INTERVIEW WITH WAYNE DOUGLAS BARLOWE (concept Artist)
Wayne Douglas Barlowe worked on the designs of AVATAR, The Hobbit, and many other Sci-Fi or Fantasy project. He nicely accepted to answer to some questions asked by many of you (and by us ;-))
You have worked for some of the biggest film productions like Avatar, and The Hobbit. What interested you in Windwalkers which is an indie project being produced by a young French start-up ?
When I first heard about WINDWALKERS I was struck by the Big Idea. Since I was a child, I've enjoyed SF and Fantasy that starts from some large and compelling underlying concept, builds upon it and ultimately convinces the reader enough to make them experience a new world. Settings, especially, are very potent. If you look at the book DUNE, it takes only a little reading to understand that the chosen environment of Arrakis shaped Frank Herbert's tale. He took solid ecological concepts and templates and built upon them. So it is with WINDWALKERS and its wind-sculpted world.
In general, how do you choose the projects in which you decide to participate ?
I generally look to see what might best inspire me. And, in turn, what I might best enhance with my work. I am a bit of a specialist - creatures, of course, and character design are my stronger suits. And, world-building. Which is why I was so drawn to WINDWALKERS. It is world-building on a grand scale. That said, I was very intrigued by a world shaped by wind and by how that would affect evolution as well as the aerodynamic costumes for the sentient Horde characters.
Given that the book hasn't yet been translated into English, how did you manage to immerse yourself in the Windwalkers universe ? Was the Codex (a 100 pages document with all information about the universe, the rules, the world and the characters) which Forge sent you sufficient ?
The Codex was a very thorough, well thought-out and quite beautiful package. As I mentioned, I really appreciate solid world-building with a logical through-line and a strong creative spin. World-building works best when good foundations are laid and those cornerstones are then built upon with care, consistency, vision and creativity. Clearly this is the case with WINDWALKERS.
What most impressed you about the Windwalkers universe, and what do you think is the project's strongest aspect ?I was, rather predictably, captivated by the characters, the fauna. Their diversity and attributes were involving and highly creative and brought to mind many solutions to play with design-wise. Much as I did with EXPEDITION, the attempt to create a plausible evolution for the fauna was uppermost in my mind when I sat down to draw.
If you were to choose an artistic style for the film would it be more realistic or graphical ?
Personally, I prefer more realistic approaches to SF and Fantasy. It goes back to that desire to be taken someplace new and to believe that you are actually there. While a more design-oriented approach could work, for me it's all about realism, about that sense that I can actually breathe the air on an alien planet.
What do you think about the convergence of various media, in particular between video-games, movies, and digital special effects ?
I think we are in a wonderful period, creatively speaking, wherein visions of other worlds and creatures can be realized in multiple ways. I'm a gamer, so being able to enter a world I've seen in a movie and participate in events I've seen on the silver screen is a new and rich way to experience other worlds. This would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. The problem, as I see it, is that even with the fantastic digital tools at hand, we are simply not seeing enough visionary properties coming to the fore in film. I hope this project, with all of its potential, can rectify that.
Your work is very original, do you think that in the future it will be possible to bring more fantastical and original elements into productions or on the contrary, do you think that the tendancy is towards standardization ?
Truthfully, I'm not sure. The machineries of film-making are such that conservative thinking is very much a part of the selection process and marketing of film. It's all very bottom-line oriented. That doesn't exactly foster a conducive environment for creative experimentation or growth. It tends to create ruts that are difficult for studios and producers to deviate from. I can only hope that trends change and that more and more creatively rich projects like WINDWALKERS come to audiences around the world. We take this opportunity to again tell you how much of an honor it is to be able to work with someone whose creative universe is so strong. Many thanks, Herve!! I could not wish you more luck with WINDWALKERS.
More about Wayne D. Barlowe