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Published on March 27th, 2018 | by Genevieve Mc Bride

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The Ultimate Guide to Constructing Your Favorite Sci-Fi Universe: Wondercon 2018

Anaheim, CA – For the final day of WonderCon 2018, six artists working in the science fiction worlds of television and film came together to discuss the past, present, and, naturally, future of the genre in “The Ultimate Guide to Constructing Your Favorite Sci-Fi Universe.” Panelists included composer Mac Quayle (Mr. Robot, American Horror Story), costumer designer Elisabeth Vastola (Jessica Jones, Daredevil), screenwriter Emily Carmichael (Pacific Rim Uprising, Jurassic World 3), production designer Barry Robison (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Hacksaw Ridge), co-founder and audio director of Hexany Audio Richard Ludlow (Blade Runner Revelations), and composer Matthew Carl Earl (Arena of Valor, Moonlight Blade).

Moderators Chris Villain and Dre Ronayne kicked off the panel with a look into the “out-of-this-world” experiences these filmmakers have had on set. For Elizabeth Vastola, it was her rapid introduction to the Marvel Universe. “I was recently welcomed into the Marvel world. I was on set, and the dressing room door kind of flew open, and Daredevil, Luke, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones came bowling onto set. I was almost run over by Luke Cage, and I decided, ‘I’m into this.’” Mac Quayle chimed in to describe the other-worldly sounds of Mr. Robot. “Writing music that hints at this whole other world that has not been explored in this show was a fun challenge. Trying to come up with the emotion that will let us take a peak into a new world. It took nine different revisions.” Barry Robison shared a special on-set moment from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. “Hugh Jackman was the coolest guy ever,” he commented. “He’s an amazing singer and performer. On set, we were walking past his trailer, and the door suddenly burst open. He was in full Wolverine attire, and began belting ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning.’ He’s unbelievably great.”

The conversation then turned to the challenges of science fiction. Barry Robison sang the genre’s praises. “I get to use my imagination, which is the real basis of my craft. Narnia was a true fantasy, so I could let my imagination wander.” Emily Carmichael chimed in, “Space is especially an interesting place to write for, because technically there’s nothing there. That’s the definition of space. So we’re deciding what space is like. Are there humans there? Have we terraformed Mars? Do we have a space highway?” An audience member brought up the struggles of combining an exciting hook with the rules and establishing the setting. Emily agreed, but added, “You can think of these as competing things, or you can think of them as going together. I’m so used to writing science fiction that they go hand in hand.”

An additional challenge comes in with interactive media, such as video games, according to the Hexany team. Richard Ludlow commented, “From a music side, you don’t know what the player is going to do, how many things are going to be happening at the same time. A lot of what we do is collaborate internally to build layers as the player makes different choices.” Matthew Carl Earl added, “Being a composer, you want to fill every nook and cranny with music. But if you’re the gamer, you don’t want so much sound blowing your senses. You have to know when to have sound blossom and when to take a backseat. It’s very easy to over score, and silence is important.” Mac Quayle laughed, “Don’t tell our bosses that.”

The conversation wrapped with a quick discussion of cosplay and its interaction with costume design. Elizabeth laughed, noting that there had been a lot of press on Jessica’s jeans. “I think what’s important about Jessica Jones is that none of the characters are dressing for any kind of gaze. Often, people look to female leads as a sort of fashion cue, but what they find with Jessica is that she doesn’t change a lot. I liken this to her super suit. I wonder why no one ever asks why masked heroes never change their suits.” When asked about the competitive nature of her field, Elizabeth continued, “We’re all a big family at Marvel and Netflix. We pass characters back and forth between shows. So you have to be competitive to get where you want, but supportive once you’re there. It’s in your best interest to help others.” WonderCon attendees left with new appreciation for the complexities and excitement of sci-fi.

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Photo Credit – Doug Cowley/Charlie Martin
Poster Credit: Impact24 PR

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