Just a few days before the first projection of SENSE OF SCALE at the Sci Fi London Film Festival in may 2012, the director Berton Pierce kindly answered some questions about his documentary for Cinesfx. For more information about this artist, you can visit his Website.
You are the director of SENSE OF SCALE but first of all, a big fan of model making in movies.What are your first great souvenirs of models and miniatures effects in movies or TV shows ?
I MADE TANK AND AIRPLANE MODELS AS A KID, THEN AFTER "STAR WARS" I STARTED MAKING MY OWN DESIGNS.AND I FILMED THEM BLOWING UP WITH MY SUPER-8 CAMERA! AFTER SEEING "BLADE RUNNER" I TRIED HARDER TO MAKE MORE REALISTIC MODELS FOR MY LITTLE FILMS. THAT FILM CHANGED MY LIFE.
How did you manage to learn more about model making and what books or magazines have lighted your interest ?
I OWE A LOT TO CINEFEX AND STARLOG MAGAZINES.
Do you remember one specific making of or photos about model effects that have fascinated you ?
A LOT OF THE "STAR WARS" MAKING-OF DOCUMENTARIES WERE FUN TO WATCH.THEY ARE ON THE DVD'S, OR YOUTUBE NOW. I STILL WATCH THEM FOR FUN AND INSPIRATION SINCE WATCHING CGI IS BORING. THE "BLADE RUNNER" CINEFEX ISSUE WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.
You say that Blade Runner change your life, in what sense ?
AFTER SEEING BLADE RUNNER I WANTED TO BE A DIRECTOR INSTEAD OF A MODEL MAKER. ALL THE MODELS I MADE AFTER THAT FILM WERE MORE REALISTIC. STORY AND DESIGN BECAME MORE IMPORTANT TO ME. THE INDUSTRIAL BACKGROUND WALL MODEL THAT I MADE FOR "SENSE OF SCALE" IS INFLUENCED BY BLADE RUNNER, AND ALSO "ALIEN!"
You are a model artist yourself,what decide you to work in this specific domain ?
I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A MODEL MAKER AS A KID.THEN I REALIZED THAT FILMING THE MODELS AND TELLING STORIES WAS MORE INTERESTING. SO I BECAME A DIRECTOR WHO LOVES PRACTICAL EFFECTS!
What kind of model effect do you prefer : to reproduce accurately the reality in miniature or create models from imagination ?
DEPENDS ON THE PROJECT I AM WORKING ON. USUALLY I WILL TRY FOR REALISM, OR TO TRY AND FOOL THE AUDIENCE IN THINKING THE MINIATURE WAS A BIG SET THAT WAS BUILT. MOST OF THE TIME PEOPLE THINK I DID EVERYTHING IN THE COMPUTER, AND ARE SUPRISED TO HEAR IT WAS A MODEL! MOST PEOPLE THINK EVERYTHING IS COMPUTER GENERATED NOW.
Who were the first artists whose talent you admired ?
GREG JEIN. MARK STETSON. THE LYDECKER BROTHERS, MARTIN BOWER, DEREK MEDDINGS. AMAZING PEOPLE!
When did you decide to direct a documentary about model makers ?
I THOUGHT ABOUT IT IN 2000. BUT THE TIME WASN'T RIGHT, AND I WAS BUSY DIRECTING COMMERCIALS. THEN IN 2009 I NOTICED CGI WAS TAKING OVER MODEL MAKING IN FILMS. SO I HOOKED UP WITH MY CO-PRODUCER, TOM GRIEP (ALSO A FORMER MODEL MAKER) AND WE DECIDED TO GO AND MAKE IT!
Did you already have any contact among them or did you start from nothing ?
I SENT OUT EMAILS TO MANY MODEL MAKERS ASKING IF THEY WOULD BE INTERESTED. TOM HAD WORKED FOR MARK STETSON AND KNEW MANY OF THE GREAT MODEL MAKERS. SO, TOGETHER WE MADE LISTS AND CALLED PEOPLE!
Was it easy to get their agreement for your project ?
ALMOST EVERYONE SAID YES RIGHT AWAY. SOME WERE BUSY AND COULDN'T DO IT. WE WERE LUCKY AND GOT TO INTERVIEW MANY MORE THAN I HAD HOPED. I THOUGHT 10 OR 15 WOULD BE GREAT. WE ENDED UP WITH 27. I AM BUSY INTERVIEWING MORE MODEL MAKERS RIGHT NOW FOR AN EXPANDED VERSION OF THE DOC.
You have interviewed more than 25 artists, how long does it take to complete the documentary and where
did you travel for that ?
I EDITED IT ALONE FOR 8 MONTHS AT HOME. IT WAS FUN BUT EXHAUSTING SINCE I HAD 27 HOURS OF GREAT FOOTAGE. UNFORTUNATELY, MOST OF THE INTERVIEWS HAD TO BE CUT OUT FOR TIME. MAYBE I WILL MAKE HALFHOUR WEBISODES FOR YOUTUBE SOME DAY, AND ALLOW PEOPLE TO SEE MORE OF THE INTERVIEWS.
Who was the first to be interviewed and do you remember this fist day of shooting ?
I STARTED WITH HARRY WALTON. A GREAT STOP MOTION ANIMATOR AND MATTE PAINTER. IT WAS GREAT FUN TO SIT WITH HIM AND HEAR HIS STORIES. HE IS NOW PAINTING A (HAND PAINTED) MATTE FOR MY NEXT FILM PROJECT.
You have met true legends of the domain,how did you feel meeting them ?
I TRIED TO KEEP IT VERY CASUAL AND EASY. NO BIG LIGHTS OR STUDIOS. JUST SITTING AND TALKING ABOUT MINIATURES. MY MAIN WORRY WAS TO NOT FORGET A QUESTION, SINCE I WANTED TO JUST LISTEN TO THEM TELL THEIR STORIES!
|Matthew Gratzner and Berton Pierce at New Deal Studios |
(photo by SOS co-producer :Tom Griep)
Did you have the possibility to approach closely some famous models ?
THE "TERMINATOR 2" TANK. AN ALIEN FIGHTER FROM "INDEPENDENCE DAY." THE "DARKSTAR" MODEL. THE SPACESHIP FROM, "PITCH BLACK." THERE WERE SO MANY... A DREAM COME TRUE! MY FAVORITE SCREEN USED PROPS FROM MOVIES WOULD BE A CAR MODEL FROM SPIELBERG'S FILM "1941" GIVEN TO ME BY GREG JEIN. AND A PIECE OF THE "BLADE RUNNER" CITY MINIATURE FROM LESLIE EKKER!
If so, have you been surprised with some of them ?
SOME WERE SMALLER THAN I THOUGHT. ALL WERE BEAUTIFUL.
Did you feel that it was important for these artists to talk about their art ?
MANY WERE THANKFUL THAT I WAS EVEN INTERESTED IN THEM AND THEIR WORK! NO ONE EVER ASKED THEM BEFORE. I FIND THAT SAD. ONE OF THE REASONS I MADE THIS DOCUMENTARY IS BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE DID! I WANTED TO SEE IT!
Do they feel as living the last days of their art in regard of CGI ?
SOME ARE NOW CGI ARTISTS. SOME ARE RETIRED AND HAPPY TO NOT BE WORKING WITH COMPUTERS. OTHERS ARE HAVING A HARD TIME.
In this idea, your documentary is a true testimony of the model making golden years ?
WELL, IT COVERS THE LAST 35 YEARS OF MODEL MAKING.THERE WAS MUCH MORE BEING MADE IN THE 70'S AND 80'S THAN NOW. THERE ARE SO MANY TALENTED ARTISTS THAT CAN'T DO THEIR JOBS NOW. MAYBE NEW YOUNGER PRODUCERS AND DIRECTORS WILL SEE MY DOC AND THINK BEFORE THEY USE CGI.
Where can we see this documentary and when will it be available on DVD ?
AFTER THE SCI FI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL IN MAY, I WILL TRY TO SELL IN TO TV, OR SET UP A WEBSITE TO SELL THE DVD!
You told me that Martin Bower himself is working on your next project !! can you tell us more about it ?
MARTIN DESIGNED AND BUILT TWO SHUTTLE MODELS FOR A LOW BUDGET SCI FI FILM I AM MAKING. I AM STILL TRYING TO GET HIS INTERVIEW SOON FOR THE UPDATED VERSION OF THE DOCUMENTARY.
On a more personnal note, what did you learn from SENSE OF SCALE ?
BE OPEN FOR NEW THINGS AND TECHNOLOGIES BECAUSE ONE DAY EVERYTHING YOU KNOW WILL CHANGE. BE READY FOR IT, BUT DON'T FORGET WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO!
Has it change anything in the way you will build models now ?
NO. I KEEP MAKING MODELS FOR FUN AND TO GIVE A CERTAIN "REAL" FEELING TO THE IMAGES.
... and will you go on making models ?