Mark Digby Interview: ‘Devs’ production designer
“As designers we are really always here to back up the drama and not overshadow it,” declares production designer Mark Digby, who alongside set decorator Michelle Day designed the ambitious look and feel of the FX on Hulu sci-fi drama series “Devs.”
“To have people responding to that, in addition to responding to the drama is a great thing for us,” he says. “It’s a wonderful present at the end of what we do.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Digby above.
“Devs” is writer and director Alex Garland‘s first foray into series television after his sci-fi films “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” It follows a young software engineer (Sonoya Mizuno) who believes that the secretive ‘Devs’ division of the Amaya corporation, a Silicon Valley quantum physics company where she works, is behind the murder of her boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman). Devs is the passion project of Amaya’s CEO Forest (Nick Offerman) and his offsider Katie (Alison Pill), both of who we learn have developed a machine that can see literally backwards and forwards in time.
Like Garland’s previous features, “Devs” features visually striking design elements, such as the mysterious visualizations created by the Devs machine, the giant foreboding Amaya statue that stares out over the surrounding canopy of trees and the internal gold-plated walls of the cubed Devs bunker.
It was fortuitous that during the design process, Digby and his team identified the University of California, Santa Cruz as one of the show’s main locations, a sprawling campus set among the huge redwood trees found in central California. Those buildings are primarily brutalist in design, informing some of the show’s minimalist, geometric aesthetic with its exposed structural concrete and monochromatic color palette. “One of the selling points of the campus that we found was that it was a marriage of the man-made and the natural,” Digby explains, noting that it was the perfect environment to highlight the organic and artificial themes that the show contemplates, for example “the strict lines and geometry and square and cuboidal elements of the buildings with these purely vertical tall trees.”
Digby is best known for his work on Danny Boyle‘s Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” for which he and Day were nominated at the BAFTAs in 2009. He also worked on Garland’s “Ex Machina,” (scoring a nomination from the Art Director’s Guild) and the writer/director’s sci-fi follow-up “Annihilation,” becoming one of Garland’s key collaborators alongside visual effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst, director of photography Rob Hardy and musicians Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow and The Insects (otherwise known as composers Tim Norfolk and Bob Locke).
Digby has enjoyed the collaborative and collegiate atmosphere that Garland establishes on his projects. “For myself and my team, it’s a dream. For us, the great thing about film making is about collaboration. It’s about an organic approach,” Digby says. “It’s a great asset, particularly in design and creativity and visual arts.”