Usually, when I am brought on to work on a film, it’s usually to create concepts – a variety of ideas for designs of vehicles, environments, or costumes. Yet occasionally, like the work I do on theme parks, I’m asked to capture the aesthetic of a film. This was the case for the recent film, Alpha. I was tasked by the director with creating 10 images that would help pitch the film.
Working this early in movie development is a very pleasant and engaging process. You work one-on-one with the director, with very in-depth communication regarding the project. This project was particular 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. To that end, I had to think much more like a photographer than a concept artists. The focus was on creating striking, iconic visuals of the prehistoric landscape by playing with lighting, colors and mood.
These paintings took a similar approach to the Stranglehold game I art directed many years ago. Stranglehold, like Alpha was also never about creating whole new worlds, rather, the game’s story revolved around Hong Kong and Chicago. So we continually explored unusual ways to approach composition and aesthetic to create scenes that were both familiar and unique.
Because the aim is to create something very photorealistic, I took inspiration from a lot of photography, including much of my own. I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico while doing this project, and perpetually in awe of the sunsets here. Since living here, I’ve gotten into taking a lot of photos of the skies here, with the vast landscapes and mountains. The colors of the skies here inspired much of how I approached painting some of the skies for the film.