Job Profiles for the Audio Visual Industries
Art Department – FILM
Concept Artists produce the illustrations that help Production Designers to realise their vision for films. They work on big budget sci-fi, fantasy, or historical films where visual and special effects are required to create design spectacles, or fantastical creatures, or other invented elements. Concept Artists may also be involved in the development process, producing a series of illustrations that help to sell the film to potential Financiers and/or Distributors. Concept Artists are requested by the Production Designer in the earliest stages of pre-production (up to six months before filming is due to begin), and together they begin to conceptualise the visual content of the film. They work on a freelance basis. The Concept Artists’ role is highly specialised, and there is a limited demand for this work.
What is the job?
Big studio based films usually employ a number of Concept Artists who each work on a specific element, e.g., a fantastical creature and/or scene. If the screenplay is an adaptation, Concept Artists may analyse the original source material to gather as much descriptive information as possible; they may also work with Specialist Researchers who source and supply supplementary information and materials. Concept Artists work in the Art Department studio alongside the Draughtsmen* and Specialist Researchers, and often produce their drawings on a computer using Painter or Photoshop software. After approval by the Production Designer, the drawings they produce are presented to the Producer, Director and Visual Effects Co-ordinator for discussion. The challenge for Concept Artists is to produce illustrations that are striking but also accurate and clear. Concept Artists continue to work on illustrations throughout the shoot and may often be required to change and adapt their original ideas as filming progresses.
Typical career routes
There is no typical career route to becoming a Concept Artist. Some may start their careers as Graphic Artists, Illustrators or Graphic Novelists; others have worked in Special or Visual Effects or in Animation, and make the transition to Concept Artist via storyboarding.
Essential knowledge and skills
Concept Artists must have up-to-date knowledge of computer illustration software packages, e.g., Photoshop and/or Painter. They must also be conversant with film imagery and have a good understanding of what Directors, Directors of Photography and Editors require from a scene. Key Skills include:
• Excellent illustration skills • Effective communication skills • Ability to visualise perspective and 3-dimensional space • A keen interest in design, architecture and film • Ability to visually interpret other people’s ideas • Ability to be flexible and to adapt to change when requested • Ability to work as part of a team
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This is one of a series of job profiles within the Film sector developed by industry experts to help industry newcomers
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Training and qualifications
Although there are no specific training routes or qualifications for Concept Artists, completing Art School courses that emphasise draughting skills, graphics, and how to conceptualise ideas are recommended, e.g., Fine Art, Graphics, Illustration, etc.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Skillset’s and the UK Film Council’s Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film. For more information, please log onto the Skillset website.
Where to go for more information
Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. For information about training, links to the Skillset network of training partners, and access to the comprehensive Skillset/BFI course database, visit the website www.skillset.org. Skillset Careers is the UK’s only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit the website www.skillset.org/careers
- www.animationarena.com has interviews with Concept Artists
- British Film Designers Guild www.filmdesigners.co.uk
- American Cinematographer has regular features on film design and digital production techniques. www.theasc.com
- Most Concept Artists have their own websites showing their work. Check the internet for details. Publications
- Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design (Faber and Faber) by Christopher Frayling
- Production Design and Art Direction (Focal Press) by Peter Ettedgui
- By Design: Interviews with Film Production Designers (Greenwood Press) by Vincent LoBrutto
- Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner (Prestel Publishing Ltd). Edited by D. Neumann
- 2001 Filming the Future, (Aurum Press Ltd) by Piers Bizony
- The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matt Painting (Chronicle Books) by M. Cotta Vaz and C. Barron
- Many “Making Of” books feature the work of Concept Artists
* The terms Draughtsman or Draughtsmen are used generically and refer to both men and women practitioners
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