Peter Popken war als Concept Artist bei der Produktion von „Prince of Persia“ dabei. In diesem Interview berichtet er darüber wie er gerade an „Ninja Assasins“ arbeitet und dann die Jobzusage für „Prince of Persia“ von MPC bekam, auf nach Marakesh….
Hi Peter, please tell us a little bit about how you got on the job on Prince of Persia.
In December 2007 I got a call from one of the assistant producers if I would like to come to London for an interview with production designer Wolf Kroeger. Someone had forwarded my number(I never found out who it was) and they would like to meet me the next day. So I jumped on a plane, taking only my laptop and toothbrush with me and met Wolf in the office at MPC. I found him in a good mood and we had a chat about his design vision for the ‚Prince of Persia‘. Already then, he had gathered a huge amount of reference laying on the table in front of us. After I had shown him the work I had done for ‚Robin Hood‘ earlier that year he asked if I would like to join the team and promised to call me in a couple of weeks. Two month later I still hadn’t heard from him and decided to take on work for ‚Ninja Assassin‘. Finally, two weeks later I got the offer for ‚Prince of Persia‘ when I was right in the middle of the other film. I asked them to push my start date for a few weeks so I could finish the Ninjas. I remember having like two weeks time to finish thirty illustrations until I finally was ‚allowed‘ to leave for Marocco.
What parts of the film did you work on?
I mainly worked on the ‚virtual‘ sets that had to be generated in the computer. One of them was ‚Alamut‘, a vast ancient city where most of the action was taking place. The design was based on original Indian architecture and then advanced into a fantastic superstructure. We spent a huge amount of time on research to get the architecture right and to make this environment believable as if it really could have existed in that period. The city was devided into different levels, from poor areas to more wealthy places up to the palaces on top cascading into a massive tower reaching up into the clouds. Beneath was an underworld hiding the mysterious secrets. Furthermore I did concepts for the caravan of the King’s funeral, the saltmine sequence and a massive cave to be built in Pinewood Studio later on.
Were you provided with research material and what kind of references did you use?
Yes of course, and each of us collected tons of references which we shared between us every other day. We did not want a fantasy look at all but a design based on the architecture of that period. Just in a much bigger scale. I remember the production designer had a copy of the famous ‚Orientalists‘ book – which unfortunately is no longer available – and gave it to me. A great source of information and inspiration from artists I hadn’t even heard of until then.
Can you tell us a bit about your design process and collaboration with director an production designer?
Most of the concepts went through permanent changes and different people were working on it at different stages of production. On a project like this it usually doesn’t happen that you get it right on the first try. Too many factors are involved and very often the first idea transforms into something else. Usually I like to throw in a few concepts nobody had asked for. One day it appeared that half of the art department went on a recce in the desert and I had finished my illustration earlier than expected. Being all alone in the office I started to rough out my ideas for the King’s funeral without any brief from director and designer. The next day it got approved straight away.