Lecture at Tredwells bookshop – Making monsters by Madeleine Spencer

” If there are any budding SFX monster makers in the audience, they’ll learn how a designer’s career can start and evolve.”

I went to London to hear a lecture about the industry around monster and fantasy character design and creation within the film industry. Special effects artist Madeleine Spencer is an internationally acknowledged expert in crafting SFX monsters for films; she wrote the leading book on the subject, teaches online, and has fans worldwide. Having 17 years experience in the film industry, Madeleine helped to bring some of your favourite creatures and characters to life including some of those on The Harry Potter films, which she did while at Los Angeles’ Gentle Giant Studios. She was also involved in making the magical beings and characters in The Hobbit franchise as well as the BFG and many others.

In this illustrated lecture she talked about what it was like to help bring mythic creatures to life by showing examples from across her portfolio. She also discussed how her own interest in magic influenced her approach. I felt extremely inspired by her talk as she seemed so normal and down to earth with many similar interests and career based aspirations as me. She explained that she managed to get her first step into the industry by practically forcing her services as a dogs body on a small-time movie set in the 90’s. Taking no pay she was in it for the knowledge and used every opportunity to quiz her now mentor for industry secrets until he decided to train her.  she had not been to art school but managed to edge her way into the industry with passion and dedication.

She told us all about her techniques and how everything design wise nowadays is done through CAD but her heart still lies with clay sculpting. She says she will always start a design process in clay and translate that into the computer once she has her ideas. It taught me that I need to improve my CAD skills if I am to be considered for professional jobs in the future.

At the end of the lecture, I had the opportunity to talk to her and thank her for the lecture I wanted to tell her inspirational her lecture was to me and how much it taught me about working one’s way into a field of choice. We talked for quite a while and I explained to her my works and projects which she said reminded her of the work she was producing at my age. She ended up giving me her email and said to keep in contact and keep her updated on my future work and if I ever had questions about the industry I wasn’t to hesitate to ask. This has been a great learning experience for me, the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that starting a dialogue with professional is the first step on the path to success. Don’t cower from opportunities to NETWORK!!

link to her website: https://www.artstation.com/maddiemonster


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