Miniature Modeler

Let's face it, if the script calls for a spaceship a mile long, it would be impractical to actually build the thing. You wouldn't be able to find a studio space big enough to store it, and even if you could, the odds of finding a studio big enough to afford it are even slimmer. For that matter, it's not very cost efficient to blow up things like jetliners or helicopters either. But what do you do? If the script calls for these things, somebody has to be responsible for making it happen. You can't expect the writer or director to change the movie just because something like a mile-long spaceship doesn't exist. The first thing to do is to make it exist. That's where David M. Jones comes in.

David creates things that don't exist or replicates things that do in order to do things to them that couldn't be done in real life. Such is the world of miniatures. However, the world of miniatures also encompasses special effects props.

David has been making models since he was a kid. Since he always wanted to fly, he started building his own jet planes from prefabricated kits. Then, after four years in design school, he was ready for the big time. But he never stopped building things. He thinks that besides actual model-making ability, the ability to draw, to sketch out your ideas quickly and accurately for the director, is of paramount importance. It saves a lot of time if you can illustrate a design rather than having to build it.

Once the design is approved, then the model-building skills come into play. According to David, the best builders are the ones who love doing this sort of stuff. These are the kids who grew up building models from kits, then when the kits were no longer a challenge, started building things from scratch. Also, the builders who know how to use industrial equipment, such as mills or the lathe, are the ones who have taken the passion from a mere hobby to something that could lead to a career. And there is a career out there for those who have all these skills.

Before you start working professionally (and sometimes after), you have to do everything yourself. "Sometimes," David says, "you're more of a technician than an artist." You should be able to draw your idea, draft it to figure out how to build it, design working prototypes, and, finally, build a finished product and photograph it so it can rest in your portfolio. It is this portfolio you'll take with you on interviews when you're trying to find work.

An experienced modeler like David can tell, from a glance at pictures of your finished work, what kind of a model maker you are. He can tell if you have an eye for design and a cleanliness of work. He looks at the seams and joints to make sure everything lines up. He looks to see if it's too busy (crowded, with a lot of extraneous things) or too simple. And he can't stress enough the importance of knowing design theories. He suggests that if you can't get to a design school, that you read design magazines. Study what works by looking at what's being made. And above all, keep building.

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