Chances are, if you enjoy genre movies and television, you have seen the visual effects work of Adam Stern.
Adam is a prolific and highly sought after visual effects producer who, along with his production house Artifex Studios, has an illustrious career in film and television spanning over two decades.
Here is just a tiny sampling of the notable films and television series with visual effects produced by Adam and his studio:
- ZOO (CBS )
- Wayward Pines (FOX)
- Childhood's End (SyFy)
- Minority Report (FOX)
- Travelers (Netflix)
- Falling Skies (Dreamworks)
- The Man In The High Castle (Amazon Studios)
- Continuum (Showcase, SyFy)
- The Core (Paramount Pictures)
- Mission To Mars (Buena Vista Pictures)
Recently, Adam has begun branching out and producing his own stories.
His first project, the 2015 sci- fi short film The Adept, was released to much acclaim.
We reviewed The Adept, and the terrific short film has become one of our most popular features.
Now Adam has a new, exciting project soon to debut: the sci-fi short film FTL (Faster Than Light), starring Ty Olsson and Aliyah O'Brien. The film is currently being exhibited on the festival circuit, and will soon be available for public viewing.
Adam very kindly and generously took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to discuss with us his love of science fiction, his personal influences, and his career.
He also revealed his insights into the making of The Adept and FTL:
T7M: Are you a fan of science fiction, and if so, who and/or what first inspired your love of the genre?
AS: I’m a huge fan of science fiction. I started with Star Trek (TOS) – my father introduced the series to me when I was a kid, and I immediately fell in love with the characters and their universe. I still get goosebumps every time I see the Enterprise.
T7M: Your production house, Artifex Studios, has done visual effects work for an impressive list of genre films and television series, including Almost Human, Continuum, The Man in The High Castle, Wayward Pines, The Core, Apollo 18, and Childhood’s End. What would you say is your overall creative philosophy when it comes to producing visual effects?
AS: I’m quite proud of the work Artifex has accomplished over the years. From a creative philosophy perspective, we try to do our absolute best to contribute as storytellers… looking at our work as a contribution to the whole. That’s not always easy or possible – painting out a wire doesn’t feel like storytelling – but we do our best! We endeavor to treat every VFX shot with the highest level of work and quality we can provide. We don’t let material leave the building until we feel we’ve done our best to at the least, execute the creative vision/requests of the director or producers.
T7M: As well as being a visual effects producer, you are also a classically trained musician. Who were some of your musical influences?
AS: I love John Williams, Thomas Newman, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Ramin Djawadi, James Newton Howard, many more. Film music aside, I’m a huge fan of Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago, and many, many others.
T7M: You recently have begun branching out and producing your own projects, with the first being the terrific, award-winning, sci-fi short film The Adept. How would you describe its premise?
AS: Thanks for that! Loglines aside, I would describe its premise as follows: A couple, both scientists, are involved in a high-level theoretical physics project. While trying to work a problem at home during dinner, Maddy (Jen Spence) appeals to Ben (Adam Reid) to help her. Ben tries to get her to lay off work, teasing her, and pushes to show her a new card trick – he’s an amateur magician. But while showing the trick, he starts to think about the work problem. The cards suddenly float magically in mid-air, as Ben enters a state where he can literally see the underlying math of the Universe.
AS: I’m a huge fan of both Adam and Jen. The casting process was quite straightforward for The Adept – I looked at actors I had either worked with on shows, or those that I thought might be interesting for the roles. I met Jen working on Continuum in my role as VFX supervisor. I hadn’t met Adam, but he had also worked on the same show, so there was a point of familiarity. We didn’t have any casting sessions for The Adept, I simply reached out to Adam and Jen to see if they might be interested. Thankfully they were!
T7M: You also composed the film’s beautiful musical score. Why do you think music plays such an integral part in our viewing experience - especially when it comes to science fiction and genre films?
AS: I read a quote recently from James Cameron that the score is the heartbeat of the film. I couldn’t agree more. In many ways music gives us the means to create the strongest emotional “landmarks” for the film, evoking tone and atmosphere in a way nothing else can - while backing up the visuals and performances. It’s amazing watching a cut with and without music, the music makes the story literally come alive to me. I believe this applies to all genres.
T7M: The Adept ended on a BIG cliffhanger. Are you planning on revisiting that world soon? What format would you most want to see the story continue in - another short film, a web series, television series, or full-length feature film?
AS: The Adept had initially been conceived as a small window into the larger world of a television series I had pitched. That series was in development for a while, but as far as I’m aware no longer is. Meanwhile, when the film went online I started receiving interest on developing this story further on its own. I have been working with Adam Reid on continuing The Adept as a feature film.
T7M: Your next independent project is the forthcoming short film FTL (Faster Than Light). How would you describe its premise?
AS: FTL is the story of the first man to travel faster than light as he tests a prototype spacecraft. Through a series of events he ends up traveling farther than thought possible.
T7M: What was the inspiration behind FTL?
AS: For this project, I wanted to see what would be possible on a relatively quick shoot (three days’ total), and what we could do with it at Artifex. It is a proof-of-concept for a feature film, and I also wanted to use it somewhat as a calling card for both myself and the work Artifex is capable of.
In some respects, FTL is also a love letter to Star Trek. I wanted to make something I would want to watch, that evoked that feeling of wonder I had when watching ST as a child.
Ty is great – he brought this fantastic combination of a confident “space cowboy," [as well as] a husband and father who adores his wife and young son. Aliyah is wonderful as well. She had told me one of the things that attracted her to the role was the opportunity to play a mother, and the wife of someone who by nature put himself in danger, but still loved his family very much… and the difficulties in maintaining that kind of relationship.
T7M: Since you are now beginning to produce your own projects, what has been the biggest challenge in branching out to tell your own stories?
AS: Time and budget, which I’m sure is what most would say. I have been in the industry for a while, and if I’m going to produce my own projects, I want to be in control. Which, at least at this point, means being purely independent. Both The Adept and FTL were done on a shoestring, with very generous support by those involved. Next up will hopefully be a feature, and that’s a whole different beast.
T7M: With producing your own work, you must wear many hats. What is the one role you find the most difficult - and the easiest?
AS: Writing and directing both have unique challenges. I enjoy writing, and am working hard to grow in my ability to write what I want to direct. I do still find it one of my biggest challenges.
I enjoy directing quite a bit – once you’re there, “on the day”, and prep is done, it’s a fantastic rush to start seeing your characters and world come alive. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but I’m looking forward to doing more of it.
T7M: Currently FTL is making its way along the film festival circuit, and already receiving accolades. How can our readers best keep tabs on it?
T7M: Are there any other projects on the horizon you would like to tell our readers about?
AS: I’m currently developing the feature version of FTL, along with the feature version of The Adept, and a new project that’s quite music-centric. Hope to talk more about that one soon. Artifex also has some great new VFX projects on the horizon for Syfy, Netflix and others.
T7M: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
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Editor: Catch a glimpse into the world of Adam's new sci-fi short film FTL. Watch the trailer here ...
And remember to check out our review of Adam's first independent project, The Adept.