Production design isn’t a much known field for most, but the work they do helps to create some of the most resonating and beautiful moments throughout popular films and TV shows. They help to create the physical embodiment of supernatural worlds, period settings, and futuristic expanses. At Comic-Con 2016, veteran production designer John Muto (Home Alone, Terminator 2) spoke with David Blass (Preacher), James Chinlund (The Avengers), Sean Haworth (Deadpool), and Suzuki Ingerslev (True Blood) about how they work with writers and directors on the projects and what standout moments they’ve had from their careers.
- Muto elaborated on the exact role of production designers in the whole production process, and how they truly create all of the most memorable and iconic moments seen in both film and television. He said people “know very little of what they [production designers] do or how they do it.” While he himself does teach film classes now, he wishes that more film schools allowed for training in production design to help build up the next generation.
Each designer was asked to share some of their favorite sets and moments of recent years. Ingerslev pointed at two particular sets she did for True Blood, the first being the Vampire Authority headquarters in Season 5. She especially wanted to incorporate a water aspect in the set, and only ended up convincing producers to let her when she threatened to take the idea off the table. The second set was the faerie strip club, also from Season 5. Ingerslev said that this was a truly collaborative work for her with creator Alan Ball to create the right look and story to take place on that set.
- Haworth talked about the complicated task he had in front of him with the scrapyard that served as the final battleground in Deadpool. He was able to find a naval yard that could serve the scene well, but they had to build most of the set with disparate containers and other scrap metal to fit director Tim Miller’s A lot of the set had to be made out of rubber casts for the metal as well seeing as the stuntmen had to be able to be thrown around and bounce off of many different area throughout the battle.
- Chinlund recalled the fun challenge of working on The Fountain and working with the three separate time periods the movie takes place in. He was able to interweave connections between all three periods throughout the sets for each time period using certain patterns and tricks of light.
Blass spoke about working on the NBC show Constantine and how one of their main sets became endless for him to work on. The mystical headquarters for the main characters allowed for him to play into the idea of always needing an extra room for the writers to use in the story, so he created secret doors and switches all around the room that revealed themselves to the writers as the season went on. A fight sequence involving a dumbwaiter only came to be when Blass helped the director to find a new way for one character to get from the second level of the set to the first.
- As far as working with writers and the actual scripts, all four said they love to do research and explore how the scenes can be brought to life, but that good writing is the best jump off point. Ingerslev loves when a writer is specific and describes locations well, but doesn’t think it’s wise to include too many sets in any given day within the script. Haworth loves being to work with a comic or graphic novel as a starting point. Both Blass and Ingerslev said that some of their research topics for shows they’ve worked on would definitely land them on some federal watch lists.
- Chinlund and Ingerslev had very different moments of feeling like their work was going to live on in another medium. Chinlund was floored when he first saw the Lego recreations of his sets from The Avengers while they will still shooting principal photography. Ingerslev was happily surprised to see some of her sets recreated in a recent True Blood porn parody.
- Each of them was asked what project they would love to do production design for if they had a chance: Muto said Barbarella, Blass said Ender’s Game, Ingerslev said The Cell, and both Haworth and Chinlund said Blade Runner would be challenging but fun to take on.