When you look through Miles Teves' online concept art portfolio, it's hard not to feel sad about how cool Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation, plus a Dune movie, could have looked. And his design for Spider-Man's Goblin is clearly superior.
Teves is not shy about saying that his concept art for some of the most high-profile films of the past decade looks cooler than the designs the movies ended up going with. On his website, he laments the fact that everybody seemed to like his Green Goblin design, "yet somehow, in the mix of Hollywood nonsense, we ended up with that horrible, clunky, Kabuki mask in the film that everyone agrees is one of the worst villain costumes in modern cinema." When we interviewed him, he referenced the Green Goblin art once again, as something that had been passed over for "lesser designs."
We asked him what his favorite piece of concept art was, and he responded:
I just did something for a movie coming up called 'Your Highness' that is pretty fun and disgusting, but I have no idea if the idea will survive the process and be in the film. Awesome piece? I would have a hard time pointing to a piece I did that I consider to be actually 'awesome'. But, there are a few things, like the character of Darkness in Legend which, when I see on the screen, brought to life by a great actor, is still a thrill. Robocop as well. Pirates of the Caribbean. I am more proud of a small contribution I might make to a good film, than to a big contribution I make to a bad film. Some of my best work was done for films that never came to be, such as the work I did for XO.
But at least we get to admire his work with films like the latter two Terminator films — and how cool is it that he randomly inserted Thomas Dekker into some of his illustrations of Skynet hardware for Terminator Salvation? Apparently he worked on Terminator Salvation very early in the process, when the script was still in flux, and he came up with a Terminator assassin that's close to the T-800 design, but slightly bigger, clunkier and even more menacing, if that's possible.
Here's what Teves has to say about the life of a Hollywood concept artist:
A concept artist, more often than not, shows up every day to work after a long commute across Los Angeles, only to work in a dark and moldy environment, devoid of windows, crammed in a small space with other illustrators, and has a production designer hovering over them often art directing their pencil or stylus even before it is finished making it's first stroke. If one is lucky, and the production designer has a long meeting or is gone for the day, one can actually get some creative work done.
There is no 'glory'. Working conditions are often terrible. The Art Director's Union provides no guarantee of a credit on the film (something they bargained away back in the 60's!), although our contribution to the big tent-pole films we work on is immeasurable, we are given no real appreciation for it. Though it is now commonplace for writers to lift ideas from our work and incorporate it into their scripts, they get residuals for their work and we get nothing. We are the first hired on a job, and the most easily forgotten at the end of the job. Today's big effects films are so visually driven that we practically write and direct the film, yet are never acknowledged for it , and are in fact, intentionally kept down so that we do not get an idea of how valuable we are to a production.
Also, productions are finding more and more clever ways to farm out work to non union artists in all corners of the world so that they do not have to pay good rates and benefits. All these things are eroding away at our little corner of the industry.