Warren Flanagan works as a concept artist, illustrator and storyboard artist in the film industry. Originally from Ireland, Warren studied classical animation at the Dun Laoghaire institute of Art and Design and worked in Dublin at various animation studios once he graduated. He Moved to Canada in 1997 and is currently based in Vancouver, BC where he works as a Concept Artist on many feature films and tv shows which include: Godzilla, Man Of Steel, The Revenant, Star Trek: Beyond and A Series Of Unfortunate Events for Netflix Warren created the short film ‘Metta Via’ with his brother Paul Flanagan, and his partner Milena Zdravkovic. Together they Produced and funded it completely independently, including the creation of the visual effects shots.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
The world of ‘Metta Via’ is an interesting one, in the film it’s almost shown as a dreamlike reality, as the main character Evelyn isn’t sure of her surroundings, so in a lot of respects it’s nightmarish. The external world of Metta via however is that the quantification of spiritualism is a reality, it’s something we’ve conquered and the process of going from one form of consciousness to another is an event or a process initialized by beings who are formless and/or are a higher form of artificial intelligence, They are Acolytes for humanity in a sense. i’m not sure if i’m ready to buy a ticket to that world quite yet.. but the world of Metta Via is a hopeful one..that death as a concept is not the end.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level?
I think Roy Batty in Blade runner is an incredible character. In a way he really is more human than human. He understands the value of life and how precious and short it is, and the four year lifespan really hits that home. You have a character that ultimately meets his maker and asks him for more life, and the answer is so nihilistic and so final.. the creator cannot grant it, so he kills his creator, his maker. it’s a very profound concept.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
AI and machine learning is definitely the next step in our evolution whether we like it of not, and i discussed this recently with my brother Paul (producer/ writer on Metta via) and even when we were fleshing out the film. AI will most likely save us from ourselves and will probably help in restoring the environment. In regards to robots making movies, that’s already begun to be honest, most big VFX sequences are already being automated in vendors, with physics based destruction algorithms etc. That’s probably a better question for my brother! He works in the vfx industry!
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I’d rather keep my bad ideas under lock and key LOL ! Ideas are interesting because there are so many out there floating around.. and usually a lot of ideas are generally very similar which is why people are a lot of times screaming ‘hey! you stole my idea!’ The reality though is that there is a collective consciousness that most of us tap into which is why a lot of concepts or ideas tend to be in a similar vein..and of course when a radical idea manifests itself in a film or in literature or in music it changes things and creates a new zeitgeist, a new collective consciousness. ‘The Matrix’ is a perfect example of that. The way it was written, constructed and achieved was a total game changer, it really woke a lot of people up..literally and figuratively! It’s still as relevant now as it was when it was released twenty years ago.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I’ve always been into science fiction, even as a child. My first love was always drawing and art, so science fiction really allows the mind of a child to flourish because there’s no boundaries..i loved reading 2000AD when i was a kid (UK comic) and would buy it religiously after school every week. My friends were also artistic and big sci-fi fans so that also helped..as you get older at least for me, the best sci-fi is the social commentaries.. ideas that have a message or a warning about humanities path. i mean i guess all the best science fiction stories are and have been cautionary tales. i recently watched Spielberg/Kubricks AI: Artificial intelligence again..and it’s amazing, the opening two minutes of that film are no longer fiction..it’s fact. Rising oceans, global warming, ice caps have melted and the rise of AI and machine learning.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
I would probably say i’m a digital person. I use photoshop exclusively when i’m illustrating, i rarely draw on paper anymore. I listen to my music digitally, i was delighted when CD’s arrived on the scene.. although i’m tempted to get a record player! I would say i’ve embraced digital. Metta via would have been impossible to achieve if it wasn't for digital cameras and digital pipeline. I love film but the cost is out of the question for indie shorts in my opinion. digital is allowing the artist in everyone to be able to create..be it music, or a film or an app.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Working as a concept artist on films and tv shows you usually have to conform your designs to the world that show has established. Inspiration is everywhere..shapes and forms. Usually though, the production designer or prop master has a very clear idea or vision for the design aesthetic of a project, and they let you play within that construct. The Production Designer is the design ‘eye’ and are responsible for the playground the film takes place in, the concept artist is their hand essentially. It’s a very cool process. On ‘Metta via’ i had a chance to design so i wanted to make sure the look of the film left an impression..at least on me! But yes..their are certain shapes, graphics and objects in the film that have a lot of intentional meaning.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
May the force live long and prosper! that’s all i can say about that! Phillip k dick.. His work is still making an impact on science fiction today. Dystopia.. The world is going that way and we need to wake up! Post apocalypse..Mad Max: the road warrior is one of my all time favourite films!