I am a concept artist on the Avatar sequels. I contribute to early pre-production key frame paintings that attempt to strongly capture a moment in one of the films and feel like they could have been screen captured from a finished movie. Eventually everything must turn into either a physical real world set, or a virtual VFX set, so I turn a lot of the things I design into a 3D model in some form and hand them off to our virtual art department. The most challenging part of my job is balancing the ever expanding range of design tools and techniques with the need for the simplicity and clarity required for any design or illustration. I think the most surprising thing about my job to many people is that design is something that someone does at all. Experiencing good design can feel so natural and seamless that it's easy to take for granted the immense amount of thought and work it takes to create everything a movie viewer sees in a film.
First job in film?
My first job was a bit of a fluke, but also a dream in that I left design school towards the end of a term—a terribly busy time—to take a two week job at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. I worked as a concept artist on an unnamed and never released Star Wars show. I got this job with two of my close friends from Art Center College Of Design and we worked directly with George Lucas on the third floor of the Main House at Skywalker Ranch. I was totally and completely out of my depth! But, I will say that for me there was no better way to learn than to be thrown into a situation and expected by George Lucas to produce great work.
Most exciting thing about working on the sequels?
The most exciting thing about working on the sequels is contributing to a world that completely drew me in when I first encountered it. Beyond that, getting to work with James Cameron! He's quite a hero of mine and has been a respectful and keen client to serve. He's always been very clear about what he is asking for, which is a total blessing and not always something that I've encountered on other projects.
Most memorable thing from seeing Avatar in theatres?
What I remember most from seeing Avatar in a theater was the feeling of awe at being totally transported to a place where things as fantastic as literally leaving your body for a stronger, bluer, better one was believable. For me, it was cinema serving the all important purpose of suspending the moment and pulling you into a new place and time.