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Mark Bristol Interview

Through the Eyes of an Artist 

I really cannot adequately express my gratitude to Mark for sharing his talent, work, & insight with us!! 

 The Interview

Jen - First, since many readers may not fully understand the purpose of conceptual art in film, would you be so kind as to explain how they are used as a tool for the filmmaker?

Mark - I primarily do concept art and storyboards for feature films. The work you have for Ultraviolet clearly constitutes "Concept art" where as the EQ material is "storyboard art." Concept art is created in the early stages of a films visual development. It may be created to win over studio heads, define a visual style, create a color palette, or as a tool for discussions with cinematographers, costume departments, visual effects houses, etc. On high concept films like Wimmer's it is imperative for his unique vision to be more clearly defined than what you read in the script.

Storyboard art comes along later when you are designing every shot in the film. Typically action of effect heavy shots will be boarded. It provides a clear road map that the department heads of the production can follow so everyone is very clear what the director envisions.

Jen - So I guess I need to go change "Concept Art" to "Storyboard Art" on my pages then (grin).

How did you come to work on some of the art for Equilibrium?

Mark - My agent set me up with an interview with Kurt. He was in postproduction and wanted to storyboard some new shots he wanted to add to the film. We had to make them look cool so he could convince Harvey Weinstein to give him more money. They worked.

Jen - I have to say that I'm more than glad that they did!!  Those are some great shots!!

One of my personal favorites!!

Jen - What is the process as a conceptual/storyboard artist & working with the director?  Specifically the process in converting Kurt Wimmer's vision of EQ into images?  How did you work with him?

Mark - Kurt is very precise with the exact angles and compositions of his shots. As a matter of fact I have never worked with a director that was so intimately involved with recreating the exact vision he had in his minds eye. Sometimes I would have to revise a drawing a couple of times to capture exactly what Kurt was after. The painting of Ultraviolet sliding up to camera on her motorcycle required numerous passes before Kurt signed off on it.

He first sketches out his very, very rough composition of the shot. We discuss it and I go off and flesh it out. I next show him my pencil sketches so we can check the composition and then I ink them in, scan them and got to town in Photoshop.

Jen - Is any of the imagery your own interpretation or do you strictly stick with the director's vision?  How much input of your own do you actually have?

Mark - As I've said Kurt is very sure of what he wants.  He has clearly thought about the shots in his head and is simply using my talents to bring them to life. At times I would add a shot if I thought the sequence needed another beat. I'd also suggest some new shots from time to time - but for the most part I was simply creating Kurt's vision. Kurt is very open and encourages input, but usually he has all the bases covered. Kurt can see it in his head - he just can't draw for shit (sorry Wimmer).

Jen - About how long does it take for you to complete a frame?

Mark - They vary - 24 hours or more for the color frames - couple hours for the black and white. Photoshop has revolutionized the process.

Jen - You mentioned Photoshop. What drawing tools do you use to create the images? 

Mark - I thumbnail the shots in pen. Once I decide on the composition I will sketch them in pencil. Ink them in pen. Scan them. Color in Photoshop.

Jen - Is creating art for film something you trained for & when did you first realize you wanted to be involved in this aspect?

Mark - I taught myself after I bought the illustrated screenplay for Raiders of The Lost Ark. That and Star Wars defined my passion to become a filmmaker. You can read more about my humble beginnings at www.staticlineproductions.com -- go to The Movie Insider article. Storyboarding is the best film school on the planet. You get paid to work and learn from directors like Kurt. Very cool.

Jen - How do you feel when you finally see one of your images converted onto film?

Another one of my favs...

Mark - It is such a high. I'll never forget when I first saw Dazed and Confused on the big screen and first witnessed my drawings come to life. EQ has many nearly exact reproductions of the storyboards. The Alamo trailer also features some exact recreation of my art. It just means you've helped the director and his team find just the right shot to tell the story. Watch David Leans movies. Every frame is set up and pieced into the film for a specific function in telling the story. They should never just be "cool shots". Each frame has to forward the story-

Jen - Speaking of which, according to your website you are also a director.  Has drawing conceptuals/storyboards and having an art background given you an advantage as a director?

Mark - Absolutely. As I've said, storyboarding has afforded me the opportunity to go to film school with people like Terrence Malick, Spike Jonze, David Fincher, and Kurt Wimmer. Like Kurt, when I am directing I am able to exactly reproduce the shots as I see them in my head. James Cameron, Joe Johnston, Ridley and Tony Scott, and Tim Burton all do their own storyboards.

Filmmaking is a visual medium and having the ability to previsualize a film with storyboards just puts you one step ahead of the game. I feel very fortunate. The behind the scenes of my film The Monster Hunter has a film to storyboard comparison. Check it out.

Jen - I will!!  Have mine on order from Amazon

You mentioned that you drew those absolutely beautiful images for Kurt Wimmer's next film UltraViolet.  What other films have you created art for?

Mark - Alamo, Alfie, Secondhand Lions, The Lord of the Rings (video game), EQ, Memento, Austin Powers 2, The Way of the Gun, and The Thin Red Line to name a few. Hundreds of commercials and music videos as well.

Jen - Currently what projects are you working on either as a conceptual/storyboard artist or a director?

Mark - As a storyboard artist-- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe! Heading to New Zealand soon. Verrrrryyyyyy cool.

Jen - Awesome...those are some of my favorite books...ever!!

Mark - As a director I have three projects I am developing. One I hope will begin production in Austin, Texas this fall. I'll let you know. I am also working on a script that Kurt gave me to develop. I hope to get that one set up for the springtime. We shall see. Again, I will tell you more about that project later. I cannot thank Kurt enough for his generosity in handing this script over to me. He's a good friend to have in this crazy business.

Jen - Many fans here will be keeping an eye on that one.

Again Mark, thank you for offering to share your talent with us.

Mark - No, thank you. I'm just glad the digital dust could be brushed off the EQ art and it has an online gallery to be enjoyed by the fans.

Jen - All my pleasure!!