(Note: This interview was originally published in Spanish on Más ficción que ciencia, Cristina's blog on Libros.com, which I strongly recommend if you read Spanish).
After graduating with a BA Honor’s degree in Illustration and Graphic Design from Leeds Metropolitan University, Gavin Rothery worked as a commercial illustrator and Comic artist with commissioned work including Batman. A progression into the Computer Games industry saw him leading art teams on titles across all platforms and genres including Grand Theft Auto 3, which turned out to be the biggest selling computer game of all time.
Then followed a progression into Film and Broadcast Visual Effects work, which led to VFX Supervision roles in broadcast commercials. Everything fused together when he was involved right through the creation of the 2008 feature film "Moon" where he designed the look of the film through concept art, CG Visualization and Graphic Design, and also performed the role of Visual Effects Supervisor. This work has led to widespread critical acclaim and the film has won numerous awards including a BAFTA and more recently the 2010 Hugo. Gavin is currently spending a lot of time working in the advertising industry with Superglue as Visual Effects Director working with brands including Toyota, Reebok and Google and developing the science-fiction feature film "Archive".
Cristina: Gavin, you are most gracious to accept talking to a Spanish blog. The truth is that I really enjoyed your work in "Moon" and that is how I started to tune in to your blog. I find that it is a real present for all sci-fi lovers, because generally it is really difficult to get info about art concept design in films.
Here you have the questions. No too many to bother you too much, no too little so we can really take advantage of your generosity.
We enjoyed the 2009 film “Moon” for many reasons: the originality of the story; the performance of Rockwell and Spacey; the aesthetics of the production. How did you become involved in the project and what was your role as VFX Supervisor and concept art director?
Gavin Rothery: I’d been flat sharing with Duncan (Jones – Director) for ten years or so and we were both freelance and just worked on everything together. We’d been trying to make a film all that time and “Moon” was the result. In our collaborative way of working we’d hang out pretty much all the time and get ideas together for things we though might be cool. As I’m an artist first and foremost, I would be in charge of the art side of things and my background in the games industry and CG gave me a very natural overlap into the Visual Effects route. This is how I came to be so heavily involved in the entire production process. It wasn’t like I applied for a job with a specific position ;)
C: We have read that you where trying to achieve a certain look throughout the film, reminiscent of certain 70’s and 80’s cinema and TV productions such us “Space: 1999”, “Silent Running” or “Blade Runner”. What were your inspirations in creating the concept art for “Moon” and why? What was the most challenging thing to design?
GR: This 70s-80s “look” was driven mostly by the Visual Effects. From the start of the project, I was conscious that we wouldn’t be able to get the budget to compete with films such as Transformers 2 and Avatar. The script initially called for some 21 minutes of lunar exteriors, and it was apparent to me right from the start that we would have to use model miniatures. I was excited about this as I have always loved miniatures and wanted to see what we could do to them working into the photography with subtle CG. Although I had to fight for it, once we’d expended all our options for going the full CG route, we ended up back at this sweet spot. So I designed the film to make it look as if it was a lost film from the 70s or early 80s so that everything would fit together and the model work wouldn’t look out of place. There wasn’t anything really challenging in the design, as I’m a hard-core sci-fi fan. Everything was pretty much made up as I went along. There was so much to do and I was on my own. Great fun.
C: Working on a tight budget really proves to boost imagination and multitasking. Somehow you and the team were able to provide great scenography and visual effects with very little resources. How much of the astonishing look was due to the attention to details? Did you enjoy your first stuntman´s job?
GR: I set the look of the VFX work from my bedroom and it really came down to a lot of late nights. I was on 2 hours sleep for around four months on the run-up to filming and filming itself. I remember being very, very tired. One thing I have found in life is that there are two kinds of job. One that sucks the energy out of you and makes you tired and another, which seems to charge you up the more you work. Moon was charging me up. Otherwise it would have killed me ;)
I did enjoy being a stuntman but there’s a lot of pressure when the camera’s pointing at you and everybody’s depending on you to not cock it up! I did a proper write-up of it on my blog
C: In your blog you go to extreme lengths to explain your work. There is even a section dedicated to provide all kinds of insights into the making of “Moon” where you accept comments and also you are very active on Twitter. What do you think is the contribution, if any, of social media in the creative process? In order words, do you get to incorporate feedback and/or ideas from the social media?
GR: I only got into social media afterwards and I try to keep it apart from my work as a general rule. I can’t be stopping to ask people if they like what I’m doing every day; I have to trust my own instincts. I might ask about something from time to time, but it’s never anything critical. Social media is very good for gauging opinion but you have to be careful how you do it so you can interpret the results correctly.
C: Apart from “Moon” you have been working in Advertising. Could you share with us your current projects?
GR: I have actually just left advertising to concentrate on film 100%. I was doing a lot of work for Toyota and Google but now I am concentrating on my sci-fi feature film “Archive” that I am co-writing and directing. I’ve got to do something better than Moon now!
C: Finally we are dying to know what means “JAIC”. Don´t worry about people finding out, as this interview will be translated into Spanish.
GR: I’m afraid I can’t tell you this as it’s a secret between myself and a good friend of mine. I swore I’d only ever tell her and she can speak Spanish! Sorry ;)
Make sure you come and read my sci-fi blog, it’s updated daily and is full of treasure.
C: Thank you so much again for taking the time to answer some questions. There is a big base of science fiction in the Spanish-speaking world and we are trying to provide them with interesting information about this genre in the literary, art and film world. Hope to catch up with you in the future. We will be watching!
About the interviewer:
Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia on Libros.com. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue will be published in Spring 2012.