True North Bricks caught up with Dave and Richard for an interview about their time on season two of LEGO® Masters. Along with fellow LEGO® Fan Media outlets, Brothers Brick, Brickset, and BZ Power, we chatted about activism through LEGO® Bricks, their building influences, and their building styles to name a few topics. Read on for more. For full LEGO® Masters, season two coverage, click here.
Until next time,
What are your thoughts on being sent home this past week?
Richard: It’s weird. I think the issue for me was how my build can be interpreted. The challenge that I had was to create coral. It’s wacky and crazy. Is it a creature or is it an environment? That was something that I was grappling with a lot. With what came later on in terms of the challenge twist, I was able to put some of that stuff behind me. But ultimately, the way our creature was interpreted threw me for a loop. It was very noticeable. The coral was very present. It was misinterpreted as a penguin. I think they saw a penguin, but that’s not what we were calling it. We called it Poco the entire time. But even a lot of the recaps say penguin. It’s not a penguin, it’s a Poco. It’s a new creature. It’s not like it’s a penguin and coral. That’s why you have Poco. I think that was a misinterpretation to an extent.
Dave: It’s a very layered question. I know exactly what Richard is talking about. One time we said to the Brickmasters, “We’re gonna make a punk rock penguin,” and that was it. That’s how the edit was made. Every other time, we referred to it as Poco. Penguin and coral put together, a portmanteau. We’re known as a team for thinking differently from other teams. We built the exoskeleton tower, totally different than what everybody did. We leave the wheels completely uncovered on the car, and nothing gets stuck. We think about sound as well as motion. And those are just the challenges we won. I mean, you can talk about so many other builds. What we always wanted to do was think outside the box. I will admit, I’m somebody who keys in on certain things when the Brickmasters talk. They may have said “mash up” a lot of times, but what I keyed in on was they said, “We want a creature we’ve never seen before, and bring us into their world.”
When we’re putting the coral on top of the penguin, and it’s infusing down his body into different parts, he has become something new. He’s not a penguin. If you look at that penguin, it’s nothing like our final build. It was two totally different things. Building in a vacuum was not good for me. I didn’t enjoy building that penguin by myself. I was like, “What am I thinking? I’m building black and white in front of Amy! This is not a good choice.”
It needed to be something else. When we came together, you could see the two things becoming something new. To us, it was a new character that you’d never seen before. This was not a penguin anymore. You don’t see a penguin. We made a character, because we know from watching last season, the Brickmasters love characters, they love storytelling. Ultimately, we didn’t get rewarded for thinking differently, and I respect that opinion. This is the way that the rules were interpreted. As a teacher, I’m always looking for kids who are trying to think creatively and look for different solutions. I think that is also important in life.
You won three challenges. What was your reaction to having to go home this week?
Richard: My first answer to that is that this show doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels. Our production schedule didn’t allow us to relax, have a break, and revel in a victory, or revel in being safe. We had to think about the next day and the next build. For us, that’s not the easiest thing because our builds are so different. We couldn’t do something similar to what we did in the previous build for the next one. We had to completely wipe the slate clean and start fresh every time. It was really difficult to do that. It’s not like playing sports. When you have a game, you have a moment to enjoy that victory and be proud of yourself. We were constantly trying to push ourselves to be better, and to do bigger, or do something stronger, and also anticipate the unknown. There were so many curveballs, things that we couldn’t expect. Honestly, we just had to have a positive state of mind.
Dave: We put ourselves in every build. It’s hard to be disappointed when you do that. If you really put what you believe down in brick, then you’re not going to be disappointed. You know that you’ve represented yourself and you’re true to yourself. I think that was one of the things that made it easy to say, “The Brickmasters might not have liked our build as much as they liked something else, but we love it just as much as everything that we’ve done.” No matter what, at the end of the day we’re so proud of every single build we did. No matter if it fell forward or didn’t have enough coral on it. We love it. It’s fine. We think it’s great, and hopefully other people see that too.
Richard: I was so happy once I was able to work with Dave again in the last challenge. There was something missing, building alone. When we picked back up it was like we started the season over. It was weird, but we hit the ground running and we had so much to talk about. I’m really happy that things went the way that they went.
What are some of the details from your builds that we didn’t get to see on the show?
Richard: I may have missed something in the most recent episode, but I don’t think there was enough screen time on the environment of Poco. Maybe there was a flash of a section, but I don’t think we really got to see the 360-degree view of everything. There are a lot of elements in there, down to the fish bones in a bucket that we made for Poco. There was an amp with cords going into the guitar. I think the scale of the guitar was just as impressive, as was the wingspan of Poco. When you really look closely at that build, there was a lot to notice. There was a really great brick wall around him that gave that vignette type of feel, but on a really big scale.
Dave: I think that also. Not just the environment, but how the coral texture had spread onto the feet, how it spread onto the chest, how there was even some on the beak. But that just wasn’t part of the final cut. In the first build, the parade float had so much more going on than what was shown. For example, the way that the letters spun. The design of the letters was based on the flags of New York and Chicago. The chefs had movement – although that did fail just as it was coming around the corner – they were waving the toppings on both the pizza and the hot dog. We made sure that hot dog had every single Chicago style topping on it. And the skylines in the back… there was so much detail in that build. We really put everything we had into it because we were on LEGO® Masters. When are you going to get a chance to do that again? You might as well throw everything on the table.
Richard: Another thing that I think was really important was in the hero shot episode. There was an amphitheater built behind the urban blight. The goal was once the building exploded and fell apart, you would see a little amphitheater with minifigures in the back enjoying the music played by our hero. There was a lot more focus on the explosion and not the aftermath of the explosion, which was just as important. Because every story has a beginning, middle and end. The end was this happy, joyous, melodic, harmonious balance between men and nature. I want to make sure I have our wording right because that was essential to our story because we had such a difficult minifigure.
Can you walk us through the puppet challenge and what the design process was?
Dave: We needed to consider how much LEGO® weighs. We learned our lesson on that one earlier. There were two strategies: people had rods, or people had bust puppets. We went with the rods. But instead of putting the rod in the head, or holding it way down low, we put it right in the torso. If you try to hold up anything that long above your head, you’re going to get tired doing it. It’s heavy.
There were so many parts, it’s hard to talk about everything. One choice was making the skin smooth versus making the body textured. We’re both huge Muppet fans. We had talked so much about the Muppets before this episode. Before we even knew about this challenge, we were talking about our favorite Muppets. I actually talked to Anthony Domenici (executive producer) because I knew that he had worked with the Muppets before. I had asked him, “Tell me about your time working with the Muppets and why you think Rowlf is the best Muppet.” I think Rowlf has the best mouth and I just wanted him to confirm that. Then we had this puppet challenge. It was unbelievable. I love that puppet. It was so fun to make a full body puppet. I think it would have been great if we could have kept the legs at the length that we originally had them. But we really had to shed weight because it was getting so heavy. I did not want to put all that pressure on Dave to hold it up while I was trying to read the script. At one point it was going to be both of us working the puppet, but I think we would have lost something trying to spend too much time on the performance. We did the best we could.
There was a diverse array of challenges this season. How did you handle those different kinds of builds?
Richard: It was pretty seamless for us to be able to incorporate the coral into the penguin. We knew instantly where it could go and how much we can use so that it could have a fair balance between both creatures and make this hybrid. So, once we got the coral on we felt like, “Alright, let’s just make this environment and this crazy cool story that was going to really wow people.” The goal was to bring everyone into the creature’s world. But that world should also be so robust. I felt like it was pretty seamless in the beginning. The scale of mine paled in comparison to Dave’s. With five hours and having never built coral before, I was just going to do what I could. I wanted to get all my touch points. I wanted to be colorful. I wanted to be movable. That was something that was not really highlighted. It’s an afterthought. But there was some movement in the coral, it was colorful, it had its own style and texture, and it was unique.
Dave: I think that when you watch LEGO® Masters, Season One, it’s all about the twist. You watch LEGO® Masters, Season Two, and it’s all about what limits can you push LEGO® to. Neither one’s right, and neither one’s wrong. They’re just so different. Pushing the limits is something that our team was constantly about. We tried to think outside of the box on so many challenges. Pushing the limits of LEGO® was like pushing the limits of creativity, so I appreciated it. Maybe we could have mixed it up a little bit, but it was super fun. When else are you going to get a chance to do some of these things? I don’t have a pyrotechnic guy at my house wiring up my LEGO® for me. I don’t have a giant fan. This is the only time this is ever going to happen. We should be so excited about these opportunities.
What are your art influences?
Dave: For me, the influence is life experience. I like to look at what’s happening around me. There are spheres of influence around all of us. You have your people who you live with in your home, there are people in your neighborhood, there are people in your city, there are people in your state. It just goes out from there, radiating out. The things that happened to me in my life are where I draw my art influences from. I also look to the LEGO® community and I want to see what’s being done there. Because you can’t just build in a vacuum. I think one of the most important things about working with Richard was that we never built in a vacuum. We always collaborated, and our builds were better because of that.
Richard: I totally agree with Dave. For me, I find art in everything. My son wants to be an animator when he gets older. I’m constantly looking at things that he’s inspired by; cartoons, different drawing styles. Art is in everything from composition to color to details. Coming from New York, I’ve always been surrounded by street art and graffiti, and I’ve always appreciated fine art as well. In terms of composition and texture, I’m a huge fan of Piet Mondrian. The colors are really very much like what LEGO® does with a lot of their primary colors. Dave and I talked so much about composition and art styles in our builds. That was a focal point for a lot of what we did. You can really draw inspiration from so many different corners of life.
Which model that you built in LEGO® Masters is the most personal to you?
Richard: They’re all really personal. I think we went into every build with that intention. We wanted to make them a reflection of us and a reflection of something that was sentimental to us. There were things that people weren’t even able to see, like the puppet’s shoes. I love the Clark style of desert boot, or Wallabies. There’s always a little taste of reality in the things that we do. We want our builds to live in the real world because they come from the real world.
Dave: I don’t think you can take this work of nine builds and pull it apart. It tells a story of who we are as people, and what we believe in both on a personal level and on a social level. I don’t think either of us could say any of these builds is the most personal. Each one is a different part of us. We’re complex people. We’re all complex people. They were all personal builds for us and I think that’s one of the things that set our team apart.
Richard: We also couldn’t do one build without doing another one. There are so many things that we learned from one build going into the next and things that we didn’t want to do from the previous one in the next one. There were so many learning experiences in each episode. We’re grateful to have grown. I think our entire body of work shows growth.
Dave: One of my favorite podcasts talks about film directors and how each subsequent film is a reaction to what they had done before. Each one of our builds is a reaction to what we had done in the previous build. That’s why you really have to look at it as an entire body of work.
Prior to going into LEGO® Masters, how would you have classified your own building style and how well did that translate to being on a reality show?
Richard: I think my building style was just more about efficiency, and not so much specific things. I’m a collector of sets and someone who is still learning how to build original creations. I was learning through this entire process. For the most part, I would say my storytelling and my efficiency in building was really the crux of what I brought to the show.
Dave: When I think about building LEGO®, I never think about competitive speed building, which is what LEGO® Masters is. For me, building LEGO® is about taking time to think about what I want to build. I’m very much a person who processes things in my mind. I don’t build digitally; I don’t draw things out. I’ll go to bed, and I’ll wake up the next morning with it, because I’ve been thinking about it. I’m always thinking about whatever I’m building. I kind of build in my head in advance. On LEGO® Masters, you can’t do that because you just have to start building. The clock is running, and you just have to build. It was a totally different way of building, but I think we were really successful at it. I think time really wasn’t much of an issue for our team. Sometimes we didn’t have enough time to think in advance or have enough time to adjust. But I’m still proud of every single build we did, and I think they’re all great.
What advice would you give to your pre-LEGO® Masters self?
Dave: My advice to my pre-LEGO® Masters self would be to really consider how much LEGO® weighs, and how much it weighs if you put it on your body.
Richard: Yes, I think that’s a life lesson right there. Knowing how much you can handle and just being realistic with what you can put on your plate. I think we were a little overly ambitious sometimes. To answer your question, I think if I could tell myself something different, I would pay more attention to the math that’s involved in LEGO®. I would be more conscious of how many rows of studs I would have to go over, and how that applies to sculpting. That’s something that I think I overlooked on some occasions. I think it’s really important to pay attention to where you are in your process. When you’re building, you have your head down and you’re in a tunnel. You’re just trying to get this thing done. Sometimes you forget that you have to pace yourself. You have to be aware of where you are with each brick that you put down.
How did you handle having to come up with successive, novel creative ideas in such a short period of time?
Dave: I think one of the keys is the way that we communicate with each other and that we trust each other. Even though we had never built together before LEGO® Masters, we had spent a lot of time talking on the phone leading up to it, a lot of time learning about each other, and learning about how the other person thinks. On days when we could, we would go for walks together and just talk about things. Whether it was about the show, about our personal lives, or maybe watching the NBA All Star game together. Just making connections. It meant that you could throw out any idea and find a way to make it work. For example, when we got the violin guy, Richard started talking about environmentalism. That was one of the touch points that we came into the show with. He wanted to do an environmental build. I was thinking, what does the violin guy have to do with environmentalism? He explained it, and I trusted him, and we made it work. It was a really successful build, but that trust and that communication is what made our creativity flow.
Did you have a mission when you started the show, and did you accomplish it?
Dave: The moment when they said that we were activist friends was probably the moment that I felt like we did it. It was very early on. That let us know that they accepted us for who we wanted to be on the show and didn’t force us to be something. They didn’t make us activist friends. We are activist friends. We care about things, and we’re friends through that activism. The fact that we were allowed to do that through our builds, through our storytelling, through who we are as people really meant a lot. We’ve gotten so many comments on social media. Also, when we go to conventions or events, people say, “I see what you’re doing. I appreciate it and thank you for doing that.” That almost means more than anything else.
Richard: When people saw our builds, I wanted them to see a little bit of themselves in it. Coming into the show, I’ve never built with anyone before. I didn’t want to just hog this opportunity for myself and just go crazy. I didn’t want to do the same thing that I was used to seeing in LEGO®. I wanted to do something that had never been done before. I think that’s the stuff that really attracts me to LEGO® as an adult. I can see my world through LEGO®, and I can see I can apply LEGO® to so many other things that I wasn’t aware of. This was an opportunity to go where we were never able to go with the resources that we had. We’re really, really proud of what we’ve done and for the platform to speak without a filter.
Dave: I talked to my son last night, after the episode aired. We were talking about, “Well, you didn’t win, Dad.” And I said, “You’re right. I didn’t win, but sometimes it’s not about winning. It’s about what you do on the show, and what other people are learning from what you’re doing.” I listed off the things that we talked about on the show. We got Black Lives Matter on TV. We talked about redistribution of wealth. We talked about helping the earth. We talked about being a good parent. We even talked about LGBTQ+ rights. That didn’t make the cut, but it was all in there. Sometimes that’s more important, and he was like, “Yeah, but if you had the money we could have also helped people.”
Richard: (laughing) Yes, thanks to Dave’s son for reminding us!
Now that the show is over, are you going to continue building together?
Richard: First of all, I’ve never been to any of the LEGO® conventions. I know of them; I’ve just never been to any. I have so much more that I want to learn as a builder, other people I’d like to meet. But I want to meet those people through Dave. When we were going into the show, there were so many people that he was familiar with. He was telling me about some of their really great work. I was just fascinated by this whole world that I was getting accustomed to through writing about LEGO®. I want to really continue on forward. Dave and I talk every other day and it’s not just about LEGO®. I’m happy that I have a friend and we have new experiences and new adventures to have together.
Dave: How often do adults make new friends? Like lifelong friends? It doesn’t happen, especially once you have kids. You don’t make friends like this very often. To have gone through this experience together is special. Anybody who has been in a creative situation knows how stressful it is, but also how much you can get out of it. We not only got great builds out of it, we got a great partnership out of it. There’s no reason this partnership should end. Over the last nine weeks, we’ve been doing many builds. I might be doing the build, but I’m running things by Richard as I’m doing it and he’s doing the writing to go with it. It’s that combined effort. It’s not just what you build. Anybody who does LEGO® knows you’re presenting, not just your build, but you’re thinking about how to present it, and what the words are. It’s all important. All of that goes together to make it part of a story that you’re telling through your builds. So, this is definitely a collaboration that’s going to keep happening.
Richard: Oh yeah, I can’t wait.
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