Chris: And were you getting paid for that at the time or was that…that had not turned into anything financial at that point, it was still purely just all on speck?
Robert: Oh, for what, Momentum?
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Robert: Oh Momentum’s, no one’s every paid us for it at all.
Chris: There was no funding or anything.
Robert: Yeah, even to this point now.
Robert: Um, well except for Kickstarter but I’ll get to that in a minute. But yeah, we just kept working on the idea and then I got the opportunity to work on Ender’s Game at the end of 2011, and that was my first film job really. So we all just sort of stopped talking about Momentum for about nine or eight months during the duration I was on that project. And I started to get really tired by the end of that film because it had pushed me so hard and there’s a lot of stuff to do on that project that I started to see the grass on the other side filled and want to do a film project again, and I started to talk to Peggy and Mark and like, “Hey, we should all do a project together again! Maybe we should do that racing film together.” And we all started talking and were like, “Yeah, let’s talk about it once you get back.” So when I came back from Ender’s Game, we all met up and starting to figure things out and we wrote up some agreements among each other and then the first thing that popped in my mind was like, none of us can direct this for the quality that we want to do on the project. Like we know we can handle the design stuff, that’s easy for us. But we can’t handle the directing aspect of it and get it to the quality we want to. So we need to learn from someone and that someone was a good friend of mine which was Michael Chance and I suggested it to Peggy and Mark and it was like we should just pitch this to Mike and see if he wants to help us direct it and we can all work on the story together and get this thing figured out and bring him on as our director. And they all liked the idea, so we went to Mike and asked him and he was really excited about it, so we all…I think in 2012 summer was when we really actually hit the ground running with momentum because we went and talked to him about it and Mike was just so excited about it that for ever since the middle of 2012 until today at this point, we had been working solidly on momentum. And in the middle of 2013 is when we actually started filming everything, for about a good year we just talked about character and Mike really guided us on that, like what this character should do, what that character should do, and then we started to learn so much that we actually started to toss stuff back to him. And we developed this really good teamwork of all of us really thinking strong together. And then we also during that year were working on all the concepts and the designs of what the world will look like in the 3D models, and then finally it came time for us to actually put the money together to actually shoot this thing. And me, Peggy, and Mark all put together a pretty good chunk of money but we still knew it wasn’t going to be enough to film this thing. So we then put the Kickstarter together in 2013, literally a month before we shot. And it takes a month for the Kickstarter thing to go through and it takes another week for the money to come through. So we literally in one week tossed the Kickstarter together, put all the concept art together, did all the interviews with everybody and then we knew we also were going to need friends to help us make this thing popular too. And so that’s when I went back to Scott Robertson and I went back to (inaudible) and Tim Flattery who are all good friends of mine and Peggy from Art Center. And we asked them, would you be willing to put your name on this to get people excited about it? And they were more than willing to do it, and so we were able to use that for the Kickstarter and we were able to build an extra $21,000 and we went out from there and filmed all of Momentum and it was just amazing to see it all come together and it was just more than what any of us could of ever asked for. And even what Mike could have asked for, it was better looking than anything he ever thought it was going to look like. And now we edited the entire thing and start working on score and we’re still working on visual effects at this point now in 2014, and hopefully by the end of this year we’ll have something to show everybody.
Chris: That’s so exciting. Project Arbiter has just gone up on YouTube which is very exciting if everybody can see it now. And so you essentially started…and all the listeners will know by know that this is how you in fact know Mike Chance. It sounds like you worked on that for quite a while.
Robert: At the end of 2008, I was just going through Art Center and Mike contacted me for it. And I told him I couldn’t do it until probably the beginning of 2009 because Art Center was so demanding but I got obsessed with the idea after he told it to me and I just started doing sketches for it.
Chris: He’s a persuasive guy too.
Robert: Mike is a very, very persuasive guy. But I really started…back then, when he first pitched it to me, Arbiter was literally going to be a 30-second clip and literally all he wanted was a helmet design. And me being me, I got obsessive over it and I started thinking more and more of what it could be and I think this is where me and Mike started to develop early story structure with each other. And not that I gave him like any major ideas for Arbiter, but I helped develop the character’s suit a lot more as to like what it would be going through, these WWII trenches and cities and stuff like that, and what it would need to do. And so I started sketching stuff out for the helmet but I started sketching out more like the rest of the suit and stuff like that. And when I gave it back to him, Mike just got more explosive after that and then he started to grow the story even more because now I gave him more than just a helmet, I also gave him a full suit. And the story just started to expand like crazy from there. And so from 2008 throughout 2009, I designed the suit for him and then he started to get it built from Blue Realm Studios and then he started to actually have story to give me and so I started to take the story elements that he gave me in 2009 and I started doing the concept art for what the feature of Project Arbiter could be like. And if you go to my website, you can actually, if you click on Arbiter, you can see all the concept art for it.
Chris: We will link to that as well.
Robert: And yeah, I spent 2009 and I spent 2010 and I spent 2011, and I spent 2012 and I think 2012 is when I did some of my last pieces for Mike during that time because I think I was starting to get burnt out a little bit on Arbiter at that time and I was also burnt out because of Ender’s Game and all of that other stuff. A project can only drag on so long before people just get tired of working on it but at that time after the project ended, my love for Arbiter has only grown more for the project and I’ll support it as much as I have to because I love that project and it’s a part of me because I was young…I was 19 I think when I started working on it and now I’m 24 going on 25, after working on it for all those years. But yeah, that’s how I got to know Mike and know Arbiter.
Chris: How did you know how to design stuff? I mean…for being so young at the time, your work is so sophisticated.
Robert: Oh god, well thank you! Um…
Chris: I mean, I don’t see very many 19 year olds doing concepts that are this well realized.
Robert: Well, I was going back to my Saturday High classes, okay let me step back even further. I was hugely inspired by anime as a kid and if you ever look up anime stuff, the stuff I was inspired by was like Cowboy Beebop, (inaudible), Ghosts in the Shell, Appleseed, I was inspired by all the early and late (inaudible) tech type stuff. And it’s all portrayed as realistically as possible with a hint of link oversaturated engineer parts and stuff like that’s tossed into it. And I think that form language naturally transitioned into my work so I naturally gained a lot of my sensibilities and design from that which I think was a good starting point. But then when I started taking Saturday High classes, the teachers were really good and they liked my work but one of the biggest criticisms I got all through Art Center is that I over detail. And I personally still like to over detail because it…
Chris: That’s insane to me.
Robert: Well I think it’s because I grew up on job sites with my dad and so I saw how like forklifts and how backhoes work and so I knew you needed all these little nuts and screws and bolts to make things work. And so I tend to put more of that stuff in my work, and with artists, we usually try to make things as simple as possible to make them graphic so people are able to read it very easily but I didn’t know that early on because I only knew it from almost like an engineer standpoint because I grew up around my dad and also all that anime stuff. And my dad always pushed me to put more details in there because he would also do set plans sometimes, so he knew how to draw a little bit. In any case, I just was over detailed and that was one thing Art Center helped me with a bit. And I still know how to get to that over detailed state, but Saturday High helped me push myself by limiting myself which sounds bad but is actually a good thing sometimes because you can focus on making things graphic when you need to. And that actually…learning all that in Saturday High and in that transition to completely my portfolio and everything for Art Center, I already knew some of those aspects. But Art Center just reinforced it even more and it made me understand that if you are designing a final product, most of the time you want to go simple because you want consumers and people to really understand your product and really be able to remember it. But you also want to put in some of that love that all the fanboys and like the tech gurus are going to see and they’re going to love it too. So that way…that’s my own personal opinion, that way you get the best of both worlds, you get like the average people that want to see something that they can remember, but you also want to do something that people at JPL and NASA can remember too.
Chris: Yeah, that’s awesome! Well even the Arbiter suit itself, there’s this wonderful complexity and then you have this one area of rest in that robotic grim reaper phase. And what an amazing blend between…it’s exactly what you’re saying, there’s this blend between the complexity and this area of simplicity and the graphic quality that just punctuates that design and makes it…it takes it over the top and it truly does make it something memorable. It’s terrifying and awesome.
Robert: Well, a lot of that I was 19 when I designed it, I honestly didn’t know I was doing that, I was doing it more subconsciously, but now that I’m older I’m able to break my work down and understand how I actually designed it. What’s interesting is when you’re younger, you don’t know how you design, you just do it because you like it. But as you get older, you’re able to break those things down and go oh, that’s why I do that because I like these things from these animes and I that’s something I never would have been able to do when I was 19. But looking back at the Arbiter suit like you said, I did exactly that, like what I was saying earlier which is, I was able to simplify the helmet and make it graphic so people could then draw or do whatever they wanted with it, but then there’s that element of realism underneath the suit which you can see which is all the wiring, the cables, there’s all the dirty grit of it that would exist in a WWII setting. Even though the helmet might be a little bit more sci-fi, it’s tied in by the fact that the suit is so realistic looking.
Chris: Yeah, and quite unsettling at that.
Next time on the Art Cast, Robert and I discuss sketching on mobile devices, how his personal projects have helped his professional career, and of course, how we got his gigs on Ender’s Game and The Amazing SpiderMan 2.