Interview with Oscar Nominated Production Designer Anne Seibel (Midnight in Paris, Bonjour Anne)

Anne Seibel earned an Oscar Nomination for “Midnight in Paris”. Based in Paris, she has worked with some of the top directors in the world today, including Steven Spielberg, David Frankel, M. Night Shyamalan, Sofia Coppola, Clint Eastwood, and 3 Production Designer assignments with Woody Allen.

Go to her website: www.anneseibel.com

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Anne to chat about her career.

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

anne_seilbel.jpgAnne Seibel: The Production designer is the person in charge of the sets, the mood and look of the film collaborating directly with the director and Director of Photography.

The Art director is their right hand, supervising the art department and the making of the sets for the production designer.

I always compare my team as an orchestra.

Production designer is the condutor with a musique partition (script). They perform the story with their own vision and in harmony with the director. Their 1st violins are the Art Director and Set Decorator. The orchestra is their art and construction teams.

Matthew: You’ve worked in the Art Department in over 40 productions in the last 20 years. Is there one or two films that you’re most proud of? 

Anne: “Marie Antoinette”, directed by Sofia Coppola, and “Midnight in Paris”, directed by Woody Allen. Plus, “Road Movie”, directed by Dev benegal

PHOTO: Anne designs the Queen’s bedroom in Marie Antoinette:

anne_siebel_marie_antoinette_creating_queens_bedroom_plan.jpg

Matthew: Who is your Production Designer mentor?

Anne: Rick Carter is definitely my mentor and my friend. He has guided me since we worked on “Munich” together.

He is very talented and a wonderful human beeing. His advice has always been a real teaching not only on the technical point of view but as well on a philosophical point of view.

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

Anne: I really like Sarah Greenwood and Eve Steward. Would love to share and experience with them.

Matthew: The film “Bonjour Anne”, which you were the Production Designer on, just wrapped. Can you give people a sneak peak of the Eleanor Coppola directed film?

Anne: “Bonjour Anne” is a lovely Road Movie.

I met Eleanor on “Marie Antoinette” and remained in contact with her.  For more than 5 years she struggled to raise the money to do the film. Difficult to be Francis Ford Coppola’s wife. Roman and Sofia’s mother had the desire to do her own creation, her first feature film. Eleanor is a wonderful person and a great artist. She has got her own vision and a great eye . She is a director noticing and caring about the smallest detail in the film. She created an family atmosphere, evryone loved her.

Matthew: How did you get started in the film Art Director world? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Anne: Growing up, I was not aware that I would be a Production Designer for movies. I nearly went to study medicine but failed at the Baccalaureat and then went to study Architecture the following year.

3 years later,  I met someone who took me on a feature film shoot. I discovered there was a world I didn’t know.

My family is not in movies at all, but, since I was very young my cousin and I were doing muppet shows for the family, shows for family weddings with sets and costumes. In fact I did my first set when I was 13 for a dance show I was dancing in. So I could say that I always wanted to do that job but did not realize it existed and the job found me anyway. I couldn’t be a doctor…

PHOTO: Anne recreates a Paris cafe from modern times to the 1970s in Munich:

anne_siebel_munich_recreating_paris_1970s

Matthew: You have worked with Woody Allen on three films. How is his process with a Production Designer? Does he give you a lot of creative freedom?

Anne: Woody gives me a total freedom and is even open to ideas of locations how we can make the script better. Like in “Magic in the Moonlight”. We found this amazing Observatory in Nice and he liked it a lot. Then we used it for the scene when they run to protect themselve from the rain in the night. It is magical moment in the film and inspired the tittle.

PHOTO: Anne creates a “mood board” for Midnight in Paris to lead her to her Oscar Nomination:

anne_siebel_mood_board_midnight_in_paris.jpg

Matthew: You have worked on a lot of fantasy films? Do you prefer working on that genre in relation to drama?

Anne: No I don’t have any preferences.  I really choose films with my heart and gut feeling, either because of the script or because of the director.

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

Anne: A film where everything has to be created. A world which doen’t exist. Films where your imagination is taking you far away from the real world. Like Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam movies.

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

Anne: “E.T”. I always cry. And “It’s a Wonderful Life” by Frank Capra

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

Anne: It all depends on the scale of the film. I’ve worked on small independant movies where my team was 10 to 15 people, like “Bonjour Anne” by Eleanor Coppola or “Road Movie” by Dev Benegal.

Most big films there are around 250 people, if you include the construction teams.  Some films can reach enormous figures in the 1000s in the art depatment, like Star Wars.

PHOTO: Anne’s original sketches for “Magic in the Moonlight”

anne_siebel_magic_moonlight_sketch.jpg

_____

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 Festival 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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