AS: There were a lot of visual effects in iRobot- how do you feel about working with the VFX department?
PT: Working with visual effects is the same thing. It’s teamwork. If you design everything and you don’t collaborate with them in the early stages of creation you’re going to drop things on them that they could have helped you make better. So it’s the same story. Today a production designer has to know visual effects, especially in that style of movie.I love to work with visual effects, I’ve done that for years and I respect them a lot. I don’t consider them to be the next step after the designs are done and built. They need to be there at the very early stages with you. Once you have an image you bring them on and say, How can I make this happen? And they say, Well, Patrick, you could do it that way or that way or that way, and you make your decision from there. Sometimes production may be hesitant about hiring visual effects too early. But at the end of the day the secret of everything is everybody sitting together early and giving all their proposals and issues about how this thing may go. So you have an understanding and there’s no crash and everything moves smoothly. You need to listen to people who have a better idea of what to do in specialty work, you know? You need to really be open-minded to that.
AS: Is it true that it’s a good idea do sketches on spec to get a job as an effects artist or a production designer?
PT: It’s beyond true. My competition is fierce. You need to attract a client in some way. When a client comes and visits you and you’ve read the script before and you show a couple of images it’s a big, big, big deal, even if they don’t go with you.
I’ve gotten movies in the early stages of my career as both a designer and creature person by just showing my excitement for the project, showing my passion for the concept. People come and sit down with you and you drop three drawings on the table that you’ve done yourself -you didn’t hire a concept artist, you’ve done them yourself- and they look at that and they can tell right away that you care about the project. So they see that and they go with you.
But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a director in the early stages of design and then the director turns to the studio and the studio says, Well, sorry, we have a relationship with this other group, like Stan Winston or Rick Baker, you know big names like that. So out of ten times you’re gonna lose five or six times. But those four times you’re going to gain a new relationship with people who think, Well, this guys into it, he’s interested, he’s passionate. This is how you sell the set the most. People meet you and they see the passion in your eyes and they believe that and they react to that. As a director if I meet a couple of costume designers and two of them are a little cold and intellectual and then I see someone who’s living it I’m going to go for that person. That’s how I function. That means a lot to me. Passion in this industry is the single most important thing.
patrick tatopoulus’s designs for creatures are amazing such as the beast in outlander and pitch black, its good to know those creatures will always live on in the films they appear in.