Production designers panel: ‘Being the Ricardos,’ ‘The French Dispatch,’ ‘The Power of the Dog,’ ‘Respect’

“To be the production designer is so much to do with the unspoken part of the story and the way that that can sort of fit the audience’s experience,” says Grant Major (“The Power of the Dog”) about how he hopes his work is perceived — or not perceived — by audiences. We talked with him and his fellow production designers Jon Hutman (“Being the Ricardos”), Adam Stockhausen (“The French Dispatch”), and Ina Mayhew (“Respect”) about their work on some of this season’s awards contenders. Watch our “Meet the Expertspanel roundtable discussion above. Click each name above to watch that person’s individual interview.

“It’s not that you want somebody to notice a specific thing or a specific prop, but the totality of it, and it affects the experience watching the movie. And so people are impacted by it even if they don’t realize it or don’t call it out,” Stockhausen adds. “I think that when things are working best, they’re working harmoniously. And so to me, I would just say if people are reacting well to the totality of what’s in front of them, that’s what you want.”

Hutman agrees that “I feel like I’ve done my job if you didn’t notice what I did. And sometimes it’s hard to make choices that don’t call attention to the work.” What matters is that “it sets a tone. It’s not about the words that we say. It’s not about the content, but our job is to select the tone of that background in 3D.” And for Mayhew, “as much as we want to make a statement, it’s important that it’s not necessarily noticed.” While “it is always nice if there’s a notice of something,” the key to successful design is for “the audience to feel at home.”

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