Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our forty-seventh guests are a father and daughter team. He’s the designer of the iconic Darth Maul and she’s an up and coming concept and costume designer – Iain and Mishi McCaig.
Lightsabre – Iain and Mishi, welcome to Lightsabre.
MM – Hello.
IM – Howdy.
Lightsabre – Mishi, tell us something of your career. How did you get to where you are in the industry today?
MM – Draw, draw, draw! Obviously I had such a perfect role model while growing up for someone who wants to be a future artist, so that has helped me along the way a great deal. I also had my two art schools, Cogswell Polytechnical College and San Jose State, who really pushed me to never stop drawing, and taught me about working as a team, which is incredibly important in this industry.
Lightsabre – Iain, the last time we spoke we discussed your works on past projects, one of which was Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country. Now the two of you are involved on a fascinating project, the latest instalment of the brilliant New Voyages, ‘World Enough and Time’. How did this come about?
IM – Director and Writer Marc Zicree and I go way back. We’ve collaborated for many years on Magic Time, a dark fantasy tale of Marc’s. The premise is that magic has returned to the world, and it ain’t pretty. It was to be a television series at first, but incarnated instead as a series of novels for Harper Collins, for which I did the covers. We still hope to bring Magic Time to the screen someday (big screen, little screen, any screen). As for Star Trek and ‘World Enough and Time’, it was the promise of millions of dollars. Either that, or the chance to work on Star Trek costumes with my daughter. Same difference.
Lightsabre – Mishi, to be involved in such a project like this must be exhilarating?
MM – You said it. There’s such an amazing collection of people involved in this project and I’m just so happy to be a part of it.
Lightsabre – Iain, Ninth Ray certainly has a glut of exciting projects on the block, including Outlander and John Carter of Mars. Are there any other projects lined up that you can give us an insight into?
IM – To be honest, it’s totally selfish. All these exciting projects are just an excuse to keep an extraordinary group of artists together and in peak condition for my own films, as soon as they’re ready to go. Having said that, new projects include Marvel’s Iron Man. We’re also bidding on the development work for a series of films based on the un-told tales of Ray Harryhausen.
Lightsabre – A question to both of you. Both of you are involved in John Carter of Mars, a film that, if all the myriad parts come together, should be a genuine movie classic. From your vantage points, what do you feel makes a projects hang together? Is it mainly down to the producer, designers, director, studio or is it an equal pie-wedge of many various pieces?
MM – This is one of those classic stories that you just can’t wait to see as a film. I say “can’t wait” because the project has temporarily been put on hold while Jon Favreau directs Iron Man, and I’m really looking forward to the day it to jumps back into action. The Director and Producers are irreplaceable when it comes to making any movie, but one of my favorite things about working in the film industry is how collaborative it is. Everyone plays a huge role in contributing to what you finally see on the big screen.
IM – Of course, the STORY is the true backbone. It is the support that everything else hangs from. If the story and the storytelling are not rock solid, everything else tends to fall apart.
Lightsabre – Mishi, as well as working alongside Iain you are also interacting with a true sci-fi legend in George Takei. How much fun was that – Takei is certainly a larger than life character?
MM – It was more fun than I can tell you! George Takei is such a kind and incredible guy. When we went to meet him at his house, he and Brad invited us in and made us feel right at home with cookies and stories. He has such a powerful presence and the best voice. I could listen to him talk for hours.
Lightsabre – Iain, since we last spoke you completed work on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and, with Ninth Ray, Charlottes Web. How satisfied were you with Potter, and what are your hopes for Charlottes Web?
IM – I had a great time working on Harry Potter – the art team were all wizards in their own right and Stuart Craig, the Production Designer, was pure Dumbledore. The Prisoner of Azkaban is still my favorite of the series, but Goblet of Fire is next. As for Charlotte’s Web, I was called in mainly to help sort out the design for Charlotte, the gentle web-spinning wordsmith. It was an easy fix: the Studio was using a Wolf Spider, and Wolf Spiders don’t spin webs (they do have sticky thread, but they use it to wrap up their prey). Charlotte is Aranea Cavaticus, a Barn Spider. Barn Spiders spin the most gorgeous webs. So all I did was convince the Studio to use the right spider, and the design kind of took care of itself. All of which to say, I have high hopes for Charlotte’s Web. Especially since Phil Tippett Studios’ blew us all away with their animation for Templeton the Rat.
Lightsabre – Mishi, what were your feelings on Revenge of the Sith? Now the saga is complete, and as someone who is in the business but was not actively involved in that production how do you feel about the design evolution from Menace to Jedi?
MM – I love the look and designs in all three of the new Star Wars films. I haven’t had anyone disagree with me yet when I say those are some of the coolest art-of books to come out yet. All the creature designs for Star Wars have always had a mythological-type culture behind them, which I think makes the films stand out from any other sci-fi movie. When Iain was working on Clone Wars, I was lucky enough to join the Art Department for “bring you daughter to work day”. I remember grabbing a sheet of paper and pencils and pretending to be a concept artist drawing among them. It probably looked silly to everyone else, but it was so exciting for me.
Lightsabre – Iain, as CGI has replaced optical work, and the artists palette has broadened exponentially, film makers now have no limitations on their imagination. Do you feel this is a totally good thing, or do restrictions and compromises sometimes engender more original ideas, such as Roddenberry designing the Transporter Beam due to budgetary restrictions, or the sparse use of Bruce in Jaws and Ridley Scot’s Alien?
IM – Nah, bring it on. The impurity in the oyster shell potential of CGI is indulgence and laziness. That’s still a restriction, something you have to fight against. It can still produce pearls, like Toy Story, just as the restrictions that produced Alien can also produce non-pearls, like Anaconda.
Lightsabre – Mishi, you wrote, directed, edited and starred in Point Blank, a short film about a game of Russian Roulette. Will there be more projects to follow?
MM – Oh, you found that film? Ha ha! Point Blank was made during my course at New York Film Academy. Since then, directing has become one of my passions, so yes, there will be many more following.
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you both in the future?
MM – It seems the future for a freelance artist is always a mystery, but there will definitely be many more paintings and films.
IM – I get a lot of requests to put out a book of my artwork. I’ve been so focused on writing screenplays and big fat novels that I’ve been ignoring them, but I’m starting to feel guilty about it. As a compromise, I’m toying with the idea of a graphic novel. So either a graphic novel or an ‘Art of Iain McCaig’ book or both, for all those fans who wouldn’t let me let it go.
I’m also hoping my two front-runner film projects will take flight soon. If they do, you’ll be the first to know.
Lightsabre – A quick question about Lightsabre site. Any comments?
MM – To be honest, this is the first time I’ve been on the site, but I really like it, Stories and art…you can’t get better than that, Oh yeah, and nice photo Mark!
IM – Any site aware and thoughtful enough to headline the passing of the great Tim Hildebrandt is a site to remember, in my books.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guests. Just one final question. The Guardian Angel from Point Blank, Hikaru Sulu and John Carter are secretly entered into a clog dancing competition. None of them have any particular skills at clog dancing, but the winner wins a lifetimes supply of Romulan Ale. Who wins the clog-off?
MM – Well, if Romulan Ale was on the line, I can tell you the Guardian Angel would be Clogging the other contestants. No pun intended. Cheers!
IM – Hmm…illogical…I like it.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 2nd July 2006.