24Wired.TV: Would you tell us about your transition from being a seasoned storyboard artist to an animated film director with Rise of the Guardians?
Peter Ramsey: I had actually made the leap to working on animation quite a bit before. And I’d been at DreamWorks for a little while. This project–it was lucky timing, and for me it really was a connection to the material. I’d heard about Rise of the Guardians a good piece of time before I started working on it. I was skeptical about the idea at first. But I thought about it, and what it could mean, and what these [legendary] characters meant, and the fact that when you’re young you literally do believe in them. It’s not like you like them like a cartoon character. You believe in them as real people. That was the idea that really grabbed me.
24Wired.TV: You’re the first black director of a major CGI film. How does it feel?
Ramsey: When I first got the job, I realized, “Oh man, I guess maybe I am.” But that quickly got lost in the shuffle of doing the job. I had a great career and a great rise at DreamWorks, through the ranks. [Race] had never been any kind of issue. And it wasn’t until after I was almost finished with the film. I did a newspaper interview that my mom and dad saw. And they mentioned it there. My dad read that line, and I saw the tear come from his eye. And I went, “Oh yeah, that’s right. It is kind of a thing.”
24Wired.TV: Congratulations on making history.
Ramsey: Ah, see, now you’re doing it again.
24Wired.TV: There was some racial diversity among the group of friends that hung out with the main mortal character, Jamie. Why did you think that was important to include?
Ramsey: We wanted the movie to be an experience for all kids who believe, and have it happen in a real world. So with Jamie’s friends, we wanted to mix it up a little bit, and make the world believable. Because, the whole thing with this movie is, you believed in these [legendary] characters once; we want to take that seriously. We want to give you a world that’s like your world. So that when [the legendary characters] entire this world, it’s like, “Ah, they’re entering my world. I know this. I know those streets. Or the group of friends who look like friends I went to school with.”
24Wired.TV: How did your career as a storyboard artist affect your directing style?
Ramsey: Being a storyboard artist, you pretty much cut your teeth on breaking down complex sequences, whether they’re action sequences or dialogue or whatever. You learn that you make these things one shot a time. It’s picking the right shots to put next to each other in order to convey the action in the simplest, purest way you can. For me, [directing] was just an extension of that. How do we make it clear, how do we make it simple? What are going to be the most dynamic ways to show this action?
24Wired.TV: What was the biggest difficulty of making this movie?
Ramsey: The biggest difficulty was simply dealing with five or six characters. You could make a movie about one of these characters. We’ve got a whole handful of them. And we want to do them all justice. We don’t want them to fade into the background. We want them to all be distinct. We want to have a reason for each one of them to be in the movie. So balancing all that, and still telling a clear story, was the hardest thing. But I think we got close.
Photo courtesy of IMDb.