We’re here today with modeler Marty Havran. Thank you Marty, for taking time to answer a few questions. 

Wow- you’ve had a really long, healthy career, spanning over 17 years of modeling experience! What was your fondest memory on the job?

 I remember sitting in a large theater in west LA watching the crew screening of the movie Contact.  It was my first film that I worked on in a production at Sony Imageworks.  For more than six months I sat in daily reviews watching the effects for the film for different shots, not understanding how it would all come together.  As I watched the film, all the pieces came together, and it was exhilarating to see the final product.  Then the credits rolled, and for the first time I saw my name appear in the credits.  It was at this proud moment that I knew I was an industry professional.

You’ve worked on some of my favorite films: Starship Troopers, Eraser, Space Jam, and Kung Fu Panda. What was your favorite production you worked on?

That’s hard to say.  Each project had its highlights and challenges.  What I have enjoyed the most through the years are the friends I have made along the way.  I do have a few characters that I am fond of, those being Shi Fu in Kung Fu Panda, Micheal Jordan for Space Jam, and the Hollow Man.

Working on so many big named films, was there a production you wish you were apart of?

The Lord of the rings trilogy, the original Star Wars (even though I would have been 8 years old), the Iron Giant, the Incredibles and the first Toy Story.


How do you stay motivated?

The honest answer is my motivation has been fueled by different reasons during my career.  At first, I was motivated just to have a job and get some experience regardless of what I worked on.  If I was able to work on something good, that was a bonus.  There were times where I was excited just to have a job and to be getting a paycheck.  Once I got established in the industry, my motivation switched to earning more in my career, and I was able to be a little picky creatively about the projects I worked on. At times I am motivated by crazy deadlines and seemingly insurmountable projects.  I continue to be motivated by trying new things and learning from that experience.  Working freelance, I am both happy to be working, and with my experience, I often get some really great opportunities. One of the reasons I teach is that it’s motivating to work with people who are new in the industry, and to see their excitement as they learn and progress.

AnimSchool class session, where Marty discusses the importance of anatomy and form, when modeling for film.

Which artists influence or inspire you?

I come from an illustration background, and while I make my living working on the computer, I am inspired a lot by those masters of traditional mediums.  Some of the painters that inspire me are John Singer Sargent, Rembrandt, Anders Zorn, Tom Tompson, Ilya Repin, JC Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, NC and Andrew Wyeth, Odd Nerdrum, Mucha, Lucian Freud and many more.  I learn a lot from sculptors like Bernini, Michelangelo, Rodin, Degas and Bertel Thorvaldsen.  I love browsing artist’s websites and art books to see what other people are doing, and what they are passionate about.

Can you tell us a little about your workflow?

 I guess this would be the hook for my class.  When I am given a character to model it’s generally from a concept artist.  Ideally I try to get into the artists head, and find out what they were thinking when they created the character.  I want to understand what their idea or concept is behind it.  Once I know this, then I can better understand and model their pose. In the concept work I want to understand why they are wearing the clothes they are, have their hair styled a certain way, are holding a prop a certain way, and have the expression they have.  This isn’t always possible, but generally that’s where I try to start, and refer back to while I’m modeling. Often I work with the artists to figure out their style, the 2D cheats they’ve done, and figure out how these are going to translate into 3D forms.  Sometimes this is really challenging, depending on how graphic the design is. I treat the digital model like I would a sculpture that I work in clay, working from large blocky masses to get the proportions, pose, and anatomy correct.  If these aren’t correct no matter how cool the details are, the model is going to feel off.  Once I have this nailed down, I start working on the head.  The expression is the window into the characters personality and story. Once I get this, then I work into the body and then get the rest of the details worked out.

What are some of the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned while modeling over the years? Did you ever have any moments like: “wow, I suddenly realize A, B and C make sense”?

I don’t know if working in this industry ever really makes sense.  It can be a hard life bouncing from project to project.  That being said, here are some survival tips:  Be easy to work with and take direction and criticism well.  You need to be thick skinned, because it’s a very subjective and collaborative medium.  Always be looking for your next job, even if you have a ‘stable’ job. This doesn’t mean be shmoozy, but networking with people at other companies, going to trade shows, and staying abreast is key to finding a job and working on your next project.  Keep up to date on new software, techniques, and production workflow.  Know when to let go of your work. Have hobbies outside of work that take your mind off your job.  You can work long hard hours, but you need something to divert your attention, to keep your focus fresh.  Take time off when you can, and enjoy the moment.  I try not to define myself by my work, but by my character and who I am.  Inevitably your work will speak for itself, and people will want to work with you because of the person you have become.

What’s your advice for someone who feels inadequate when it comes to being able to model? How did you go about training up your perception?

You can’t compare yourselves to those who have been modeling a lot longer than you, because you can’t replace experience.  What you can do is observe them, learn from them, and ask them to critique your work.  Also, ask questions when you don’t understand, challenge yourself, and try new things.  Most of all work your butt off.  You learn and grow by getting out of your comfort zone, and putting yourself out there.

Where do you see the direction of CG currently heading, and what would you like to see evolve in CG?

I have seen the industry evolve where it was tough to do one character in CG, and now we worry about hundreds and thousands of characters.  To me CG should function as an aid in telling good stories.  This should be regardless of the effects being characters that need to be CG or creating the digital environments of worlds that don’t exist.  Now that we are able to do virtually anything, it’s up to the writers to join their imaginations with the possibilities. The one thing I haven’t seen is a virtual human that I buy as the real thing.  Not that I want that, and not that it can be done, but I think people will continue to try because its eluded us thus far. The last thing I will say is that when I browse sites with galleries of CG artwork, I hope to see that concept, idea and story telling, make their way into people’s digital artwork.  This stems back to my illustration training in composition and story telling.  There are a lot of talented people out there, but I have very little fascination with their work because they are copying an existing character or person or make something as real as possible.  While this is a good training exercise its like drawing from plaster casts.  I would hope that their artwork would evolve to tell us a story or something about themselves that only they can say based on their experiences and personality.