Interview with Art Director Jeremy Woolsey (Pitch Perfect, Million Dollar Arm, Dirty Grandpa)

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Art Director/Production Designer Jeremy Woolsey to chat about the world of film-making. Jeremy has worked in the Art Department on over 40 Hollywood productions including Vacation, Ouija, The Haunting in Connecticut 2, Pitch Perfect, Million Dollar Arm, Dirty Grandpa, and Bastard.

Matthew Toffolo: Film fans always get Production Design and Art Director mixed up, thinking they are the same position? Can you tell people what the difference is?

Jeremy Woolsey: The Production Designer is the head of the department and lays out the visual look of the film (along with the DP and Director). The Art Director runs the department and makes sure that vision is executed on time and on budget. Scheduling, budgeting and planning are all key components of the Art Director’s job.

Matthew: You’ve worked in the Art Department in over 40 productions in the last 10 years. Is there one or two films that you’re most proud of?

Jeremy: I am proud to be a part of the runaway hit “Pitch Perfect” .. That film has touched a great deal of people. And I think our work on “Million Dollar Arm” was rewarding.

Matthew: Who is your Art Director/Production Designer mentor?

Jeremy: Barry Robison …. I have worked with him seven times and he has helped me get to a different level of filmmaking.

Matthew: Is there is a Production Designer working today that you haven’t yet met that you’ve a big fan of?

Jeremy: Jack Fisk …. Legendary figure and craftsman. We have a really good mutual friend, so maybe one day.

Matthew: 5) As of this interview, the film “Dirty Grandpa” is premiering, a film you were the Art Director on. How was working on that production with the legendary Robert DeNiro?

Jeremy: I normally don’t get too excited about seeing an actor on set, but the first day he stepped on set it was pretty cool. Was in the presence of a living master even if the subject matter was a raunchy departure.

Matthew: How did you get started in the studio film Art Director world?

Jeremy: Was it something you always wanted to do, or did the job find you? I started in the music production business in the 90’s then transitioned into entertainment production in New York in the summer of 2001.

Matthew: If there is a case of getting type-Art Direction casted!, you might be with the comedy/road trip movie. Bastards. Dirty Grandpa. Vacation. Is there is distinct different when working on these films in comparison to a non-road trip movie?

Jeremy: Not really … maybe more exteriors. And larger signage.

Matthew: How about working on a film like “Million Dollar Arm”, where the majority of the film was set in India. Does an art director move with the main crew when there is a major location change?

Jeremy: In that case, I was handling the Atlanta portion and Mark Robins out of New Zealand handled India.

Matthew: What type of film would you LOVE to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

Jeremy: I just started a period show set in the 60’s. Great story and great group of people, so it is a welcome departure.

Matthew: What film, besides ones that you have worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

Jeremy: Goodfellas

Matthew: How often to you re-watch the past films you’ve worked on? If you’re flipping through the channels late one night on a random Tuesday for example, and “Pitch Perfect” is on, do you watch?

Jeremy: Most of them aren’t the kind you would watch more than once, but if Pitch Perfect is on the screen I will give it a watch.

Matthew: In a typical studio film, how many crew members are on the Production Design team?

On the budget sizes I work on (20m to 45M) … We will generally have 10-12 in the office.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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