Interview with Director/Production Designer David Hackl (SAW Franchise)

David Hackl was the production designer and second unit director for Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV, as well as for Repo! The Genetic Opera. He then went on to direct Saw V to critical and financial success. Recently, he directed multiple episodes of the TV series “Real Detective”.

I was fortunate to sit down with David to talk about his career and what’s next:

Matthew Toffolo: You have worked in the Art Department and Directed over 25 films, is there a film or two that you’re most proud of?

David Hackl: I’m very proud of the Saw franchise and feel grateful to have had the opportunity to work on it. It a piece of cinema history now. I also have a real fondness for Outlander as it was one of the most epic projects that I’ve done. I had to research it like crazy and learn everything about viking architecture, culture, weaponry etc. We had to build everything, weaponry and huge sets that included a viking village with 22 buildings and an 80 foot Viking ship that was fully practical. The craftsmanship from the whole crew was outstanding in every department. I’ve always loved viking stories and would love to direct a viking feature now.

PHOTO: Still shot from the film OUTLANDER (2008):

outlander.jpg

MT: Tell us about your first Production Designer assignment in “Jerry and Tom”. Kind of an underrated film with a lot of camera movements and set/scene transitions. Some very inventive cinematic designs too. How did you get that assignment? Would you agree that this film really jump-started your career?

DH: “Jerry and Tom” was a fantastic first experience as a Production Designer. I had been designing and directing commercials for 10 years by then but I wanted to get into long format. I’m good friends with Saul Rubinek and we were location scouting another film when he told me about Jerry and Tom and I said “that should be your first film”. The story was written by Rick Cleveland (West Wing, Six Feet Under, Mad Men, House of Cards) and it sounded so great. The film we were on fell apart but then Saul called and said the Jerry and Tom was green lit.

We wanted to create a visual signature for the film and Saul brought up the idea of transitioning between scenes seamlessly rather then cutting. I loved what they did in Red Rock West and I took the idea and ran with it. The crazier an idea was the more Saul wanted to do it. So I wasn’t going hold back. I was thrilled to work with suck a stellar cast (Charles Durning, Ted Danson, William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell, Joe Montegna) and I think I wanted to show off a bit. It’s definitely an underrated film, though when I look at it now it seems so dated.

PHOTO: Still shot from JERRY AND TOM  (1998):

jerry_and_tom

MT: What is the biggest difference when Production Designing a TV series in comparison to a feature film?

DH: When you’re production designing a TV series everything tends to move a lot faster and on a shorter timeline then features. I love the pace of TV and the fact that you plough through so much work. I’m very comfortable with working fast and I’ve always been lucky to have great teams to support me. Features, on the other hand, give you the chance to develop ideas more,not because you have so much more time but because you generally start with a more solid script and singular focus. But both features and television are starting to feel similar on all aspects.

I love the more cinematic quality of television we’re seeing where the bar is getting raised constantly.

MT: How would you describe your SAW experience in one sentence?

DH: Wow that’s tough, one sentence? Working on the SAW franchise was fantastic creative challenge.

MT: What was the biggest thing you learned when you directed your first film SAW V?

DH: I learned how frigging hard it is to direct a feature. As a production designer you often have people lined up at your door to ask hundreds of questions a day. But as a director it’s more like a thousand questions. Designing is a good place to prepare yourself for directing and my directing now informs my PD work better as well.

PHOTO: Meagan Good in the film SAW V:

saw_v_meagan_goode.jpg

MT: From an outside perspective, the SAW franchise seemed to work like a corporation. Someone creates an idea, then as you grow people at the top move onwards while the key production heads move up the ladder of responsibility. Gaffer to DP. Art Director to Production Designer. Production Designer to Director (YOU). They really helped the growth of a lot of careers. Is this a true assessment?

DH: It’s true SAW gave a lot of people wonderful opportunities but I don’t know if that was a strong intention as much as a next natural progression. I think the producers felt more comfortable about keeping it in the family and it was certainly a nice gesture of gratitude. We all had such a great shorthand that it seemed to make sense to keep it in the family.

MT: Some argue that SAW V is the best of the franchise. Is there a reason why you didn’t direct SAW VI?

DH: I was originally in talks to direct Saw IV but the very day they called to make me and offer I had just found out my wife had cancer. (She’s clear and great now) But the producers suggested that I direct Saw V and VI instead. But after Saw V Kevin Greutert was keen to direct one and rightfully so. He had edited every one of the Saw films from the beginning. Few people knew the franchise better then Kevin. At the same time the producers decided to do a 3D Saw film and asked me to direct it. They asked me to stay on for the whole year and learn everything there was about 3D filmmaking and how we could best use it on a Saw film. Unfortunately 3 days before we shot SAW 3D the producers exercised my pay or play deal bumping me off the picture and exercised their 2nd picture option with Kevin Greutert forcing him off Paranormal Activity 2 when it was announced that it was going to open the same day as Saw 3D.

Welcome to directing!!

MT: What are you currently working on?

DH: I’m busy building a slate of films for my company with a few optioned novels and scripts for both TV and features. I’m writing a lot and working with writers, which I love. I’m also pushing hard to move into television directing.

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

DH: That’s easy. Apocalypse Now and Bladerunner. My two favourites films

MT: What is the future of the horror franchise?

DH: If you’re asking about SAW 8: Legacy it’s coming. Writers were just announced. I’m excited see what they’ll do next.

In more general terms horror franchises are all about an idea that has legs and I’m certain there’s going to be a new one any minute. I have a couple myself. (…he says with a smile!)

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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 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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Interview with Costume Designer Linda Muir (The Witch, Bitten)

A costume designer is a person who designs costumes for a film. The role of the costume designer is to create the characters and balance the scenes with texture and colour, etc.

What a terrific honour it was sit down with the talented costume designer Linda Muir, who is based in Toronto, Canada. She has worked in the industry for the last 30 years, on many successful films and TV shows, which she talks about in the interview. A must read for anyone working or wanting to work in the industry today: 

Matthew Toffolo: The horror film “The Witch”, will be hitting theaters this weekend, and it’s getting great reviews! How was your experience working on the film? 

The Witch was the most rewarding costume design experience I’ve had to date because the writer/director, Robert Eggers, is an extraordinary collaborator and because the film plays out at extremely close quarters so much of the detail put into the costumes actually reads.

I loved the script (it was certainly the first time I’d read a feminist take on Puritan hysteria) and I found Robert to be serious and intelligent with a wickedly sharp sense of humour. I felt camaraderie: we both tend to say what we think and we both learned to create tableaus while working in the theatre.

During my first interview (of three), Robert handed me a spiral bound book; it contained a presentation of images from his research for the film, everything from inspirational Goya paintings to photographic examples of corn rot.

PHOTO: Still shot from “The Witch”

the_witch_costumes.jpg

Research is my thing, too: obviously most of the time I am not the same as the characters for which I design costumes (such a Puritan man or girl living in 1630), so I do thorough research to inform my designs. In preparing to design costumes for The Witch I read approx. 1,800 pages of material in books produced by British historian Stuart Peachey, covering every aspect of 17thC clothing, such as weaving and dyeing wool, garment construction and pattern making, and notions like buttons and braided ties.

Throughout the film the audience sees the characters in every state of dress therefore I needed to know what garments were worn (and how they were worn) from the skin out.

While researching headwear, I found a website created for 17th C re-enacters which shed light on the way in which hair was dressed at the period, using woven linen (ribbon-like) tape braided into the hair. I then found a company stateside that sold the reproduction linen tape we needed to create the style (along with reproduction brass straight pins to secure Katherine’s neckerchief). That information turned out to be vital to the look of the film: not only was it accurate, it beautifully reflected the tightly bound up and covered beliefs that eventually unravel. As we see Thomasin and Katherine become more and more out of control their coifs (linen caps) come off, revealing the hairstyles and in the end all the hair comes down with yards of tape left dangling — Katherine crazed and defeated, Thomasin sensual and alive.

So, though The Witch was a real challenge, it was also a true joy.

Matthew: You have been the costume designer on over 40 productions in the last 25 years. Is there is film/TV show or two that you’re most proud of (besides The Witch)?

Long Days Journey Into Night, directed by David Wellington is a favorite, as are September Songs, and Mulroney: The Opera, both directed by Larry Weinstein, as well as Exotica, and Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.

The young editor who cut my reel in 2007 was thrilled to have had the opportunity to see so many fantastic Canadian projects. He wasn’t aware of the Rhombus catalogue, for instance, because programs such as CBC’s Opening Night, that at one time commissioned and aired challenging, imaginative work, no longer exist.

PHOTO: Still shot from “Mulroney: The Opera”

mulroney_the_opera.jpg

Matthew: What are the key differences when working on a TV series in comparison to a movie?

The major difference is the lead creative thrust and decision making: when working on a film it comes from the director (who is often also the writer) and the film’s producer(s), while with a series it comes first from the show runner/head writer and the series producer because there are typically different directors for each episode; usually it would not be possible for the director to shoot an episode while prepping the next —the work is simultaneous. The directors consult with the show runner and producer to ensure a continuous tone for the series, regardless of the differing directors. Therefore, costume meetings for a series involve many more people than for a film.

During the prep period for a feature I can deal with the script as a whole. There is a beginning, middle and end to the character arcs. The audience will have the entire viewing experience in one go. I have more control over the impact of a character’s visual evolution over the course of a film (which I chart) with the use of colour for a particular reason, or style changes, or the story told by the breakdown/distressing/aging on the costumes.

More of the entire project is prepped up front for a film and then once the film starts shooting work continues on costumes needed later in the schedule, either for the leads or for day players who weren’t cast until after the film started to shoot. It’s a dual focus for the costume designer: facilitating the ongoing filming of established costumes, dealing with problems that can (and will) arise, while continuing to design characters that haven’t been in front of the camera yet.

In a series, such as Bitten, the first one or two episodes (of ten or twelve) are prepped during the initial prep period, prior to shoot day 1, and that is as much of the season’s storyline as is available to the various departments.

Even though our producer JB Sugar and show-runner Daegan Fryklind were exceptionally helpful with giving a heads up about upcoming plot turns, wardrobe would still find that a character whose costumes were designed (and in a modern-day series that can often mean purchased with direction to a particular look) a month before, was then scripted to die a bloody death in the current episode being prepped. The costume had already been filmed and the character was on the run and had no opportunity to change clothing so the task for costume designer and wardrobe department became that of matching the wardrobe, either by making or finding more of the same wardrobe pieces that had already been shot, but in multiples to costume the actor for multiple takes of the action in new episode and, additionally, for the stunt performers, also for multiple takes.

PHOTO of Laura Vandervoort’s costume in “Bitten Season 3”:

bitten_laura.jpg

The other major difference (for the projects I work on) between a film and a tv series is the overall duration of the project. Costumes for a film typically prep over a 4 to 5 week period, shoots for 5 to 6 weeks and then wraps, whereas a series has an initial prep period of 4 to 5 weeks, shoots an episode in anywhere from 7 to 10 days while simultaneously prepping the next episode, and the shoot period lasts from 4 to eight months, and then the show wraps. Developing the designs for series characters is ongoing throughout the shoot and is dependent on the needs of each new episode.

Matthew: What type of film would you love to do costumes for that you haven’t done yet?

That’s a great question. I’ve been extremely fortunate in working on a wide range of projects but I really enjoy scripts that winkle out insights into society. Perhaps an alternate version of an existing book or film. Like Middlemarch set in the 1960s…

Matthew: Describe the process of a typical production. How early do you get hired in pre-production? Do you work and report to the Production Designer? Is your wardrobe budget already set in stone by the time you begin your first day?

“Typical” has changed over the years: financing for projects seems more precarious than ever and that impacts the total budget of a project, which in turn impacts start dates, department size, departmental budgets and the amount of time offered for prep.

Collaboration with the Production Designer is always crucial. The Production Designer has had other conversations with the Director that impact costumes. The palette for a film starts with the sets and extends to the wardrobe. Collaboration with the DP is also important; to be aware of lens choice, proposed light levels and filters.

The Witch, though totally a-typical, turned out to be an ideal pre-production and budgeting model. It took around four years for Robert, Jay, Lars, and Jodi to get the financing together for The Witch. Once I was offered the job of Costume Designer, I discovered that the proposed budget for costumes was ruefully low. After discussing all the areas that the costume budget would need to cover, it was agreed that I would devise a costume budget during a pre-production period far in advance of the actual prep period. Building that budget required extensive research and consultation with Robert; it actually meant designing and costing the family’s costumes. But ultimately it meant that the producers had a realistic number to budget for costumes (which shifted downward during prep as other production costs surfaced), and it meant that Robert and I had a solid starting point for the actual prep period.

Robert and I broke down the script to arrive at the number of script days depicted over the film and after discussing many options made the decision to limit each character to one costume with all the layers realistically represented, with multiples for blood or mud, or rain where needed. Even though it may be a stretch to imagine the family had so few clothes it paid off in the end because there are no distractions around the clothing—they have little, they care not for adornment, they have much more pressing problems to think about the changing a waistcoat.

I knew that we had to design and fabricate the costumes for the family of seven; we couldn’t rely on renting existing costumes since we needed multiples to accommodate the scripted action and we wanted control over the colour palette. We opted to put our limited money and time (which meant money) into creating perfectly detailed clothing that would bear scrutiny and help hold the audience in the period.

Costumes for the Meeting House cast of 50 were rented from Tirelli costume house, in Rome, shipped to Mattawa, Ontario and were augmented with collars, cuffs, coifs and aprons sewn on set in the middle of a forest.

Matthew: What do you look for when hiring your assistants?

“sewn on set in the middle of a forest” pretty much says it all.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

It’s likely a tie between E.T. and Backdraft, my son’s favorites that I watched with him on VHS (over and over) when he was a child. I don’t do multiple viewing, unless it’s for research purposes or to share a favorite; I think, like books, there are simply too many films to experience.

Stylistically, I’m sure that I was influenced by films of Hollywood’s golden years, as presented weekly by Elwy Yost, and since I worked designing Trade Forum environments and parties for T.I.F.F. (then The Festival of Festivals) from 1979 to 1984, I had a Staff pass enabling me to experience many new films by influential filmmakers like Fassbinder, Bergman or Tarkovsky.

Matthew: What makes a great costume designer?

A Teflon exterior? The nerve to pitch and defend out-there ideas because you really believe in them? An ability to empathize (fictionally, at least)? Curiosity, curiosity, curiosity? Being, or at least learning to be, a team-player? A refined sense of less-is-more?

Matthew: How did you originally get into the film industry? Was it your goal from the beginning?

Big smile. No, when I was in grade school I thought I’d be an English teacher. Then, in high school and university, I found Theatre Arts. Up until that point, the situations of the characters in novels had provided stimulation and illumination for me, but in plays they actually voiced those themes!

I have real respect for actors: they are the ones who must take it personally, their being is on the stage or in front of the camera. To produce a pertinent, convincing costume design seems to require similar insights into the character’s psyches —but I can remain anonymous.

At the start of my career I designed costumes for the theatre, at The Theatre Second Floor, Theatre Passe Murialle, Tarragon, TWP, Royal Alexandria, and Mabou Mines, for instance.  Folks kept telling me I should design for film because of the detail in my work and eventually the opportunity presented itself.

Now, after over forty years of designing costumes, it’s very special when an actor says that they feel like they are wearing clothing, not a costume, or when an actor cast at the last minute without benefit of rehearsal says that I have handed them their character. That’s a terrific feeling.

Matthew: Besides wardrobe, what else are you passionate about?

Other than my family, reading and cooking. In my fifties, I went back to school for a Chef Certificate.

Matthew: What advice do you have for high school or university students who are looking to work in the Costume Department in the movie industry?

Each path is different. Some are attracted by the stories; maybe they come to costumes by way of an arts background. Others come from fashion school. I suppose I’d say that however one arrives at the idea of being a costume designer, know that for most it is not a glamorous job. It involves REALLY long days; impossible amounts of stress (over lack of money, lack of time, lack of staff, and sometimes lack of collaboration); and the only thing that is certain in production is that nothing is certain.

Don’t rush it. Many young costumers that I meet think that they should be designing costumes for a film or a series immediately.

Take the time to learn the job. Observe. Work with designers from whom you think you can learn and when you do work on projects, be a team player. Commit. Commit to the project for its duration and commit to your department.

Learn to sew. You may not be a competent seamstress but you do need to know how clothes are constructed.

Learn to render a costume sketch. Again, drawing may not be your strength but you will need to convey your ideas.

Learn about fabrics. It’s unlikely that you will be able to afford the real thing so learn how to imitate it.

Learn how to do breakdown/distressing/aging of costumes. It is an important skill that adds dimension and personality to cloth.

Learn how to organize yourself and a department. There is a huge amount of paperwork that goes into costuming, from breaking down the script to scheduling all the work that ensures costumes are fit, altered and ready for camera. Learn how to read a Day Out Of Days, Shooting Schedule, One-Line Schedule, etc.. Delegation is important, but in the end the designer is responsible for the department running smoothly.

Observe. Watch people on the street, see what they choose to wear and think about what those choices reflect. Be aware of differing styles, their origins and the cycles that they have taken.

Nurture an interest in helping to tell the story and figure out what that means to costume choices. In my opinion the best costumes are not random, they are not simply beautiful or cool or whatever but they reveal something about the character who wears it in the story that is unfolding.

 

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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 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.

Art Department Interviews

Read interviews from top people working in the Art Department in the movie industry today. Production Designers. Art Directors. Storyboard Artists. Costume Designers. 

Interview with Oscar Nominated Production Designer Anne Seibel (Midnight in Paris, Bonjour Anne):https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/19/interview-oscar-nominated-production-designer-anne-seibel-midnight-in-paris-bonjour-anne/

Interview with Oscar Nominated Production Designer Michael Corenblith (Apollo 13, The Blind Side):  https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/04/interview-with-oscar-nominated-production-designer-michael-corenblith-apollo-13-the-blind-side/

Interview with Costume Designer Ginger Martini: https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/17/interview-with-costume-designer-ginger-martini/

Interview with Graphic Designer Tina Charad (Maleficent, Fifty Shades of Grey): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/01/25/interview-with-graphic-designer-tina-charad-maleficent-fifty-shades-of-grey/

Interview with Storyboard Artist Stephen Forrest-Smith (Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/02/interview-with-storyboard-artist-stephen-forrest-smith-star-wars-harry-potter-the-dark-knight/

Interview with Art Director Jeremy Woolsey (Pitch Perfect, Million Dollar Arm, Dirty Grandpa): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/01/19/interview-with-art-director-jeremy-woolsey-pitch-perfect-million-dollar-arm-dirty-grandpa/

Interview with Storyboard Artist Kurt Van der Basch (Star Wars Episodes VII and VIII): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/01/23/interview-with-storyboard-artist-kurt-van-der-basch-star-wars-episodes-vii-and-viii/

The ART of ART DIRECTION and PRODUCTION DESIGN in the movies. https://matthewtoffolo.com/2015/05/13/the-art-of-art-direction-and-production-design-in-the-movies/

Interviews performed by Matthew Toffolo from WILDsound. 

 

 

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

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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 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.

Interview with Oscar Nominated Production Designer Michael Corenblith (Apollo 13, The Blind Side)

A production designer is the person responsible for the overall look of a film. They ave a key creative role in the creation of motion pictures and television.

What an honor it was to talk with the amazing Production Designer Michael Corenblith. His resume is filled with some of the best movies in the last 20 years, including: Saving Mr. Banks, The Campaign, Game Change, Dinner for Schmucks, The Blind Side, Frost/Nixon, Apollo 13.

Matthew Toffolo: You’ve worked as a Production Designer in 35 productions over the last 30 years. Are there one or two films that you’re most proud of?

Michael Corenblith: There are countless ways to measure my affection for all of these projects.  There have been so many valuable collaborators and shared experiences that each film has its own special place.  “Apollo 13” will always remain one of the most exciting, and I’m so pleased to see it aging so gracefully.  Other times the work that we do on a film can have a benefit of bringing a good cause to the public’s attention, as we were able to do with “Dolphin Tale” and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,and now with “The Finest Hours,” and the Coast Guard boat maintained by the Orleans Historic Society.  After the release of “Saving Mr. Banks,” Disney fans enjoyed seeing Walt’s Office circa 1961, that The Disney Archives, after 50 years, have restored Walt’s office suite in the Animation Building to a remarkable effect.  So sometimes the thing you can be proudest of is accidentally doing some actual good in the world.

Photo: Re-creating the 1970 Space Station in Apollo 13 (1996). Actor Ed Harris:

Apollo 13 movie image Tom Hanks
Apollo 13 movie image Tom Hanks

Matthew: What is a director looking for in a Production Designer?

Michael: Initially, a director is seeking a Partner who shares his passion for the project, and regards it from a perspective that adds visual continuities that help tell the story as a whole.  Good Directors are always seeking the better answer, and asking the better questions, and it’s during this interaction that the film begins to take shape.  Later on, a Director is looking for supportive team play from the Art Department, and good communication with the Costume Designer, Cinematographer,and their teams, ensuring that the shooting days are about performances rather than these Crafts.

Matthew: What is a Production Designer looking for in a director?

Michael: The Directors who I’m attracted to are gifted storytellers, with strong character and dialog skills.  Because of their storytelling orientation, they are enthusiastic about making the visuals work in a more orchestral way.  I’m looking for someone who is full of ideas, and then figuring out how to create an overall scheme that incorporates these individual ideas into a cohesive whole.

Matthew: When working on comedies, are your tones and styles different in comparison to working on dramas?

Michael: My philosophy is that comedies are best visually supported when the environs and decors create a plausible canvas for the comedic events to occur. In formulating a visual scheme for a film, it’s more important that the story’s entire arc be considered, and the audience be more involved with the comedic predicaments of our protagonists.  Sometimes, the screenplay will call for the Scenery to become part of the Physical Comedy, which seems to support this theory by not “telegraphing” the gag or stunt.  Other screenplays will call for the protagonist to interact with an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment, and in this case I remain true to the overall arc, but increase the vividness of these new decors.

Photo: Dinner Scene in the comedy film Dinner for Schmucks (2010):

dinner_for_schmucks

Matthew: You have worked on a lot of movies that were based on true stories. In fact, you just completed one that is about Ray Kroc, the owner of McDonalds. Do you enjoy the research process of re-creating historical times? How far can you go to stretch the “truth” in design for the sake of the story and themes that are being presented in the film? I’m sure it’s a fine line. 

Michael: One of the great treats of being a production designer is the opportunity to explore such a variety of eras and remarkable true stories…..and meet people who brought great knowledge and insights either through their presence or their scholarship.  Films that stand out in this regard are “Apollo 13,” ”The Alamo,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” and recently, “The Finest Hours.”  Each of these films aimed not only toward archival re-creation, but also had to temper a finished look that communicated the film’s emotional truths.  Ray Kroc and the story of McDonald’s offered another wonderful opportunity to research something that is so fundamentally American, and then create a wonderful replica of the 1954 Golden Arches franchise.  But while being respectful of the archivists and historians, the fundamental idea is for the audience to experience the film’s real emotions and sense of place, even if it means measured and thoughtful deviation from some known historic truths.

Teaser Photo of “The Founder” starring Michael Keaton (left):

the_founder.jpg

Matthew: You also like to work on political movies. In fact, you went back to back with director Jay Roach on Game Change (2012) to The Campaign (2013). Are you a political person yourself? How was it to re-create that infamous 2008 campaign? 

Michael: Political films have always interested me, particularly Michel Ritchie’s “The Candidate,” which was really the first time that the confluence of Media and Celebrity and Politics came together in a modern way.  And in many ways, “Frost/Nixon” was an intensely political film that played out in a different arena.  “Game Change” and “The Campaign” were made more or less back to back, during the Republican primary season of 2011, so it was great to see the foibles in our screenplay occurring in real time on CNN.  McCain’s 2008 was an absolute blast to re-create, as it was so well branded, and so well documented.  The most interesting challenge was in re-creating the Vice Presidential debate with Joe Biden, which required great precision for the split screen between the archival footage and our new footage, but when we reached out for the drawings from the original debate, found them to be somewhat “classified,” and had to resort to a very deep bag of tricks to creating our matching set.

Matthew: I have a funny feeling that you and Jay will be back for Game Change 2 after this political season (and of course after the book is written). Are you looking forward to re-creating the campaign worlds of Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Ted? 

Michael: I’ve been a big fan of “Presidential Politics as a Contact Sport,” and enjoyed Mark Halperin and John Heilmann’s telling of the 2102 campaign, “Double Down.”  So yes, absolutely, I’d love to see what the Game Change team would bring to telling the story of this Campaign.

Photo: Julianne Moore becomes Sarah Palin in Game Change (2012):

game_change

Matthew: How early do you come into pre-production before shooting starts? When do your hire and bring on the rest of your key team members?

Michael: Generally, in early pre-production, the location work has yet to begin in earnest, so my first priorities are getting the location scouting underway, and beginning to line up my team. I often have a couple of weeks to lay out a general scheme, and scout with the Director and Producers.  My department generally gets about the same number of pre-production weeks as the shooting schedule, so the Art Department Coordinator is the next hire, to set the table for the arrival of the Set Decorator and Art Director, followed by the Set Designers, and Graphic Designer.

Matthew: What percentage of the budget generally goes to the Art Department when working on a Hollywood film?

Michael: This is always going to be Situational in relationship to a lot of other moving parts within any individual project. The scripted locations also play a major role, as shooting in a high school or in a submarine mean very different budget allocations for the Art Department.

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

Michael: Without a doubt, Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather,” with Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” and Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” coming in distant silver and bronze.  All wonderful, complex, human stories, each with its own beautiful visual signature…..each designed by one of the greats of my generation…Dean Tavoularis, Ken Adam, and Richard Sylbert. Each film left a very lasting impression on my cinematic development.

Matthew: Do you have a Production Designer mentor?

Michael: I am blessed in having two gurus.  When I first had the opportunity to hear Richard Sylbert speak of the Craft of Production Design, his concepts and theories immediately resonated, and I suddenly understood that designing films could be so much more than simply reflecting what was already on the page.  Years later, I came upon the work of USC Professor, Bruce Block, and his book “The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film, TV, and New Media.”  After hearing Bruce speak, I felt that he had brought order to a multitude of concepts that I’d been employing, and through his teachings could now employ them in a coordinated way.

Matthew: Do you have any advice to kids currently in high school or in university who want to be a Production Designer? 

Michael: This is probably indicative of my generation being one of the last analog skill-based one, but in general my Old School Advice would be to develop some basic non-digital ways of conveying visual information.  Come to classroom with some ways to express your ideas that can be simple as chalk on a blackboard….and don’t require a laptop.

Photo: Re-creating Walt Disney’s office in Saving Mr. Banks (2013) starring Tom Hanks:

Film Review Saving Mr. Banks
This image released by Disney shows Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in a scene from “Saving Mr. Banks.” (AP Photo/Disney, François Duhamel) ORG XMIT: NYET626

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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 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.

Interview with Graphic Designer Tina Charad (Maleficent, Fifty Shades of Grey)

Graphic Designer creates the props and set-pieces for film productions and works directly with the Production Designer. Depending on the period and genre, these can be newspapers, love letters, shop signs, posters, cigarette boxes, logos. Basically, they create the original materials needed for a film that haven’t yet been invented.  

I was fortunate enough to interview the extremely talented Graphic Designer Tina Charad. In the last 10 years she has worked on over 30 productions including the films “Robin Hood”, “Edge of Tomorrow”, “World War Z”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “The Fifth Wave”, and “RocknRolla”.

Matthew Toffolo: Is there a film or two that you’re most proud of?

Tina: Well, in terms of pure indulgence, of being spoilt and designing beauty day after day, it would be 47 Ronin. Perhaps Maleficent too – for the same reasons.

Tina created images in the film “47 Ronin”:
47_ronin_image

Matthew: How long do you generally work on a film? How early do you come on in pre-production? Do you stay until the end of filming?

Tina: It really does depend. On the whole, a large studio film in the UK could be 9/10 months work. The prep time is longer as is the shooting schedule. I have worked both in the UK, where I started and the US, where I now live. In the UK the Graphic Designer is really responsible for a large amount more work than the US. That may sound bizarre in terms of the work load varying but in the US there are a lot more print houses and production places that can facilitate some of the graphic design parts where as in the UK, the Graphic Designer creates all the Art department, set dec & prop pieces – no matter how big or small.

Matthew: What’s the difference when working on different genres? From a straight up drama like “Body of Lies”, to a pure fantasy like “Maleficent”?

Tina: Well there is a huge difference. With something like BOL, you’re not creating fantasy. Often you are recreating reality but in a different location. So you’re making mobile phone stores, embassy clinics, roads signage. They are a huge part of what makes the film real, but not wildly creative. You have to be on the nose accurate, especially when working in foreign languages and alphabet like that film. We shot in Morocco, but were predominantly set in Jordan. The Arabic is different in these two countries. I had to have a translator who knew the differences. I then had to set about researching contemporary Arabic branding and identities as you would in the US. I had to create large scale banks and corporations but in Arabic. I spent a lot of money purchasing good contemporary Arabic fonts.
With Maleficent, I was re-united with a favorite designer. He wanted me to create a large scale tapestry for Sleeping Beauty’s bedroom. Whilst there were suggestions of medieval tapestries etc thrown in, he was very clear that he wanted to design something original. Also he pointed out that we were not a historical film, but a fantasy and the tapestry should show that. I think the brief was “Grayson Perry Meets Flemish”. So I worked on a fantastical forest scape that was a day and night scene. It has a wealth of lovely references and feels both fresh and stylistically fitted the brief.

Tina created the Sleeping Beauty bedroom images in “Maleficent”
malficifent_bedroom

Matthew: What about your experiences working on “American Ultra” or “The Crazy Ones” TV show? Is a straight up comedy an entirely different experience? Is your creative process all about making people laugh?

Tina: Well to be fair, In American Ultra I was doing reshoots especially of all the insert work. The producers and director found that the stuff didn’t work once they had shot it. For many reasons it had to all be recreated so it wasn’t really humorous at that point. You are just trying to get all these pieces and stick them together. In fact I didn’t get the script for that so I had no idea it was a comedy. It all seemed like a typical spy caper to me at the time.

I did a little on The Crazy Ones as they wanted to elevate the look and feel of the show. I had also worked at Leo Burnett where the show was supposedly based on. Despite what the designer hoped for, there is still only so much you can do with a comedy show – the jokes have to be pretty brash and in your face. No room for subtlety. It’s not my best genre – TV comedy. I find myself always fighting for the more subtle joke, and losing…

Matthew: What is the most challenging aspect of being a graphic designer?

Tina: Going to have to be clearances & the legal side.

Matthew: I have to ask you about the “Fifty Shades of Grey”
experience?

Tina: One of the most anticipated films of 2015. Were your design themes all about power and sex?

I started with David Wasco before any other art department. Initially we worked on researching the sex furniture for the red room of pain. David knows that I can do illustrative work so I looked at initial pieces of what these key pieces of furniture would look like. I have worked for a lot of designers sourcing reference and style imagery so we looked at humanizing the story. The book is pretty 2 dimensional as are the characters, so between Sam the director and David, they wanted to add life into it. In terms of the graphics in that film, trying to design a logo that doesn’t look like a film graphic and that could carry through 3 films and maybe 5 years without looking dated or getting changed, was a challenge. But I did several passes at first and Sam knew straight away which to choose. That initial Grey Enterprises logo is what Universal based their entire marketing campaign on. The other key logo was SIP – Seattle Publishing which actually didn’t make it into the film but is a key part of book2. I bet they use a new logo but that would be a huge pity. I rather liked my SIP work!

Tina’s created logos for “Fifty Shades of Grey”:
fifty_shades_of_grey_image

Matthew: You worked as a Graphic Designer on the David Fincher directed music video “Justin Timberlake Ft. Jay-Z: Suit & Tie”. How long did you work on the video, what did you do, and how was working with so many iconic people?

Tina: Good Question! I watched the video again to remind myself. Well that and sifted through my back up folders. I remembered doing a lot of etched mirror and glass for that video and sets. I remember there was a nightclub that was branded (signage, props etc) and had an old rat pack feel. What one has to remember is what is in the final edit does not show what was made. We prepare for what is initially discussed but things can change on the shoot day, the director or cast and request changes and then a whole scene can be cut. David Fincher is very particular about everything so the designer had all sets covered from an art direction, graphics and prop side. Better safe than sorry.

Matthew: Do you have a Production Designer or Graphic Designer mentor?

Tina: No – not really;

I spent 10 years in the real world of branding & advertising before moving into film. I loved Fabien Baron -you might guess from the fifty shades ;). So I didn’t really need mentoring when it came to graphics in the film industry with a designer so to speak, as I already had the skills. I have a couple designers I would work for regardless of pay or the job (let’s hope they don’t read this) they are David Wasco & Gary Freeman. Love the projects David chooses, they are often smaller and more interesting pieces. He is a designer that graphics are hugely important too. Gary uses me more as a Graphic illustrator on large scale pieces. Installations that normally are dreams briefs.

Matthew: What movie, besides the ones you’ve work on, have you seen the most in your life?

Tina: Another great question. There isn’t 1 but 3.
Gladiator – no explanation needed
Team America – I will never stop laughing or being furious I didn’t work on it
Love Actually – it’s on every Christmas

Matthew: You’ve worked as a Production Designer on more than a few short films. Is that a position that you aspire to hold in the Hollywood feature film world? Is there a place where we can watch your short films?

Tina: I have done that. I’ve also worked quite extensively as a stylist and assistant set decorator which is something I did pursue for a while I never wanted to design. All my design jobs have honestly been decorating jobs. Then I moved to the US and had to choose between 44 or 800 and I decided to focus only on graphics. I have no idea if you can watch these shorts. I’ll have to investigate…..

Matthew: What Production Designer and/or Director would you love to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?

Tina: That would be KK Barrett for Production Design and Tim Burton.

Matthew: You’re working on the new Bourne Identity sequel. Can you give us a sneak peek to what to expect?

Tina: No! Haha

For more information on Tina, please go to her website: http://www.tinacharad.com/
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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.

Interview with Storyboard Artist Kurt Van der Basch (Star Wars Episodes VII and VIII)

A storyboard artist, or story artist, creates storyboards for film productions that are generally for large scope scenes, actions, and/or camera movements. The artist visualizes the story in collaboration with the director and sketches frames of the story on paper.

It was an honor to sit down with the brilliant storyboard artist Kurt Van der Basch, who  worked on Star Wars: Episode VII. Of course he’s not allowed to talk about it, which is fine because there are so many other questions to ask him.

Please go to his website or follow him on Facebook and view 100s of storyboards from his various credits, including: Assassin’s Creed, Sense8, The Borgias, Chronicles of Narnia, and The Illusionist, to name a few.

Matthew Toffolo: I understand that you are not allowed to talk about Star Wars! No problem. Are you allowed to say that you had a creatively inspiring experience?

Kurt Van Der Basch: Yes, I can definitely confirm that it was a creatively inspiring experience and I loved the result as much as everyone else seems to have.

Matthew: Looking at your storyboard examples on your website your storyboards are so visual and amazing to look at. I see the story unfold by just looking at the images. They are like a graphic novel that could be published. Do you have any (or many) graphic novel ideas?

Kurt: Thanks a lot. Sequential illustration is sequential illustration whether it’s in the rougher form of storyboards (usually, at least) or in the ready-for-publication form of a graphic novel. We more or less tell stories the same way in both fields. It’s interesting too that with the growing popularity of graphic novels and the rise of DVD extras that storyboards, interest in storyboard art has grown a lot. Now lots of people know what they are and are keen to see them. As for graphic novel ideas – I have lots of but I don’t consider myself much of a writer. I’m still waiting for ‘the perfect fit’ with a writer who wants to collaborate.

Matthew: What’s the general working relationship and process between a storyboard artist and the director? How early do you meet before production begins?

Kurt: The storyboard artist can often be among the first crew mambers to start. I did a long job this past year where I was one of the first 3 people hired then slowly more and more crew joined the production. Early on, there’s generally a list of the most complicated scenes which the production need storyboarded for budgeting and planning purposes listed from highest priority to least. In these discussions the 1st Assistant Director is a key player and as the production goes on, it’s the 1st A.D. who always knows best what’s most urgent and what the latest developments are.

Usually the storyboard artist has daily storyboard meetings with the director (Often arranged by the 1st AD. As the production grows and the director begins to be yanked in a million directions these meetings may not be so frequent) and they sit down and discuss the scene. Often the director will start by showing some references, video clips or still images that they think could be a good style or tone guide. If there’s already a production designer then he or she may provide location photos or a model (either a white card one or, more commonly these days, a digital sketch-up model) so we have a geography to work with. Then the director will begin to describe shots of the sequence. While the director is describing the shots I draw quick little thumbnail sketches so the director can intercept and say, for instance, ’no, a little bit wider’ or ‘could it be a slightly higher angle?’ etc. until I am drawing what he or she is envisaging. It’s common dirng these meetings to draw a little plan view and indicate on it camera and characters too. Some directors will dictate every shot of each sequence that gets storyboarded, but, especially on huge action movies where it’s nearly impossible for the director to arrive with all the shots of each scene planned out in their head in advance, some directors encourage the storyboard artist to make suggestions or even ask them to have a crack at the whole scene as they see it. Then the director can react to those ideas and say ‘yes that’s interesting, keep that, but here I thought we could….’ etc. This can be a fun and creative way to work. Later in the production these meetings often include the DoP as well. As time permits the little thumbnails drawn during the meeting are taken away and the storyboard artist makes more clear and solid versions of them with directional arrows and shot descriptions added next to the panels, plus proper scene and shot numbering. Sometimes time doesn’t permit and it’s necessary to settle for the rough thumbnail scribbled out in the meeting. Sometimes the director insists on the storyboards being left at the rough stage so the crew won’t take particularities of the drawings too literally.

Matthew: When talking about the cinematic design with the director, is the overall theme and tone of the film always present in each storyboard you create?

Kurt: It can be but isn’t always. Sometime it’s very technical and the most important thing is just to clearly show a certain camera move + character action. If your drawing can convey a bit of the atmosphere in these instances that’s great but not if it takes away the clarity.

Matthew: How is the process different when doing a TV episode assignment in comparison to working on a feature film?

Kurt: TV production usually doesnt have the luxury of pre-production time that film has. From what I’ve seen TV directors tend to behave and are treated much more as regular crew members and in my experience TV directors tend to be extremely focussed and organised knowing how little time they will have to complete their block of episodes (on a series the directors usually trade off in ‘blocks’ of episodes so while one is shooting their 2-3 episodes the other is prepping theirs.) The TV storyboard process can be more intense – longer hours and more frames per day, and often less ‘finished’ in order to get all the necessary sequences boarded before shooting. Also there’s less scope for spontaneous ideas – a sudden brilliant suggestion of a shot from inside the microwave can’t just be thrown in in TV world without serious consideration of the extra time and cost etc. I really enjoy storyboarding for TV.

Storyboard from DEAD SNOW 2 (2014), Director Tommy Wirkola

dead_snow_storyboard.jpg

Matthew: What are you looking for in a director?

Kurt: Well the question is really what are they looking for in me because it’s me who is hoping to get hired. But if they do pick me then I look for patterns in how they describe things so I can get to sense what they probably will want as quickly as possible. For some directors articulating the shots they need isn’t as easy as it is for others and it’s the storyboard artist’s job to help with this. This is where the thumbnailing process can be great. Sometimes seeing my totally wrong scribble can be the very thing that helps a director get across the shot in his or her head. On the other hand I’ve worked with directors who draw beautifully and make perfect thumbnails that are a very clear guide that I then just have to draw up in a more finished way.

Matthew: Do you have a Storyboard mentor?

Kurt: The Engish storyboard and strip cartoon artist Martin Asbury essentially created a whole style and standard in the industry that influenced a whole generation of storyboard artists, at least here in UK/Europe. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him twice and both were great experiences. On top of being a huge talent he’s also a really funny and generous man.

Matthew: You have worked on a lot of Action, Fantasy, and Horror films. How important is the creation of the storyboard to the production team for these genres?

Kurt: In an action movie there’ll be two or three big sequences that the storyboard artist works on and sometimes just these scenes may be revised over and over the entire time on the job.

Storyboarding is more important for these genres than others because of all the VFX and stunts involved. Storyboards are neessary initially for making a budget because it answers questions like: In how many shots do we see the flying ship? How often does the camera tilt up enough to require digital set extension? Do we see the stuntman land or does he just fly off the roof? etc. Often it goes that once boards are made of scenes and compared with the budget then the producers then get out their sharpies and start crossing out shots that the production can’t afford. Then it becomes a discussion of where to use the VFX bdget to best advantage. Of course storyboards are also needed in these genres beyond just technicalities but to give an idea of a scene overall and know if it works in terms of drama and suspense. For this, sometimes the individual storyboard frames are plugged into editing software to make a ‘board-o-matic’ that plays the frames in order with timing and added music and sound effects. This can really give a feeling of the final sequence before it’s actually shot. There are some great examples of this on You Tube from Captain America.

Matthew: The film “Serena”, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence is almost a lost film. Many film fans don’t even know it exists despite the all-star cast. The film is also a bit of a departure for you as it’s a straight up drama. Can you tell us your experiences working on that film and how working on a drama is different from the action/movement movies you generally work on?

Kurt: It’s the strangest thing isn’t it? I think it’s a good movie yet it took ages to be released and even then it was very limited. I was hired in this case by the production designer Richard Bridgland who I had worked for on Alien vs Predator. I did ink and marker illustrations of all his sets for presentation to the director Susanne Bier and then when my job was done the production asked if I could stay on as a storyboard artist as there were a few scenes where it moved out of the relam of straight-up drama and needed storyboarding. An accident on the cutting slope of a logging camp involving trains and falling trees and later a sort of chase scene and fight.

Storyboard from SERENA (2014), Director Susanne Bierserena_storyboard

Matthew: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

Kurt: Definitely ‘The Exorcist’. But a close second is the annual holiday showing of ‘The Sound of Music’ which is a Canadian tradition since before I can remember. I also know most of ‘Mommy Dearest’ by heart.

Matthew: You have worked on over 40 productions in the last 15 years. Do you have a favorite experience?

Kurt: Working on ‘Cloud Atlas’ was probably the most memorable. It was just such a great group of people over in Berlin and the script is magic to me. So ambitious and crazy but they pulled it off. I also did a sci-fi short called ‘A Living Soul’ with the Swedish director Henry Moore Selder that was really cool. On a short there’s limited money and the storyboards make a huge difference to the production. We did about 400 frames in 2.5 days on that project and the result, I think, is fantastic.

Storyboard from CLOUD ATLAS (2012), Directors Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lany Wachowski

cloud_atlas_storyboard.jpg

Matthew: What director would you love to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?

Kurt: There’s a few. Maybe when Xavier Dolan makes an action or Sci-fi movie I’ll get to work on it. He’s a genius. And there’s also Ridley Scott!

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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.