Gil Rimmer Interview 2012

Interview by Lily Feliciano

Gil Rimmer has worked as Art Director for high profile studios such as Electronic Arts and Rainmaker Animation, currently he is the Head of Visual Development at Bron Studios in Vancouver BC.

oh … and he’s funny, you’ll see 🙂


Tell me about the path that led you to art, have you always been creatively driven?

The path to art was a treacherous one. Up slippery, illusive aspirations and down valleys of tragic heart break.

Yes, for a while I was creatively driven. You could say I was the Miss Daisy of concept art. Later on I realized I should probably drive myself. The limo driver costs were killing me. As can be expected, there were a lot of accidents, fortunately some were happier then others. My first confidence boost came from an art teacher back in 4th grade who thought I had promise. Although we eventually divorced, her positive reinforcement helped carry me through most of the painful years of failing and re-failing 🙂

At 22 (which is kind of late in the game, but hi, the Israeli army needed me desperately for a few years), I decided to go to design school. School was fantastic. I majored in Industrial Design and by 28, I transitioned to working in film where my design principles came in very handy. I’ve been working as a concept artist / art director / tollbooth operator ever since.

Growing up what mediums did you experiment with? Where did you want to go career wise?

Finger painting was first, followed closely by mud sculpting at kindergarten. Later I used pencils to draw. For the past 10 years it’s been mainly digital with sprinkles of water color, acrylic and oil. Career wise it took me a while to figure it out. I grew up in a typical russian-jewish home, very supportive of me NOT becoming an artist. It took a while to discover I wanted to do art for a living and to actively pursue it as a career rather than a hobby.


The title “Art Director” can seem a bit cryptic to those not yet working in a creative field, can you break down the detail of your work?

Art Direction is very straightforward really. Your  job is to DIRECT a team of artists (vis-dev, modelers, texture artists, lighters) in creating and maintaining a look for a specific show or game.

Now, the tricky part is Direction requires a lot of knowledge. If you don’t have a good grasp on anatomy and movement, you can’t direct a concept artist to create a creature design and you can’t direct a modeler to faithfully replicate the design. If you don’t understand lighting and material behavior you can’t direct a lighter to properly light a scene. If you don’t study architecture you won’t be able to direct an environment artist to create a believable set. Anyhoo… you get my point. Being an Art Director you’re constantly learning since your skill set needs to apply across disciplines and mediums.

Equally as important are “people skills”. Yes, artists are people too… extremely delicate people. Keeping artists happy and productive is way harder than it seems. A team with low morale is not a pretty sight. Currently, I’m a show runner and the Production Designer for Bron Animation’s Mighty Mighty Monsters, 2×44 min animated specials.

What’s Mighty Mighty Monsters you ask? It’s the story of 3 teenage monsters, the offspring’s of Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf. The Monster Bros get kicked out of monster school for being bullies and end up in a human immersion program in a regular human school. Ouch. Fish out of water, flopping at the bottom of the social barrel, the Bros have to fight off every geek and freak in a ridiculous battle for schoolyard supremacy.

Sounds EPIC right??

Here’s a sample breakdown of some of my day to day tasks on MMM:

-Story development
-Look development
-Production strategies
-Concept art
-Character design
-Environment design
-Modeling packages
-Shader / material / lighting references
-Color keys
-Modeling / Rig reviews
-Directing art / modeling/lighting teams

Yep, there’s a lot to do. But wait, there’s more.

In addition to working on a specific show, I’m also a Creative Director and an Executive at Bron Animation here in Vancouver. In a nutshell, myself and my co-creative partner and good friend, Ben Burden Smith, run the Bron Animation Studios. Our job includes IP generation and development, long-term growth strategies for the studio, recruiting, branding, etc. and running the day-to-day of an animation company of about 30 people. When developing our own Intellectual Properties, we conceive the stories, write the outlines and package the projects. Post the story development, I head-up the visual development of each IP while Ben takes care of all aspects of budgeting and production.

I think that’s enough for now 🙂

What has been a career highlight for you?

By far, my career highlights involve the people I was fortunate enough to work with. People like Barry Jackson, an absolutely incredible production designer, John Harris, my all time favorite Sci Fi artist… the list is very long. Equally rewarding is hearing from artists they’d like to work with you, there’s no greater compliment. Other highlights include pitching Matt Groening on my Art Direction for the Simpsons video game. He loved it but sadly, the game fell into development limbo. Last but not least, collaborating with the Gnomon Workshop on my character DVD’s was a lot of fun.

What inspires you to create in a new project? Where does the spark come from?

The creative spark can come from anywhere, a conversation, a museum exhibit, a comedy show or just observing people on the street. If you’re visually developing a show then the spark should come from the story; a good story is all that matters, seriously. Past the story, I look for a visual “unique attractor” for a project. A combination of inspirations and references that together will result in something fresh. I can’t stress enough the importance of research. It’s critical to sparking a good concept piece.

Do you want to tell me about any personal projects?

I’m currently hard at work on my personal charm and spontaneity; also paramount are my long walks on the beach skills and fireplace / fondue / animal rug research.

But seriously, my personal projects revolve around developing new animation pitches. At Bron we’ve got 3 theatrical projects that just received the first stage of funding, so project 1 is ramping up over the next 2-3 months for story and visuals. We’ll be doing some CG work on it in this summer and starting official pre-production end of this year or early next year.

Do you have a few sage words for those looking to get working in the Games/Film industry?

Allow me to be an existential old fart for a moment. Whether you’re trying to get into film or video games, always search out good projects to work on. If you settle, your art will suffer.
Surround yourself with creative people. The best work is teamwork. Learn, improve and the more people like your work, the more they’ll want to hire you, the more choices you’ll have to work on the projects you like. Work hard and put together a good portfolio. Don’t talk the talk if you can’t do the art. Let your work speak for you. Nobody cares if you have stunning blue eyes and a bronze tan.

BE HUMBLE. It’ll help you in interviews. It’ll help you in your art. It’ll allow you to be open, receive critic and learn.

Commit to your creativity, respect it and nurture it. Allow it to grow and it’ll return the investment a thousand times over. Also, be patient. Aspire to improve and discover your potential but at the same time realize, at first, you’re going to suck at art 🙂

For me, “talent” is the ability to not give up.

Remain curious.

Finally, let me close with a quote from Joan Rivers on the show Louis.

“What we do…is a calling, my dear.  We make people happy.”

All right, where’s the air freshener?


To learn more about Gil and his work check out:

And watch Gil on Sketch Theatre here


Click through a sample gallery of Gil’s work portfolio below!


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