|Ender's Game concept art by Robert O. Simons|
Check out my exclusive interview with Ender's Game concept artist Robert O. Simons!
Ender's Game, based on the 1985 Orson Scott Card novel, opened today and it's a massive gamble. The studio invested $100 million to produce what L.A. Times calls it the "most expensive independent" movie ever made. Studios have been trying for over 20 years to turn the complex book into a movie and they think they finally got it right.
Director Gavin Hood spent four years developing the movie and working with artists to finalize the complex look of the film. One of the many concept artists hired to bring Card's vision to life is Robert Simons, and I got an exclusive interview with him to talk about working on the film.
Simons is a professional concept artist who's worked on Hollywood blockbusters movies like The Thing (2011). Find out what those bumps on the I.F. ship do and how it led him to become a filmmaker.
Check out the rest of the images after the jump (click to enlarge).
Maurice Mitchell: Thanks for doing this interview Robert. First, what was your first assignment on Ender's Game?
Robert Simon: Well, when I first stepped on to Ender’s Game I was given an assignment to design air lock doors in the film for all the different types of rooms and hall ways. But the response I got from the work I did on the air locks was so good that they started trusted me to do more throughout the film. In the end, there was not much that I didn’t work on in the film except for all the organic stuff I stayed far away from! David Levy and Tully Summers were the “Brain Children” behind that stuff.
In 2011, I was given a chance by Ben Proctor to work on The Thing with Sean Haworth. After working on that project with Sean for a month, it came to an end. But, six months later, I got a call from Ben and Sean both telling me they got Ender’s Gametogether and that they wanted me to start in the winter! I wound up being on Ender’s Game for nine months in the end.
MM: Those are some fast turn-around times Rob. Good to know you're keeping busy. What was it like working with production designers Sean Haworth and Ben Procter, since they're both professional illustrators as well?
RS: Working with Sean and Ben made for the most fun I have ever had on a project, and still have had till this time. They both challenged me and pushed me to learn new boundaries I never thought I would get to!
I also learned a lot from them both on set, and they helped me see that making a film is not as impossible as I thought it was. Sure its really, really hard. But what I learned from them led me to make my own short film called MOMENTUM after Ender’s Game ended [Editor: Learn more about Momentum next week!].
MM: What was the most important lesson about filmmaking that made it seem more possible?
When I would go onto the sets I was able to see how they built they're props and the sets. I had learned some of this in school, but being there in person and watching them build everything finally made everything click for me. I felt I finally had a starting point for the basis of my film making!
MM: They sound like great guys to work with! The designs of Ender's Game are some of the most detailed spaceship designs I've seen in a film. What was the challenge in designing and developing those?
RS: I think the little D.R. ship and the International Fleet [often shortened to I.F. or IF] transporter ship were some of the hardest things to work on in the film. Trying to design something that looked real but adding so many details to give it scale. But, in the end, it had to look real. I was not the only person that worked on these ships. Ben Proctor did the original sketch for them both and Paul Ozzimo built and designed the 3D model.
After some time, Ben gave me the 3D models to work on top of. I wound up changing the bridge of the ship and various areas in 3D. Once I felt good with the 3D model, I moved in to doing a very large illustration of the back view of the I.F. transporter. I did a lot of paint and also photo bashed in some oil rig platforms in order to get the scale, otherwise it would have been impossible. In the end, I spent about a month off and on working on the ships and the parts.
MM: That's a lot of time to spend with those ships Robert. Did you use any designs as a basis for your IF bridge?
A lot of the I.F. Bridge tower was based off battleship bridge towers in order to get that realism. A lot of its details come from oil rig platforms in order to give it scale sense. In space there is nothing to compare to, so we had to make these things look massive without human scale next to them.
Yeah, a lot of what Gavin wanted in realism really reflected in the designs. Like, for example, there is no gravity in space so the space station is built on a spinning wheel that Ben Proctor designed in order to make artificial gravity for the crew. These ideas of realism played into everything in the film.
One of my favorite things that I tried to really play with is the realism of the I.F. transporter. Ben Proctor and Paul Ozzimo had done a lot for that ship already but when I took over on it I couldn't help but try to make it as real in my brain as possible even though it's all made up! For example, there are these large spheres on ether side of the ship. I imagined while working on them that they were large fusion generators that created all the power for the ship and its engines.MM: So, what's next for you?
RS: Some things I worked on coming out in 2014 are Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Heat - which is a remake of Heat (1995) - and Jurassic World which comes out in 2015. But the project I’m most proud of is my own short that will come out next year called Momentum. So, go to http://Momentumrally.com to learn more!
These images are just a sample, see much more of Robert Simons' work on the film at http://www.robertdraws.com/.
Click on the links if you want to see more of Robert Simons' work and Ender's Game on my blog.
What do you think of the concept art? If you've seen Ender's Game what did you think?
Official Ender's Game Synopsis
"In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult war games, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham, himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race."
Directed by Gavin Hood
Cinematography by Donald McAlpine
Production Design by Sean Haworth and Ben Procter
Starring: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley
Release date(s): October 25, 2013 (United Kingdom), November 1, 2013 (United States)
Official Site: http://www.if-sentinel.com/
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