I’ve had the great pleasure of “meeting” and corresponding with Jarom Sidwell during the “Evertastor” book promotion for his brother, Adam Sidwell. During this time, I’ve been intrigued with Jarom’s own adventures, working behind the scenes of Hollywood movies.
Jarom’s credentials include: Avengers, The Adventure’s of TinTin, X-Men: First Class, Avatar and Transformers. I’ve watched many of these, and often wondered how they created the special effects and scenes .
I asked Jarom if he’d grant me an interview and insight into his world of creation.
You have worked on multiple blockbuster movies including X-Men and Avatar. Which movie did you like working on the most, and what did you do?
Avatar was a blast to work on because we all felt that it was going to be a smash, a real success – the director James Cameron just has a way of convincing the crew (and the entire world it seems!) that his story and movies are going to be the best thing you’ve ever experienced.
The Avengers was my all time favorite though – I never wanted to be a cop or fireman or president, when I grew up, I wanted to be a Superhero! – so pitting Iron Man versus Thor in the epic Mountain Top battle showdown was a dream. The Animation crew at Weta Digital on Avengers was absolutely a blast. Aaron Gilman, the Animation Supervisor, eats and breathes animation and we really fed off each other’s energy. There were many a review session with Aaron rolling around on the floor, jumping over couches or, crouching into IronMan‘s RT blast position while dodging my foam Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) toy. Our animation crew really fed off this, and it helped bring to life the sometimes mundane, long hours on the computer.
How did you break in to animation?
I moved to college with my awesome older brother Adam, who was a Computer Science and Animation major. He was so busy, I never saw him, and I missed the good ol’ adventures we used to have growing up. To spend time with him, I’d sneak into the animation lab and do my homework alongside him and my good friend Tom, who was in the same program. I soon realized how cool this CGI stuff was and wanted in – but I wanted to avoid the same technical side of things because Adam’s eyes were always bloodshot, Tom had pulled out big chunks of his hair, and they both spent consecutive nights under their desks at the ‘lab’ hitting deadlines or troubleshooting some bug.
Although I wasn’t a film major, the Film Department allowed me to enroll in their Production Management courses because I had such a unique request to be a Visual Effects Producer. The Animation Department dubbed me Associate Producer on their CG Animated Short for the year, and I was soon immersed in the lingo and tutored by some pretty smart people. All the while, I was working through my German & Business classes trying to graduate as quickly as possible, but I was focusing all my efforts and time on Film and understanding the computer graphic world.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I got a job working in a talent agency’s mailroom. The rest of the building was state of the art – fancy furniture, sleek architecture and latest technology on every desk – except the mailroom, which was in the basement and the only room that had no direct sunlight. It was cramped, had old fluorescent lights that flickered and the mailroom and dress code was suit & tie. You even had to have a college degree, though the job was simply sorting mail and actor’s headshots into different boxes – Hollywood needs its stars alphabetized in style! On lunch breaks, I would rush out and interview at Visual Effects studios. When I went and interviewed at Digital Domain in Venice, I ran into 6.5 people I knew from the animation program in college. They all gave me a recommendation then and there – the interviewers told me later I was so ‘adorable’ wearing a suit and tie in such a casual industry that I was probably the most dressed up of anyone that ever came through their doors – lucky for that mailroom dress code!
What are you working on now?
After finishing The Avengers, I steered Weta Digital’s Anim team through about 10 minutes of the movie “Man of Steel”, Zach Snyder’s reboot of the Superman story to be released in 2013. After 3+ years in New Zealand, I moved back to California 3 weeks ago to be close to my parents, and go on the road with that awesome brother’s newly published book “Evertaster.” “Evertaster” is a young adult novel in the vein of Percy Jackson or Harry Potter, but “Evertaster” opens the imagination and creativity for kids and adults in a way few other novels can. I’m stoked to share the story with schools, neighborhoods and foodies everywhere!
Where does your inspiration come from?
This is a tough one because I grab my inspiration from anything & everything. A lot of my managerial philosophies come from business books (Arbinger Institute more specifically) and my parents taught me a lot how to treat others as individuals and to finish something. My mom would always say “Sidwells aren’t quitters!”
In brainstorming Evertaster with Adam, I put forth facts I read in a scientific journal or a news report or lecture from a college professor, imagination tidbits from short stories and stuff we did in our family growing up. A few lines in Evertaster almost directly quote our parents or siblings.
When I did Themed Party planning before I got into Film, my inspiration would come from stereotypes – how the audience perceived a certain something. When I threw Oktoberfest for my University, I’d jam pack everything college kids thought was typical German – Autobahn races, yodeling & Ricola, cuckoo clocks, woman milking cows, etc – and whether it was correct or not, I’d jam pack a version of that into a wild night of zaniness.
What are your goals?
“Evertaster” was fortunate enough, through some clever marketing, to break the Amazon Top 100 on its Launch Day, so now we’re aiming for NYT Bestseller down the road. Once “Evertaster” does that, hopefully at that point, there will be enough interest and momentum behind the book that Adam and I can return to our industry and make “Evertaster: A Course of Legends” into a feature film, iPhone app, video game or theme park ride. “ Evertaster” creates such a unique & imaginative world I think the possibilities are endless.
If you could share one thing in life you’ve learned, what would it be?
That each person you meet is better than you at something and has a quality to share that will make you a better person. No matter how far you’ve worked yourself up the chain or how many degrees you earned, each and every individual can teach you something that makes you a better manager, father, teacher or listener and that it only benefits you to try and figure out what that is so you can both learn from each other.
Jarom, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a blast talking to you and learning more about you and your work!
Until Next Time…