Tag Archive: Simon Ward


Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the benefits of behind-the-scenes and making of/art books for major studio movies is that anyone diving into the production process for the first time can usually learn plenty about the stages of filmmaking from pre-production to final product.  Just pick a film you like and jump right in.  Abbie Bernstein′s The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is no exception, but it will be particularly fun for anyone who is a fan of concept art and mega-monsters.  It’s also weighted toward pre-production and the pre-visualization process.  Readers wouldn’t expect a film with giant creatures to be filmed with practical sets, but with a modern studio Godzilla movie filmed in the U.S., you automatically expect a predominantly CGI movie.  The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is filled with trial pieces from artists showcasing the process of turning the classic Japanese kaiju characters into something new and different.

Fans of Scott Chambliss will want to read what guided him to make the choices and decisions for the look of the film.  Chambliss has his own style, and when watching the film my reaction was how many sets, and specifically the color and lighting choices, felt like Star Trek 2009, a film in which Chambliss also served as production designer.  Chambliss discusses the visual tricks he used to make Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorra appear to have immense scale, but also appear real.  Several effects companies worked on components of this film, each trying to make their creations the best of the pack without competing against each other–the goal being to create the best final product they could.  Some artists worked on familiar software programs, combining photographs and 3D imaging of locations like San Francisco’s Union Square to combine with actors in Atlanta.   Others made sculptures of each creature–in a variety of materials–and then those sculptures were scanned and manipulated into what the audience sees on screen by others, after even more creators contributed their colors, texture, lighting, and other touches.

The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a great companion book to Mark Cotta Vaz’s Godzilla: The Art of Destruction, the behind the scenes look at Gareth Edward’s 2014 Godzilla film that was the starting point for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Simon Ward’s The Art of Kong: Skull IslandAll of these massive monsters will come together soon in Godzilla vs. King, so it’s a good time to be a fan of kaiju.  For fans of the new Legendary Pictures movie, it’s a good opportunity to understand the characters better from those who created them, and learn more from actors about their experiences on set, including Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Elizabeth Ludlow, Thomas Middleditch, Anthony Ramos, and Bradley Whitford.

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Author Simon Ward has crafted a new behind-the-scenes account of a sci-fi film, this time the latest entry and third Ridley Scott-helmed film in his Alien series, Alien: Covenant.  As you would expect, The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant features hundreds of photographs from what is probably the goriest film in the series.  Like another sci-fi/horror mash-up film 10 Cloverfield Lane, it also has its share of surprises, particularly as it leaves viewers in suspense as they learn the kind of horror film unfolding isn’t what they first thought.  Ward’s new book doesn’t reveal all the surprises, but enough to encourage readers to wait until they’ve seen the film to read the book.  Since a book like this is mainly for the diehard Alien fan, this won’t be an issue to most of its readers.

The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant, like Ward’s previous works The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence (reviewed here at borg.com) and Aliens: The Set Photography (reviewed here) is more about the making of the film than a traditional “art of” film resource.  so don’t look for the typical concept art.  You will see plenty of film stills, behind the scenes shots with the actors, and some good visuals of the film’s set design.  Ward also moves step-by-step through the film, pulling in production staff and actors to give insight into the filmmaking process for this unique movie.

Ward interviewed director Ridley Scott, revealing Scott’s thought process behind this film and its place in the series, each key cast member discusses their view of their characters.  Concept artist Steve Burg describes the differences between Alien: Covenant and the last film in the series, Prometheus.  Creatures supervisor Conor O’Sullivan reveals the influences in the new Xenomorph designs.  Director of photography Dariusz Wolski provides a look at scene set-up and his lighting and cinematography choices.

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Aliens Set Photography book Titan

Review by C.J. Bunce

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of James Cameron’s sci-fi film classic Aliens, writer Simon Ward has assembled a photograph-dense book full of never before released images from the movie stage.  Aliens: The Set Photography fills each of 144 pages with views of cast members, camera crews, and special effects artists as they created the follow-on to Ridley Scott’s horror classic, 1979’s Alien.  Less of a space drama and more of an action-packed rollercoaster ride than the original, Aliens won two special effects Oscars and earned Weaver a nomination for Best Actress as well as nods for set and art decoration, sound, film editing, and James Horner’s musical score.

Simon Ward also authored the behind the scenes look at the Independence Day films reviewed here at borg.com last month.  We discussed the creation of this book at Kansas City Comic Con this weekend with film co-star Carrie Henn, who played Newt, the only survivor discovered by Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the marines.

Paxton Aliens

Henn told us that this book had been in the works for a few years.  She provided the foreword and much of the commentary for what amounts to a photo scrapbook of behind-the-scenes stills.  She also provides some surprisingly thorough recollections of stage direction from director Cameron and mentoring from Sigourney Weaver, who appeared as a larger-than-life heroine to the nine-year-old actress.  Her comments are also full of humorous anecdotes and reflect the care taken by the filmmakers to make certain the little girl wasn’t terrified by Stan Winston’s alien creations.

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moon base concept art idr

While some approaches in the “Art of” or “Making of” category of film books provides explanatory text describing the moviemaking process, others are primarily photo essays.  Both approaches have their merits.  Titan Books has offered a mix of the approach with its Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here, while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Art of the Film, reviewed here, was a more visual snapshot of the filmmaker’s journey.  Although it has less explanatory material and more in-world story background, the new book The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence is most like Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, reviewed here.

Like the Planet of the Apes work, The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence covers a behind the scenes account of two films, here the original 1996 Independence Day and this year’s sequel.  The reader is reminded of the history of the key characters in the original film in the first third of the volume, which also provides a review of the movie’s key special effect scene–the alien destruction of the White House.  Not only providing movie stills, we get to see the relative size of the model used for the building and the process for the explosion.  This sets up a good introduction for the special effects for the next two sections of the book: the rebuilding of Earth after the first invasion, and then the return of the aliens that is the focus of the sequel.

art and making of idr

Titan’s usual quality hardcover design and thick full-color pages include in-universe accounts of the next generation of Earth’s defenders, followed by concept art and sketchwork, extensive coverage of space vehicles and fighter plane designs and futuristic weaponry.  Director Roland Emmerich provides a foreword introduction.

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