Conrad Vernon, director of ‘Shrek 2,’ speaks with film class
The director, writer and storyboard artist visited the School of Communications and Assistant Professor Nicole Triche’s “Cinema Production” class Sept. 2, sharing his insights into the film industry.
In between trailers of his box office hits like “Shrek 2” and “Monsters vs. Aliens,” animation film director Conrad Vernon answered questions and discussed his career during a Sept. 2 visit to Assistant Professor Nicole Triche’s “Cinema Production” class.
The informal lecture provided the 16 students in attendance with insight into the film industry and the challenges directors face when bringing an animated film to life. (While Vernon’s face might not be recognizable to most, “Shrek 2” viewers certainly know his work: He provided the voice of "The Gingerbread Man," a live talking gingerbread man and one of "Shrek's" friends.)
Vernon walked the class through his career, including his start at Dreamworks as a storyboard artist on the film “Antz,” and touched on his successes and hurdles. His visit included several riveting personal acedotes, including the first time “Shrek” was screened for a Los Angeles film school audience. Vernon recalled how delightful it was to receive a standing applause at the end of the first sequence – an indication of the wild success the film series eventually received.
After the success of “Shrek,” where he served as a writer, Vernon returned to direct “Shrek 2.” “It’s tough to do a sequel,” he said, noting the heightened expectations. But again audiences loved the fictional orge and his friends, and the film scored the second-largest, three-day opening weekend in U.S. history at the time of release.
In the years since, he’s directed and contributed to films such as “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted” and “Penguins of Madagascar.” He also spoke at length about his upcoming project, “Sausage Party,” an animated movie about one sausage's quest to discover the truth about his existence. Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and others wrote the adult animated comedy film, and Vernon was tabbed to direct.
Finding the perfect actors, securing the right staff, and fine-tuning the story can be a tedious challenge on any film, Conrad explained – especially getting the script just right. “It's a constant rewriting process,” he said. “The script is never done until it's ripped from our hands.”
Before his film career, Vernon worked extensively in television, contributing as a storyboard artist for shows like “The Ren & Stimpy Show,” “2 Stupid Dogs” and “Rocko’s Modern Life.”