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Behind The Scenes Talent Were Fan Favs At Comic Con 2017

By: Marjorie Galas

Comic Con fans flock to the four-day convention, anxious to glimpse the talent who bring their favorite shows and characters to life.  And that talent isn’t contained in the actors in front of the cameras.  The Art Directors Guild panel, “The Production Designer: Architect of Imagination,” featuring Oliver Scholl (“Spider-man: Homecoming”), Francois Audouy (“Logan”), Hannah Beachler (“Black Panther”) Stefan DeChant (“Kong: Skull Island”) and moderator John Muto (“Species”) was so popular fans were turned away at the door.  The Costume Designers Guild had two panels, one highlighting illustrators and the other costume designers.  There were also two packed panels for composers: “Behind the Music: Fantasy, Fiction and Fandom” and “The Character of Music: Music for Poplar TV”.  “Monsters, Mutants and Mysteries: Sights and Sounds” brought together VFX artists, DPs, PDs and composers behind series including “Game of Thrones” and this summer’s smash, “Wonder Woman.”  Here is a sampling of the massive talent behind the camera that this year’s Comic Con fans couldn’t get enough of.

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, Composers, “Stranger Things”

Dixon and Stein literally quit their day jobs to score the 2016 break-out hit.  Leads of the Austin-based band S U R V I V E, the duo were contacted after series creators the Duffer brothers heard some of the band’s songs.  Neither Dixon nor Stein had composed a sound track, but they didn’t let their inexperience stop them from exploring the opportunity.  Their freshman score, loaded with experimental electronic that balances texture and melody, has led to both a Grammy and Emmy nomination.

Initially anxious about setting a tone for the series, Dixon and Stein received a lot of support from the Duffer brothers.  In addition to reviewing the scripts, they were given look books and visual cues.  They also talked about content that influenced the Duffer brothers.

“We talked about ‘Stand by Me’, even though musically it is not similar,” said Stein.  Added Dixon, “When we started recording, we sent them a ton. We created a library of moods or tones.”

The Duffers pulled from the library as rough cut was creating.  Utilizing their own creations as temp music, Dixon and Stein were able to strip down or build up the cues to meet the Duffer’s specific goals.

Matthew Jensen, Cinematographer, “Wonder Woman”

There was a force of challenges Jenson had to face for the summer’s blockbuster hit: logistics, stunts, VFX and the aspect of a road movie.

“We were always on a different set, and we were shooting in winter in London,” said Jensen.  “It was wet and cold, and physically taxing.  Then there was Gal Gadot, always at the ready.  She was an inspiration.”

The stunt work on “Wonder Women” added further complications.  Jensen had to be aware of the engineering of the rigs and wires and capture the action from vantage points that were safe for the camera crew and the actors.  Collaborating closely with the stunt choreographers and VFX team eased the burden.  A former DP on “Game of Thrones”, Jensen noted that collaboration for that series is just as crucial, regardless of stunt work.  Camera crews are spread across the globe.  Each DP must not only orchestrate their own lighting needs for the scenes, but maintain a consistent look that’s trademark to the show and what the other teams are capturing.

Derek Spears, Senior VFX Supervisor, “Game Of Thrones”

Spears what not involved with the series during its first four seasons, so he missed the early discussions that revolved around one of the series most fantastic visual effects – the dragons.  Coming on board for season five, the dragons were massive and learning how to manage their height and weight both in flight and upon landing.  To capture these movements, Spears and his team looked towards references in the animal kingdom that would service the creative.  Top references included eagles as they land and perch and lizards as they move.  Just as important as the mechanics of the movements to Spears was ensuring the dragons fit naturally into the environments.

“You need to treat a CG character as an actor,” said Spears.  “You need to direct it as if it is an actor.  You have to create an emotional state.”

Gary Kordan, Production Designer, “Ghosted”

A fan favorite for his critically praised work on “Key & Peele”, Kordan will be bringing his expertise to the highly anticipated Fox comedy “Ghosted.” Based in LA, the story revolves around the pairing of a supernatural skeptic (Craig Robinson) and believer (Adam Scott) who’ve been recruited by a top secret government agency to find a missing agent.  Un-phased at the prospect of re-inventing what’s already been done in this genre, Kordan began his design process by  routing the series in reality.

“I avoided looking at what’s already been done and instead looked at what is real,” said Kordan.  “What would the government’s investment in the paranormal really look like?”

Kordan designed the underground center with the understanding that it was built in the late 60s as an under-funded operation.  Although set in the present day, the design and furniture is mid-century, and the equipment old with a few enhancements periodically mixed in.  He worked with the set decorators to ensure details, such as wall clocks and break room coffee makers, were outdated and exhibiting effects of over-use.

Scouting, and ultimately using, LA-based locations appropriate for the show’s need provided new levels of education for Kordan.  For a power plant scene, the Budweiser plant was used.  Because the site is still an operation facility involved in the production a consumed beverage, Kordan, like every other member of the crew, had to learn and strictly adhere to all FDA requirements.  Anything that could contaminate the brewing process, from cell phones to jewelry and perfumes, was not permitted.  The art department had to wear hard hats, hair nets, even beard nets, while working on the set.