I think it was in late 2008 that I saw a post by Steven Sterlacchini on the old 2000ad Review forum that he was planning a fan film. I’d just finished working on a film earlier that year, doing storyboards and concept art, so sent him some samples. The possibility of working on anything Dredd related was too tempting to pass up, and luckily for me it turned out to be a brilliant experience with a great gang of incredibly talented people. When I saw Dan’s armour and Steve Green’s cgi test reel I knew they were serious about doing it justice.
I’ve been reading comics since I could read, and 2000ad has always been there. My dad used to work at an independent distributors in Liverpool in the 70’s and 80’s, before they went to the larger companies, and used to bring home bundles of magazines and comics each week. Victor, Battle, Eagle, 2000ad, Commando, Match, Shoot, Marvel UK’s Star Wars and Transformers, you name it. 2000ad I didn’t really appreciate until I was around my early teens, but was always drawn to Dredd. I started a tradition back then with every new sketchbook I’d get, page one was always a Dredd drawing, and I realised that drawing comics was something I wanted to do for a living, even if I had no idea at that point how to make it a reality. So really from day one, 2000ad has warped my fragile little mind.
Storyboards, for me anyway, tend to be far looser than fully rendered sequential art, using pro-markers and pilot pens rather than normal inks. When I first started doing storyboards for people I actually approached drawing them the same way as doing a page of comics art, before I realised that there often isn’t time for that, especially when doing several versions of a scene. I wish I could do them as tight and detailed as say Chris Weston’s storyboards, which are just stunning pieces of art on their own, but I need far far more experience before getting anywhere near to that point! Also with storyboards you’re portraying movement through multiple panels, rather than choosing a key moment in that movement to put into a panel, like drawing then firing a lawgiver or throwing a punch. Arrows and notations on the panel help convey that as well, which you obviously can’t get away with on a comicbook page. I found though after doing so many storyboards it has actually made me faster and more confident in my comicbook work, which I’ve started to get back into doing properly this year, but being primarily a comic artist, there is a definite level of embarrassment with some of the more rougher storyboards!
McMahons’ original Minty story was the main touchstone I think, in terms of design and so on, but it was down to the script and input from Steven S and Steve Green about what was needed to be shown when and where. I did try as much as I could to match the action in the strip with what was happening in the storyboard, but just embellish and expand it.
Well, the first pass of every scene I just put in there what I thought would fit in terms of background, action, pacing and detail, drawing on my own knowledge of Dredd’s world and from conversations with the director. I imagined the scene in my head, play it out several times, then tried to convey that in the panels. I knew it wouldn’t all make it in but thought it might help narrow choices down or spark new ideas off in people. Some scenes I knew were probably a bit to elaborate or ambitious to do but I enjoyed putting them in anyway!
Not that I remember. I did go back and watch the Stallone film, and studied the art of books from that, not to reference anything specifically from them but more to understand their approach to making the 2d into convincing 3d. There is a lot of great design in that film. It’s one thing to draw a load of futuristic looking vehicles on a skedway but when you know a camera would be passing over them, you need to know at least in your head what they’d look like in 3d, so I used a lot of basic 3d modeling to help with composition, and my Dredd action figure did come in handy more than once. In terms of tone, I did spend a lot of time thinking about gritty details, like all the debris and litter that would fall down to city bottom from the blocks and transport lanes above, stuff that isn’t necessary to the storyboarding but just helps give a bit of texture to it. Likewise with the Cursed Earth, I wanted to ground that in reality so watched films like The Road and Book of Eli for inspiration, as well as dragging out piles of past progs.
I think besides the green screen studio shoots and the later pick ups, I was at pretty much at all the shooting, from the bitter cold and wet of Wales to the blistering heat of Dorset (literally, i got sunburn after one afternoon!), and I loved it. One of the most exciting things for me is going on recces with a director, imaging scenes playing out, then transferring that back to new versions of storyboards, making them tie in more with the chosen locations. Then going back and watching scenes unfold again with the crew was great. There’s no way I’d get in front of the camera- I’ve done a bit of extra work in the distant past but I think I’m more use behind the scenes! Any opportunity there is to be on set or location, I’ll take it. I did get my own personalised judge badge, which has pride of place in my studio.
I don’t think it would have had any effect on what we were doing if it had come out earlier. I’ve watched it twice now and loved it (though would have preferred the option of a 2d screening). It is a very different take from what Steven has done, which is a very faithful but at same time realistic approach to the source material. It shows that you can make it work on screen, if it’s done right. With Dredd 3d, they’ve obviously gone for a far more near-future/District 9 take, in part due to budget and in part to appeal to a broad audience. I think Garland’s version was great, but I think people will love what Steven has done as well.
I saw a rough cut, minus effects and sound and music a few months ago when Steven came up to the studio, and it was looking pretty zarjaz then. I’ll be watching it complete for the first time in Thoughtbubble alongside cast and crew and can’t wait to see it.
Well, in relation to Minty, I’m doing some artwork for The 4th Semi Annual Frothers Charity Thingy (http://www.facebook.com/The4thSemiAnnualFrothersCharityThingy), who are producing a limited edition Judge Minty miniature to raise money for the MS Society & Cancer Research. The art I’m doing is ten watercolour paintings based on key scenes from the film for the first ten donations over £100, then ten convention style sketches for first ten people to donate £60-£99. Folks donating £50 or more will get a signed print of one of the ten watercolours. I’m also pulling together a ‘Making of Minty’ book for the cast and crew, just as a keepsake. Beyond Minty, I’m continuing with my comic work, but also I’m writing my own Dredd fanfilm, SECTOR HOUSE 113 (teaser images below), which, all being well, I’m hoping to start directing sometime at the end of next year. It’s a riff on Assault on Precinct 13, following the last hours of a decommissioned sector house. A high value prisoner, a former judge, needs to be protected when the sector house comes under attack from local block gangs. It’s also inspired by the likes of The Pit; I really liked the ensemble cast in that series and that not every judge is as perfect as Dredd. One of the best lines from Dredd I think is “Justice has a price. The price is freedom.” Usually that’s meant as the freedom of the population, but what if you applied the same question to judges? What freedoms do they sacrifice for the job, and how does a judge resist the temptation of switching sides? That’s really what this will be about. I have locations already in mind and I hope to recruit the growing number of Judge Planet Replica cosplayers out there to bring the sector house to life, but it’s very early days yet. I can say it will star a certain Judge Burdis… People can find me on redbaz.deviantart.com or at enginecomics.blogspot.com, where I usually post stuff.