For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to create.
When I was young, one of my Mom’s many jobs was as an art teacher in prisons, so I was exposed to all sorts of cool art mediums and tools. Prisoners always used them in creative ways, like using a paper cutter on another inmate's fingers. Dismembered digits in a glass full of ice is a vision I will never shake.
Like most kids, my mind was all over the place. I wanted to be a comic book artist one minute, and after seeing Jurassic Park, a paleontologist… But, when I realized that was misguided, I decided I wanted to be a monster maker. I was obsessed with movies and how they are made, and absorbed everything I could from TV shows like Movie Magic, and magazines like CineFX. (scroll down)
Lucky for me, as teenager we lived in an area of upstate New York that was the hub of Broadway set production. When I was 15 I managed to get an interview with the art director of one of the shops. So, I loaded up the trunk of my Mom’s car with all the comic book characters, paintings, sketches, and sculptures I had made. I was hired on the spot for a summer job which led to a work study program through high school, and eventually a full-time job.
I loved it, and I soaked up everything I possibly could from the art department -- how to build absolutely anything out of clay, foam, wood and steel. We built incredible sets for Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Titanic the Musical and many others.
I built up my portfolio intending to move to Los Angeles to pursue creature effects, with long-term dreams of working at Stan Winston or Rick Baker’s studios. But, I arrived just as that craft was being overtaken by computer graphics.
Fortunately, I landed a sculpting and fabrication gig at Walt Disney Imagineering, and when they offered a course in computer graphics, I jumped at the opportunity. I was obsessed and a fast learner.
I quit my job at Disney, bought a computer, holed up in my tiny apartment living off unemployment checks and ramen noodles, and set off to create a CG portfolio. In 6 months I had a some stuff worth showing. My very first job was for the company that coined the term “Previsualization,” and my very first gig was a movie called Minority Report. It was on the Fox lot and the director was Steven Spielberg… my head was exploding.
Previs proved invaluable. I began supervising projects, applying my real world art department knowledge, and learning from master filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, John Frankenheimer, Gore Verbinski, Darren Aronofsky, and Francis Lawrence. Storytelling, sequence design, shot composition, editing, vfx, special effects, and set design all entered my professional lexicon, and I was hooked.
I started to get that director bug. I bought a video camera and experimented, shooting everything. I made dozens and dozens of little shorts -- all experimental -- but each one a stepping stone.
While working on Constantine, Francis Lawrence got me interested in music videos. I spent $5k of my own money, and shot a video for a friend’s band. I was Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Wardrobe, and Art department all in one...and I loved it!
I was signed to Francis’s production company, DNA, and it has been busy ever since. I still like to get dirty and build the occasional set piece or create the odd ball visual effect… It’s all part of the fun and I’m still learning.