Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Superstar Interviews: Chris Davidson


Welcome to my monthly interview feature! As an Illustrator, especially one who is a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I am blessed to have a large circle of wildly talented friends, who are fellow artists, writers and designers. And I’m so excited to be interviewing them and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I am chatting up someone super special, the amazingly talented, Digital Artist & Graphic Designer, Chris Davidson! This month I thought I’d deviate a little bit from Bird Meet Worm’s typical interviews, which are usually with creatives working in the children’s publishing field, like myself, and share a little bit of Hollywood to mix it up. Living in LA, many of my friends and fellow creatives work in the entertainment industry and to be sure, the art scene out here is definitely heavily influence by Hollywood.

So to tell you a little bit about Chris, he is an award-winning Digital Artist and Creative for the Entertainment Advertising Industry. He's worked on many high-profile titles including Game of Thrones, The Lone Ranger, Spider-man 3, Grindhouse, X-Men 3, and Hostel. In 2008, Chris founded The Robot Eye with the mission of bringing studio-level key art design to independent films. Chris lives in Hermosa Beach with his lovely wife and artist, Jane, (that’s me!) and their daughter, Phoebe.

For the image inside the bottle, Chris did a photo shoot in a swimming pool.

Q: You’ve worked with big studios and small independent filmmakers alike. What has been different/similar in working with each type of client?

A: The creative process for both types of clients is very similar. I listen to the marketing strategy and to the best I can to translate it into an interesting and compelling visual. There is a delicate balance between making an interesting piece of art and something that's also effective marketing tool. I always strive to make key art that is both. It usually makes sense for the Major Studios to be a little bit safer in their key art choices, while the independents often need to take more risks.

You may have seen this one around town!

For the major studios, there's tremendous pressure to help the film win its opening weekend and earn back enormous production costs. They'll hire several companies to explore poster options for their releases. For every poster that the studio release to promote a film, there are hundreds that will never be seen. Posters for the studios are usually a part of a much broader campaign that will include on air, in-theater, and new media as well as tie-ins with corporate partners. The size of the campaigns guarantees that the public will at least be aware of the film. 

Independent films have much smaller—sometimes non-existent—marketing reach, so their posters have to do more of the heavy lifting as far as making people want to know more about the film. Independent clients don't have the design budgets to commission thousands of comps—in fact they might see less than ten. Because of the limited resources, the presentation has to be very targeted

Chris painted real bullets and two prop guns for a photo shoot to get this image.

Q: You are known for creating the images you need to realize your unique vision of a poster by staging your own creative photo shoots (often involving crazy costumes, hatchets & metal, hand-painted guns, etc.). Talk to us about your creative process.

A: Almost as often as not, the idea for a great poster includes a visual that either doesn't exist in the film's existing photography or can't be pieced together with stock photography.  When that happens, I do whatever it takes to get the poster done. We did a little behind-the-scenes of one of the shoots that you can check out here.



Q: In an industry where it is standard for 1 out of 100s of comps to be chosen to go to finish, how do you stay inspired?

A: The low comp-to-finish ratio for studio projects can actually be liberating. If they're going to see thousands comps, and I'm personally going to do a forty or fifty, then there's no real pressure on any particular one to be a home run. That means there's freedom to play, experiment and have fun with the process. I've been fortunate enough to have favorable responses to my work enough that it remains engaging throughout the revision process even if I don't get the finish. What's worse than having my best work get killed is when I make a poster that I don't like—and that happens more than you'd think—and it somehow makes it through the approval gauntlet and gets printed. That is just embarrassing.

When I work on a micro-budget independent film, I know that my art will get used, but that comes with the added pressure of knowing that it has to hit the mark with little-to-no margin for error. On these projects it's rewarding to know that the hard work will see the light of day, but the pressure is immense. I'm glad I get to do both.

That right, this one is an award-winner!

Q: Describe your perfect Sunday.

A: I'm a really luck guy. I have a great job, but an even better family. My perfect Sunday is just being with my wife and daughter doing anything they want to do.

Pretty badass, am I right?!

Q: What advice do you have for designers wishing to break into your field?

A: This is a great industry and I would encourage anyone who'd interested to pursue it. I didn't know what I was doing at all when I got started. I didn't even know how to use Photoshop. I just made it my goal to learn just one new thing ever time I took on a project. That's still the way I work, and its served me well so far. Never stop learning...and feel free to get in touch with me at through my website if you have any specific questions. It may take me a while to get back to you, but I will respond eventually!

Thank you so much for chatting with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Chris! You are simply amazing!

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