5Qs: Hollywood Designer Tim Flattery on Joining the College for Creative Studies as Head of Entertainment Arts


Tim Flattery, the new head of entertainment arts at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit’s Midtown district, has had a successful career in Los Angeles as a film concept artist with more than 40 film credits to his name. Flattery designed a full-size construction of a Batmobile for Batman Forever, and has worked on movies such as The Hunger Games and the upcoming Star Trek 3. DBusiness Daily News spoke to Flattery about how the city of Detroit has inspired his work in Hollywood as well as his plans for the entertainment arts program.

1. DDN: How does it feel to return to your alma mater as an educator?

It feels great. I have been in Los Angeles for a long time but always felt like a visitor there. I’m excited to return home and to the College for Creative Studies. My plan for the entertainment arts department is to broaden the scope. I want to pursue storytelling, experimental filmmaking, animation of 3D characters, and world building for game design. I will be bringing in connections from Los Angeles to speak to students over Skype.

2. DDN: How did your education at CCS prepare you for a career in the film industry?

I went into the College for Creative Studies as a decent artist and left there a designer. I learn a range of skills that made me flexible and useful in the film industry — the design theory that I was taught there applies to cars but also to designing characters and architecture. It also gave me the technical tools, (like) rendering techniques, before media came out for that. It gave me my career. 

3. DDN: How do you see careers in film design developing and changing over the next few years?

When I started out, no one knew it could be a career. (But) because of books that showed the art that went into making movies like Star Wars, the public started to become familiar with the work concept designers were doing. Talented artists and designers are now hungry to join the entertainment industry because it offers so much scope — you are designing everything from characters to environments, hardware to architecture, as opposed to one specific thing. The way I see the industry panning out in the future is that it will become harder to break in. A designer has to be proficient in many different software programs, so that is a big part of their toolkit and who they are.

4. DDN: Has Michigan inspired you creatively throughout your career?

Art and culture runs deep in Detroit, and it was something that had a big effect on me. The car industry was a large part of that. In particular, I love the AMC Pacer and the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the latter of which I shared with my brother as a teenager. Those cars, the (Chevrolet) Chevelle’s, the (Pontiac/Oldsmobile) Cutlasses, I have a soft spot for them. It’s where my first inspiration came from and led me to the College for Creative Studies. The art scene in Detroit is very current and desirable on a national basis. It was a big part of developing me as a designer and will play a bigger role in new talent.

5. DDN: What are some of your favorite projects you have done so far?

Film wise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Solaris are tied for my favorite movies I have worked on. Solaris is especially interesting as far as how it looks design wise. I’m proud of all the movies I worked on, from Saving Private Ryan to creating one of the Batmobiles (for Batman Forever). Coming from Detroit, I learned to love to create hardware — cars, spaceships, etc. It comes from my Detroit DNA. That lends itself to science because there is usually a lot of hardware that needs to be designed for those films, from vehicles to props.