Having already had a very successful career as freelance artist working for high-profile clients – including LucasFilm, Rhythm & Hues, Activision, Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation – in the past, Ben Mauro first began creating his incredible 3D art while working on feature films at Weta Workshop. Here he tells us more about his successful freelance career and what it was like working on Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium.
Most of these clients came to me based on my portfolio and the artwork seen in various published books and websites online. So, with most of those clients, I just got lucky! The main challenges with freelancing are that though you get much higher rates, things are also very unpredictable, which is a bit stressful at times, whereas an in-house studio job is much more steady, but the pay is usually a bit lower. So a lot of it is just a lifestyle choice I guess, freelancing is a bit unpredictable but you can make your own hours and work on multiple cool projects at the same time which personally keeps my mind creatively engaged… which is a big plus for me.
You told us that The Hobbit and Elysium were two of the first jobs you worked at during your four years at Weta. Can you tell us more about what it was like to work on them?
Aaron Beck, Leri Greer, Christian Pearce, Stuart Thomas and myself were on the project very early, generating artwork for about a year as Neill [Blomkamp] was writing his script to help him figure out the film he wanted to create. Towards the end of that year things got a little more locked down and Aaron and I illustrated all the main moments from the script. Those, along with a lot of the guns, weapons, characters, props and vehicles we all created, were put into a pitch book and were used to help sell studios on the idea and get actors on board. After that, things got a bit more production-heavy – we had to start nailing down all the main design elements so that they could be manufactured at the workshop.
Weta is a very open environment, so we had a lot of freedom to work on many projects at the same time. New jobs would come in and almost everyone would generate artwork for them. Each artist has different strengths and some are more suited for jobs than others so the people who end up working on particular jobs are a result of whose artwork the director responds to most. When I first started working there, I wanted to experience everything so I really threw myself into the all the projects I could, but after a little while I felt like Elysium would just be more interesting to me personally and a better learning experience, since the team was much smaller and the briefs much more open than such a massive project like The Hobbit.