Production designers panel: ‘The Challenge,’ ‘The Real World,’ ‘Dickinson,’ ‘Ted Lasso’
How do today’s top production designers delicately balance visual aesthetic and practicality when designing sets? What do they wish they knew when they first started out as designers about the ups and downs of their craft? And which classic films do they revisit and love the most as examples of impeccable production design?
These were just some of the questions answered by three top TV production designers when they joined Gold Derby’s special “Meet the BTL Experts” Q&A event with key 2021 guild and Emmy contenders Watch our full group chat with James McGowan (“The Challenge: Double Agents” and “The Real World Homecoming: New York”), Neil Patel (“Dickinson”) and Paul Cripps (“Ted Lasso”) above. Click on each name above to view each person’s individual interview.
“It’s quite a difficult thing to design for both on-camera and the physical space,” admits Cripps about the balance between visual aesthetic on the one hand and practicality and functionality on the other hand. “It’s always a challenge,” agrees Patel. “We always want something to be beautiful, or if its a distressed set, we’re aestheticizing, but you’re also always supporting the story and the characters.”
For McGowan, production design can often be a different proposition, as he primarily works in reality and nonfiction television rather than narrative fictional television. “For the houses, where people have to live in them for months on end, or whether it be an underground bunker or putting 34 people into a space, I’ve had complete disasters,” he says, adding “you can mess up one measurement and you’re putting people’s lives at risk.”
Before his work on “The Challenge: Double Agents” and “The Real World Homecoming: New York,” McGowan toiled as the production designer on high profile reality TV projects like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Ex on the Beach,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “90’s House.”
Cripps and Patel have both worked on numerous narrative fiction projects, from disparate genres in the US and the UK. Patel is best known for his work on “The Village,” “Brooklyn Love Stories,” “Suspicion,” “The Path” and “In Treatment,” while Cripps’ is best known for his work on British fantasy and period series “Endeavor,” “The Missing,” “Atlantis” and “Merlin.”