Phil Saunders Bio


I am currently a freelance concept artist, designer, director and writer based in Santa Monica, California. My latest venture, Saunders Creative, is a way for me to provide my fourteen years of experience in entertainment, automotive and product design to a broader client base, and to focus on my true passion, filmmaking.

For the past 10 years I have primarily been involved in game design and production as the creative director of Presto Studios, Inc. Known primarily for its award-winning and critically acclaimed adventure games, Presto made its mark with the ground-breaking The Journeyman Project, for which I was initially brought on as a consultant to design the game's numerous and detailed futuristic environments, props and vehicles. Touted as the first "photo-realistic" game on the emerging medium of CD-ROM, Journeyman was one of the first games to use detailed production design when it was released in January of 1993. Somewhat overshadowed by the later release of Cyan's blockbuster Myst, The Journeyman Project nevertheless pioneered the cinematic approach to games, using live actors in detailed, 3-D modeled 'virtual' sets which could be explored at leisure.

Since the sequel, Buried in Time, I have led the company's creative direction through numerous award-winning titles, culminating in last year's Myst 3: Exile (an ironic full-circle!), which was a #1 bestseller, and has won several "Adventure Game of the Year" honors as well as "Best Art Direction" from Computer Games Magazine. I've been fortunate in being responsible for many aspects of production, including game design, story development, art direction, concept design and live-action directing. My last Presto project, Whacked!, a real-time 3-D action game, will be released by Microsoft this year on the X-Box. This was a fun break for me, as it gave me the chance to stretch my experience into designing cartoon worlds and characters and directing comedy.

In a way, all of this experience has for me been a training ground in digital filmmaking, a background I intend to one day develop into making my own films.

Prior to joining Presto Studios (and for two years, simultaneously!), I spent four and a half years designing cars for Nissan Design International in San Diego, working on such projects as the Pathfinder, Quest/Mercury Villager minivan and an advanced proposal for the next-generation 300ZX that never was. I also got the opportunity to work on product design projects for clients such as Apple Computer and Salomon Skis.

How did I get started? Well, the oldest story in the business: I saw Star Wars when I was 7, and decided right then and there what I wanted to do with my life. I drew 'till I was eighteen, then, following the path of my heroes such as Syd Mead, Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie, I enrolled in an Industrial Design program at The Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. I was lucky enough to get admitted as a sophomore with Advanced Standing, and ended up the sole Honors graduate in my class of '91. While there, I worked for a number of companies during the summers, working in special effects, product and furniture design, and finally landed the best job of my early career, working as a concept designer for location-based entertainment pioneer Allen Yamashita at Interactive Simulations (now Sim-Ex Digital in Santa Monica). Working on rides for Japan and Canada pretty much paid my way through my last year of college, and was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Then during spring break of Senior Year, I took a trip to California and got hired by Nissan. The rest, as they say, is history!