Imagine my surprise and brief panic when my contract said Production Designer.
So I googled.
Production designers are responsible for the visual concept of a film, television or theatre production. They identify a design style for sets, locations, graphics, props, lighting, camera angles and costumes, while working closely with the director and producer.
Turns out its mostly the same thing. On big films its almost more of an office job. They come up with color palettes, textures and the look of sets and all that goes in it. They are the big boss that set, props, wardrobe and all of that falls under.
With this being an indie, the crew was smaller and budget more limited. This mainly means I was more creative with ways to dress the spaces and learned the names of a few clerks at the local thrift stores (they have half price days once a month at the DAV, dontchaknow.) I also ended up creating a lot of art to dress the walls with on my own, rather than paying stock sites.
But, the big lessons learned for on set Art Department.
1) Ziplock bags of ice, opened and near the windshield helps to keep them from fogging over while actors are inside doing takes. Shaving foam wiped on then wiped off leaves a film that also keeps them from fogging.
2) Have multiple sets of license plates for the state and era you will be shooting in. Fake plates are always needed.
3) For props that will be handled by the actors, I found that small tupperware containers, each one designated to a specific character, saved me so much time and anxiety. I never had to dig for a fresh pack of cigarettes or remember which keychain I needed when I needed it.
4) Have on hand a broom, paper towels and window cleaner. You are in charge of cleaning up a set and making sure window smudges get cleaned between sets.
5) Unless they are supposed to be there. In which case come up with a way to do make it quick to reapply exactly the same every time. Our continuity supervisor was incredibly nitpicky, which probably prevented some issues in editing, but made our job a lot harder. For one scene we had a paper sign on a door. We only had the primary and a backup. Then the director decided he wanted the actress to plant a bloody hand right in its center. But then..."RESET!" We needed multiples to for each take. Luckily I had saved it on a jump drive and was able to send someone to print out new in the PO trailer. But this could have seriously messed with production and it would have been on me even though it wasnt in the script, discussed or planned in order for me to prepare. YOU MUST HAVE OPTIONS FOR EVERYTHING! The director wants the shot and if you are the only person who is keeping them from getting it then you either need to be able to think on your feet or be prepared to defend your position. Ultimately, this is why film budgets go so high. The Art Department must prepare for any eventuality, and if the scene requires building a cave, you had best make sure it can be shot from any angle. If its not, you can bet thats the angle he will want.
6) Actors who smoke in the scene do not want to try to smoke a cigarette each take. Second hand smoke hits the entire cast and crew. Use herbal cigarettes. They are all gross smelling, but the least gross were Ecstacy brand. However, any herbals proved impossible to find anywhere in Missouri outside of Kansas City or St Louis so I had to get them shipped in. Get lots.
7) Those 3m velcro hanging strips will be your saving grace to keep from angering the owners of the property you are in when you need to hang tons of new artwork and signage.
8) Because you need to fix/hide things fast, keep a pocket full of sharpies and several sizes of paper/post-its on hand. They hide logos or continuity mistakes quick and easy and if you are smart about what you write on them can add texture and detail to the scene.
We went through a LOT of Poloroids.
Im excited for this film to come out. Its looking great and I got to work with some amazing people.
The lead is Clayne Crawford, who has been in a few incredible television series and next summer a movie called Spectral, which he described as Call of Duty meets Ghostbusters...as these are two of my favorite things Im super excited to see this.
One of my childhood favorites also had a role. Ken Hudson Campbell plays the local private investigator who is hired to find the aforementioned Clayne. Back in the day Ken was in a tv series called Hermans Head, which was like the Pixar film Inside Out, but 20 years earlier and for adults. Ken played Lust and while most of the jokes flew over this then 8 year olds head, the ones that landed rolled me every time. He was channeling Belushi for sure. He was also the iconic Santa Claus in Home Alone, he who helps set Kevin on his proper path.
I loved working with this guy. His subtle character ticks and little bits of business made him a joy to watch. Plus, he knows more dirty jokes and obscene Hollywood tales than anyone else I've ever met. Hire him for all the things. I want to see him on screen more.
Can you tell how much I liked working with this guy?