WNW Member #1483 Daniel Nyari worked with Tumblr & Universal Pictures to create a series of fresh illustrations for Blackhat, the timely new film about cyberterrorism from Michael Mann starring Chris Hemsworth. We interviewed Daniel to get a glimpse into the process and inspiration for this project. We also asked if Chris Hemsworth has seen Daniel's illustration of him: "I don't know. I understand he tries to stay away from social media and reading about himself in general to retain a semblance of privacy so that probably decreases the chance. He might also be too busy pumping iron in the gym. Or his arms and fingers are too muscular to use a computer. (I hope he reads this though.)"
1. You're starting 2015 with a bang with your illustrations for new action film Blackhat. How did you get involved with this project?
I presume my visual style always suited the aesthetic of a film about cyberspace so when the team from tumblr reached out to me I just couldn't say no.
2. How did the style & look of Michael Mann's new film inspire your illustrations? Did you get to screen it before starting the project, or did you work off of trailers & advanced press?
First let me just say I'm a big big film fan. I attended film school and originally aspired to be a director. Michael Mann's late digital period is one of the most interesting things to happen in film in the 21st century so I was extremely excited to be tied to this project in any way. The tumblr team gave me a brief of the film's overall themes and access to corresponding key art and that's ultimately what I worked off. This was actually way more than I usually get to work off. I almost prefer to get less visual references because it can clutter the mind and make problem solving a longer ordeal.
3. What sources inspired you besides the movie itself?
The brief was essentially to create imagery based on the hacking and cybercrime culture rather than just derive from the film so it really opened up the space in which I could find my inspiration. I was given enough freedom to even consider multiple types of tones as well. I actually wanted to stay away from the source material to be honest because I wanted these pieces to have a life of their own and exist beyond the promotion of the film. Other than that I really just tried to cover multiple illustration categories here; an image that's editorial in nature, one that uses single objects, a portrait with one of the film's stars that's a bit flashier, and something more decorative. I generally find Google Images to be a very helpful tool. You type in something general like "cyber" and if you look hard enough many different ideas can begin to emerge.
4. Blackhat seems to be a very timely film, tackling the subject of cyberterrorism. Did you do any research on the subject, or draw from recent news coverage?
Absolutely. I spend most of my time just doing research actually. I was already deeply invested in the multiple stories about North Kora and CENTCOM and the subject always fascinated me. We're actually not even close to having a realistic collective awareness as to how much technology is changing the very coordinates by which we live and perceive life. The tumblr team supplied me with several articles on these subjects along with the aforementioned key art. Reading the stories and knowing I wanted each piece to cover varying categories I was selective in my reading and looking for enough distinctions where I could create separations in subject matter. I looked for different ways in which the threat of hacking affects facets of life. I ended up with Military, Consumerism, and domestic life (or the idea of a threat being close to home.) Every illustration always has one key or root idea from which ideation occurs so when I have that I just need to sit down, think and sketch. On top of the enormous time I spend researching I spend roughly 75% of my time thinking and the rest sketching.
5. Does doing work for a film differ from other projects in any way?
What varied for this project was more or less alternating illustration categories very rapidly. I usually deal with tackling an editorial project by itself, or a portrait or series of portraits by itself but here I had to go back and forth and that was a bit challenging. I have different speeds at which I'm comfortable with all of them but I had equally limited time for each one. The project also came to me at a time when I was ready to take a holiday so I had only a couple of days to get in all my concepts and sketches for approval before I could go away for a week. This just meant I had 14 hour work days.
6. Do you know if Chris Hemsworth has seen your illustrations of him?
I don't know. I understand he tries to stay away from social media and reading about himself in general to retain a semblance of privacy so that probably decreases the chance. He might also be too busy pumping iron in the gym. Or his arms and fingers are too muscular to use a computer. (I hope he reads this though.)