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Published on July 31st, 2017 | by gareth

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Monsters, Mutants & Mysteries: Sights & Sounds Panel: San Diego Comic-Con

San Diego, CA – To start off day one of Comic-Con 2017, hundreds of fans lined up outside for the “Monsters, Mutants & Mysteries: Sights & Sounds” panel, eager to hear insights from the creatives behind some of the most beloved properties in film, video games, and television. The panel featured cinematographer Matthew Jensen (Wonder Woman, Game of Thrones), VFX supervisor Derek Spears (Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead), production designer Gary Kordan (Key & Peele, Ghosted), and composers Jake Monaco (Be Cool Scooby-Doo!, Dinotrux), Michael A. Levine (Resident Evil 7: Biohazard), and Michael Gatt (Blood Drive).

Celebrity moderators Bree Turner and Splack led the discussion, which began with commentary on the drive to deliver high level artistic output, while remaining within budget. “One thing that most people don’t realize,” explained Gary Kordan, “is that budgets are very small in comedy. Executives tend to think that it’s mainly just about the jokes. But, every step of the way, I try to fight this mentality and approach comedy television like it’s cinema. At the same time, we also keep in mind that we have a binder full of sketches to work through, and we need to maintain a schedule of shooting two sketches a day, starting at 6am and finishing at 7pm.”

Of course, these struggles were not merely limited to the small screen, as even large-budget super-hero epics require tremendous work ethic from its crew. Discussing Wonder Woman, Matthew Jensen revealed, “we were in and out of our sets very quickly, the longest we had in a set was a four-day run. And this was a 100 day shoot.” On shooting in London, he added, “We were working within wet, cold, and physically taxing elements. We were very conscious that we needed to create something that achieved both an authenticity of the period, and a heightened fantastical shine. Fortunately, speed creates a certain momentum; you reach a level of intensity where you almost manage to make it into an athletic performance. Your eyes manage to take over and let you automatically react to the challenges.”

“It’s the same with the shows I’ve worked on,” agreed Gary, “By the time you’ve worked on multiple seasons of a single show, there’s so much trust within the crew that you can work quickly. You have complete faith that every single player will pulling off and heightening their department’s role.”

While not all the panelists of the day had put their feet in literal trenches like Jensen, there was still a wealth of challenges that work within a studio setting could present. As the panel shifted its focus to the trio of composers, it was revealed just how little preview material the musicians would often have to work with. “I was asked to write music for Blood Drive without even seeing any picture references, so I was fortunate that the characters were so fleshed out,” Michael Gatt explained. “I’d had some voice-acting experience in my past, so I ended up doing my own one-man table reading of the script. Then I scored music to my own voice reading all the lines.”

“It was a similar situation when I was writing music for Cold Case,” Michael A. Levine agreed. “I had written an entire album of music before they had finished shooting. They don’t drop assignments on a composer like that as much anymore, but I do believe that that training is critical, because it you need to be able to react to the world that’s provided to you by the story-teller.”

Meanwhile, for Jake Monaco, working on Be Cool Scooby Doo!, a franchise with decades of history, the challenge was to pay homage to the past, while also reinvigorating the music in a fresh way. “I watched a lot of episodes from the mid-to-late 70’s, and it was interesting to see what kind of music was put into the original episodes,” he explained. “The main question for us, was how to take the feel of previous versions of the show, and use an orchestra to adapt it for a more modern, faster pace. That said, we were still also sure to make room for the fun, romp sequences, where a minute of the show shifts to absurdist chase sequences. Those are always some of my favorite.”

Next, the panels focus shifted to Derek Spears and his work on the dragon VFX for Game of Thrones. He shared the process behind animating a fictional species, and the importance that it hold realistic weight alongside the real actors and practical effects. “We take a lot of different models for the dragons’ movement, ranging from an eagle landing on a perch to a komodo dragon snatching up its prey,” Spears explained. “What I think a lot of people can fail to realize, is that the creatures we create are just like actors within the production, and we try to communicate that to the director.”

As the panel drew to a close, the moderators opened the panel up to audience questions. A few younger members of the audience asked about how to break into the panelists’ respective industries. “I was planning to be a rock and roll star, and at the age of 30 I had to borrow money for rent from my Dad,” Michael A. Levine noted. “I considered going back to school and getting a real job Three years later I wrote the Kit-Kat jingle, which that put me in a very different situation. I’ve been lucky to be able to work as a composer ever since.”

“No matter where you start, you will always end up where you need to be,” concluded Gary. “You can really jump in at any time, as long as you’re prepared to work 60 hours a week and never go on vacation.”

This panel was produced by Impact24 Public Relations and its team members who have spearheaded Comic-Con panels for over 8 years. Impact24 PR is dedicated to capturing the spotlight for the talent behind-the-camera and behind-the-curtain, and supports many of the industry’s leading creative artists, including composers, cinematographers, VFX companies, production designers, makeup artists, VFX, VR/AR/XR and more. For more information on the company and panelists, visit www.impact24pr.com or on social media on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Impact24PR/) and twitter (https://twitter.com/impact24pr).
Here is my video from our roundtable Interviews.


 

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