JenGe (webmaster): Steve, I am thrilled not only to have
your work on my site but also your willingness to share your personal
insight into the creation of Equilibrium.
SW: I just wanted to convey to you my delight and surprise to
discover that the world was finally discovering as well as appreciating
something that I had known for years now...that "Equilibrium" is a
tremendous cinematic achievement...or as I told Kurt the night I saw it
for the very first time; "...it's an art-house, sci-fi/action
I felt terrible for him when Miramax decided to put NO money into
promoting or distributing it and I told him so. But unfortunately,
that's the nature of the Beast...So, I am really thrilled to see that
"EQ" seems to finally be finding it's audience...around the world,
thanks to you and your site...which by the way, is quite beautiful
and very informative... Kurt's masterfully crafted film is finally
getting a bit of the promotion that should have been designated to it
by the studio upon it's release.
So, for film fans everywhere (of which I was one for 40 years before
being fortunate enough to work in the "Industry"...), let me say a
very heartfelt, "thank you!"
Thanks. The pleasure is truly all mine. I actually feel
extremely honored to have been in just the right place at the
right time with the adequate knowledge to do it.
Purely out of curiosity...how did you stumble upon the site?
My daughter, Arielle (13 years old) and I were surfing the web one
afternoon and while we were in Google, I entered my name to see just
how many websites were displaying my work...and there are several that
I was already aware of...but, then I noticed the Eqfansite; went
there...and we were both very excited to see that "EQ" was not only
gaining it's long overdue worldwide recognition, but also very
flattered to see that my storyboards (so very vital to this
particular production...) were being so prominently featured."
As I said it is a complete joy to have your work on the site & I am
more than grateful that I have been able to feature it.
How was it that you came to work on this particular film?
Back in 1998, I had done an extensive amount of storyboards with Jan
DeBont ("Speed (1 and 2)", "Twister", "The Haunting" and "Lara
Croft: Tomb Raider") on a film entitled, "Pathfinder", (which
unfortunately was forced to shut down after 6 months of pre-production
and has yet to be produced elsewhere) and since it was Jan's production
company, Blue Tulip, that was producing "EQ", he remembered me and
called me into his office to have a meeting with Kurt. We hit it off
immediately and the rest as they say...is film history.
The storyboards you created for "Equilibrium" are from
Right! All of these frames (and hundreds more...) were completed months
before shooting began and they pre-visualized most of the major
sequences from the film. In other words, you could basically see and
understand how every scene would flow and we were very particular about
the framing of each shot. Kurt had a very specific idea in his head as
to how he wanted every frame of this film to look. And I might note, he
most definitely achieved it.
JG: So you are saying that there are a lot
more Equilibrium storyboards out there that I need to hunt down, beg,
borrow, or steal?
SW: Yes. There are hundreds of other
frames that I completed for the film. I have Xerox copies of them all.
But, either Kurt or Miramax are in possession of the originals. There
are also many illustrations of Preston's gun and an epic landscape
drawing. (I have copies of everything if you need to use them.).
JG: I would
love to!! We'll have to talk more about that in the near future.
that you spent many hours working with Kurt on the storyboards. Can you
explain this process to us in more detail...how you two worked together
in achieving the final results?
SW: I would meet with
Kurt at his home at least once a week...maybe twice...for anywhere from
4 to 8 hours per day. I would draw a thumbnail sketch of each and every
frame that I was going to be working on based upon Kurt's
very detailed instructions. Not only did he know what he wanted
each shot to look like, but he had me illustrate many charts
and maps that would help us decipher exactly how the camera was going
to choreograph its way through all of the action.
drew up these charts for essentially every scene where the
Clerics commence upon their raids. I would then take all of
my thumbnail sketches back home to my studio where, over the course of
the next several days, I would redraw everything in the
standard frame format the way they appear today.
frame was quite time consuming as Kurt really appreciated the
amount of detail that I was putting into each frame, and he asked me to
continue doing them that way. He really liked my style of illustrating
things being shattered or exploded, and he loved to see bullet shells
flying upward, towards the camera. In any event, upon completion of the
drawings, I would scan each page of storyboards and then E-mail him the
file. So, he would receive anywhere from 15 to 30 drawings every day or
so...I never had to leave the comfort of my studio, except for our
meetings. Ah...the internet. This is the way we worked for about 4
months from late January to May of 2000.
I did have some creative input as far as the shots go. The most
noteworthy sequence being when Preston surfs the door into the
blackened room in the "Opening Raid Sequence". Kurt directed me all of
the way up to the door and as Preston crashes through it. Then, he
asked me...while it was pitch black in the room, to design 12 different
positions from which Preston would fire both of his guns at the rebels,
laying in wait for him around the perimeter of the room. All of
these shots were to be viewed as if in a strobe light effect...and he
shot it exactly that way. I am very pleased to say that Kurt used most
of my poses in this sequence...and it remains my favorite of all
the storyboard sequences I've ever done.
Any interesting stories about working with him that you might be able
to share with us without Kurt sending a hit squad after you?
First of all, I don't think I've ever met anyone in the Film Industry
as quiet and reserved as Kurt. Even though he's the picture of health
and hipness, he is very understated. Which makes this little ditty that
I'd like to share with you all the more amusing...
In late July of 2000, I (along with another artist by the name of
Ron Croci) was called back in to work on "EQ", this time doing
production design for a Production Designer that will from here on
remain un-named. I worked on the initial gun designs as well as the
logo for the City of Libria and I did an epic(pencil) illustration
showing the Walls of Libria winding a destructive path across
an old neighborhood of suburban family homes.
This time however, I was working directly with someone other than
Kurt...someone who hadn't been involved with this production for as
long as I was...and certainly wasn't up to speed on what Kurt had in
mind. I remember that this PD refused to listen to any of my ideas
regarding the designs of certain things...the designs that I already
knew that Kurt had liked very much. So after insisting upon having his
own way...and changing all of Kurt's and my ideas...he really ticked
off our normally reserved Director...and Kurt had him off the picture
the very next day. It was the only time while I was working with him
that I remember Kurt ever getting angry. But, he knew what he
wanted...and on this particular day...so did I.
You also mentioned in the guestbook that you think Wimmer is a
visionary. Of course we would agree with you. Was there some aspect of
working with him that brought you to this conclusion?
He always knew exactly what he wanted and his quiet confidence was
always present. He was very sure-footed throughout the entire film
making process and the storyline of "EQ", although quite
derivative in its narrative, was made into an entirely original motion
picture experience by Kurt. While I was working on the original version
of the script, it was very clear to me that "EQ"'s storyline was a
mixture of 2 great sci-fi classics: "Fahrenheit 451" and "THX-1138".
But from the very beginning, it was obvious that Kurt, although
relaying a similar story, had an entirely new...and frankly, much more
entertaining vision of it to share with the world.
Not only that, but he had the good fortune to get the film financed,
produced...and of course, finally...after several years...released. I
must also say that I am very happy with the final ending of the film.
It was a bleak ending...but, very appropriate...and necessary. After
viewing the final film, I find it difficult to see how the original
ending (of Emily Watson's character surviving at the end...) would've
worked. It was a very brave choice by Kurt and Lucas to take it in that
direction...one that may have hurt it at the box office...but truly,
the perfect ending.
I particularly loved the "snow globe" segment which you so elegantly
storyboarded. Did the final results turn out as you envisioned when you
SW: Yes. In fact, this was the first of several sequences that I worked
on that were NOT action scenes. Kurt and I carefully designed each shot
just as they appear in the film. I was absolutely exalted when I
saw the final results...not only because of this scene...but because
ALL of my storyboards were translated to the screen EXACTLY the way I
originally drew them. Besides, the opposing
images of shattering glass (in the Gun Kata sequences) and
the snow flurries (in the snow globe sequence) gives a very stylish and
thoughtful balance to the visuals. Again...this was all Kurt's
vision. But, it was truly a fantastic experience to have
illustrated the entire movie for him before the cameras rolled.
I asked Mark Bristol this one as well, but since I personally enjoy
comparing storyboards with actual finished frames of a movie, I'll ask
you too. How does it make you feel when you see your images translated
into live action?
There are no words to express my excitement when I see my work in
motion...in a movie theater...in front of hundreds/thousands/millions
of people. Since I was a real movie fanatic l-o-o-o-n-g before I had
the opportunity to work in the Film Industry, getting the chance to
actually make films with the same people whose work I had idolized for
over 30 years was a dream come true. I am still extremely thrilled and
feel very privileged to be such an integral part of the film-making
process and I have had my hand in the creation of some
really terrific movies, including "The Day After Tomorrow",
"Stigmata", "Batman & Robin", "Chill Factor", "Desperate Measures",
"The Negotiator", "Along Came Polly", "Dirty Dancing/Havana
Nights", and the upcoming "Because Of Winn-Dixie" and "Dead
Birds", among many others.
JG: In the cathedral
sequence, the shot of the bullet hitting the camera could not be
achieved due to technicalities. How do you feel when cool shots like
these are lost for whatever reason?
It's a bummer...but unfortunately, it's part of the storyboarding
process. Not only do the boards allow the Director to see what he is
going to film...but they also clearly illustrate what shots simply
cannot be obtained. Although I'd be willing to bet that if Kurt
had an extra couple hundred thousand bucks, he would've rendered that
particular action in CGI. But it really doesn't matter. The film lives
perfectly on it's own...without the benefit of that moment.
JG: You have worked on many other films, "Contact", "Charlie's Angels",
"Stigmata", to name a few. Was there anything about working on
Equilibrium that was different than those or is your experience
generally about the same?
For many reasons, "Equilibrium" was a very unique experience for me.
First of all, Kurt and I were completely isolated from the "suits" and
I was given the chance for the very first time to work solely with the
Director in creating the look of the picture. No one ever invaded our
space and as a result, we had a free hand to do whatever we wanted to.
It was also the first time that I really got to know my Director,
personally...and that in itself is a rarity...and in this particular
case, a real pleasure.
Secondly, and of utmost importance to me, was that I would receive a
screen credit on the film. You see, I had storyboarded over 20 major
motion pictures before I started work on "Equilibrium"...and never once
had I (or any of the other artists that I'd worked with...) ever gotten
my name on the credit scroll at the end of the movie. It's very
frustrating when you do what I do...and then do NOT receive a screen
credit for it. The Caterers, the Drivers, the guys who bring the
Port-A-Potties get a bleepin' screen credit...where was the storyboard
artists? From the outset, Kurt promised me that I would get a credit on
his movie...and true to his word....he did exactly what he said he
would do. And I received my very first screen credit (as a Storyboard
Artist). Again...I want to thank you, Kurt...very much!
And lastly, "Equilibrium" was a movie that I really liked. It was my
"cup of tea", as it were. And unfortunately, I don't always have the
luxury of selecting the films that I work on. Usually, they select me.
So, in this case, I was very glad to have been chosen. For the 4 to 5
months that I worked with Kurt on this film, I was the only Storyboard
Artist. Mark Bristol came on later when I became unavailable due to a
death in my family. Unfortunately, it was my grandmother, Claire, who
passed away. She was my biggest fan and supporter on this planet
and if ever I would've wanted anyone to see my "name in lights"...well,
it would've been her.
JG: I'm truly sorry to hear that she was not able to see your "name in
lights" which leads me to ask...Why is it, do you think, that
storyboard artists are overlooked? Personally, I would have thought
that after films such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Star Wars",
storyboard artists would have achieved better recognition. I find this
medium to be a fascinating aspect of the film making process, certainly
much more so than "Port-A-Potties." So why do you think the neglect?
SW: There are several reasons. Firstly,
storyboards are usually completed during pre-production...long before
the entire company comes together...and certainly long before the
credits are put together. So, in most cases, the storyboard artists are
simply...(and conveniently) forgotten.
Secondly, to negate the credit for the
storyboard artist means that no one in the audience will pose the
question, "What is it exactly that a storyboard artist does?" Because
answering that question reveals that the framing and the composition of
what appeared on screen was not necessarily the director's vision,
And thirdly, it costs money to put a name
on the credit scroll...and studios will cut back wherever...and
whenever they can. Even if it means excluding the names of some of the
real talent behind the making of the film. I'm not saying that Limo and
Truck Drivers, Accountants, Runners, Caterers, Renters of Toilets and
the like are not crucial to the business and the process of making
movies. But, they have nothing at all to do with the creativity, the
artistry, or the emotional signature that is embedded into a film.
For them to receive an on screen acknowledgment...and not the
storyboard guys...is cruel and unusual reward for a job well done. So
once again...thank you, Kurt...for being so professional...so
confident...and so very true to your word!
Though the critics panned the film, the responses by viewers in general
have been the polar opposite. Are you surprised by either of these
Not one bit. As a matter of fact, I would've been rather surprised if
the critics had liked it. Actually, some of them did! But, a film
of this nature; dark, bleak and full of hard-edged violence...will
always provoke the worst reaction from critics. Yet audiences...if they
know that the movie actually exists...will come to embrace it. And,
I'm thrilled to see that they finally are.
What brought you into the business of creating art for film in the
first place? Was there a point of inspiration?
SW: This will take some time..."The
7th Voyage Of Sinbad", Ray Harryhausen, "2001: A Space Odyssey" and
Stanley Kubrick; these are the films and the people
that ignited my desire to be a film-maker. The only trouble
was...I grew up in Philadelphia Pa, where there is NO film industry.
So, I thought about how I could get a job in the television business
that might lead me further West...to Hollywood.
The opportunity came for me on New Year's Eve, 1975, the Eve of Our
Country's Bicentennial in Philadelphia. The inaugural event of the
Bicentennial was "The Moving Of The Liberty Bell" which took place at
Independence Hall at midnight of December 31, 1975. And a News
Photographer friend of mine, knowing that I was looking for an
opportunity to have my work shown on TV, offered me a Press Pass to the
I went there that night with sole intention of not only illustrating
the action, but to get noticed by the News Media, and,
hopefully...be requested to do some Courtroom Art(the only type of
artwork being done for TV in Philly.). Fate intervened...and the
weather kicked up; it was snowing, hailing, there was rain and sleet,
and the chill factor was 30 below!!!!. When I got home at 2:00 A.M., my
friend phoned me to say,"that due to all of the wet weather, no
photographers could get a shot of "The Bell" as it was moved out of
Independence Hall and down the street to it's brand new home...a
Pavilion built just for this occasion.
He told me to call the Philadelphia Daily News. I did. They told me to
bring my drawing down to them the next morning. I said okay and hung up
the phone. I didn't have anything to bring them. The weather was SO bad
that I could not draw a blessed thing. But, thanks to my
friend(Bruce)'s Press Pass, I did have a really good view, right up
So that New Year's Eve...at 4 o'clock in the morning...I found out just
how good my photographic memory was. And for the next 10 hours,
using black ink, water and brush, I reconstructed the main event on a
30"x 40" piece of Strathmere paper.
A very special thanks to Steve for allowing me
to show this!!
illustration showed everything that occurred before my eyes the night
before; there were hard-hatted construction workers by the dozen,
pulling "The Liberty Bell" which was completely enveloped in a clear
plastic tarp, as it sat on a large movable platform; there were
hundreds of onlookers surrounding "The Bell" as it was rolled out of
the main entrance of "Independence Hall"; watching the event
take place were police, national guardsmen and press
photographers, as well as many faces beaming from the second story
windows of the historic building; and the rain and the snow could be
seen falling, melting and reflecting of the streets...
I delivered the illustration that afternoon...the newspaper loved
it...and, they paid me $35.00 for it...and the next question they asked
me was, "Have you ever done any courtroom illustration?" "No.", I
said..."but, I would certainly give it a shot..." So, they hired me to
do some courtroom illustrations for the very first court
proceeding in what became for me a 28 year career of doing
thousands of trials for TV News.
The next morning, my illustration of "The Moving Of The Liberty
Bell" was featured on the front page of The New Year's Day edition
of "The Philadelphia Daily News"...which made my
drawing...historical (I have since donated it to The National
Historical Society in Philadelphia and they are hoping to hang it
somewhere near "The Bell" someday...).
Meanwhile, I went on to become a Courtroom Artist/Commentator with
NBC News, MSNBC, CNN, Court TV, UPN News, ABC News, and, at one time or
another, virtually every TV news organization in the country, and in
many places around the globe, as well. My full color marker
illustrations have chronicled many of the most publicized trials in
recent history, including, both "O.J. Simpson Trials", both "Rodney
King Federal Trials", both "Heidi Fleiss Trials", both "Menendez
Brothers Murder Trials" and thousands of other cases, many of them
involving celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Michael Jackson, Paula
Abdul, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Boulton and
Stevie Wonder, among many others.
Is there a good place online to view your artwork?
You can view many more samples of my work by logging onto:www.famousframes.com . This is my agent's website. Just
click on "Artists", then click on my name. The site contains storyboard
samples from "The Day After Tomorrow", "The Negotiator", "Batman &
Robin", "Stigmata", "Along Came Polly", as well as courtroom
illustrations from some of the cases that I've covered recently.
As you look back at the work that you have done not only for
Equilibrium but other films as well, what are some of the personal
rewards you have garnered from working in this field?
Each film project brings new and often times very talented people into
my world. But, I think the biggest reward has to be something like the
"Equilibrium" fansite which gives my work an opportunity to be
appreciated by the public-at-large. Most artists work alone...and in a
vacuum. And storyboards are very rarely seen outside the studio. So,
it's very flattering to have audiences in general get a chance to see
and appreciate them.
So what's ahead for you?
I have an exclusive Gallery Opening at The Basement in Echo Park near
downtown L.A., on October 9, 2004., which will run
through November 10, 2004. This particular show will feature
80 of the thousands of courtroom illustrations that I have drawn for TV
News Organizations worldwide since 1976. I am also developing a 70
minute film documentary entitled, "Drawing Conclusions",
which will focus upon my adventures as a Courtroom
Artist/Reporter during the media blitz that was "The O.J. Simpson
Murder Trial". It is a project that I intend to write, produce and
I've been writing screenplays for many years and have 16 feature film
scripts completed. And the latest, entitled, "No Walk In The Park", is
the story of a little girl lost in the wilderness who stumbles upon the
truth about a murder that took place 15 years prior. It is a movie
that I was planning on directing myself and it will feature my
daughter, Arielle, an aspiring young actress, in the lead role. I
am also currently being considered for several different film projects
as a Storyboard Artist. But believe me, in this crazy business...you
never know what to expect. Anything can...and usually does...happen.
there you go, Jen. All the news that fits. It's great to have an
audience... especially an appreciative one. Let me know if you need
anything else and best of luck with the Eqfansite. And a special thanks
to all of the fans around the world. You chose an awesome movie to fall
in love with. It was a terrific experience for me. I hope people
continue to discover it and regain their "Equilibrium."