MATRIX: What other projects have you worked on before THE MATRIX?

JIM: I just finished working on Spiderman at Sony which was a fun experience, and a change to go from that to this. I’ve done some science fiction shows throughout my career, so this is a nice one to work on because it’s a fresh take on the sci-fi stuff. I knew nothing about the first movie, I saw it in the theatre with everybody else and it was awesome, it blew me away, so to get to work and contribute on the sequels is great. A lot of science fiction films are filmed on location, but if it is a sci-fi movie with big fun sets it may be something they’re doing in town. I work in town, so I get a chance to work on some fun things. If it’s a location movie it might be contemporary New York, but if it’s sci-fi it’ll probably be on a stage somewhere.

MATRIX: A Conceptual Illustrator is a big part of creating a set, how does it feel to see your work realized?

JIM: It’s definitely a process, you are one step along the way. It’s really interesting to see how it develops from an initial conceptual sketch. You might go to the actual final set dressed and lit, and it can be totally different than something you were trying to do, or it could still be in the vein of the initial ideas. So it’s always a surprise, but nothing beats seeing the final set after everyone has contributed to it.

MATRIX: How big is the buzz when you see an element you have designed on the big screen?

JIM: It’s very exciting to go to the movies and see images you’re familiar with because you dealt with them, when you see them fully realized on the screen, and real, it’s great.

MATRIX: What part of THE MATRIX are you specializing in?

JIM: I’m mostly working on Zion, doing some interior city stuff, kind of the more intimate spaces, bedrooms and living chambers and things like that.

MATRIX: How have Larry and Andy conveyed exactly what they want to you?

JIM: They come in with Owen [Paterson, Production Designer] and we go over it, sometimes it’s on boards already in the storyboards. Actually for the stuff I’ve been working on, I think they’ve worked up a format with Owen that the Zion interiors are following: circular, like tube caves with structure in that. So I’m elaborating on a scheme they’ve already cooked up, trying to give a little bit of interior feel.

MATRIX: Do you fully color all of your illustrations?

JIM: If I’m lucky. I’m illustrating with pencil and marker, so sometimes we’ll do pencil comps, just like a rough value sketch, then if it’s an idea they’d like to see followed I do a marker color rendering to try and give it a little more life. That makes it easier to feel and to see what the actual finished set might look like.

MATRIX: Inspiration can be hard to come by, what are you using as reference?

JIM: We reference a lot from the first movie because the look is so strong, it’s all there, so that is definitely the key to what I’ve been working on: to keep it looking like THE MATRIX. THE MATRIX is a fully fleshed out and realized world and we’re going in and adding to it, we definitely want to capture the magic of that first movie.

MATRIX: What makes THE MATRIX such a unique project to work on?

JIM: I think there’s a really fresh feel to THE MATRIX and it’s kind of new, it’s starting from scratch. I’ve worked on science fiction franchises: I worked on the Alien franchise and Star Trek, and THE MATRIX is definitely going to take its place as another original and exciting world.

MATRIX: Were you excited when you first read THE MATRIX 2 script?

JIM: I was excited that it’s keeping, for the most part, the characters from the first movie, it’s following through on everybody, which is great. The people from the first movie are in the second and we get to learn more about them. It is definitely going to deliver on the action the first movie kind of uses as it’s corner stone; there are great action sequences in the second movie, it seems like it’s going to outdo the first one in delivering thrills. It was exciting to read the second script, and also to get to go to Zion. Not because I’m one of the people working on the Zion, but you get to see more of their world, and that’s great.

MATRIX: Thanks Jim.

Interview by REDPILL
November 2000