Sunday, September 21, 2008

Raymation: An Interview with Artist/Director Ray Prado

You just don’t find men like Ray Prado in Vermont. I mean, motion picture director, storyboard artist, animator, music video producer, college football player, wine connoisseur and retailer, and that’s just for starters. Did I mention guapo? Well he is. Actually, you don’t find men like Ray Prado anywhere, so how did he come to co-own a small patisserie in Vermont you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Ray grew up in Denver Colorado, of Chicano/Native-American/Japanese heritage. He attended Dartmouth College and majored in visual studies, art history and anthropology. In his early 20s he made his way west again, and “lied” himself onto a game show and won enough money to last until he got his first job drawing storyboards (seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up).

He was then hired by Marvel Productions to storyboard/direct a rap-oriented cartoon called "Kid N Play" based on the rap duo of the same name. “I think I was hired because I was young and cheap and understood the music.” He eventually went on to draw storyboards for major Hollywood motion pictures including Devil's Advocate and X-Men which, he says, nearly sent him into an early retirement. He is also a second unit director and has worked on such disparate movies as Dodgeball and Ray, for which director Taylor Hackford was nominated for best director by the DGA and by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

But he and his wife Gesine eventually tired of the Hollywood lifestyle and they moved back east ostensibly for her to go to culinary school, but with the unexpected success of her macaroons they opened up a—as he refers to it--not-so-profit bakery called Gesine Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont.

All this is dazzling enough (can you say hombre de Renaissance?) but what really impresses me about Ray is his versatility. This week he launched a music video that he directed and animated that is one of the most sophisticated and haunting pieces of animation I’ve ever seen. I spoke to Ray between lattes this afternoon:

Congratulations on your music video for Wasted. What a spectacular and complex piece of animation. How long did it take to complete?

Thank you. Well, I started it about a year ago in August of 2007. I had to stop altogether in December when I had to direct 2nd unit on Love Ranch in New Mexico and couldn't get back to it until after another movie I did in the spring in Boston called The Proposal. In all, I probably completed it in about six months elapsed time.

How did you get involved in the project?

I am a big fan of Matthew Bryan. We met here in Vermont and I thought, WOW, this guy is a unique raw talent that people need to know about. When he decided to move to Austin and pursue his career there, I offered to make him a video so he would have a kind of "calling card". As a painter, I would hire Matthew as a model and thought it would be great to combine the two mediums.

Is the process similar to what you do as a storyboard artist?

Similar in the way that in order to get it done I have to draw like a madman without even thinking about going back and making adjustments and changes to what I had already drawn. Very different in that it was much more of a creative endeavor with no restraints and I approached it as if I were just animating my doodles and free-form sketches that would reflect whatever was in my mind when I sat down that day to draw. The only constant was sticking to the mood of what I felt when I first heard his song and keeping Matthew well-rendered so that we could actually see him singing. He is amazing to watch.

When did you start drawing?

I always liked to draw, but somehow I was convinced that it wasn't a legit profession for an ivy leaguer to do for a living. I was a little ashamed of my talent, actually. I felt a bit like a living stereotype, in a way. The Latino artist making his way out of the barrio with a paint brush. Only there was no barrio. I was a football player and I couldn't speak Spanish.

I wised up eventually. Embraced my talents and have lived an incredible life.

There is so much in the video that is stylized like a graphic novel, are you influenced by that art form?

Of course I am. As I was drawing one day, I decided to turn Matt into one of my favorite comic book characters that Neal Adams used to draw for DC called Deadman. I also turned him, for a few seconds, into one of the Baseball Furies from the Walter Hill movie, The Warriors. I gotta say that the seminal 80's A-Ha video, Take on Me has been one of my biggest influences for drawing for film.

Do you see yourself working on more music videos?

I've directed other music videos, but they bore me if my only duty is to point a camera at a band lip-synching to one of their songs. I am lucky enough to do a video if I want to, or work on a movie here and there. So if the perfect scenario presents itself I'll do anything.

How is the Matthew Bryan going to use the video?

Hopefully he can use it to help get his name out there. Unfortunately, the days of MTV playing videos all day are over. Maybe he can reach a wide audience online. There are already thousands of people who have seen this video who otherwise wouldn't have heard of him. The video is posted on youtube and vimeo. He has it on his personal sites as well.

Tell us something that isn't on the official bio.

I want to make the Lawrence Welk biopic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Raymo is a product of his Grampa and Grandma, my Aunt Vi and Uncle Ray. God bless them both.