Chris: Yeah, that’s a great point man. Yeah, I think I’m generally a little bit too passive about that. I don’t want to bother people you know? It’s different now that I can actually hire people. That’s different if you’re going to be able to be like okay, this is…money makes it real, not to suggest that non financial things are not real but I mean it’s kind of like you don’t have to talk about it really. It’s like your paycheck is coming.
Robert: Money makes it real because now that deadline that you all have been talking about is 100%. You can’t get past that because if you do, you screw the whole project over because you don’t have the money to keep funding it. So that’s the good thing about money because I still think it’s good to have a solid deadline on things.
Chris: What do you feel like your personal projects have done for your career within the kind of traditional industry?
Robert: I feel like maybe it’s helped with people seeing that I will do more than just illustration. I think it helps them see that I am more than just a risk because to me that’s the worst thing to become and I never want to become that. Like currently right now I am that and I have to own up to that if I want to keep working. But I don’t want to be a risk for the rest of my life, I want people to see that I can create projects and create stories and create things just as good as some of the top people in the industry. And that’s a tall order, but it’s something that I feel like I have to prove because that’s what I want to do eventually. I just don’t want to have to work for someone else for the rest of my life.
Chris: How did Ender’s Game happen?
Robert: Ender’s Game happened because it was one of those weird things that happened in life when you look back to it, you see all the connections and you’re like wow, if I didn’t make that first connection, I would have never had that opportunity. But I have to go back a little bit. Back in 2009, I got my very first internship and that was at Blind Wink Studios, that’s Gore Verbinski’s company, they were doing Ringo and Lone Ranger and those movies there at the time when I came in but I didn’t get into the movie division, I got into the game division which was all in the same place. They had a Blink Wink’s game division, and that game division shut down so none of the work I ever did came out of it but when I left the job, another artist came in named Ben Proctor. And he’s an illustrator, he worked on Prometheus and Avatar, and he works on all the really big films in Hollywood and he’s like a really big tech guy. Like if you ever look up Ben Procter’s work, his stuff to me is beautiful and it’s so detailed and it’s so tech oriented but it’s just awesome looking. And he’s the one that designed like a lot of the interior and the human stuff in Avatar, to get that very realism tech stuff. And it just so happened that he saw it and he really like it and he contacted me, saw my work on Blind Wink and he said, “Hey man, I like your stuff. Would you want to work on Transformers 3?” And he sent my work over there and I was like, “Yeah, of course I want to work on that!” I don’t think he knew how naïve and young I was at the time because he actually didn’t meet me in person. It was over the phone, so I was like a little kid in a suit like trying to pretend he’s an adult. And he tried really hard to get me in but for whatever reason, they just didn’t like my work on the show. So he just told me, “Oh I’m sorry dude, I tried to get you in but it didn’t work out, but let’s just stay in contact.” So throughout 2009, 2010, 2011 while I was in Art Center, I kept sending him my work just in progress. I was like, “Hey Ben, how you doing man? Here’s what I’m doing at Art Center, want to get your opinion, what you think?” And he’s always send me really good feedback back, and in 2011, actually during the time my dad passed away, there was a lot of stuff that happened during that time, he contacted me and asked me if I’d like to work on the movie The Thing. And I was like yeah, that’s my first movie, and they couldn’t get me into the Union and the Union stuff was already done by that time, so I was working through the visual effects department. And so I started working there and he wasn’t the production designer, there was another person named Sean Haworth that was the production designer on it and he was a really awesome guy. And I got to work with him and a bunch of other people, and it was for about four or five weeks long and then the project ended and that was about it. And I talked to Ben here and there but then at the end of 2011 I got a call from Ben again and he was like, “Hey man, I wanted to tell you that I got the gig of production designer on Ender’s Game. I’m not going to be the illustrator but the production designer on it, and I want to bring you on.” And I was like, “That’s awesome!” And he’s like, “I’ll get you a Union,” and all this other stuff, and I was like, “That’s great, I would love to hear about it.” And then typical of movie stuff, although I didn’t know it back then, I didn’t hear from him for like four months. And I was like well I guess that project fell through, whatever, and then I got a call randomly one day from him and he was like, “Hey! Can you start tomorrow?”
Chris: Yeah, exactly!
Robert: I was like, “What?! Uh sure, I’ll do it.” So I went down there and I found out that Ben Procter and Sean Haworth were both production designing Ender’s Game and it was like the dream team to me because those guys are both so chill and so awesome. I got to work with them on that project for nine months, it was sad when it came to an end but eventually the project came to an end after the nine months, but I’ve just been good friends with them ever since then and ever since that time I’ve just been working on other films with other production designers that I’ve met.
Chris: And did you go to New Orleans for Ender’s Game?
Robert: I did, I was on the movie for two or three months because I started in October and then…okay, I was on it for a month and a half. I started in October and then in November they told me like a day before I had to leave, they’re like hey, you’re moving to New Orleans by the way. I was like what? Everything’s always last minute. I’m like, well I have to tell people, so I went and told my girlfriend and we talked about it for a while and we both knew it was a big opportunity for me to get to know people in the industry and everything and we basically made an agreement with each other that this was going to be my one big opportunity thing to get me in. And so then a couple of days later I few out to New Orleans and I spent six months out there, it was really fun but it also got really depressing after a while too because I was so used to being around my girlfriend. We had gone through school together for three years or almost four years and I was used to being around family. And the wound with my dad being gone too was still really raw during that time, so it was just a lot of emotions that went along but it didn’t stop me from putting my all into the project which was really important to me and my girlfriend at the time.
Chris: Yeah man, it’s amazing.
Robert: Yeah, I know. I never would have gotten that internship, which that internship was sort of a fluke too the way it happened. If I never got that internship, I never would have met Ben Procter and I would have never gotten Ender’s Game. And I don’t know if I would have been working on my own films then either because working on Ender’s Game, I got to see how a movie was made from start to finish and that’s what got me excited because I now had just gotten a new education and that new education was, I can make a film myself. It’s like, I’m looking at a movie that costs about $150 to make but I’m like yeah, I can do all that stuff myself, no problem! I soon realized like it’s really hard work, really really hard work but it was really important for me to see that because in my mind it helped simplify it. And no it was like okay, some of these props look really crappy in the film, but on the camera they look amazing. So I realized I only had to build things to a certain extent, and if you ever look at the Momentum stuff up close, it’s pretty well built but you can see a lot of the imperfections in them, like the helmets and stuff but in the film, it just disappears.
Chris: Yeah, and with some sound effects and everything it’s like all of a sudden it’s like real.
Robert: Yeah, it just sinks you into it. It’s so amazing how that happens, the magic of movies!
Chris: It never gets old. Yeah and that’s where everything is going man, you know? It’s what we’re talking about all the time at Oatley Academy where it’s like this is the future you know where the indie little rag tag teams of three or four people are right there getting distributed in the same ways that Disney and Dreamworks and everybody else are.
Robert: Yeah I think as time goes on, I think a lot of the bigger companies are going to keep consuming each other like how Disney is consuming Focus Films and all that stuff and the big films are only going to get bigger. But I’m not convinced what a lot of other people say which is indie films are only going to get smaller. I think indie films are actually going to start to get bigger but in their own way. I think what’s going to happen is, indie films are going to start going for more private financing from maybe like Coca-cola or companies like that and they get the money they want but all they have to do is advertise that product in their film but now they get to make what they want to make instead of having to make it through a studio. And sure they may not get $200-$300 million dollars to make their film, they may only get at most $60 million, maybe $50 million if they’re lucky to make a really big production film. Most indie films only get $2-$10 million dollars but there is some I know of that have gotten…