Ben Mauro is a leading concept designer. He worked at Weta Workshop from 2009-2013, where he contributed to The Hobbit trilogy and Elysium, among many other movies. He is currently working as an independent concept designer with clients including Treyarch, Activision, Insomniac Games, MPC, Lucasfilm, Rhythm & Hues, Legendary Pictures, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Boston Dynamics, Syfy and Discovery Channel.
Tell us about your journey
In high school, I wanted to be a level designer for games like Halo or Unreal Tournament. I really enjoyed the architecture and level design in them and I thought that would be a fun job to do.
That led me to a 3D animation school in Seattle, but a few years in I decided I would have more opportunities studying industrial design down in California at Art Center College of Design.
Art Center really set me up for working in the entertainment industry. Toward the end of my education, I started freelancing around LA and working with local game, film and animation studios before I moved down to New Zealand to work at Weta Workshop for almost four years.
How do you want to impact the world?
I am currently working on my personal dream project [Valerian, Luc Besson’s upcoming adaption of the French sci-fi graphic novel], so that box is checked!
After the film is over, I am going to take some time off to finish a graphic novel I’ve wanted to make for a year or two. Hopefully I can fend off client work for six months to work on it full-time.
What are you passionate about?
I didn’t travel much when I was younger, so that is something that’s been hugely important to me over the past few years: so much so that it was one of the main reasons for leaving a desk job and just going full-time freelance. Seeing the world and having life experiences hugely impacts our work as artists. Being stuck at a desk in a dark room looking at photos on Google doesn’t come close to seeing and experiencing something first-hand.
Outside of travelling I really love car design. If I ever strike it rich one day, I will probably get a garage and just tinker with old 911s.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
I believe that anyone can do this job if they really want it: just be realistic about the path you are on, and be prepared to put in the 10,000-plus hours you need to get where you want to go.
I don’t feel I was particularly gifted or naturally ‘talented’, so I got where I am from hard work, starting from basically nothing and working every day. For me that meant art school, but it’s possible now to do this on your own for a fraction of the cost with all of the amazing resources online.
For more business-related advice I also keep a section on my website discussing my experiences over the years regarding artists’ rates and things of that nature.
Other than that just be a good person, stay curious and never stop learning.