We present an interview about The Wolverine movie with the concept artist Manuel Plank-Jorge. Manuel worked in many films as Speed Racer, Quantum of Solace, The Green Hornet and in the world of video games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops.
What’s are some of the challenges of being a concept artist?
Some of the main challenges of being a concept artist are from my experience flexibility, time constraints and the ability to simplify things. As a concept artist you have to be able to visualize a variety of different subject matters sometimes under a thight deadline which could be a presentation for a director and studio producers or just getting something done for a crew to build a set based on your painting. You also should be able to handle a variety of different subjects which can range from historical scenes to science fiction environments and also be able to give seemingly boring subjects a visually interesting look since even on big projects you don’t always paint the big establishing shots but you also have to take care of smaller things.
Another challenge on top of this is making changes and different iterations of the same subject, sometimes changing course in the middle of a painting because there might have been a change in a script or the things that you draw might simply be to expensive or complicated to build, while being invested in your painting you should not get too attached to a single idea.
Sometimes concept art also serves the purpose to find out what kind of ideas do not work in terms of design and storytelling helping the rest of the team to see which ideas works and which doesn’t.
When did you start working on The Wolverine and how long did it take?
I started working on The Wolverine around the middle of 2011 and was on it for a few months.At that time shooting was to take place in Canada but eventually the Studio decided to shoot the everything in Australia with the exception of a portion in Japan. At that time when I was involved we were working on it in Los Angeles and after the production moved to Australia a team of australian concept artists started working on it over there.
Have you collaborated with other concept artist on the project?
We were a team of several concept artists who were all very nice to work with, some working at the production office and some working remotely from their studios at home. My main involvement was with the artists working in the Los Angeles office at the time especially Michele Moen who is a veteran and very talented artist who has been working in this industry for a long time.
Sometimes when there were a couple of concept artists working on the same scene we would have to make sure that the content of the paintings is consistent which each other to achieve a unified overall look so people would not go in visually opposite directions.
Which technologies did you use for your work on The Wolverine?
I primarily paint digitally with photoshop and sometimes also using 3d software for basic layouts, to convey certain ideas. I also do some quick sketching by hand but normally I do everything in photoshop. Nevertheless it is important that you still have the ability to express ideas quickly through pen and paper although digital work has become the standard in this business now. I use pretty much the same technologies on every project that I work on.
Can you explain your work on The Wolverine in detail?
At the time that we were working on it Los Angeles our task was to establish a initial look for the studio and the director to see what the movie could look like. I started work on the establishing shot and the layout of the japanese prison camp where Logan is being held a the time of the Nagasaki bombing. I also worked on several other scenes like the yakuza attack, the small japanese hotel interior, the fight between Logan and the ninjas in the japanese village and several other japanese interiors. All paintings served as a starting point for further discussion to establish a look and a visual framework for storytelling.
Which were the main difficulties in your work for The Wolverine?
Usually the difficulties for a concept artist are the same on most movie projects so it was not much different on The Wolverine. You have to be able to adjust to script changes with regards to storytelling which can influence the design and composition of your concept art, or be able to handle changes in certain locations that would serve as a background for your painting
May you describe us the differences beetween your work on The Wolverine and other movies, just like The Last Airbender o The Mummy 3?
You could say that the main difference at the time between The Wolverine and other projects was that if you start at very early stage in the development of a movie like on The Wolverine there are a lot of things which still are in flux and have to be established yet which gives you a bit more liberty as far as your design and layout goes while on other movies where the concept artist starts at a later stage certain locations and environments have already been decided on which means that you have to work along those guidelines but both situation have their advantages.
Can you tell us something about your next projects?
I am currently working on The Fast & Furious 7 and it’s been a while now that I worked on the Wolverine. I usually go between movies and video games and since the Wolverine I have worked quite extensively on the movie Iron Man 3 and a new video game called Titanfall.