Production designers literally set the scene for films, so where and how do they start to build fully realized and immersive worlds?
“Early on, I think the trick is to try to get the director to engage as much as possible,” “Ford v Ferrari’s’ François Audouy said at our Meet the Experts: Production Design panel, moderated by this writer (watch above). “You can try to stimulate conversation and start talking about things.”
After that, Audouy does research and tries to load up his walls with as many images as possible. “I like to do it in story order so you start to get an idea of some of the ideas or some of the images that are constant,” he explained. “And then that wall, you keep iterating and keep changing. You put up location photos or additional research. It’s a constant refining of things to get crisper.”
“Rocketman’s” Marcus Rowland agrees, remarking that Audouy’s method is “the way to do it, really” — to start with information and continue building. While he keeps all his research and materials on his computer, Rowland likes to lay out his designs on walls as well. That’s also particularly helpful when you need to show them to, say, the director.
“It’s amazing when you bring the director down and they pick out one bit of reference that they like and you get a sense — the film sort of builds itself that way,” he noted. “You start with foundations. You don’t really ever start a project where you know where you’re going. It’s a journey.”
As technology keeps advancing, virtual reality has been used in production design in recent years, but neither has much experience with it yet. Though he’s been offered it and has seen demos, Rowland hasn’t used it. And Audouy revealed that his “Ford v Ferrari” director and frequent collaborator James Mangold isn’t really a fan of VR. “He’s sort of doesn’t trust some of that stuff yet,” he shared. “On ‘Logan,’ we did some stuff, but he wasn’t really interested. We used a little bit on [my next film] Ghostbusters and it could be a great tool.”
Video by Shane Whitaker.
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