|Doctor Who (2014) storyboard by James Iles|
The eighth season of Doctor Who is off to a big start and is a hit with new and old fans of the series. io9 described last weekend's episode "The Caretaker" as Charlie Jane Anders' "favorite episode of the Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who thus far." Part of what makes this series so special are the incredible visuals and staging of each episode and one of the main storyboard artists for the new series of Doctor Who for years is James Iles.
Iles is a UK based professional storyboard and concept artist who's worked on big budget projects like Doctor Who , The Amityville Asylum (2013) and Outcasts (2011). He kindly took some time out of his schedule to talk to me about how he got the job, working on the series and how the locations affected the storyboarding of "The Caretaker."
Click on the images to enlarge.
Maurice Mitchell: Thanks for joining me James. How did you become a storyboard artist?
James Iles: As a kid, I really wanted to work in comics. I was a big Marvel and Image fan, and I spent a lot of my time drawing. I also had a love for films, particularly anything science fiction or monster related. After school I studied illustration at university, focusing on a wide range of creative fields, from advertising to fine art, graphic design and wildlife illustration.
I grew up using traditional media, and only started using digital for the first time in my early twenties, which I think has been a massive help in as a storyboard artist. Although many artists today produce storyboards digitally from start to finish, I find that the fastest way for me to get through hundreds of shots is still with pen and paper. It's also really useful being able to pin them all on the wall and go through them with a director, adding or removing shots as you go. After university I worked on all kinds of freelance jobs.
One day I went to an interview to attend a theatre design course. The course director felt that their programme wouldn't quite offer me what I was looking for, which was predominantly concept design, storyboarding and also fabrication, so he recommended that I have a chat with a colleague of his, who turned out to be the production designer on Doctor Who, Edward Thomas. He gave me a chance to work with the Doctor Who art department, learning from some of the most talented concept artists in the industry.
Initially, I was helping them at the research stage of the design process, and also designing some of the smaller props like wrist communicators, control panels and switches, things like that. The first concept design I produced which actually made it all the way to being built and filmed was a Sontaran wrist communicator. It was a tiny prop, but a really big deal to me to see it on screen.
Eventually, I became a full time member of the art department as storyboard artist, and also working on more of the concept art. It's been over 30 episodes now, and has lead to being involved in other great productions, such as Sherlock and independent films.
MM: In the years working on Doctor Who what's the most memorable design you've worked on?
JI: In a way, it was that first, tiny Sontaran wrist comm that made it to the screen! It's a really small prop, but the feeling of being pleased with the design, and seeing it come to life via the fabrication department and make it all the way to filming gives you a real sense of achievement. Also getting to work with the sonic screwdriver from time to time has been really fulfilling, it's such an iconic piece. Also the Cyber Conversion unit from "Closing Time," that was a real challenge, trying to figure out how Cyberman armour could be applied to a person as outlined in the script.I like working with props that will be built the most, rather than created digitally, because I get to watch the fabrication department take the design and turn it into a physical prop that you can hold and examine, it's really rewarding. In terms of storyboarding,I don't think I have a single favourite episode, but I loved working on "The Vampires of Venice." It was filmed in Croatia, and the environment, plus a lot of water-based action made it a really exciting episode to develop. The environment you're working with influences the storyboards a lot, whether it's for TV, film or advertising.
Depending on the set or location, it affects the whole thing. Mood, lighting, set dressing, camera angles, and what you can do, action-wise, depending on how much space you have to work with. I've been really fortunate to have been involved with Doctor Who, because each episode, you could be anywhere, from Sherwood Forest to Stonehenge, ("The Pandorica Opens" is another favourite of mine).
"Time Heist" storyboards
MM: Where there any challenges when working on "The Caretaker" and, if so, how did you overcome them?
JI: Coming back to the way sets and locations influence what you can film, working in a school was a bit of a challenge, because the Skovox Blitzer was a pretty big, physical character, that needed to be able to chase Clara and Danny around, and some of the scenes are shot in fairly small rooms. Many of the locations weren't quite decided on while we were planning much of the action, so we didn't have location photographs to work from. That's one of the challenges involved in storyboarding, you have to try and get as close as you can to the vision the director has in their head, but a lot of the time you're storyboarding at a very early stage of pre- production, when location scouting isn't always finished.So you have to work with the script and the descriptions offered by the director, and allow for some flexibility when it comes to filming.
What's next for you?
I'm working more and more on graphic novels at the moment, as well as Doctor Who. I'm also developing some of my own projects, including a science fiction comic, and a monster movie called CongAAARGH! about a giant, mutated eel terrorising a seaside town. Along with some colleagues from Doctor Who, we're currently raising the funding for our prosthetic monster via Kickstarter. I'd love to do some more storyboards for feature films, we'll see what happens!
Here's how James and his team describe CongAAARGH: "CongAAARGH! is a short monster movie about a giant, mutated conger eel being disturbed from the ocean depths to terrorise a seaside town. We've seen that before,right? But not quite like this. At least not since the 1950's.We feel that many of today's monster movies, fantastic as they are, have lost the simple charm, character and 'real-ness' of a man in a monster suit. With CongAAARGH!, we aim to help keep this great tradition of film making alive, and along the way, document exactly what goes into the process of designing, fabricating and filming a practical monster as independent filmmakers."
See more of James Iles' cracking portfolio at http://www.jamesilesstudio.com
Click on the links if you want to see more of James Iles' work or Doctor Who artwork on my blog.
What do you think of the storyboards? If you've seen Doctor Who what do you think of the series so far?
Official Doctor Who Summary
"The Doctor is an alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through all of time and space in his TARDIS. His current travel companion is Clara Oswald, though he has a long list of friends and companions who have shared journeys with him. Instead of dying, the Doctor is able to "regenerate" into a new body, taking on a new personality with each regeneration. Eleven actors, plus John Hurt, have played the Doctor thus far."
Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber and Donald Wilson
Official Site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006q2x0
Original Air Date: 23 November 1963 (UK)
© Copyright 1963 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). All rights reserved