Searching for concept art after a movie has been released is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes, I turn up with 0 results, but other times, I feel like I’ve struck gold. This happened to me recently when I went searching for concept art of The Old Guard.
Before I show you the goods, you might be wondering why hunting for concept art is a hobby of mine. Every movie goes through a variety of stages before it shows up in theaters and streaming platforms. My favorite stage is pre-production because that’s where the foundations are laid out, from finalizing the script to finding the right cast. Somewhere in between comes the storyboards and concept art. In my opinion, these artists and the work they do are important in creating a visual interpretation of the screenplay and helping to establish the visual identity of a movie.
When it comes to The Old Guard, there were several art directors and a variety of artists with different specializations that collaborated together. This talented and creative group also included Caravan Studio.
“Caravan Studio was an outsource vendor for the concept art and key visuals during the pre-production stage of the movie,” said Chris Lie, the founder of Caravan Studio. I reached out to them to learn more about the partnership, inspiration, and creative process.
Radical Grid: Can you talk about how this partnership between Caravan Studio and Skydance/Netflix came about? How did they approach you for The Old Guard?
Chris Lie: Caravan Studio was brought into the project by Paul Kirby, the production designer of The Old Guard. We had worked together on his previous project, Skyfire/Tianhuo (2019), a blockbuster CGI movie from China directed by Simon West. We had a chance to meet him personally in Pinewood Studio Malaysia during the project. I remember it was a surreal moment for us: meeting him, visiting the set, and meeting the amazing crews of that movie. We loved Paul’s works on Captain Phillips, Jason Bourne, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Hellboy, so we were honored that Paul liked our work and then brought us along to help with his projects.
RG: I’m familiar with Paul Kirby’s work, especially in the projects you mentioned. He has a thoughtful and effective approach when it comes to production design, and the impressive collaboration between him, his team, and the Studio is clearly evident in the movie.
RG: What inspiration did the Studio draw upon for the concept art?
CL: When we were assigned to create key arts for this project, the first thing we did was read the first trade paperback of the comic to get the sense and feel of the characters and story. At that point, the information about the cast was still limited, so we didn’t know much about the cast besides Charlize Theron.
From reading the comic, we envisioned it would be an adventure of this team traveling to different places around the world with exciting action sequences. We felt the movie would have a grand feel to it.
RG: Having read the comic book series recently for the first time, I can see the influence it had on the key arts, especially in the use of color. When you flip through the comics, you come across pages that are entirely in cool (blue and purple) or warm (red and orange) colors. The “Abandoned Village” artwork above reminds me of the comics, and it further demonstrates how closely Caravan studied the source material while also translating and reinterpreting it for a new medium.
RG: You’ve collaborated with many clients over the years, such as Marvel Comics, Hasbro, Riot Games, and HBO Asia, to name a few. What was the creative process like for this movie in particular?
CL: The process was very smooth, thanks to the guidance from Paul. As the production designer, he was the one who established the visual tone and concept of the movie. He scouted locations and took pictures of the potential locations for the scenes. Then, he created a concept guide with a very comprehensive reference and emailed it to us. From that brief, we started to compose all the different elements into the location’s photograph, infusing a certain mood/atmosphere of the scene as well as the time and setting (whether it was daytime, nighttime, dawn, etc.).
We usually sent the rough composition first and 70% work in progress for review, before we polished the artwork to finish. The production for 1 key art varied from 1 day to 2 weeks, depending on the deadline and complexity of the artwork. There were also times when we had to revise or redo the concept because there were changes during the production, such as location and property changes.
RG: I think most audiences don’t appreciate the amount of effort and work that goes into the pre-production stage, so I thank you for breaking down the process. The different hands touching the project this early on are building the foundation for the movie, so it’s fascinating to see the collaboration between Paul Kirby, his team, and the Studio and how that eventually evolves into what we see in The Old Guard.
RG: Some of the Studio’s Old Guard concept art (such as “Runway,” “Hospital,” and “Hang the Witches,” as seen above) are very close to what we see in the movie. How does your team feel about the role they played in helping to shape the design and aesthetic of these particular scenes?
CL: We are definitely very proud and also happily surprised when we watched the movie (on the first day, of course). The credit actually belongs to Paul’s team, who were able to transform the drawings into really amazing sets. I personally think the actual scenes are even better than the key art we produced. The costumes, props, and extra details really elevate the end result on screen to another level.
As an artist and fanboy, having the chance to work on this project is already a dream come true. And working under Paul really taught us invaluable lessons about developing visual concepts for the movie. We are really proud of the result and very happy the movie is also doing very well on Netflix. I hope we will have more chances in the future to work on cool projects like The Old Guard.
RG: Thank you so much for the amazing work you and your team did and for taking the time to answer my questions! With a sequel hopefully in the works, I hope Caravan Studio returns and continues to help shape the visual identity of what comes next, but I’m also looking forward to your future work on other exciting projects.
Featured Image: Skydance Media, Netflix
Article Images: Caravan Studio