Art cap­tures a film’s soul

Dig­i­tal art pi­o­neer Stephan Mar­tinière ex­plains how his love of pho­tog­ra­phy helped him vi­su­alise key mo­ments of the new film Al­pha – be­fore it had even been started

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It’s com­mon that con­cept artists start work at the early stages of film­mak­ing, but French artist Stephan Mar­tinière’s work on re­cently re­leased film Al­pha was pre-pre-pro­duc­tion.

“Usu­ally, when I’m brought on a film it’s to cre­ate con­cepts: ideas for de­signs of ve­hi­cles, en­vi­ron­ments or cos­tumes,” he says, “yet oc­ca­sion­ally I’m asked to cap­ture the aes­thetic of a film.” This was the case when film di­rec­tor Al­bert Hughes (Dead Pres­i­dents, From Hell, The Book of Eli) got in touch with Stephan and tasked him with cre­at­ing 10 im­ages that would help the di­rec­tor pitch the film.

The film, re­leased this Au­gust, is a pre­his­toric tale of a boy, who while try­ing to re­unite with his lost tribe, be­friends a wolf. Stephan – who has ex­pe­ri­ence on films such as I, Ro­bot, Guardians of the Gal­axy and Ready Player One – rel­ished the prospect of work­ing at this stage of the pro­duc­tion.

“Work­ing this early in movie devel­op­ment is very pleas­ant,” he says. “You’re one-on-one with the di­rec­tor, with very in-depth com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­gard­ing the project. And this project’s aim was spe­cific, in that the ob­jec­tive was to cre­ate pho­to­graphic im­ages that cap­tured piv­otal mo­ments in the film, like the buf­falo hunt at the be­gin­ning, or when the main char­ac­ter is saved by his wolf com­pan­ion.”

Stephan had to think much more like a cin­e­matog­ra­pher or pho­tog­ra­pher than a con­cept artist. “The fo­cus was on cre­at­ing iconic vi­su­als of the pre­his­toric land­scape by play­ing with light­ing, colours and mood,” he says.

The artist didn’t have to search far to be­come in­spired for the as­sign­ment: “Be­cause the aim was to cre­ate

The fo­cus was on cre­at­ing iconic vi­su­als of the pre­his­toric land­scape…

some­thing pho­to­re­al­is­tic, I took in­spi­ra­tion from a lot of pho­tog­ra­phy, in­clud­ing my own.”

For this project Stephan made par­tic­u­lar use of the dra­matic light­ing of where he lives: Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. “I’m per­pet­u­ally in awe of the sun­sets here… I’ve got­ten into tak­ing a lot of pho­tos of the skies, with the vast land­scapes and moun­tains. The colours of the skies here in­spired much of how I ap­proached paint­ing the skies for the film.”

You can see more of Stephan’s film work here: www.mar­

Based on con­ver­sa­tions he had with di­rec­tor Al­bert Hughes, Stephan Mar­tinière helped vi­su­alise key scenes from Al­pha.

The dra­matic skies over Santa Fe, New Mex­ico pro­vided Stephan with plenty of in­spi­ra­tion for the project.

Al­pha charts the com­pan­ion­ship that de­vel­ops be­tween a boy and a wolf, set in pre­his­toric Europe. Stephan pro­duced 10 pieces of art that en­abled the di­rec­tor to pitch suc­cess­fully for the film’s fund­ing.

By de­pict­ing the same lo­ca­tion at dif­fer­ent times of the year, Stephan helped to con­vey the scale and am­bi­tion of the film.

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