(Matte painting Supervisor at Cinesite)

- How did you get involved in THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- I worked for Digital Domain and moved to Cinesite, to supervise matte paintings for 8 films. THE 13TH WARRIOR was the first...
- When exactly and how long did you work on this project?
- I started it around October 1997, and finished 9 months later (although with many gaps in production).
- What did you know about this project when hired?
- I knew John McTiernan was the director, which was my main reason for wanting to work on it!
- Weren't you surprised by the association of Disney with a movie first called EATERS OF THE DEAD?
- It did not seem like a Disney film per se, but it was under Touchstone, so that is less kid friendly...
- What exactly did you do on this show?
- I was the Matte Painting Supervisor for Cinesite.
- On what particular shots did you work?
- Mattes of Baghdad, and the main village where the "Eaters" live...
- You mean the village of Wendol huts, near the falls? I did not recall paintings in this sequence...
- Actually, there is one, in the long shot that pans up to reveal it.
- I have heard that Cinesite was asked to create the Baghdad opening matte painting very late in the production process, at the very end of it. Do you know why? I think Disney ordered it after research screenings but can't imagine the opening of the film without this painting...
- One day, McT was in charge, and the film went in one direction, the next, Crichton was the man in charge, and so this made things very tricky, especially has one hardly ever saw them in person. Once everyone agreed to have a Baghdad painting, it swung from one kind of painting to another, depending on who was in charge over the many months that went by... Not much fun, really.
- So you did work on alternate visuals for this painting?
- I created many versions of Baghdad... About 8 versions!
- And what were the main differences between the Baghdad paintings desired by McTiernan and Crichton?
- One was morning, another was evening, different skies and, sometimes, different compositions of buildings...
- Was this supposed to be the real Baghdad or rather some imaginary Baghdad?
- It was not meant to be historically correct. It needed to evoke what we would expect it to look like...
- Did they want some "Tales from the Arabian Nights" mood? Because I noticed the name of "Sheharazhad" amongst the characters in the end credits...
- That was mentioned, but was not a labored point.
- So, what were your influences?
- THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD, with Errol Flynn.
- You mean with Douglas Fairbanks, right? The version in black and white from the 20's...
- Yes, sorry, Douglas Fairbanks.
- Unfortunately, I only saw the 40's version in color with Conrad Veidt... What resources did you use?
- Not much... Pure paint, and some good 3D animation, for the palm trees, etc.
- According to Jerry Pooler, there is a "CG dust storm" in the Baghdad matte painting, but I didn't notice such a thing in the final version. Do you remember this? Where is supposed to be this storm in the frame?
- I'm not sure that's in there... If one was added long after, I was not aware.
- Weren't there live elements included too?
- There were some live action people, and that's it... As far as I remember.
- By the way, did you incorporate details in the Baghdad painting that can hardly be seen in the final version? (any visual jokes, or anachronism?)
- Often, we do that, but I don't recall doing so on this painting.
- Anything you would want to add about your experience on this show?
- Well, THE 13TH WARRIOR was not a terribly creative nor happy film to work on... There was far too much energy being wasted, going from one idea to the next with no direction and, to be honest, I felt helpless in protecting the work from being tampered with. At one point, I did ask for my name to be taken off the credits, because I was so unhappy with the look of the work. When the film finally came out... it felt better than I had expected, but still had two directors visions mixing uneasily...


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