What does Creature and Character Design mean? Why are they used? What purpose do the serve? When you sit down to pitch an idea, depending on the team involved or the complexity, sometimes it is better to have a formed presentation before you sell the idea in 15 words or less. In the case of City 7, I wrote the entire script, formed the production team, and then we took another 3 months to go over and rewrite everything. And that was before we looked for a location, spoke to any actors, or filmed a a single episode of our webcast.
Though most of them have now been lost to time and the filing cabinet that holds all things dealing with the film. One of the steps that existed in tandem, with this process, consisted of cutting out photos of military uniforms and generating sketches of what our actors costumes would be. Then we did the same process for our zombies! Once the film schedule was decided upon by the production crew, I then had to form a make-up/costuming team, and another set of sketches/photos/magazine cuttings were generated.
Most of this is normal, every team goes through this. Even for an episode of the most trite teenage drama. The high school sports team’s uniforms have to be designed, and the main characters don’t just show up in what they had in the closet that morning. Someone designs how they will look before each episode. Even in a show like Supernatural or The Walking Dead, where the characters wear the same things every episode, those props were designed.
However at times the creative process has to go a step further. A sci-fi television show, horror movies, and video games normally have concept artists. This is a guy, like me, who sits in at the meetings and hear the more off the wall ideas, and then has to translate them into art work so everyone not on the creative team has a chance to get the idea. These art works are then used by everyone else to make the film/show/game feel the way the production team wants it too.
A big part of any creative process that involves an element of fantasy is the Creature and Character Design. Most of my personal Creature and Character design centers around the Savaged Universe. A science fiction world/universe that I have written several short stories in, and am currently attempting to unify into one book. I use this type of illustration and concept art to decide on what my aliens and main characters look like, so I can get the rough idea out of my head and take a look at them on paper. It helps when it comes time to describe them to the reader.
On the fringe of the Human Empire, during the turbulent times of expansion, exploration and colonization we run into two other struggling empires, the Sage and the Jarn. Naturally the language, social etiquette and racial differences are great enough that wars and conflicts arise. However in both cases these first two alien species become some of humanities earliest and strongest allies. We are going to look at both this week, starting with the Jarn.
The Jarn were originally “Space Orcs”, literally. My only idea was they were savage brutes with green skin that crawled out of a Tolkien novel, into a space shuttle and then went on a smashing spree. Then they became more than just savage and mindless creatures tossed in from another genre to satisfy the need for conflict. They became an developed race, that somehow got their act together long enough to make it off their home world, and develop a small fledgling empire. An empire that later, after a few wars, would join humanity and the sage in creating something larger.
This is an early concept, I was still going with the “orc” base model. Big muscle clad brutes that lived and died for war. At the time, the Jarn were a race that was brought to their knees by the Sage and Humans in a war that lasted almost a hundred years, and saw the death of most of a solar system, they just had to be more than I was giving them credit for. I mixed in the idea of honor and pride, then a feudalistic society where dueling and single combat were often used to settle disputes between Jarn tribes. I came up with this mix of Japanese and Native American cultures, a mix that would allow a society to advance into the space-age.
The Jarn were reborn, still brutes and giants, still more likely to get into a bar fight over a spilled drink than to talk about their feelings. But focused and honor bound, intelligent and ambitious. In fact even as I reworked how they looked, and how their society functioned, I reworked how they became part of the Empire. The Jarn Wars were ended by a Peace Treaty, where each side saw the damage the war was creating. However the Jarn Civil Wars were born in the same event. Half the Jarn tribes siding with the Human and Sage Empire, while the other half declared war, and fought a retreating battle into what has become “Wild Space”.
Still brutish, their bodies reflecting life-times of war, their technology bulky and inelegant. But they had their own look, something that didn’t make them just “Space Orcs” anymore.
I still have yet to tackle what their spacecraft look like! If you wold like to know more about the Savaged Universe check out my other blog: One Hundred