In A Video: Adam Savage’s interview
18 October 2018
-So to begin with tell us more about yourself.
Well, I am the son of an artist and a psychologist. I grew up in New York and Upstate New York and I was always encouraged by my parents to explore the things that I was interested in to try the things that I was curious about. And somewhere around my early Twenties that led into a career in theater. In the early 1990s in San Francisco, theater was a magnificent industry there was a large number of small theaters, and I cut my teeth in San Francisco working in rigging and Scenic painting and set construction, design, performance. And over the few years I got a bit of a reputation for being able to solve uncommon problems in the theater and that led to a career in the film industry. It started in television commercials, so my partner from Myth Busters, Jamie Hyneman, ran a small special effects shop called colossal pictures, and Jamie heard about me from some of my colleagues in the theater industry, and called me up and said I hear your you have some skill in this. Will you please come in and show me what you can do? And I ended up working for Jamie all over about 4 years on maybe a 100 or 150 separate commercials for clients like; Coca-Cola, Dow Corning, Hershey's, yeah Coca-Cola I said. And I end up leaving commercial special effects to go work in the toy industry. I've had about 16 different careers. I worked in the toy industry for a couple of years and then end up having problems with the toy industry in management, which meant I was making a lot of phone calls and filling out a lot of calendars, but I was not making anything with my hands, and I found this was debilitating to me until I quit the toy job I went back into special effects and I got up to George Lucas's effects company industrial Light Magic. And over several years there I've worked on Star Wars episodes 1 & 2, Thumbs like Space Cowboys and Galaxy Quest, and then finished my time in special effects on The Matrix films when Jamie called me. Although I was not working for him we had remained in touch and he called me in the spring of 2002 and said I just got this call from the Discovery Channel, and they would like to do this show ‘Myth Busters’, they asked me for a demo reel, and I don't know that I'd be very good at hosting a show like this but maybe together we could make a demo reel, maybe we could pitch it together.
And so we did. And what he didn't realize was that I had just been learning digital filmmaking. I had done a job in early 2002 it's been very lucrative, and for the first time in my adult life, I've been able to afford a brand new laptop computer, and the one that I invested in was the first computer devoted to digital video editing, and I have purchased a camera and I started making some little films just to teach myself how to edit, how to shoot, how to make a small film. And so I went into Jamie's shop, we shot a small demo reel for about 2 hours. I cut it into a 14-minute piece, which recent discovery, and they showed up three weeks later where we filmed the pilots of ‘Myth Busters’, and then we never stopped filming for 14 years. We filmed until the end at 13 and half years were some to the end of 2015. It was an unparalleled experience, over 14 years we made 280 hours of Television, we experiment conducted over 2,000 separate experiments, used 85 miles of duct tape, and we wrapped the program in 2015 as I said. Over the last 2 years I've been concentrating primarily on my website tested.com, where I make things I collaborate with other makers I promote other wonderful Artisans and creators, I travel around to different Comic Cons.
And then earlier this year, I started production on a new spin off of ‘Myth Busters’ called; ’Myth Busters’ Junior, and that we spent the summer from June to August filming this with six amazing kids from all across America, 3 Boys 3 girls, and I'm madly in love with all of these kids. It was one of the most creatively satisfying things I've ever done. There you go, there my whole life story.
-That’s amazing, throughout this journey, you have been into many careers, can you say in this at this point that you have found your passion or there is another venture for you?
It’s a really good question, over the course of each time I had a career I knew what I was doing I'm working in commercials I'm working in theater working in toys. On Myth Busters I went through several different iterations of wondering what I was doing what my job was. At first I thought I was hired to talk on camera, and then I realized it was important that I'm also building things communicate in the process of building and problem solving on camera. And then after a couple of years I was being interviewed by an American scientist and science Communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I was watching it, he was interviewing me but I was watching him, and I was thinking look at this man he's amazing he's a science communicator, he wants to tell the world how great science is, I realized oh I do that too, I thought okay I'm a science communicator.
And then a couple of years later, I realized that none of those were the complete truth that all that I have ever done for a living was to tell stories, and what I mean is what I was working in special effects, if I'm taking a spaceship and I am gluing details on it to make it look like a spaceship this is a fictional universe no one makes these things, but I'm putting details on. Those details don't work visually unless they tell a story, and that story is internal, it’s my story, but unless I'm honest about it, and unless I understand it, my work doesn't actually communicate on camera.
And Myth Busters was just an extended way of telling stories about exploring the world, and those to me are the two things that human beings do. We explore and we tell stories about what we find when we explore. And so I still don't know what I'm going to do when I grow up, I may have four more careers from here, I may have a dozen, but they will all be versions of doing the same thing, which is exploring and telling stories.
-So in this age and time, are we doing a good job in exploration with all the technology that we have?
I think we're doing a great job with exploration, I'm not sure we're doing such a good job of telling stories. I'm talking as a human's as a global culture; I think that in my country in America, I think one of the great difficulties we are having is being able to hear each other stories. It's easy to tell your story it's very hard to hear someone else's experience, and that to me is right now the biggest problem we have culturally.
-Today you are at Tanween, so and you're here to tell stories as well, what is the story that you want to tell to Saudi, and Saudi professionals who are coming to see you today?
I know that in Saudi culture the Arts are very very important. And as an artist I look for my inspiration I look hard for my inspiration, and I find it in my obsessions, I find it in the things that I can't not pay attention to, and so the story that I'm telling on stage tonight is a story of just how far down the rabbit hole, I go to investigate and to figure out the truth of something that I want to explore.
-Definitely to do this, there's quite a lot of passion. So, how are you going to communicate this passion?
That's exactly the level of detail that I go so, one of my past days in my personal life is I find objects that I look for. Objects that I find compelling and I make them. And in that replication I am taking a story and external narrative that is important to me and I'm internalizing it I'm eating it I am recapitulating it. And the level of detail that the level of exploration that I can go to. To do that is in some ways extreme, so I'll tell a story about investigating a prop from Stanley Kubrick director, Stanley Kubrick’s collection and just how deeply I want to and desire to explore an object that's important to me.
-I know this is your first time in Saudi, probably you didn’t have the chance to see much, would you consider Saudi probably for a movie or maybe Myth Buster Junior, is it in your radar for one of your creations?
I am always interested in finding and meeting and talking to and collaborating with other creators and other artists.
For me, my children, I have twin boys, they are 19 now, they have both left the house, I turned 50 a couple of years ago, and while 50 is just an age, it is also really good, it's an interesting number, and I feel incumbent on me to start passing on everything that I know, and also to listen, and so to me when I come to a place that's a culture that I'm not familiar with, it's an opportunity to learn and absolutely I'd love to come back here and spend more time and be able to learn more about the culture and collaborate with its people.
-Do you think curiosity is transferable?
Curiosity is absolutely transferable that's one of the most wonderful things about it.
When I was a kid, I visited, my father like I said was an artist, and had a lot of friends who are artists, and I tagged along with him to lots of different places, and, I visited a friend of his, who is a beautiful sculptor and he was making this tree out of wood and he had handmade every leaf, and I remember being amazed at someone spent so much time carving every single leaf, and then later on in the man's house, he had a beautiful mask from Africa, and it was one of these masks could have been made out of an old oil can, with marbles for eyes, but it was incredibly evocative, and I was 10 years old, and I remember being fascinated by this mask, and at 10 I didn't know how to appreciate how to verbally appreciate it. So I said where do you get one of these? And he said I picked it up in my travels. And then as my dad and I were leaving, we were pulling out of the driveway and he came running down the driveway and he gave me the mask.
And this stands out for me as a key moment in my life, because he saw the enthusiasm in me and he rewarded it with generosity. To me, that is the that's the key to being a person, I'd so I think that's why I wanted to keep telling the story of my obsessions, my hobby is a useless hobby, I'm not helping mankind by replicating these objects that I find compelling, but I do think that I am contributing to my culture by talking about it.
-If you have a message to the Saudi Youth, what would that be?
Tell your story and listen to other people’s stories. There is nothing more important that you can do as a person then do that.
I think most of the difficulties we have as humans in our interpersonal relationships and in our culture in our society is not being able to listen to each other.
-I don’t know how much you know about Ithra, or if you had the chance to go through the center. What do you think of some cultural centers like Ithra and their role in triggering curiosity, innovation, and culture in the human being?
I think places like Ithra are really wonderful and important. I saw pictures of the facility before I came here, and I spotted it from the road miles before we got here. Its architecture, just the shape of the building communicates to the world, something really interesting is happening here. And that if you come here you will see something you don't expect. I really appreciate the architecture I appreciate the attention to detail in the beautiful details all over this place. They communicate exactly that kind of curiosity and sense of wonder.
-Do you have any last words, to all of us, the people who will watch you through any of the production from this video?
I feel incredibly lucky to be invited to be here. My life at times feels like a fantasy, that I get to make the things and I make and collaborate with the people that I love. And to promote the art and passion and curiosity of other people is a great gift and it feels like the right path, and I am very grateful for that.
Adam it was a great pleasure listening to you telling your story and it's a privilege to have you here in Saudi Arabia and Ithra, and we hope to see you soon.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. All the best. Enjoy Ithra!