What do you think of when I say “The Lord of the Rings“? Hobbits or Uruk-hai? Viggo Mortensen or Cate Blanchett? Epic story-telling or dippy-hippy myths?
I think craftsmanship.
As a shuffling youth, I read Tolkein’s Trilogy utterly disinterested in folklore and daunted by a book 3 inches thick. I was hooked in a few chapters. Good vs Evil, but many-layered and a complex weave of characters, cultures . . . Enough. You know about it and you don’t need my summary. My point is that it was the skills of the writer that made it work for me. Made it plausible. Gave it vitality.
So it is with The Lord of the Rings Movies. Peter Jackson and his team were so thoroughly committed to the project. They totally immersed themselves and that, in turn, generated a totally immersive movie-going experience.
Alan Lee, concept artist on all three movies, once told me that each actor in the Elvish army had an individual spell, in Elvish, painted on the inside of their breast-plate, over the heart, for protection in battle. No-one saw it. And that is the point. The suspension of disbelief is total. And that carries all the way through to the audience. Keeps it real.
I get poked that, “All designers love special effects”. Nope. On their own they are just pyrotechincs. Flashy ephemera. Movie-makers often throw cash at CGI and high production values and ignore the script. The script is the content. Book, Film, Music, Products, Services, (dare I say Social Media) – Content matters. Content is the core, the essence. With my graphics, I try to take its pulse. Get that right and you can reflect it with visual communication. Without it you are left with, well decoration.
Yes, I’d rather watch The Wire than Transformers any day. But it’s not an elitist thing. Give me a good story, well-told and art direction/special effects that bring it to life and I am all there. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Twelve Monkeys, Apocalypse Now . . . Brill! Bring on the popcorn. And nothing gets the juices going more than a great soundtrack. Imagine Psycho without the violins. The Dollar films without Sergio Leone. Southern Comfort without Ry Cooder. I’d better stop or this will be one long list. But I’d love to see your favourites in the ‘comments’ box at the end of this post . . .
Before I get lost in enthusiasm (that happens). I want to change tack to technology. I am under a publishers’ embargo not to show The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films yet. Must respect that. Hence the wee teaser image above. Maybe more about the design in a later Post. Back story: In 2009 the book design (anon) had been completed. Then they binned it. Totally. In the name of quality. Blimey. No pressure then.
What’s that got to do with technology?
This ambitious book’s author Doug Adams lives/teaches/performs/writes in Chicago. He took on the task of finding a new art director for the project. After a very long trawl, a Google search found my website. Tolkien found calendars and diaries. Classical Music found my time at Decca Records. And serendipity found Douglas Adams, his namesake. So far, so good. Then he used LinkedIn, which provided my bona fides and the all-important references. E-mail contact was made.
Wrongly, I used to associate technology with an icey hand – cold, impersonal. Language can defeat that assumption. In a flurry of e-mails dialogue began. Howe Records in New York. A few phone-calls followed. We exchanged thoughts, discussed theories, developed an understanding. I was hired. Time-difference just became part of the process. I worked up designs in the morning. Sent PDFs to Doug in Chicago early morning (which we dubbed Javatime). We discussed/revised and sent to NY as they got to the office one hour later. The book is 416 pages + a rarities CD. There were a phenomenal amount of PDFs, e-mails, Skype calls, Twitter pokes et al. Nancy Starkman, Print Broker on the East Coast. Printers in South Korea. But, because of our wonderful language, we built trust, developed our relationship, crafted nuance. Made a book. And met deadlines.
We have still not met. Hi, Doug! I have yet to meet the guys in New York office, Joe Augustine and Alan Frey. Artists, Alan Lee and John Howe are in New Zealand, their pencils kissing paper in the making of The Hobbit. We will all meet for the first time when finished books are launched at a Howard Shore/LOTR concert at The Royal Albert Hall this September.
The author is now my friend. Yesterday I received a Hand-Written letter of thanks from Howard Shore for my work. Wow!
LikeMinds stimulated my interest in Social Media in May. Now I write this new Blog. I will Tweet it to a growing bunch of good folk who follow me. I will meet many of them for the first time at TheMeet 140, in Bristol, next week.
Technology today is impressive. The range of media amazing. The power of language in a 416 pp book or a 140 character Tweet is extraordinary. With great content the potential is limitless.
By the way, I am a Londoner living on Dartmoor, Devon, in England. I travel.