Studio founder Karin Fong on harnessing her Imaginary Forces
Our studio Imaginary Forces is located on the west side of LA. We’ve been in this space for six years now, and I think my favourite thing about it is all the natural light. It’s a warehouse-style space with big open windows, so we get a nice breeze. And we have our own parking lot – rarer than you’d think in LA.
My work space is best described as the cluttered chaos of creativity. You can’t trust studios that are too neat! I’m old fashioned – I still like to cut out paper frames and Post-its when laying out storyboards. There’s usually not a spare surface – even the walls have drawn frames taped up on them. I’m a big believer in the power of mixing analogue and digital, and my area reflects that.
This empty bottle of Old Canadian Whiskey (1) was created for the Boardwalk Empire main title shoot on the Jersey shore. We shot them in the sand, in the water, even used a special rig to smash and shatter the glass. The bottles were originally created and shot without labels, all the better to have them appear illegal – or so we thought. Wrong! We were told in post-production to put labels on all of them. We designed the label and reshot some of the bottles in the surf, but also added hundreds more bottles into the existing shots using CG.
Also in the studio are the characters from a LEGO Star Wars commercial (2). During prep, we went to the LEGO store in New York to pick out minifigure parts to make our team, so they could mingle
among the LEGO cast on set. I’m complete with a megaphone, ready to command the Stormtroopers. After the shoot, our VFX supervisor Meng Lu put the relevant bricks and minifigs together in groups so our CG team had all the colours and textures in one place. It was such a good time, which included working with the ‘toy doctors’ who flew in from headquarters in Denmark. They knew the models brick by brick because they had designed them.
Also pride of place is a Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph (3). It reminds me of the beauty of the blank screen, waiting to be filled. Sugimoto is a master of giving a sense of time through light. I especially like this series of theatres. He captured them by keeping the shutter open while a film was playing, so that it’s the actual cumulative light from the projection that yields the exposure. The movie itself created the image.
Then there’s our Spartan helmet (4) from a trailer for the game God of War – I have it for protection, naturally! It’s a souvenir from one of my favourite shoots, in which we translated the origin story from the Sony PlayStation game into a live action version.
Finally, here’s an anniversary card (5) from my daughter Savannah (then aged five), who drew what she envisioned I looked like on my wedding day. It’s a masterpiece by one of my favourite artists. I especially like how she imagined my rainbow gown – I just might have to get her design made for an anniversary.
Karin Fong is a founding member of creative company Imaginary Forces. The Emmy awardwinning designer and director has helmed iconic projects in film, television, gaming and advertising, taking inspiration from an array of influences – from surrealism to Schoolhouse Rock. www.imaginaryforces.com