2014 Snapshot Archive: Lewis Morley

First published at David McDonald’s blog.

Lewis  has a Bachelor of the Arts in Interior design from Sydney College of the Arts, and a Certificate in Art Direction from the Australian Film, TV and Radio School. He has worked for almost 30 years in the Australian film & TV industries. His specialities are miniatures and visual effects, special props, concept modelmaking and illustration. He has also won the “Ditmar” award for best Australian Science Fiction Artist. You can find out more here.

In the past you have worked for WETA on some incredible movies. What was your favourite project, and why?

Being asked to work at WETA was one of the high points of my film career. The Workshop is like Mount Olympus, everyone there is the best, working at the peak of their abilities. My traditional work method is to be involved in all aspects of the design, construction, finishing and filming of my projects. WETA is organised on a much more partitioned operation, with work often shared around to give everyone a go. I worked on Weta Collectables, both Lord of the Rings and Dr. Grodbort’s blasters as well as the films “The Hobbit” and “Elysium”. The Hobbit workload was Goblin weapon finishing, Azog costume development and constructing a lightweight Gandalf dummy for the final battle. Elysium tasks included sculpting a maquette of the robot suit (my personal favourite), building a mock-up robot suit and developing an on-set disintegrating Chem-Rail gun effect.

The guitar that you made for Richard Harland is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Can you tell us how that project came about? Have you made any other custom projects based on objects from books? If you could pick any object from any book to make, what would it be?

I was asked by Richard to create something impressive on a budget (which is my natural comfort zone!). I have a laser cutter/etcher which was perfect to produce the engraved brass and inlaid marble components that change the look of the guitar but still allow it to be played. There are some antique style brass handles over the strings which look great but may cramp his style a little! I’m also indebted to Eric Lindsay who bought a lightning-effect display which he generously gave to me because he felt I could make better use of it. Concealed beneath a clear plastic hemisphere filled with crystal shred, it gives the perfect illusion of a pulsating power crystal.

In the past, I’ve made faux tin-toys based on stories by Ray Bradbury.

As for other book inspired works, I’d love to do the Martian machines from War of the Worlds. Warwick Goble, Frank Paul, Mike Trim and Roger Dean have all done distinctive versions, but with my laser cutter, I think I could do something interesting with Well’s description of the Martian pivot-less sliding knee joint…

What projects are you currently working on? Where can we see more of your work?

I have many uncompleted projects, two that I really want to get back to are short films that have already had pre-viz animatics completed, so I know how long they run and what needs to be filmed to complete them.

One is “March of Progress” a faux 1960’s style documentary about a veteran flyer of the Inner World War who used his magnetic powered aircraft to vanquish inter-dimensional bio weapons.

The other is “Your standard day on the Nets” a claymation short featuring my comic character “Peregrine Besset” dealing with inter-dimensional junk falling into her world…

I created this character almost 15 years ago and am currently developing a rebooted version with a more considered world view. I take the writing workshops at Continuum very seriously and am attempting to integrate the insights I’ve learned there into a more holistic narrative.

The existing 7 issues I have written, drawn or produced are archived in the comics page atwww.redworldstories.com but I feel they are a very crude version of the story I now want to tell.

A more complete overview of my various works can be seen at www.morleypride.com

What Australian works have you loved recently?

My most recent film was “Infini” which had an ambitious high concept “Outland meets 28 Days later” vibe. I haven’t seen the final cut, so I don’t know if they’ve successfully pulled off the story structure, but I had a great opportunity to inject some interesting design work into the hand guns and helmets. In a world clogged with spacey combat helmets, I was able to give the final look a slightly different feel.

With Australian  stuff that I’ve had nothing to do with, the writings of Anna Tambour are a firm favourite, not just her stories like “Crandolin” but also her blog “Medlar Comfits“.

Have recent changes in the film industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The basic structure for film production has changed in the last 15 years, moving away from a reliance on multi-skilled individuals and towards more ordered workers within highly compartmentalized skill sets. This makes it a lot harder to learn different skills, move between departments or progress beyond a defined pay scale. The simplest example is Ray Harryhausen doing most of the effects for “Earth Vs the Flying Saucers” by himself versus the 15,000 people employed in the latest “Planet of the Apes” film. The increased sophistication and demands of modern big budget production means it is almost impossible for one person (no matter how skilled) to produce a finished work. I have found my options within big productions shrinking and I am moving towards independent productions that still allow me some creative freedom.

I think the only way forward for my own comic story is as a web comic. This imposes a three-panel episode structure, but also allows for full colour in the final images (something beyond the economics of photocopied comics) Chopping the story into smaller instalments may also allow for more regular delivery.

The only thing I can’t solve is how to get any sort of return on the effort expended. Maybe some kind of micro-payment might give some incentive, but as it exists the project is purely a labour of love. I have dreams of some kind of animated version, but as yet, no practical way of achieving it…

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