not in the New York now.
And it was like there was work, but not the same kind of work there is now and not the movie business like it is in New York right now either and so a lot of us migrated to the west coast and I went around and knocked on doors and by 1979 and the follow 79, I start working with a gentleman named Ray [inaudible] and we were actually doing a las vegas show, which was theater again.
But [inaudible] the television and I started to move into television variety specials, which was live theater.
And I met a gentleman named Roy Christopher, and Roy became my mentor.
And through most of the eighties, I worked with him and went on from there and lots of variety television, multi-camera television, and then one day I there was a production designer that quit on the movie Matilda.
I knew Jim Brooks and those people from working at Gracie films, a bunch of shows they had done television shows and so they some told me You should go apply for it and I did and I met Danny Devito AND [inaudible] he hired me and luckily I got that job and the rest is history it was a really good job on the movie.
It is kind of a call classic.
I run into all the people I work with.
They are all pretty young still when they all love that movie.
So I worked on one of their favorite movies.
It's like working on the Wizard of Oz to these kids.
[SPEAKER] Well, Danny De Vito his in which I know our students just love it.
[SPEAKER] So that's my story.
[SPEAKER] [inaudible] as a theater person, myself is a theater professor, I know what a scene designer does and that was sort of your focus in undergrad right?
You studied with my Griffith are wonderful.
A mirror type professor who was a mentor to you.
And then was your MFA [inaudible] design in the theatre.
[SPEAKER] In the seventies?
Art direction wasn't considered in the theatre school a real thing.
But it's like architecture or anything else.
Design is design.
And movie design's hard to teach because it involves making movies and movies are expensive to make.
Data is relatively easy to make, just empty space and some whites and some kids and some costumes and stuff.
So we didn't really emphasize it, but if you have the skills to design scenery and tell stories with storytelling with scenery, you have the skills to design movies, commercials, video games, anything that involved visual storytelling, literally anything.
On the internet.
[SPEAKER] And that is what an art director does so for those who don't know what that means, art director, production designer, can you break that down a little bit?
Well, our director, is literally what it means you direct the art of something.
You'd be the art director on a magazine.
You can be the art director in theater.
We call them a set designers in theaters, but when you Mendez, who did go with the when he coined the frame production designer because the costumes, he did [inaudible] and he did the scenery so he said I designed the whole production like [inaudible] call production designer.
Now, I don't design everything in production, but basically when you go to the movies, when you see one of my movies, I am somewhat responsible for everything you see.
Not now, I do not do every little nuance to the movie.
I'm I don't have.
The ability to do all the costumes and do everything, but I'm involved in it.
And I'm involved in setting the tone for the look of the movie.
So the costume designer and I would, we collaborate and how to do the movie.
So we call that production design.
But I don't do all every visual effect, but I do get involved with what the visual effect should be?
And what we're supposed to do.
So that's kind of what the job entails and it breaks down to I have a staff of I got a room right over here, [inaudible] probably got 25 kids in it and there are directors and set designers people who.
Draft build models, you do all the little baby.
Basic crafts and making scenery, which is the same craft of being an architect, [inaudible] models, drawing, drafting, designing something is basically designing something that's how you pre visualize it to show people what you want to do.
I was just gonna say what we do is storytelling so there's a special emphasis on how does what I'm doing relate to the story or the written word, which is really maybe the most important difference in all the different things that designers do and that's the specialty of this.
It's got to do with theatre, where I came out, which makes gave me a big head start and storytelling so I will.
[SPEAKER] Do you.
Work with the director.
When you say you are responsible for the look of the entire movie, do they first give you a script and then you talk with the director about what your vision is for or the direct vision or is that collaborative?
Like how does that work?.
[SPEAKER] It works with every different kind of director there is.
It's a little bit different.
I'm working with James Wan right who's a great, great director, really wonderful guy.
And he's such a visual person.
And he has very high visual skills so with James, a lot of it is like he knows exactly what he wants it to look like.
So we get into these specificities and things and I have my opinion and I'm kind of hired to [inaudible] all his ideas together and get them into a cohesive thing.
It is like anything.
The director of his vision in a play or in theatre or video game or whatever, is what we all work under because you can only have one leader in something like this.
Some directors don't have any visual imagery but Jim Brooks.
You know, Jim used to say to me, I don't know what the movie should look like.
I could only see it through a keyhole in the door.
But I know every character in the room is saying.
So he was a character writer [inaudible] movies are pretty famous and so he didn't get involved and say, well.
That looks like a good idea.
And in many times, if the director, when they're not involved will come out of set.
This is not what I had in mind.
But we prevent that from happening by letting everybody know constantly what we're doing.
You don't build a building or have a client without showing what the House is going to look like yeah.
You're a fool if you go that far.
Speaking of what it looks like, do you have any I mean, I know there's so many people watching today who are fans of these movies do you have some images that you can show us?
[SPEAKER] Yeah I put together a little package from jumanji, how we build a set.
Now, if you guys out there.
No, they've made two of them.
I did the second one, that one that just came out last year.
And it's got the rock and Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black.
I get to find the thing here goes.
[SPEAKER] So this is a quick little question while you're bringing things out and you see that here it is.
[SPEAKER] What's the question?
I was just gonna say?
So this is sort of a silly question, but [SPEAKER] [inaudible] ever I mean, you're working with these actors, these famous actors, like do you ever is there anyone that I mean, do you feel sort of shy around them?
Or like how do you [inaudible] that?
So much respect for these guys?
I don't I don't personally become friends with many of them, but I talked to them and, I am pretty good at least the people that do this work are all really at the top of their game., you have to respect them and some of the people are amazing in some of these people.
These are the kind of people that when they walk into a room, everybody stops talking.
So I'm affected the same way.
Yes, I do.
I mean, you'd be crazy if you didn't.
I've always been I have a lot of respect [inaudible], so yeah.
[SPEAKER] For sure okay.
[SPEAKER] This is jumanji this gives you a good example of.
The stuff I do.
This is a look book we put together for the end of the movie and my graphic designer made this.
And I do everything from start of finding the location.
So these are the places I scouted on the movie.
So you can see the mountains and everyone knew that there was a scene in the movie where they did an oasis.
So this concept art is put together with a little bit of Photoshop and stuff like that.
Sketches of the oasis in the movie.
This starts out with a really rough sketch like this.
It's just a little sketch that Brian Stoltz did for me and then we go into very high in concept art, which was done at very high levels these are digital models that are built.
And they're painted of what the set should look like and then we go into how you would design the set.
So this is the layout of the set on stage.
And the stage is basically a big warehouse in Atlanta, a really big warehouse.
It was a big Kroger food distribution center.
So that's really what it was.
And this is kind of what the set looks like, what it being built in a kind of evolve to this.
You can see this is like the art.
This is a sketch of my friend Christian sure.
Did for me of the room and the room looks like this.
So you can really see and so but I'm responsible for this, but my, decorators and my people that I worked with, Daniel.
Berman, she pulls together all the stuff and people are creative jobs all the way through where they have to act on their own and figured out.
So but I work a lot with the costume designer.
So here we have some costumes.
This is the guy he was a guy from Game of Thrones.
What was the mountain?
He played up the character.
Yeah, I didn't talk to him too much.
We have like digital creatures here that we're done, that we had a hyenas.
These were done at Ueda in New Zealand.
And more sketches.
And so the big fight scene with a rock and we illustrate everything..
There is nothing that does not get illustrated anymore.
It's because people wanted to know everything, how it's gonna look, concept work, it's called, and it goes on forever.
Here's Karen, when she's getting ready to go in this little pond.
But we actually built this [inaudible].
[SPEAKER] I was gonna ask about that.
Can you go back to that for a sec, Bill that image.
When we look at something like that in, in a film that fascinating to see that Kroger where warehouse I mean because I always assumed that everything's like animated computer animated.
How much is physically real, like a real set in the theatre or film.
[inaudible] and how much is animated.
[SPEAKER] I'll show you in a minute.
This was this was real.
You can see her up there.
Let me go to the other one here.
I have this other one called Aquamen here.
[SPEAKER] And that's what you're working on an Aqua Man two.
[SPEAKER] I did.
That wasn't in my bio.
I forgot the bio was a little low there so okay so it's a whole different kettle of fish.
Aqua Man two.
Can you see that?, that lighthouse getting bashed with water.
These are images from this never gets built.
This is all virtual.
This is what's called Virtual scenery.
It's done by manipulating this computer images.
And these are stills of what will be multiple, many images of this, but this was.
all the creatures are in the movie.
And these models here are digital models that will be taken by [inaudible] or something like that to turn into bigger models and stuff.
But this is how this gets designed and it's a misnomer that it's done in a computer because there is nothing that's not designed.
And everything that has ever been put into a computer.
Was designed by somebody and it's got to have a measure drawing.
You don't just say computer make me [inaudible].
And you don't say computer make me Atlantis like this.
These are actual, these are designs that people sat down and we drew and we measured them and stuff like that.
So all this stuff is virtual scenery like this ship here.
I'm gonna show you how it's built so this was underwater gallon that they meet in.
And this was the set.
We actually built this.
Set now the seconds to make it look, it gets.
Overlaid with a lot of stuff digitally to make it look underwater and stuff like that.
But this is how it started the set.
And if you go back here, I'm gonna show you.
This here is a scene where this will be painted into a bigger scene of Atlantis being destroyed.
So we don't build all of it.
It's kind of like a big Photoshop frame at a time.
But they use supercomputers to render these images so real looking that you can't tell they're not real.
And put them together.
So all this stuff is like here.
This is what the throne that we wanted to look like in concept sketch.
This is what it looked like on stage.
So we didn't build that was underwater.
Nobody goes under water.
We do what's called dry for wet.
But if you look at, this here What's called a proxy set.
We have these statues and everything we built for this room where they got their armor in the backgrounds are all like blue screen here you can see this looks like you're gonna get ready to go into the arena basically, this was done as another proxy set when we mean proxy sets, we build scenery to give definition to space and lighting.
So all those little tubes in the set here, are like going down, then they'll make it look like lava.
So it will eventually, look like this kind of lava coming out of stuff.
I'll show you.
You could see how we want it to look with the bottom sequence.
And here's [inaudible] costume, but up on the top, you can see how it was done on the stage.
So we have to know going in what it's gonna look like.
You just don't show up on the side with a blue screens, oh, we'll fix it imposed during that it's all designed every little [inaudible] is designed.
So, these are digital models here of Atlantic right here.
That's what these are these are, what they're called white clay models.
And obviously you are not drawing all of this yourself.
[SPEAKER] There isn't enough time in the day for ever looked at the credit to the end..
That's so interesting.
So then all of those people that are working for you though to do.
Each little part of this, you've got to oversee it.
You've got to look at it.
There's probably 3 thousand people worked on this movie.
It a lot of jobs.
This is set here though, was a traditional set I built a whole piazza of Italian town.
And we actually built this entire city.
And then we built this outdoor piece here [inaudible] this was done with a huge blue screen I painted the sky in with Photoshop myself to make it look real but you see the blue screen back there on the bottom.
So and then this is a little bit of concept work.
With the black MAN, comic book guys did we will show you how they lined it out and do it.
And this was the final sketch from this.
I mean, there are incredibly talented people look at these drawings.
These are digital models.
See the setup to be put into model form.
So you can move around them in a three-dimensional way, two-dimensional drawing doesn't cut it anymore.
You really can't.
That's a model.
You could turn that around in the computer.
Fairly powerful computer anyway you need to and this is like the fishermen and all these people can swim in there and you don't even know.
Wow, it's kind of crazy.
Imagine the actors are now used to working in this kind of half real half digital atmosphere.
Here's a good example of how a boat is done in the ocean.
There's no water.
This was pioneered in perfect storm so it looks like this.
So when we want scenes on it, we do with rain and everything like that, but we put the water all in [inaudible].
So you do that is [inaudible] that is fascinating and so when you started, making movies did you know how to do all this?
I don't know how to do it all.
So I don't know..
[SPEAKER] I did not.
To be fair.
A lot of it's changed when we started.
I mean, it's like anything probably in the last four years, I've been in the business now 40 years.
41 years, I think.
It's like everything in America and in the world, there weren't computers to do all this stuff.
So for maybe 75 years, design was pretty much the same.
There was paper, there's pens and pencils, and there was hand animation.
You showed your work that way and those models and techniques to make movies.
But since the age of the digital age, obviously.
That our audience is familiar with assigning, are telling me they do not know.
I mean, down to me talking to you, sitting in London, right now, like it's every day everybody's unzoom, everybody in America talks of the teacher, their family, their moms and dads.
I've gotten my 90 year old mother and father loved zoom, so, you know.
So no, it's it's radically changing really fast too because you're asked about the actors we do a thing now, we have a whole new level to the art department.
We have what's called bad visual art department.
And we build these models in a visual reality.
We have a room over here that's got a little.
And the actors can go into the spaces and learn what they are.
And what we do with we photograph them in this void.
And then we use their imagery, they use about a 150 cameras on them and they paint them onto three-dimensional bodies.
That have already been built from their bodies, they're you've heard of super fakes or deep fakes.
All those things that people [inaudible].
Well, it's like they're like you see an image of somebody doing something that's so good, you can't tell that it looks real.
Okay well that is what.
We do so whether you take a 150 pictures.
Or you do is you stitch it all together and you can make a perfect model of them and painted on their model.
[SPEAKER] [inaudible] pop up.
So I bet.
There's questions coded.
I thought This is probably a good time because they very much relate to.
What you're talking about relative to how these are done and I also wanted to let you know that I have a question from a gentleman named Mike Griffin.
So you've mentioned him earlier, so yes.
Kind of what you were just talking about though with his questioning, you made a transition from hand drafting and color.
Illustration, on an illustration board.
[inaudible] with hand.
And now everything is completely digitized.
[SPEAKER] People that can't do that though this is the rub of the whole thing.
You can't get a job in Hollywood or in any architectural firm or any graphic department, unless, you're pretty fast line company.
You can't get a job in a law office unless you can use Excel and you can use most of the software that comes with Microsoft.
If you can't use it, they're not gonna hire you.
So that's what you should be learning along with all your other stuff too, where we had learned in our day how to draft and [inaudible] all that.
That was the tools we were..
But we couldn't use a person if they did not do it that way.
And now I can't hire two-dimensional people.
We are getting to the point now where we need three-dimensional models because there's a pipeline setup in the pipeline requires all this information.
All day long [inaudible] send it all over the world on their phones and their iPads and their computers.
And it just there is no room for the hand-drawn thing which is kind of sad because it's an art form that is slowly disappearing.
[inaudible] organic stuff.
It's still the best way to draw it.
But that doesn't mean [inaudible] going to go away and people are gonna stop drawn and people shouldn't worry about that.
People still painting to that form of art is never gonna go anywhere.
In our business, you need to be able to mirror that with digital technology.
[SPEAKER] Do you still use any of the old method of handling time on your personal.
[SPEAKER] Skill rulers here.
I can't say it sounds like you don't have to draw anymore, but that's not true I still draw [inaudible].
I still communicate with a pen on a piece of paper all the time.
I still always need to draw some to explain something what I'm trying to do [inaudible] and if you can't do that a little bit, you're in trouble its the one you train your brain too.
Amine, it's, it's just part of world, but it is a little different now where n plus the kids do come out of school learning all that stuff.
[SPEAKER] That was actually two questions that came in very similar and to what you just talked about saying.
One was what type of art skills or skills do they need to do the job?
Now, which you just mentioned a little bit, that it's more the graphics skills computer wise versus actual hand [inaudible].
[SPEAKER] You need both the skills you have to be able to mirror the two together [inaudible] really well, it is a great skill, but if you can draw really well and you don't know how to get it onto the screen of the computer.
It's not so good [SPEAKER] Okay and so.
[SPEAKER] You have to be able to do.
The two things have to come together now.
And all our people that work in this other room today.
But because it's Saturday, but they have high skills.
These kids are really good the kids in Miami.
Need to know that you have to be really good..
There's good kids all over the world.
The crews in London are some of the best I've ever worked with they're mind-boggling, how good these kids are.
And you look at the movies they make your Harry Potter movies, all those [inaudible], here me right across the street.
Here right now, they have [inaudible] and where to find them they have the Batman, flash and Mission Impossible five going right over there right now in, and aquaman is coming in about four weeks, we're going to take over the stages.
[SPEAKER] Yeah, [inaudible] there..
[SPEAKER] And just one last question.
[inaudible] actual so you got a really good we know that, but someone asked with all the people it takes to make a movie what other things, what other areas maybe are up and coming and movies not just in the art direction, but what else do they need to know?
What majors are most likely to get hired.
[SPEAKER] Is still super important guys.
You got to be able to tell a story and you got to be able to communicate really well.
I put a lot of emphasis on presentation and graphics and things like that because, with all the clutter in our lives and all the stuff that goes flying by.
You have to be able to figure out how to communicate.
That information in a very succinct way.
Like what we're doing right now.
These are skills that can be taught.
Kids need to learn how to do that.
I mean, it's just part of the world they live in and they live in the visual world.
And those things will be so important in the future.
And good stories, the content, a good story that's simply told.
The simplest movie can be the most riveting thing more than one where we live under water when we blow up the world all the time.
I can't emphasize, don't be scared off.
You have a good story to tell and you knew a good writer or you're visually, you have some great ideas or, you understand some aspect of light?
The nobody seems to quite get.
You can bring the story to somebody.
Those are good skills [inaudible].
I will tell you that right now.
The script is what we always start with.
Believe me, that's the most important thing still.
[SPEAKER] When these kids are sort of applying to be artists working with you, digital artists, do they have a digital portfolio?
Is that what [inaudible] showing you.
[SPEAKER] Almost every kid's got some kind of digital portfolio now.
Nobody carries a portfolio case in anymore.
[SPEAKER] Yeah, there's no paper you carry.
I wish somebody did occasionally, but there isn't any it's all comes everybody comes in with a laptop or an iPad Pro big one, you know, we sit down or what we do now, every team, every room has a 60 inch to 70 inch monitor that are in and people walk in.
They share your screen where he got up on the screen, you're sitting and you're watching it.
It's literally my offices.
And sometimes you're playing all the same thing and it's kind of crazy.
When you started 40 years ago [inaudible] I mean people I imagine did walk in with a paper.
[SPEAKER] I didn't till about say ten years ago and I used loved my portfolios and stuff.
But you can show pictures as fast.
And the problem is almost all their work is digitally designed, and built.
So without a digital way to show you spend a fortune in printing stuff when it's really just all at a screen.
So webpages are free.
They're releasing to make every, every, everybody knows most of your audience [inaudible] knows how to do it.
So you start making went up yet, but collect your stuff and I'm a big fan of photography still.
I take a 100 pictures a day, probably..
I will just take a stroll in London that probably I thought I was going to tilt my camera.
And keep my phone basically, you, know, that relates to something I wanted to ask you when you were showing images from tell us a little bit about the scouting process, like do you physically go to those like do you go to New Zealand?
Do you go [inaudible] places you've gone.
I've been everywhere I've been.
[SPEAKER] I've been all through Thailand [inaudible] down there.
I've been all over China.
Wow, I did a movie in China, we Australia you have to go, and then?
Make the movie?
And what they do is they send me an advance party now in demand you we shot in many locations.
We shot in Calgary [inaudible] we needed snows.
We shot up in those mountains of Canada.
We are in the state.
We went to Hawaii.
And so it's a hard part of the job actually, you have to go you work with a location manager and scouts and you take pictures and then you bring it back to the studio.
You just send them to your phone or however you Facetime.
And people like them, they don't but I have to part of my job, the visual part of the job this is where the camera work comes in.
Do you have to understand how to photograph this stuff and how it will look in the theatre.
And how does it work.
To background for your movie.
So that's part of the Production Designer's job.
It's one of the main prod things he does from picking a street in the city, to knowing, defining something in the