Working on this project over the past few months, there have been times when I've felt the weight of the world upon my shoulders. I question myself, my abilities, and if I'll muster the will and strength to keep moving forward in what seems, at times, like an uphill climb.
But then you meet a guy like William Stout -- and suddenly all the bullshit in the world falls to the wayside. Inspiration flows through your veins again. You're reminded of the youthful dreams that had motivated you to embark on a creative career in the first place, whatever uncertain future was in store. Doubts and regrets no longer make a difference, and you find yourself walking away giddy, no longer self conscious about being a nerdish fanboy or wannabe artist. You revel in it.
My love of Stout's work actually predates my love of movies -- because before I loved movies, I loved dinosaurs. And I was an absolute dinosaur fanatic.
Stout's book, THE DINOSAURS: A FANTASTIC VIEW OF A LOST ERA was revolutionary to me. The art depicted dinosaurs in ways I'd never seen before, reflecting the most modern scientific research of that time. The old grade school picture books of lumbering, brainless, cold-blooded dinosaurs confined to swamps were no more; in their place, Stout's illustrations showcased dynamic, mobile, and fairly intelligent creatures, each with their own behavioral patters. Needless to say, I was hooked...and had I not embarked on a creative career, I very likely would have moved into Paleontology instead.
Like fellow Paleoartist James Gurney, Stout is one of the few illustrators whose work masters both worlds of legitimate scientific illustration and fantasy art. But even that description is too limiting. Stout's oeuvre is so far-reaching (and prolific), that to define him in any one or two (or even three or four) categories would seem wildly inappropriate.
"I've drawn everything," Stout said, and it's no exaggeration. In entertainment art alone, he's earned a mythic status: Posters for WIZARDS and LIFE OF BRIAN. Production and concept designs for CONAN THE BARBARIAN, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, DINOSAUR and JURASSIC PARK. Storyboards for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and many, many others.
Hell, the guy even wrote for Roger Corman.
While Stout never met Richard Amsel, I knew that he'd be an invaluable interview for the film. His experience in the industry, his own personal creativity, and his being a relative contemporary of Amsel's were reasons enough. Nevermind that I was a lifelong fan.
So, after some shyness, I finally mustered the courage to ask him.
Today we filmed the interview -- about 45 minutes of recorded video footage that flashed by like lightning, and without a break. Seeing Stout's studio was enough to make me drool; framed paintings and drawings spread across high walls of what would otherwise be a rather unassuming, drab industrial workspace. I was so in love I wanted to live in it.
Over the years, whenever I approached him at a convention or book store event, Stout had always dutifully signed copies of his dinosaur books for me. Today I asked Stout to sign one more thing. I'll let his words speak for themselves:
Thank you, Bill. Today meant the world to me.
Thanks, too, to my dear friend and compatriot, Matt Lynch, for answering the call of a fellow dreamer, and alleviating some of that damn weight from my shoulders yet again. Friends make all the difference.