A picture is worth a thousand words, and for production designers, a couple of words is worth a thousand visuals. Asked during our Meet the Experts: TV Production Design panel how quickly they envision sets and looks when they start a project, all four — Helen Scott (“Small Axe”), David Bomba (“Ozark”), Howard Cummings (“Lovecraft Country” and “Westworld”) and Barry Robison (“Snowpiercer”) agree it’s pretty immediate. Watch each individual chat with these designers by clicking on each name above.
“Whenever you’re reading a book, you visualize it. it’s the same with a script,” Scott says (watch above). “I suppose the trick is to not try to lock yourself into that immediate response, but actually I find that the immediate response is the one that kind of sticks, and the end result is often close to the first response. So it’s worth listening to.”
Cummings believes it’s “very important” to listen to your gut, which is what he did on his first project. “I opened the script and the first page was ‘Set in a black void,’” he recalls with a laugh. “I swear I got to the bottom of page 1 and I knew exactly what the whole show looked like. It was just weird. It just hit me like a brick, and it was not set in a black void.”
Instead, Cummings designed a ‘50s-style set, much to the shock of the cinematographer. “He goes, ‘What the hell is this?!’ He thought it was all gonna be a black void,” he shares. “And I said, ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t do that.’”
“Sometimes it’s hard to [listen to your gut] because of all the stuff that’s going on and you can’t do that,” Cummings continues. “For me, sometimes it doesn’t come right away [but] you said you find the right thing and it tells you, ‘I know what this space looks like,’ even a piece of set dressing would do it or a location, especially.”
Watch our full panel to learn more about their processes, what they love about location scouting and more.
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