My first job in the film industry was as a full-time fabrication assistant at Tippett Studio, working on Robocop 2. I helped make miniatures and a full-sized prop of the villain robot Cain (see image, right). My understanding of design, craft, professionalism, film and visual lingo was expanding every day.
Phil Tippett's research book library (this was before Google) was an eclectic mix of anything you could imagine: all food for thought and design. It was dawning on me just how much went into the artistic life, how many habits and routines and ways of thinking it all took!
These books were housed in a mezzanine level that looked down over the workshop floor. Workbenches were strewn with tools and components being fabricated to Craig Hayes' designs. In the centre stood the in-progress Cain robot – a menacing killer machine.
This memory is vivid. There was one night, when many people had gone home, and a bunch of plastic armour pieces had just been given a coat of Hammerite paint. We were impatient to put these on the robot for the first time. Here was something on paper that was coming into physical existence, and there was just enough silhouette, bulk and form to see if it worked.
I remember Phil and Craig charging up the stairs to the mezzanine; I followed. I was 18 and these guys were legendary. The three of us excitedly raced upstairs to get a new perspective in the only way one could in those days: move back. Just stand further away and squint. I could tell by the grins on their faces that they approved. "It looks like its form follows its function," Phil said in conclusion.
And therein was a massive dose of inspiration in two parts. Firstly that this job, trying to recreate fantasy from an understanding of the world around us, required all kinds of skills and techniques, and I was at the exciting beginning of an amazing journey of discovery.
Secondly, camaraderie is a wonderful feeling. The people we get to work with in this industry are some of the most intriguing, smart, funny, creative, lovely and dedicated people in the world. Twenty-five years later, these ideas continue to frame my experiences in the industry.
Words: Adam Valdez
Adam Valdez is VFX supervisor at MPC. MPC is the international VFX studio behind movies including Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent. This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 181.