Where did you grow up? How did you get into storyboarding? I assume you and GDT go way back to the Dave’s Video days.
I grew up in and around the Chicago area. I grew up in an artistically inclined family, so all the various forms of media were around me. Comics and movies were my favorites. I was very interested in the Universal horror films of the 1930′s and the B-movies of the 1950′s from Roger Corman, A.I.P., strange foreign stuff – whatever I could get a chance to see. I started out with superhero comics, but I quickly moved on to all the Warren magazines like EERIE and CREEPY. I think I saw some old E.C. reprints around, also. I could draw, so I was always making up my own comics and, even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was also storyboarding my own little movies from my head.
In 1977, I saw a little film called STAR WARS and that changed everything. I bought all the “Art of” books and that’s where I first saw real storyboards. Joe Johnston was an amazing influence on me, as was Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual work. In 2000, I felt I needed a life-change so I decided that I wanted to come to Los Angeles and try to break into the film business. Storyboards seemed like a good place to start.
I met Guillermo at Dave’s Video, yes. I remember vividly meeting him for the first time. It was a Sunday night and he came in to shop. He had his notebook with him and he showed me some of the stuff in there. I had seen CRONOS and MIMIC, so I was familiar with him. As you can imagine, he was very warm and really responsive. I think Simeon has a very similar story to mine about meeting him.
Wow – in 2000 you had a “life change” moment. What were you doing prior to storyboarding? What was your first film you boarded and how did you get it?
Before that I was dabbling in freelance illustration and comic work (nothing anybody would have seen) and I ran a record shop. The first thing I was ever paid to storyboard was HELLBOY, actually. Before that I was doing favors for friends – anything I could do to break in.
The way I got HELLBOY was funny. I had done some boards for a friend of mine and I brought them in to show Greg Nicotero of KNB EFX because he was interested in using me for a job. Del Toro grabbed them and told me he wanted me to work on the film. And then we waited…
So how was it working on Hellboy? What consisted of a typical work day?
Guillermo would assign everybody something to do at the start of the week and you’d get going on it. He was very busy, so you’d have to be ready when he had time to see the work. I was there for 3 weeks, I think. I worked on 2 sequences which ended up changing a bit and Simeon re-did them. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking. I definitely didn’t do my best work, but I was just grateful to be there. There were these amazing talents sitting right next to you, you know? I mean, here’s Mike Mignola, here’s Ty Ellingson. I loved watching Wayne Barlowe work. He was just really great with all of us younger guys. He’s really an amazing artist. Another of the young guys was Jeff Rebner. He did some great work on Abe and some of the beasts. He’s really talented. Simeon was there the longest. He really connected with Guillermo and Mike. He did some great work.
There was always somebody coming around. A big thing for me was being able to have dinner with Gahan Wilson – that was something.
I learned a lot from Guillermo. He really has a great command of the frame and how to make things work. I wish he would shoot in 2.35:1, though!
When you work on the sequences – what do you have at your disposal? Do you just go off of GDT’s script? Does he give you some preliminary directions? What does GDT, or other directors for that matter, value most with a storyboard?
Obviously, you have the script. I believe we looked at some reference. Guillermo is good in that he can draw also, so he’d do a very rough sketch of each shot and then you’d discuss it and take notes. Then you go away and flesh it out. If he liked what you did, you cleaned it up and did your final rendering and then you’d get another sequence. This could take day or weeks, depending.
Specifically, I don’t want to speak for Guillermo. In working with other directors and talking with other artists, I think the most important thing is clarity. A storyboard is a visual roadmap to each department about what the filmmaker wants and needs in a shot or sequence. They don’t have to be these amazing works of art, they just have to communicate the idea clearly. Storyboards are mostly used in sequences that will have special FX or stunts, so clear communication is key.
But it’s always nice when the look good.
Do you still do some storyboarding, or is your DVD business your focus? Tell me about your DVD work.
I only do it for personal projects or friends now. I’m actually working on something right now.
DVD is now really my professional focus. Once again, I owe it all to my Dave’s Video experience. I met Charles de Lauzirika there not long after I started. We became friends and I started working with him in the spring of 2003. He was in the finishing stages of the ALIEN QUADRILOGY. I did some work preparing and formatting the storyboards (what else?) for ALIEN3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION. I also sat in on the editing of the commentary tracks. I decided I really wanted to continue working in the field, and Charlie was kind enough to take me on. I’ve always loved the behind-the-scenes aspect and DVD really affords people that look behind the curtain. I really think Charlie is the most talented person working in this field today. Everyday I learn something new. We see these projects as an opportunity to entertain and inform, and these discs become this living record of each film. It can be hard work, but it’s alot of fun.
We’re very lucky in that we are able to work on really great projects. We have a close relationship with Ridley Scott. We prepare all his DVDs. We have also worked with Tony Scott, Robert Rodriguez and Sam Raimi. I’d love to work with Guillermo on a project, so we’ll have to see what happens. Javier Soto, who produced the HELLBOY DVDs, is a friend. He does good work.
We should really tell people what Dave’s Video was, I think. Dave’s Video – The Laser Place was this great store in the San Fernando Valley – a short hop over the hill from Hollywood. It was, I believe, the first store in L.A. (and maybe the country) that sold LaserDiscs. The LaserDisc was the forerunner of DVD, for those who don’t know. It was as large as an LP, and really ushered in features like the audio commentary that we all know and love today on our DVDs. For movie buffs, Dave’s was really the place to go. EVERYBODY went there. There wasn’t a day that went by that you didn’t see somebody – whether it was an actor, or a director, a musician… Also, nobody bothered these people, so it was a comfortable atmosphere. I got to meet and make friends with some amazing people, like Frank Darabont, Guillermo, Kevin Smith… Too many people to list. Unfortunately, the store closed in 2002. There hasn’t been anything like it since in Los Angeles. It’s really missed. I owe my time there so much.
What’s the name of the company? Briefly, what is process of producing these behind-the-scenes disks.
The company is Lauzirika Motion Picture Company. What we do is the creation of Special Features for DVD. We conceive and create the documentaries, the audio commentaries – everything that’s not the film. It’s a painstaking job that requires a great amount of research and commitment to the project. We gather photographs, artwork, etc. We conduct on-camera interviews, record the audio commentaries. After we’re satisfied we have the materials we need, we begin editing everything together. It can be very time-consuming, but it’s very rewarding when people really react to the disc once it’s out on the shelves.
What’s the future of DVD?
Well, I don’t know the answer just yet. Hi-Definition is starting to come in, so hopefully that will open up some cool opportunities for us. For me, I just want to keep doing work that people enjoy. A lot of DVDs have features that you watch once and then you never look at again. We try to bring passion to each project, so that the viewer gets something off the standard “It was so great to work with so and so” type of material. We want to entertain and inform. When I was a kid there really wasn’t this type of access to filmmaking. I hope there’s some kid out there who watched one of our features and it set him on a course to make the next great film. That would be great.
What are some of you favorite examples of DVDs that have “fun and entertaining” special features?
That’s a good question.
In terms of materials that we’ve done, I like the entire ALIEN QUADRILOGY set. There was an incredible amount of love put into that project. I think you have 2 of the best commentaries ever put to disc, and each of those documentaries is really like a film school in a (big) box.The BLACK HAWK DOWN 3-DVD Deluxe Edition is another one – really high quality stuff. I would recommend our documentary on MATCHSTICK MEN. It’s called TRICKS OF THE TRADE. Charlie had incredible access on that production. It’s like Project Greenlight with Ridley Scott instead of some nobody. I’m really proud of the material on SPIDER-MAN 2. People should look at the DVDs of THE DUELLISTS, THELMA AND LOUISE and LEGEND (the 2-disc version), TOP GUN, the new MAN ON FIRE 2-disc – those are good. There’s some upcoming projects that I think people are really going to enjoy, but I can’t really talk about them right now.
Other people’s work that I enjoy? I would have to say Javier Soto’s work on the HELLBOY and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE discs. I really liked Gary Leva’s A LEGACY OF FILMMAKERS: THE EARLY YEARS OF AMERICAN ZOETROPE on the THX-1138 DVD. THE HAMSTER FACTOR AND OTHER TALES OF TWELVE MONKEYS and LOST IN LA MANCHA by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe are really great. Nearly anything that Criterion releases is excellent – everyone should own their BRAZIL set. Van Ling is always doing great work. His discs for the TERMINATOR films and THE ABYSS are excellent. Obviously, THE LORD OF THE RINGS Extended Edition DVDs are jam-packed with great material. I’d love to see Universal release the material from THE FRIGHTENERS LaserDisc on DVD. I watch nearly every Special Feature, it’s crazy.
There’s a lot of movies that I would have loved to have done the DVDs for – the STAR WARS Original Trilogy, the INDIANA JONES films, a number of Coen Brothers titles. I’d love to work on a DVD for a Kurosawa film. There’s a couple of Ridley’s movies that I’d like to work on that haven’t gotten the grand treatment yet. Who knows what the
future will bring?