Friday, June 10, 2011

Jamie Rama Talks About Retro 'Super 8' Concept Art and the Biggest Mistake an Artist Can Make

Friday, June 10, 2011 - by Maurice Mitchell 0

Jamie Rama has created some amazing visuals and, in this interview talks about capturing the look of a small town in the 70s, what it's like doing a children's book with one of the Farrelly Brothers and the future of 3-D concept art.

Rama is the Swiss army knife of concept artists, working on movies, commercials and even books. Besides conceptual illustration he's done storyboarding, visual effects design and art directing.

You've seen his work on major films like Transformers (2009), Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class (2011).

He took some time out to answer a few questions about working on the J.J. Abrams period horror film Super 8 (2011).


Q: Could you explain, to those who don't know, what a concept artist is?
Somebody who generates artwork for movies, commercials or games. Typically for movies we are hired on for pre-production by the production designer to help establish the look of the film.

Q: Could you give your background as an artist?
I grew up just outside of Detroit and went to an art college there called "Center for Creative Studies" where I was a product design major.

I promptly moved to Los Angeles and started out in visual effects working at "Sony Imageworks" for a couple years. I eventually went freelance and transitioned over to film pre-production.

Q: J.J. Abrams described the film Super 8 as being "about suburban America with ordinary people going through extraordinary circumstances when either hyper-real or supernatural things came into their lives." What was the challenge of bringing that vision to the screen?
Well, for starters, it's a period movie that takes place in 1979.

So primarily for the art department it was all about capturing the look of a small suburban town from that time period.

In terms of illustrating the exterior stuff it was key to get the vehicles, signage and clothing correct because all that stuff sells it.

And for the interiors like the camera shop, the set dressing and props had to be accurate and authentic.

Q: What did you draw on for inspiration for the designs?
Google image search and whatever books I have laying around.

Q: What is one hard-to-spot pitfall that is critical to avoid when doing conceptual design?
Image: X-Men First Class
I think it's important to try and not redo stuff from other movies. I spend a lot of time researching what has been done already so I don't fall into a derivative zone.



Q: You illustrated a beautiful children's book called "Abigail the Happy Whale" written by Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber). What was it like working with him on the book?
Image cover art "Abigale the Happy Whale"
Thanks. Yeah Farrelly was a pleasure to work with. A lot of people have said that he is one the nicest and most generous people in Hollywood and I'd definitely have to agree.


Q: Where do you see the conceptual design industry five years from now?
Who knows. But everything seems to be headed towards a 3D viewing experience with people like James Cameron pushing it in that direction. I can see having to do 3D illustrations where the glasses are needed to view them and image elements like bullets and swords and vehicles pop off the screen.

I'm not a fan of 3D or wearing the glasses. I've spent the last year working on Dark Knight Rises and am happy to report it's all about IMAX and none of this 3D nonsense.

Q: Name three artists that inspire you every day.
I have always been a big fan of Syd Mead. I really like the insane detailing that Geoff Darrow puts into his comic books. I like almost all of David Fincher's movies.


Q: What's the next film we'll see your work on?
As soon as I'm done with Batman I will take a nap and watch some TV for the summer.

Check out more of his detailed and emotive work at JamieRama.com and the ecological children's book Abigail the Happy Whale.

Thanks for the interview Jamie!
To read some of my other interviews with artists check out the full list here.

What do you think of Jamie Rama's work?

About the Author

Maurice Mitchell
Lover of science fiction and art.

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