Thursday, July 24, 2014

‘Game of Thrones’ artist visualizes the fantastic

(July 11, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“With my comics background, it was an easy transition to do the work on ‘Game of Thrones,’” said Northern Irish storyboard artist William “Will” Simpson, during a recent phone interview with the Inquirer.

Simpson illustrated iconic comic book characters such as Batman and Judge Dredd, before shifting to doing storyboards for movies. He stressed that disciplines he learned in comics continue to be useful to his current work.

“Comic illustrating is a pressurized art job where storytelling is everything, and clarity is important … when I got into storyboarding, I was drawing detailed and clear illustrations. It’s a natural kind of progression. ‘Game of Thrones’ was such a breeze to walk into,” Simpson said.

His film credits include “Reign of Fire” and “City of Ember,” among others. He said that being a storyboard artist requires him to work closely with directors.

“The great thing is, you’re trying to do a version of their vision, their idea of what we’re going to shoot,” Simpson said. “It’s important that I connect with all of our different (‘Game of Thrones’) directors. I have to be able to adapt to their way of solving problems within a script. A lot of the time, it’s moving camera angles … [it has to be] clear to the directors of photography and everyone else involved. ”

Simpson related that if the directors like his approach to telling assigned scenes, they approve and immediately work on it; if not, he makes appropriate changes like adding very specific shots or changing angles.

He works primarily in black and white, drawing scenes onto frames, but has done color designs when asked by producers to create conceptual artwork for certain sequences and characters.

“I like just drawing storyboards in black and white … there’s a clarity to them that helps, rather than hinders. Conceptual work, it’s different; you’re trying to get the feel of what you’re trying to portray. I got to do that back in the beginning. The White Walkers, [monsters that] were going to be part of the main story even though we just see them briefly—they were probably my favorite thing to conceptualize.” 

On author George RR Martin’s blog post last year, which indicated that the American writer imagined the Iron Throne differently, Simpson responded that changes are inevitable with the HBO adaptation.

“There have been many conceptualizations of the Iron Throne by lots of different artists [and fans] over the years. When we came to the stuff in the show, it was with fresh eyes … When you see it on the set, it’s a marvel; it feels right for what our show is. I think it’s become an acceptable thing. When you look at fans who want to get photographed on the Iron Throne, George should be happy about the fact that it’s actually done its job. It definitely has helped create an identity for the thing,” Simpson said.

While being a storyboard artist doesn’t require one to draw exact likenesses of the actors, Simpson explained that he imagines them while working. “You have their images in your mind when you’re drawing, and you have to get some of their approaches to acting into your characters. You try to instill all that into the boards, under pressure,” he said, laughing.

(The “Game of Thrones” marathon airs Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m., on HBO Signature.)

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