Patrick Tatopoulos

AS: How does it feel to go from creature effects to production design and now to directing?
PT: It’s interesting. Directing is such a different job. The more you have knowledge of those other departments the better suited you are to direct.

Directing is about bringing a vision and a concept to a screen. More than that, it’s being able to tell a story that people can understand and relate to. That’s not something that was taught in any of my jobs before. So this is the area I really focused on when I became lucky enough to do my first directing job. I said, You know what Patrick, you know the design stuff. But this time just concentrate on your actors, concentrate on your story, make sure you’re telling it the right way, as clearly as possible.

The jump from designer to director was interesting to me because there are different types of directors just as there are different types of designers. You know some designers are very much just coordinators of the art department -very strong at making things happen but maybe creatively speaking not the people who are going to take a pencil or even a computer and create images. And that’s okay, that’s one type of designing. But there are also designers who are concept artists.

Directors are the same. Some directors are storytellers and can work on the screenplay. Writers who come and direct may not have a practical vision of something but they have the concept. I come from the other side. Look at people like Ridley Scott and James Cameron, they’re people who actually draw their movies before they even start preproduction. For me it’s about putting visuals together and starting to design my world in preproduction, even as a director.

But when the movie starts really gearing up, just let go of all that so you can meet the production designer and say, This is where I want to go, this is the direction, and just be clear that you don’t want to step onto that person’s work. Just show him a direction that’s interesting for you and then you step out. Don’t forget that you’re not the designer this time- somebody else is. That’s a part that I really like- saying, Hey, this is where I want to go with this, and seeing them work from that. It’s phenomenal.

AS: As a director, do you still feel like you design your movies?
PT: I do design all the time. And I also haven’t dropped the world of creature design. Right now I’m working with Len Wiseman on his next project. While my own movie is getting green-lit and moving forward, I have a little time. So when a friend says let’s work together, I still work in the capacity of creature designer or production designer, helping to develop movies before they really gear up.

But when my own movie starts I stop everything. I concentrate on the vision for my movie. I put together a vision so that quickly my art department, my costume department, and my camera department know what I want.

One comment

  • 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.

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