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Alex McDowell: World Building and Narrative

Minority Report changed production designer Alex McDowell’s career. The film didn’t begin with a script. Instead, director Steven Spielberg wanted a world that would jump-start the narrative. So with the help of a transmedia “think tank,” Alex created a detailed digital environment complete with its own society, politics, technology, terrain, and infrastructure. Alex spent the next decade world building, working on films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Watchmen. Now he runs 5D GlobalStudio and the World Building Media Lab at the University of Southern California, where students learn how to solve storytelling problems through design.

In this interview, Alex tells us about his current projects (including models for sustainable living and a virtual exploration of the world’s oceans), the future of media and narrative, and where he looks for inspiration.

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