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Creative Visions On Display: Art Directors And Costume Designers At Comic Con 2014

Art directors take the stage at Comic Con 2014.

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Comic Con is a breading ground for creativity. Fans inspired by their favorite program or character will spend months designing, planning, building and creating costumes and props to proudly exhibit each year. It should come as no surprise that the panels presented by the Art Directors Guild and the Costume Designers Guild would draw long lines of adoring fans eager to hear from their idols who have focused their eyes on building unique environments and creating dazzling wardrobes.

See Also:  From The Past to The Present In “Sleepy Hollow”: Costume Designer Kristin M. Burke

Each guild held multiple events. The ADG presented a special panel that reunited the art department that worked on “Babylon 5” and the CDG presented their popular illustrators panel along with a special panel that focused on the career of costume designing. On the third day of the Con, the Guilds held back to back panels that highlighted a diverse group of talented members who spoke about their experiences on a number of popular television and film projects.

Art Directors Guild Panel – in attendance: Philip Messina, John Myhre, Oliver Scholl, Patrick Tatopoulos. Moderated by: John Muto

John Muto kicked off the panel by informing the attendees that there is no formal program for film design in any college. The art director behind films including “Species” and “Terminator 2-3D” stated that hard work and immense talent lead each member of the panel to the point of excellent each had achieved. Leading by strong suggestion, Muto suggested the crowd chose questions careful and refrain from spontaneous applause or risk losing the hour long presentation’s valuable minutes.

Before opening the panel to audience questions, Muto asked each panelist to share highlights of their experiences and important lessons they learned. Below is a sampling of each panelist’s contribution.

Philip Messina (Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, Traffic, complete “Hunger Games” franchise) Currently shooting the fourth installment of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” Messina reflected upon the process he was engaged in with director Gary Ross on the first installment. A great attention to detail went into determining the tone and stylistic elements the audience would encounter in the early scenes were children are killing children.

“With one girl who’s killed by a spear, there was a lot of discussion about how long the spear is, should she pull the spear out. She’s also caught in a net, so we had to design how the spear would interact with the net,” said Messina. “For all these scenes we had adults mapping out the action and we came up with plans from there.”

John Myhre (Oscar Winner for “Chicago”, “Memoirs of a Geisha”) spoke about his work on “X-Men”. Unfamiliar with the comics, he recalled the first stage of his processing in creating Professor Charles Xavier’s office.

“I knew Patrick Stewart would be playing him. I thought about the word cranium and thought of Stewart’s bald head, and drew a curved room with this bald headed man in the center,” said Myhre. “When I showed it to (director Bryan Singer) he said it was perfect.”

Oliver Sholl (A.I., Edge of Tomorrow, The Man from U.N.C.L. E.) informed the audience that is it important not to think of science fiction as science fiction.

“You are just creating a world, and the technology happens to be part of that world, it is important to keep that in mind,” said Sholl.

He also indicated that it’s equally important to main enthusiasm through a project. Many changes can occur beyond the point of reading the first draft. He likes to keep the feelings and the initial ideas he has from that first reading alive during the sometimes long, intensive process.

Patrick Tatopoulos (300: Rise of an Empire, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) spent many years as a visual effects artist and creature designer on films including “2012” and “Resident Evil: Extenction”. He describe the challenges of carrying visual qualities through a series, such as “300.” He indicated, much like Sholl, that he likes to return to the early discussions he had with the director for inspiration.

To learn more about the Art Directors Guild panel please visit:

Costume Designers Panel – In attendance: Ann Foley (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Lizz Wolf (The Expendables 3) Arianne Philips (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Mary Vogt (Men Black franchise), Kristin Burke (Sleepy Hollow) and Michael Wilkinson (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Moderated by J. August Richards

Richards brought a unique twist to the Costume Designers Panel. While each panelist had time to discuss their work, such as Foley who highlighted the challenge of balancing interesting costumes and her own creativity with the needs of a large franchise like Marvel, a greater amount of attention was spent on exposing the panelists’ personalities.

Richards, an actor on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., asked each panelists about their social media usage and rational behind their Twitter handles. Burke has a side alteration business that shares her Twitter name. She admitted she doesn’t have time to keep up Twitter because her schedule on “Sleepy Hollow” generally requires 12 hours on set. Wilkinson, an Oscar nominee for last year’s “American Hustle” seemed rather perplexed about the Twitterverse but admitted to dabbling in a few posts.

Ultimately the panel morphed into an open mike night. While there may not have been a great deal of discussion about the work of each panelists, getting a glimpse of the real people behind the beautiful frocks was both fun, refreshing, and extremely humanizing.

To learn more about the Costume Designers Guild panels at Comic Con, please visit: