During our recent webcam chat (see above), “Tut” production designer Michael Z. Hanan revealed that when researching the ancient Egypt of Pharaoh Tutankhamun for the Spike miniseries, he found, “the culture and society was much more colorful than we’re used to seeing it. All that stuff that we know now has been sandblasted for several thousand years by desert storms. So it’s not the same, but there are some things that were fairly well protected, inasmuch as we’re looking at a culture now that is 4,000 years ago.”
Hanan, who reaped an Art Directors Guild nomination for his work on the epic miniseries, readily admits, “part of the challenge was coming up with sets that had the appropriate scale.” As he explains, at the time that this all occurred, Thebes was the largest city in the world.” To that end, “we had something like 65 sets that shot in just about the same number of days. A lot of those sets were enormous.”
But his work was about more than just recreating opulence and scope. “One of the things the director (David Von Ancken) wanted was to make it look like people actually lived there,” Hanan reveals, “so we wanted some wear-and-tear on stuff, and we wanted it to look like the desert was there.” He readily acknowledges, “That’s a tough thing to do, actually. You walk a fine edge between overdoing that and really accomplishing something that’s significant.”
Hanan got his start as a special effects supervisor, and won an Emmy in 1985 for his visual wizardry on “The Hugga Bunch.” He earned a nomination for his production design of the historical drama “Andersonville” (1996). “I work very closely with all the visual effects people on the projects I do,” he says. “The best thing you can do is come up with the grammar and punctuation that the visual effects are going to add to the visual storytelling as an enhancement.”
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