Production Designer Jefferson Sage On Set Interview PAUL

     July 15, 2010

Production Designer Jefferson Sage On Set Interview PAUL

While I rarely post interviews with production designers from set visits, I’m making an exception on Paul due to how impressed I was with the Comic-Con set.  As you can read in my set report, after you see Paul next year,  you’re going to think the movie was filmed in San Diego at Comic-Con.  But it wasn’t.  They actually built the Comic-Con set in New Mexico.  But speaking as someone who has attended Comic-Con for many years, you would never know it.  That’s because the production used all the official Comic-Con signs and even the Comic-Con bags and carpeting, so when you’re watching the movie you’re going to think they were there.  I’m telling you…when I walked onto the set, I felt like I was back in San Diego and on the floor of the real Comic-Con.

Anyway, after the jump you can read my roundtable interview with Production Designer Jefferson Sage.  He explains what he had to do to make the set ready for filming and how he tried to get official vendors to be in the movie.

Collider:  Most of just came from San Diego Comic-Con and it feels like we’re back in it here. How much of it is real? How much of it is reproduced? What did you actually steal from Comic-Con?

Jefferson Sage:  Well a lot came from the Comic-Con you were just at. In some cases we have items from the same vendors, but it was last year’s stuff, because they were willing to let us take that away and use it here, which obviously gets us a much better approximation of a real Comic-Con than if we were trying to create it or fake it up. So, for example, Sideshow [Collectibles] has a huge presence at Comic-Con every year. This [display] is almost the same thing you saw but they let us use some graphics from past years.

Gentle Giant is another company that goes there, but these [displays] are some booths they used over the last couple years. They were willing to let us have them this time around, but obviously they’ve moved on to a new look.

And the banners?

Sage: Yeah, well the actual banners the Comic-Con folks loaned us, so we’re using a number of things from them. In some cases we made new ones so we could have enough. We weren’t able to get everything from them, so our graphic designer has been cranking out all kinds of stuff that would fit in and extend the Comic-Con presence and use the logo in a lot more places than we would have been able to.


Obviously it‘s much bigger in an exhibit hall, so are you doing different shots to [create a larger scope]?

Sage: In our script, we have several specifics scenes that are referred to, and those are what we kind of designed our event for. In the story, for example, the guys [Simon Pegg and Nick Frost] are seen participating in a virtual reality scene, so {JS points to a booth} this was created to do that.

There’s a scene where they’re having a quick snack over at the food court and then running off to do something. So we took the four or five things that were scripted and kind of designed those, and then we filled in around it so we’d have lots of great background and the depth that you know from the real Comic-Con.

Is there going to be a big shot of the whole floor?

Sage: Well we hope to do that, and the idea, we want to work it in to get a nice big crane up. But likely, where you see the empty part of the convention center over there, we may do some computer graphics to fill in and give the really massive feel that the real Comic-Con has.

Were there any specifically nerdy references that Simon and Nick really requested that you make sure were here? Like, this would not be Comic-Con if you didn’t have this?

Sage: No, I don’t think so. They obviously went to Comic-Con and they went last year with our director Greg [Mottola], and I think they pointed things out and Greg kind of had pictures. We met and talked about specific things by way of the spirit of it. They didn’t specifically say, “Oh you gotta have this or that!” I mean, for example, we were able to get Jabba the Hutt and there’s the great bit where the girls from Leia’s metal bikinis are posed in front. We found lots of pictures about that and we thought, “Wow, that’s a really great, specific moment that we should try and recreate.” So Gentle Giant was great about letting us rent that piece and the Leia girls to do this. So from several angles, it all came together and we weren’t sure we’d be able to promise it until a couple days ago so it sort of fell into place at the last minute.


How involved were you with getting the rights for everything? As you’re designing things, were you told, “We’ll never get XYZ?” Where there certain properties that you guys were just not going to get?

Sage: Well, we had a couple of people that have been–for months–approaching different companies. Any kind of contacts that somebody had–Nick and Simon have contacts with the community–we went to people that they maybe had relationships with and said, “We’re doing this [movie], we’d like to get you guys involved.” Many companies responded and some didn’t.

Free advertising, you’d think they’d all want to jump on.

Sage: Well, some of them maybe didn’t have the money to send the stuff or let it go. Some companies had committed their booths to other functions. Most people were great and helped us.

So Marvel and DC? We’ve noticed that [they’re not represented on the floor].

Sage: We did approach them and they didn’t want to be apart, and I’m not sure why. But a couple of different people are responsible for all that clearance and access to certain shows and presences here. When we had enough of those deals in place, I sat down and figured out, “Okay, I know I’ve got Sideshow, I know I’ve a big place in this corner to put a dramatic visual thing.” So I kind of organized a floor layout.

Did anything fall through?

Sage: Yeah, I saved a very specific place [on the floor] that was going to be our guy from Speed Racer with the fancy car. They let it drop, they didn’t show. So I’m not happy with them today. But we have another great company that was able to step in.

Is this the biggest set you’ve done for movies?

Sage: This is certainly the biggest one for this movie. In my experience, I’ve done some larger sets, but this is certainly one of the bigger ones. When we first came into this convention center, it’s almost 100,000 square feet, so it was rather a daunting prospect to think that we would make it look like Comic-Con. I mean, Comic-Con is vast and huge and how were we going to cheat it? Part of it was pulling it down into a manageable size.


Is there stuff inside Area 51 (a significant location in the film) that you had to create? Did you have to create a military base?

Sage: No. In our story, the guys skirt around Area 51. They go to the famous Little A’Le’Inn [a motel, restaurant, and bar located on Extraterrestrial Highway just outside of Area 51], they go out and see the white mailbox [a famed bulletproof box, commonly mistakenly referred to as owned by Area 51], and the story kind of takes them off on another direction. So they don’t actually try and get over the fence or anything like that.

So they end up in Roswell?

Sage: No, they didn’t come to Roswell. Our story has them going from California out through Nevada and at the point that they meet Paul [the titular alien, voiced by Seth Rogen], the journey changes and they head north through Utah and Wyoming. While the guys may have originally been coming to Roswell, their trip takes a left-hand turn.

So is Comic-Con at the beginning of the movie or the end?

Sage: Well, both, actually. It’s kind of the bookend. We start at the very beginning where they’ve come and they’re complete nerds and they’re wide-eyed at this whole thing. And a year later, they’re back.


For more Paul set visit coverage:

Collider Goes to the Set of Greg Mottola’s PAUL Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost On Set Interview PAUL

Director Greg Mottola On Set Interview PAUL

Producer Nira Park On Set Interview PAUL

And if you’re going to Comic-Con next week, don’t miss out on:

PAUL: PANEL: 4:45pm- 5:15pm – Saturday in Hall H

Paul — Scheduled to appear for Universal Pictures’ sci-fi comedy-adventure Paul are a who’s who of film comedy. Director Greg Mottola (Superbad) will be joined by cast members Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), Kristen Wiig (Date Night), Bill Hader (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models), Seth Rogen (The Green Hornet), and Sigourney Weaver (Baby Mama) as they discuss the movie about two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage to Comic-Con ultimately takes them to America’s UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who takes them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. Q&A session to follow.

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