On that small project I started to discover the world of the art department and production design. I worked with Alan Jones who was a very cool designer, very open minded. I still wasn’t really calling myself an art director per se but I had a bit of experience. I went back to concept art and worked on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a few movies where we got into the world of concept design.
My big, big break was my meeting with [producer] Roland Emmerich. Roland saw some of my concept work for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and said, Hey, we’re doing a movie called Stargate and we need a concept artist on board. I jumped in and started to work in the art department again –designing the whole city of Stargate. Then Roland said, Hey, we need quick designs of warrior Egyptian creatures. He liked the drawings very much and said, Patrick, I love your design. Now who’s going to build it? I said, You know what? Let me build it for you. I was a bit ballsy but Roland was a very open-minded person. He liked the design so much that he said, You know, you should do it.
So that’s when I created my creature effect company. From that point on I did a lot of makeup effects and creature work but at the same time I wanted to keep moving on into the production design aspect of things. What quickly became obvious to me was that I wanted to do both. To be the designer and also to bring the creature to life that belonged in the world that I designed.
I became very, very interested in the way they do movies in Europe. In Italy the designers are usually people who do sets, costume, hair, and so on: a much broader range of design. In Hollywood people have a tendency to label you a makeup effects artist or this or that. The combination of the two became a bit of my trademark. Not that I’m the only person on this planet who can do both but it really became my identity in Hollywood. There’s a guy who does creatures and design. For a while people didn’t understand what I was. Some people said, Well, he’s a creature designer, and other people say, No, he’s a production designer.
On Stargate, the creature helmets I designed really inspired Roland Emmerich and he said, You know, I’m doing Independence Day next, you should production design the movie for me. I was lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time for him to give me a chance to design a movie of that scale. We had no idea how this movie would turn out in the end.
AS: What else was helpful in getting you hired on Independence Day?
PT: When I was in France before I came to the States I went to the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs which is one of the great schools of Paris for art and multimedia. (I was born in France then moved to Greece –but I was in France for a while.) At the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs I really took an interest in architecture. Although I did like creature effects I’d been very much attracted to architecture so the leap for me from creature effects to production design was natural. At the end of the day it is about creating worlds. People don’t hire me to make a romantic comedy -I’ve always been someone you call for Sci Fi or fantasy because that’s kind of my thing. And in that kind of work it’s very important to be very loose and very open-minded. You need to bring something to the table which is different from what you see every day.