Adrian Bobb is an illustrator, concept artist and filmmaker. He’s worked for the McGill Redpath Museum as a scientific illustrator and for the History Channel and Ubisoft (on Assassin’s Creed 2), among others, as a concept artist. He’s also made a few independent movies. One feature length film that Adrian just finished making called Red Shift and another short film that was at Fantasia festival in 2010, among others.
So Adrian, how did you get into art?
Wow. That’s a really intense question. Mostly because I think I was into it before I was into anything else. For as long as I have been able to hold a pencil I think I’ve been pretty much into art. I remember that growing up in the 90s, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were pretty big for me. That was the first thing I remember being really focused on and drawing. I remember that my dad showed me how to draw my first Ninja Turtle. And then after that it was like, “Oh so they have bodies; I get it!” Alright! So it’s not just a head with things coming out of it. It’s actually bodies, there’s torso, and actually learning how to build up these characters. I guess I just got into that whole idea of how you make characters, just like any other kid who’s making up superheroes and stuff like that. I was doing the same sort of thing, and I just never stopped. That’s the only difference I think.
Do you find that your background as a concept artist and illustrator has influenced your film-making?
Absolutely. I kinda think that all the things I’m interested in are able to help each other out in a way. Because I love film-making, I love writing for film, and I do a lot of concept design for film and television and video games and whatnot. All three of those things kind of work together. Because in the end I just love telling stories, visual stories; stories that could be watched or played.
I love movies, I’ve grown up analyzing almost every frame of my favourite movies, and obsessing over DVD commentaries. I went to film classes… and I guess now when I teach at CDI College, I do the same thing, I teach those elements for film: how you can tell a really good story visually, and not rely on one element more than any other. I think that’s what I like about film-making: as much as I love having absolute control when it comes to writing or drawing or designing, with film, you’re forced to cooperate with like-minded, but differently talented artists. Guys that are great with sound and music, actors, people who do costume design…. I never get that chance to talk and work with other people when it comes to doing concept design stuff, except for maybe other concept artists, but it’s still pretty solo work. So film-making really brings it into this bigger, broader realm, and I love that.
Who were some of your formative influences in terms of artists, filmmakers, movies, games, that sort of thing?
I’d definitely say the early 90s, late 80s realm of film, so Ridley Scott, James Cameron, those guys really got me into it… because those filmmakers were so into detail. Their characters and creatures… there was so much behind the story that they didn’t feel they needed to tell but was clearly there, and clearly hinted at. That kind of storytelling is amazing, because it’s not over-indulgent, and it’s focused, it knows what story it needs to tell, but it knows at the same time, that to immerse somebody into a world, you have to build one first, and then you pick what part of that world you tell the story in. As opposed to films that don’t do that very well, where they just tell everything and it just becomes a history lesson, or a documentary or biography or something that doesn’t really have a story.
Star Wars, and all those films, where they created these huge worlds and then give you a glimpse into it and say, “we don’t know who built these ships, but there is a company that did that.” But of course in the real world, no one asks those questions, no one says, “oh I bought this car, it comes from this and this and this….it was made by this…” No one tells you that much information in the real world, so they don’t tell you in these imaginary ones either. I enjoy that type of relationship with an imaginary world – where we’re kind of just thrown into it and have to piece together what’s going on. I love that style of storytelling.
I am a huge fan of Chris Nolan for that reason too, where he doesn’t really give you enough information…sometimes he aims to confuse you, and I like being confused in movies because it forces me to piece everything together. As long as there’s a good outcome in the end, as long as there’s an actual delivery at the end, then I love being confused. Because the whole film is not just about watching and taking it in, it’s actually involving you in trying to solve it as it’s going…and saying, “oh this is taking place before this or that….” The fact that people can do that and have fun with it, is a fact that people forget a lot in film.
I remember when Inception came out, the executives were like, “This is going to be a tough movie to sell, because it’s confusing, and people don’t like to be confused, and blah blah blah…” And it turned out to be one of highest grossing films of that year. I think that really showed that even if audiences can’t necessarily understand what is going on, there is a joy in trying! There’s still a joy because people came out talking about it, and having these huge late night conversations, no matter who they were, they still loved talking about it.
For me, that’s always been my favourite part of the movie, when the credits roll; because you’re stuck with this last image, you kind of want to think about it, you want to talk to your friends about it. For me, especially growing up, me and my dad, after a movie, we would talk for hours and hours and hours about it, even if there wasn’t that much depth to it, we would still find it, even if it wasn’t intended. That kind of… film-watching is what inspired me as a filmmaker.
Would you consider yourself more of a filmmaker or a concept artist or….?
That’s always a tough question. The funny thing is that usually if I’m doing one thing more than the other then I start missing the other….and I feel like I’ll need to start doing that other thing….because lately… before I was making this film, Red Shift, I was doing more concept art, more design and illustration for McGill and for video games and movies…and I loved that. That was great. But then I realized I haven’t done a film in a while, I haven’t really done cinematography…. so I did the Carrier, which was its own thing, and I edited it and finished it and once I got that out, it was like, “Oh, the feedback was really good” and it kind of encouraged me to say, “Ok I want to keep doing this again and write stories and that kind of thing…” So I did two or three other independent short films then I said I have to take it up another level, and let’s see if I can do a feature length film. That would keep me very motivated for a while. It would be a long term project that I could devote a lot of time to; so I was really excited for that. I feel like I jump around a lot. Right now I guess I consider myself more of a filmmaker. I’m kind in that mode.
How can people check out your work? You mentioned the Carrier, and other short films. Is there somewhere people can go to check those out?
Sure, there’s a Vimeo site that has all of my earlier film and video work. It’s essentially http://vimeo.com/abobb , and I have my website: http://www.adrianbobb.com/ , which also has links to all of my videos and other works that aren’t concept art based. As for Red Shift, it will also be linked with Vimeo. The first teaser trailer I did is in my Vimeo account, but the official Red Shift trailer is on the facebook site, which is just : https://www.facebook.com/Redshift2013
Great! Thanks very much for sitting down with us for the interview. Check out the podcast with Adrian Bobb right here : Episode 5: Adrian Bobb (Filmmaker, Concept Artist, Illustrator)