Episode 194 — Enrique Torres
Enrique Torres is an Emmy Award winning artist with an expertise in VFX, character design and concept design. He has a Bachelors Degree from the Art Institute in Media Arts and Animation. In the past 10 years, he utilized his talents by working within the movie, television and game industries. Enrique has worked on films such as Twilight, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Sport Science, Thor, Captain America, Avengers and more. Since 2006, he has worked on over 300 projects that vary from commercials, music videos, games, ads, print, web development, to film. He is currently a Creative Director at BOND, one of the leading Hollywood-based studios responsible for creating film posters.
In this Podcast, Enrique talks about his background as a generalist, the importance of understanding the pipeline and the biggest mistake that all junior VFX artists must avoid making!
Enrique Torres on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2669080/
Enrique Torres on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/enriqueart/
BOND on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/b-o-n-d/
BOND Website: https://www.wearebond.com
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[00:44] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[03:44] I have a new VFX Training Course available right now at www.VFXCourse.com. This is almost 20 hours of high end live action training. This is a massive Course and you can download all the assets!
[48:40] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH ENRIQUE TORRES
[04:36] Allan: Do you want to introduce yourself?
Enrique: Yeah, my name is Enrique Torres and I’m a Creative Director at BOND.
[04:46] Allan: Awesome, man! What are some of the recent posters you’ve done that people have done?
Enrique: Out of the ones that have been released? The one that you and I worked on: The Avengers. Then, Godzilla has released the character posters. Let me see which recent stuff we’ve done, on our website.
[05:40] Allan: You do some of the biggest projects, be it First Man or Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Venom. Did you always expect to become an artist?
Enrique: Oh, yeah. A little bit of a backstory: I grew up in San Ysidro which is by the border of Tijuana. My parents were always encouraging of my brother and I to do art. The earliest I can remember is being 6 years old when I watched the Disney cartoons. You hear that from artists a lot, I’m sure. That’s when it clicked in my mind: I wanted to be an animator!
[06:56] Allan: So when did you get your first big break?
Enrique: That’s a good question! At 17, I got my first job as an artist at California Caricatures, at at the mall in San Diego…
[07:28] Allan: So obviously that’s a side gig to do when you’re a lot younger. But is there any life lesson you learned from doing art with a 1,000 eyes on you?
Enrique: Oh, for sure! Communication was my number one thing! I didn’t even know that I was such an introvert and I didn’t know how to deal with people. When you’ve got 1,000 eyes on you and your job is to sell your skills, you learn to communicate and to communicate with people from around the world. I jumped on the theme parks at 19. You started to learn how to communicate. I still use [those skills] to this day. When you deal with artists and clients, everyone is different. But you have to talk to them the right way. I had a really good teacher and he told me to teach myself how to get rejected. Sometimes you should do it on purpose, just to know what it feels like. So for the whole year, I started drawing ugly people. Just to get a reaction from them.
[09:43] Allan: So you did that for a year, just making crapy drawings to get a reaction? That’s cool! It’s such a valuable thing. Most people when they’re afraid, it’s not even logical. But what’s the worst that could happen? By experiencing the worst, you realize it’s not that bad.
Enrique: It’s like being rejecting asking a girl out. But then you try it and realize, “I’m just going to keep asking.”
[10:44] Allan: Dating and business are the same thing essentially. Now that you’ve experienced rejection, you start going out there.
Enrique: So that’s what I got from the theme park: A miniature experience of clients and employees. It’s like a short interview because you have to sell your skills. We called it the artist bootcamp. You got everything in those 15 minutes.
[11:46] Allan: It’s kind of like speed painting in a way. I’ve got friends who do that everyday. They get better every day. I think it’s pretty fascinating. Did you find that it came pretty naturally, or did you have to grow into it?
Enrique: For me, I had to grow and learn. For the first year, I thought I was a natural because I was a top seller right away. But being on top so young isn’t that great. My head grew. You stop learning. I stepped back and started to make mistakes — so I could learn from them again.
[13:02] Allan: To jump into visual effects for a while, you worked in VFX for a few years. What were some of the bigger projects you worked on?
Enrique: One was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Remember that one?
[13:25] Allan: Who was that with? HALON, With Brad Alexander (www.allanmckay.com/145). What was that like?
Enrique: That was a great experience! It was my first big visual effects job when I came to LA, with no experience. I just wanted to do it and I was so eager. The environment was so fast paced because everything had to be shown live in previs. But I enjoyed every moment of it! I took a lot out of how things worked. I now apply it to design and print.
[14:38] Allan: What were some of the other projects that stood out?
Enrique: Definitely that one! I guess when I won an Emmy for Sports Science. It was really cool! One of the other shows that was a great experience was the Red Bull New Year’s Eve Show. They would have someone do a stunt. They hired this motorcyclists to jump on top of a building in Vegas. We had to do the visual effects for that. (We had to simulate what would happen if he missed the building.) There was no wiggle room time wise. TV shows are the ones I always remember. They have small staff and fast turnarounds. I did some Twilight. That was pretty cool!
[17:07] Allan: That’s cool! So going to BOND, how did that come to fruition?
Enrique: That’s when you and I got to know each other. You know my style is everywhere. If you’ve seen my work, I always like to try new things, to animate, to do 3D. I tried story boarding, compositing, visual effects, some games. I realized I hit a void at 29. It felt like every studio needed a specialist. I felt my stuff was way too broad. I was always trying to go into different departments. It wasn’t heard of. I decided to just venture out and see what’s out there. I came across someone with whom I work now who showed me print design: Patrick Dillon, [Owner of BOND]. Something struck me like lightening! He talked about mixing design and 3D into poster design. I was like, “I’m sold!” That’s how it came to fruition. I didn’t know anything about print design.
[20:41] Allan: I was at BOND for 3.5 days. It was such a quick turnaround! It’s interesting because I haven’t done any print since 2000. With The Avengers piece, I got a lot of pride from it. It’s cool seeing your artwork. You can’t go anywhere without seeing that poster. It’s cool to see your actual work. (As opposed to working on a sequence that may or may not make it into the movie trailer.)
Enrique: It is cool! The same thing with me: That pride! I take a lot of pride working on a poster. You work with a team, just like in visual effects. You can see the part you worked on. You’re a small piece of a giant machine, but it’s not that big of a group [as in VFX]. And our contribution is very visual and it’s clear as day. When I worked on the Godzilla teaser, it was my pride and joy.
[23:45] Allan: When you were going in, did you feel like you were taking a drastically different step? Did you feel like you were leaving visual effects at the time?
Enrique: Yeah, it was definitely something… I forgot to mention I worked on compositing for Avengers. It was something I didn’t know what kind of step I was taking. My first project was Borderlands 2. Just seeing how drastic it is and how big they treat it. It was a different perspective. I took pieces of everything I’d learned [into it]. I had to create a pipeline. Our turnaround is really short.
[25:16] Allan: I didn’t know what the project was. I had to sign two NDA’s. I was almost going to back out. (It was also my fault: I also had another engagement.) What takes you 2 months, you wanted to have that in print work. You could be signing up for failure. Print is different. I remember chatting with people in the 90s. In the film industry, they worked in 2K res and you could see everything wrong with your work. Talk about print work! It’s full blown and you can pick it apart! That’s got to be daunting!
Enrique: For sure! This is why it’s great to have — once you learn how each department works — what each department does.
[27:19] Allan: Do you mind walking through the whole process?
Enrique: I’ll do my best! It all starts with the client having an idea. It’s our job to make the idea come to fruition and make it as create as possible.
[27:45] Allan: At that point, how in-depth is that idea? Or do you they come with concept work?
Enrique: It varies. It could be intuitive and well thought out. Other times, they have the idea and have conceptual artists draw it. No different how it works in film. The clients will keep working with the artists and change things.
- Once they lock into the concept work, we move on to building the assets and comping variations of that design.
- Once thing get to the finishing stage, we have a finishing department. They’re like photo retouchers. They take the comp to making sure everything looks very nice, at the resolution we’re going to see on those posters. You can’t make mistakes when you’re going to see a print that large.
- The production department do a lot of hard work making sure it prints and all the decals are right.
That’s the short of it. The art directors are more involved in the beginning. Now they’re starting to be more involved with matte painting. Since films have huge CG, people want to make sure that quality stays in print design.
[31:22] Allan: I remember getting a call from you, guys, years ago. I was working on Call of Duty. You needed an effect for a poster. I remember saying, you could do it in 3D but I recommend going the painting route. Matte painting is the smart way to go. It’s good to detail things out.
Enrique: A lot of the print design companies are going to schools like Gnomon to recruit artists. It’s an evolving process to involve 3D and matte painting in print design.
[32:45] Allan: What are the tools you, guys, use?
Enrique: I was a vast person. Having people like Patrick Dillon understand that having people with several talents is always great. The 3D departments have evolved. When I hire people, I hire artists I can see myself in. We have some guys who are 3D guys with passion for matte painting. Everyone on my team have done designs and illustration. I worked on — where it didn’t involve any 3D — is WWE 2K cover. The client gave me an idea. It was just purely Photoshop.
As far as 3D softwares, we’ve narrowed it down to Maya, Zbrush and Substance Painter. Occasionally, we use 3DS Max, mostly for our game clients. We’ve used Mari a few times.
[35:06] Allan: How are you finding Substance Painter so far, as it’s evolving?
Enrique: Oh, it’s awesome! The fact that you can slap material onto a character, it makes the process faster. Substance source and the library is such a great thing. You used to have to go online and look for it. I enjoy it and it’s fun playing with it!
[35:49] Allan: Have they moved to 8K textures yet?
Enrique: Yeah, they’re at 8K now. I’m waiting for them to jump into UDIM tile painting. Once they get into that, it will hurt Mari.
[36:19] Allan: When it comes to hiring artists, you already mentioned it. But what do you typically look for when hiring for your team?
Enrique: I definitely look for someone who has more than 3D skills, mainly because in print it does involve more than 3D. You have to get in and apply other skills, sometimes, to make a render or to make it work, in a short span of time. The print world isn’t always 3D heavy. Sometimes, it’s just a design or matte painting. I look for someone who has a strong illustration or drawing background and has an eye for design. I always ask to see some of their traditional art work. That’s my number one thing! I would always hire that [artist] over someone with strong technical background. That’s something that can progress overtime anyway.
[38:23] Allan: Having managed big teams of people, do you find that there are common mistakes that everyone makes? Or any red flags that you try to avoid?
Enrique: The one big mistake that I see, if I can be honest about it, when you hire a student or a young artist who doesn’t know the process — but they think they know everything (because they were a straight A student so they think they know everything).
[39:17] Allan: The last couple of weeks, I’ve had this conversation with several supervisors.
Enrique: That’s the number one mistake every junior artist makes. I’ve seen that happen in VFX. I’ll be honest: I was that dumb, cocky kid too! Be aware of that and fix it before it’s too late. No matter the grades you got in school, you’re starting over. You’re being a student in the world again. Listen to the people above you and they will guide you to success.
[40:22] Allan: With all the projects you worked on, which three are your most favorite?
Enrique: I think the Godzilla teaser in 2014. Even the experience on that was great! I worked with this talented guy Sergio. We worked on a Pacific Rim poster together. We had a great relationship working together. I was another quick turnaround. Warner Bros were nice enough to give me some concept work for Godzilla. But another nice thing about being in the print work, we get to have some creative liberties, even from a fan aspect. I wanted to make something that would make a fan happy. Sergio made his magic happen, on top of that.
My claim to fame was for the Night King in — what was it? — Season 6 of Game of Thrones. That was a great one! And one of my favorites! It was cool to see his face as the poster.
[43:27] Allan: For your 3D department, what’s the typical turn around? Are you provided with assets or are you expected to build everything from scratch?
Enrique: That depends on the projects. Sometimes they supply us with assets. Other times, we don’t have anything because we start so early in the process. One example was Tarzan. All the gorillas behind him were built by me and my team. Also, Turbo Squid is our best friend. So the turnaround: One project, I had a day to make something. Other times, we have a week. We go as fast as we can. We don’t have to worry about poly counts. Zbrush is our best friend! The end product is what matters. Oh yeah, looking at the poster, we also worked on The Bumble Bee. The client gave us the assets. That was really cool.
[46:36] Allan: What’s next for you?
Enrique: Lots! Not many I could talk about. Whenever there is a giant summer movie coming up, we’ll be aiming for it. Personally, I plan to go back to take a class or two to just brush up on what’s going on, what new technology is happening. I encourage my team to do that as well. Our industry always evolves.
[47:44] Allan: Thanks for taking the time to chat, man! It’s been awesome!
Enrique: Thank you! It would be great to work again together, in the future. Even hanging out would be cool!
I want to thank Enrique for this interview.
To get the free VFX training course, please go to: www.VFXCourse.com.
I will be back next week with a new Episode. In the meantime, if you found this Episode valuable, please share it on your social media. Thank you for listening!
Until next week —
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