Designers often find themselves working on print and web graphics, environmental design, packaging, logos, emblems, wordmarks, signage, and wayfinding, as well as typography and apps. But if you’ve got the skills to take on one or more of those types of projects, and you can get your foot in the door in Hollywood, you might find your work on the big screen, and you just might cross paths with Clint Schultz.
Clint Schultz has designed for films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, Tomorrowland, Super 8, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Zodiac, and Mission: Impossible III. And that’s just scratching the surface of a resume that he’s built up over 10+ years in the movie industry.
Yes, you read Star Wars in that prior paragraph. Schultz had a hand in designs for The Force Awakens, including a logo for the front of Pinewood Studios that read VII Now Filming. “We went through many options based on everything from the special edition ad campaigns to the original campaign and teasers. Disney print marketing handled the final formatting and output, based on my options. That VII logo also lent itself to many of the crew gifts. Mark Hamill tweeted a photo of himself in front of the sign during production.”
Schultz also worked with co-production designer Darren Gilford on The Force Awakens for First Order and Resistance logos, moving in a different direction “away from the Imperial Crest of the original trilogy.” Schultz’s designs were not used in the final film, but he found the experience to be a privilege, especially since it allowed him to collaborate with J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, whom he’s worked with for years. In addition to collaborating with J.J. Abrams, on a number of occasions, Schultz has also worked on additional photography for three David Fincher films, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), and Zodiac (2007).
Schultz received his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Texas Tech University in 1997 with a photography emphasis and printmaking minor. He went on to graduate school at San Diego State University, completing his studies in May 2000, and in 2000 he moved to Los Angeles to work as an art department assistant. In spring 2001 he became a member of the Art Directors Guild as a graphic designer, having worked on the feature film We Were Soldiers (2002). Schultz began collaborating with the production designer Scott Chambliss starting with 2005’s Mission: Impossible III, directed by J.J. Abrams, and it paved the way for Schultz to work with Abrams again on both Star Trek (2009), Super 8 (2011), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
Going into the production on J.J. Abrams’s first Star Trek, Schultz was initially hesitant. “I was not a Trekkie, and didn’t have much knowledge of the show or films. It was that lack of knowledge that ended up working out in my favor. I had no preconceived notions of what Star Trek was, or should be. I was simply designing a space film and Scott Chambliss instilled a lot of confidence in me. In addition to the experience being great, I was simply blown away by the film. I loved Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s script, and what J.J. did with it.”
Schultz credits going to art school, and “focusing on so many different disciplines” with giving him the diverse set of skills needed to work in the film industry. But he’s always learning something new on every production, with each film offering a crash course in one medium, or various media. Angels & Demons (2009) required a lot of wall covering, with “miles and miles of marble wallpaper, floor to ceiling and even a Sistine Chapel.” Schultz received what he called a crash course in substrate printing for that film, and it’s something he has used on numerous productions since then—proving that transfer of skills isn’t just part of the job, it’s required for the job. And so is speedy delivery. Some projects require a turnaround of a few days, or maybe a week.
Carving Out a Career
During his 10+ years in the film industry, Schultz has designed a wide range of graphics, emblems, decals, wall coverings, icons, logos, and whatnots, and in addition to the directors listed below, Schultz has also worked with Richard Donner, Cameron Crowe, Nancy Meyers, Ron Howard, the Farrelly Brothers, and Richard Linklater.
- “The two J.J. Star Treks (2009, 2013) are newly imagined graphics and graphic languages for Starfleet and all other lifeforms that were encountered in our journey. Complete ship graphics packages (interior and exterior), along with wardrobe, badges, torpedoes, etc. If there was a decal or emblem on it, I was involved.”
- “Super 8 (2011) is another film that required an entire city block with period correct 1979 graphics, logos and signage.”
- “M:i:3 (2006) was so much. We did shoot in Rome and Shanghai, but we also created extensions of those locations in L.A. We turned an entire city street in Downtown L.A. into Downtown Shanghai for the fuel truck jackknife scene. Every single sign had to be covered with its Chinese translation. Easily one of the larger sets I’ve ever had to apply graphics to. From vehicles to street signs to set dressing, we covered every inch.”
- “I created all the signage for the entire Western town in Cowboys & Aliens (2011) with Jon Favreau.”
- “On Dragon Tattoo (2011), it was re-envisioning a wall of evidence and paper trails.”
- “For Benjamin Button (2008) I created all sorts of prop postcards for Hope Parrish to present David.”
- “I created a yearbook for Zodiac (2007).”
- “Collateral (2004) was all about the taxi. There were hundreds of options presented to Michael Mann. It was a huge amount of work to land on a final design, and it wound up being a team effort.”
- “I worked with Redford to create a backstory with photographs and awards for Tom Cruises’ character on Lions for Lambs (2007).”
- “Indiana Jones (2008) had a large military presence. I spent a lot of time with military vehicles and area 51 graphics (including crates, crates and more crates). There was also a lot of graphic work for the Marshall colleges scenes complete with city streets, period set signage and set decorating.”
- A somewhat hidden detail, Schultz also designed the LEAD LINED decal on the refrigerator that Indy uses to protect himself from the nuclear blast.
An Iconic Film Prop
Of all the design he’s created, there’s one that stands out for Schultz, and it’s “one of the more iconic film props” he’s ever worked on: the T pin design for Disney’s Tomorrowland (2015). Perspective: The Journal of the Art Directors Guild included a special story in its July–August 2015 Comic-Con issue, and Schultz’s article detailed the massive amount of work that went into the pin’s design.
In discussing the time and energy that goes into making Tomorrowland, The Force Awakens, or any other movie, Schultz emphasized the fact that a large volume of work gets discarded, including some of the designs he’s made. Sometimes concept art books, that collect the art department and production design work into a neat volume—or many volumes—will showcase the work used, as well as some work that was left behind and not used. A book was produced for Star Trek (2009), entitled Star Trek: The Art of the Film, with art and illustration from the artists who worked on the film, including Schultz, whose work “is definitely in the book.” And if you pick up a copy of David James’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A Photographic Journal you’ll see a lot of Schultz’s designs too.
Different Genres, Different Challenges
Designing for science fiction, action, and adventure films provides something that every fan has ever dreamt of. But designing for comedies has its share of perks, like getting to do something entirely different, that’s more in the real. For a film like Get Him To The Greek (2010), Schultz got to design “music, many albums, a record company, sports drink, perfume, etc.” And according to Schultz, quite a bit of his work was featured on the soundtrack, including the cover of the soundtrack. “Eight fictional album covers created for the film were used in the CD gatefold/insert.”
But comedies have their own set of challenges. “On comedies, there are so many changing sets and very little time. Additionally there can be an enormous amount of legal and clearance issues depending on what the characters are doing or saying. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces and you don’t always have the budget to do exactly what you want. It becomes a game of compromise and creativity, but it definitely tests you.”
Science fiction and fantasy movies are no cakewalk either. “The larger budget science fiction, fantasy or period films know you can’t rely as much on found locations or objects. Most everything has to be altered or built from the ground up. That is definitely budgeted for, and part of the planning process. Having said that, it also doesn’t mean there is an unlimited budget and time. The larger budget films can have fast changeovers or clearance issues too. Therefore, the larger films aren’t any less difficult, but you may have more time for design and application. It’s just a different type of challenge to build an entire world or period, but it’s still a test of your creativity.”
Be on the lookout for the follow-up, Big Screen Design, Part 2, to learn about how Clint Schultz has seen the movie industry change over the years, and to read some of his tips for being a designer in Hollywood.
Laurie Scheer has worked on every level of the Hollywood hierarchy, from assistant to d-girl to network vice president, so she knows whereof she speaks. To explore the industry’s career opportunities, she takes a novel approach, examining more than 100 movies about the film business from the past 90 years, along with real-life film accounts by working professionals. Get Creative Careers in Hollywood here.