I'm highly visual. I've spent 21 years learning to illustrate- from commercial illustration to comic books to TV storyboards to concept design for film. So of all the things filmmaking-wise that I feel somewhat qualified to talk about is conceptualizing your film.
What's involved? Well, there's plenty: Key Scenes, conceptual art, storyboards, animatics, and production art- just to name a few. In this post, we'll discuss KEY SCENES.
First off- the #1 thing that a conceptual artist should have gotten from the director or producer, above ALL ELSE, is a FINISHED LOCKED SCRIPT. I consider it a red flag when the script isn't finished. I feel it means the director is indecisive and is looking for inspiration within someone else's work. Some have made reference to George Lucas using concept designers to inspire his script for the prequel trilogy... but we saw what happened there. Of course, the designers don't mind, they're getting overtime.
Also, to work with unfinished scripts means a scene might change the tone of the entire movie... plus without an unfinished script, often the director themselves don't know what they want- and you fly into an endless waste of time designing by trial and error until you've accidentally hit on something they want.
The same goes for you as the director- if you don't know what you want, you're going to spend time and money exploring that. Now, if you have money, then I have the time... but that's for another post. First off, let's talk about coming up with a way create the spirit of the film by using Key Scene Illustrations.
After they have a finished script, I read it trying to find the key scenes that define the movie visually. I'll talk these over with the director to see if it's where they felt the emotional and visual high points of the film are.
These Key Scene Illustrations often will be used for investment pitches, or if money is in place, an anchor to keep the spirit of your visuals consistent. Concept designers will often find inspiration within these key scene illustrations and draw out more ideas. It may also inspire the director of photography, or even give the director insights into their script where they hadn't seen before.
For Archangel Alpha, I created six Key Scenes- using color, tone, texture and elements to give you the sense of otherworldliness. Four of these are scattered around the internet in articles relating to Archangel Alpha, but the last two are making an online appearance for the first time.
|This scene was simply to show one of the main characters, Alex, looking out over a Soviet inspired homeland of Rodinia. I used lots of greys and blues to show how cold the world was as it entered into a new ice age.|
|Admittedly, this image is an homage to many an action film, heroic silhouettes of the ace fighters flying in an epic sky.|
In Two Sides of the Moon, I created five Key Scenes, again using color, but also suggesting interesting camera angles.
|In the beginning of the film, a strange skeleton is found by archeologists. The reveal on this would have been an overhead so we could clearly see the skeleton in it's grave, and the archaeologists almost as strange ants.|
Next week: Concept and Production Art
Questions? Feel free to post in the comments below.