Generated Identity: An Interview with Digital Creative Willem Stapel

Creative Spotlight




Amanda Beck



Your work spans digital Vogue and Paper Mag covers to household names like Dior and Bulgari, now working with a media giant like Netflix, does the brand or project affect how you begin to ideate? Or does it all start from a singular organic place?
It all starts by looking into the brand’s identity and type of project. The cool thing about collaborating with Netflix, is that they work so much with film/series posters to grasp the viewers attention - this was something new to me. The beauty and difficulty of digital image making is that the sky is the limit, and anything is possible to create anything you want. The purpose is to create a window for yourself that you work in and in this case the window was quite clear - it was really inspiring to watch the movie and pull certain objects and elements from its worlds to bring it to digital sets. Using these to create new environments that display the artists in their own unique way!

Can you talk about the relationship between the musical artists who are featured on the Netflix Rebel Moon EP, “Songs of the Rebellion” and the Rebel Moon characters? How did you leverage each unique, distinctive personality into your work?
Definitely! It was so much fun to analyze the distinct personalities and aesthetics of each musician to combine with the characters in the movie, and find visual elements we could use to create the worlds for each shot. With the input from Pat (Dierker) and Conner (Needham) from MATTE, we started with a blank canvas and built these from the ground up, taking inspiration from the story line in the movie and the worlds within, to create unique environments.

How did you bring key visual elements from the film into the bespoke digital environments of your creations?
Looking at the first Rebel Moon movie was definitely a great inspiration. The planet where the character for Tokimonsta lives in for example is extremely industrial and pushes most original life away from it. So I used no vegetation, plants or forms of life, and made it a very barren and industrialized surrounding for the set.

Collaboration is often crucial across all aspects of the creative process. Can you discuss your partnership with the MATTE team and how it influenced the final look and feel of the CGI portraits?
This was my favorite part. Working with MATTE and its creatives was amazing, Pat and Conner have a great creative vision and it definitely influenced the final images. They gave me a lot of freedom to create these worlds, but also came with great suggestions and input that made the world truly come to life. When creating a whole new world, it’s easy to get lost in it, so it’s crucial to have other perspectives to sharpen any idea and make the visuals truly pop.

CGI technology has opened up new possibilities for storytelling and visual expression, especially in the film industry. Looking ahead, what advancements or trends in CGI do you find most exciting, and how do you envision them shaping the future of the art world?
This is something me and my friends talk about all the time. It’s such a fascinating time for visual imagery, and how limitless it is. In the last few years, CGI has peaked in realism and we see levels that go almost beyond and it’s really fun to see animation studios go in a more impressionistic way of animated styles.

I feel that we’ll see a development of digital art into different directions we have not yet seen, with different inspiration sources. Gaming engines are also becoming so powerful that their graphics are game changing - pun intended. With AI becoming such a powerful tool that will find its way into a lot that we do on a daily basis, it’s important to use it to our benefit and not go against it. Thinking about how the impressionism movement was a response to the realism and romantic movement back in the late 1800s - It’ll be interesting to see what humans will create as a response to what AI is capable of in certain styles. It’s going to be one hell of a ride in the coming years!

What are you excited about on your horizon? Are you able to tell us what you’re working on next?
I’m writing this as I’m on holiday in South Korea, which has already been an insane inspiration. It’s sort of like a full circle moment having just worked with the Aespa team, and seeing their posters and advertising all around the beautiful city of Seoul. 2024 has already been an incredible year so far, which I’m really thankful for. When I get back, I’m planning on creating a short film in CGI that I’m brewing on right now, and I’m working on some other projects that I can’t talk too much about yet. It’s going to be a great year!

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