Hi Marie!! Do you follow any color psychology tricks or rules when designing a look for a particular location/project?
I have a few questions but I would love to start with kit organization Also… what even goes in a production design kit? Like are you talking about standard things you might put in the background of most scenes like frames in different sizes and colors, or like tape and sharpies?
I’ve always been terrified of gigging for my primary income. How do you deal with the stress of the freelance life, especially with regard to planning a monthly/yearly budget, and what do to when work is slow?
When working on a freelance gig what is your usual process for negotiating your fee?
It’s tough, and happens more and more. I have a few tricks.
- Ask for more money. Yep, really. You’d be surprised at how often more money will appear if you just say “Look, here’s my budget and here’s your vision. If you give me just a little bit more wiggle room, this production will be SO much better.” A good line producer will always have a little in his back pocket.
- If the money really is finite, there are a few resources here in LA that will help out. One is called ecoset and they recycle old sets, break them down and just give them away to people like us.
- Buy and return. Yes. I’m saying it. I used to be SOOO against it, and I still try to do it as infrequently as possible. But sometimes, you just gotta.
- Depends on specifics of the project, but having a community of other designers helps SO MUCH. You can send out a few texts and go, “Hey, does anyone have four sheets of marlite or a gallon of blue paint hanging around?” And usually people will.
Hi Marie. Really cool AMA topic! My big question is about freelancing in general, actually. Kinda similar to @mkatiehunter. How do you, like, maintain a work/life balance at all? I’m wanting to go into a more freelance direction (PA stuff right now mostly) but I’m afraid I’ll never do my own indie work because my schedule will be so all over the place that I can’t plan for anything in advance.
This is so cool!!!
what about outside los angeles/ what about if you don’t have a community of other designers? any places/types of places we should be checking out that we probs didn’t consider?
God, that explains so much.
Dude. YES. It’s especially hard in Production Design, because it’s still pretty male dominated. Especially being young and a woman. I’ve found myself in many situations where men have a hard time listening to a me tell them how to build something. And I doubt myself a lot as well, because it’s so deeply ingrained in most of us. But, the conversations have changed a lot on set since the “me too” movement, and I look forward to that continuing to evolve. I have an awesome crew of badass ladies and I try to bring on as many women as possible as often as I can, just to kind of remind people that we can make decisions and carry ladders just like men do.
Hey again, Yuri! Since you’re here… as a director, what kinds of things do you have already prepared when you meet with Marie/ a PD, and what has been the most exciting thing she’s brought to a design meeting that totally changed the game for you?
How do you carry on when someone (coughMencough) is working under you but doesn’t respect you for stupid reasons? Do you get them fired or do it yourself or what? I would be afraid I’d totally freeze up or just do everything myself, neither of which seem like good coping mechanisms!
I just looked at your resume. Certified aerial lift operator and basic construction?!? Super awesome! You go girl!
Again, it kind of depends on the project. I’ve literally put together a pinterest board before, just to give a general sense of an aesthetic. But I usually use Pages, and put together a whole visual doc. I choose the font, the layout and the images depending on the vibe of the project. That way people who don’t really have a strong vision are getting these subtle ideas of how things will look, even if it’s not an exact layout of a room, for example. I will say though, sometimes people with zero creative vision need to see the exact layout of a room in sketchup and then actual photos of the things that will be in the room. Especially with branded content when you have a director and a client. If you put a blue pencil holder in your mood boards, you better have a blue pencil holder on the day, or you’ll have a room of disappointed clients and a poor PA searching every Target on earth while everyone is waiting on art.
i’m also curious, @Yuri_Baranovsky… are there things you as a director tend to like expect from a designer at a first meeting? things you prefer they’ve already prepared/things you don’t care about as much? (and marie you too- how do you frame a prepro conversation especially in cases like you mentioned earlier where you don’t have time to do a full blown mood board or mock up?)
Hey Marie! FYI- I’m gonna be tracking the unanswered questions by highlighting them in yellow, like this post!
i promise to calm down so other people can get questions answered
Hey! I actually don’t have a question because production design is not something I deal with in the same way in animation, but I just want to thank you for coming out and imparting your knowledge. Some great stuff here. Thanks!!!
Production Designer oversees everything visual: Sets, props, costumes, etc. They work with the director and the producers to make all art decisions.
Depending on scale, sometimes the rest of the roles get a little blurry, but usually…
Art Director: Helps carry out the designers vision. Sometimes does budget, scheduling and hiring. I’m a little controlly so I do a lot of that myself… but my Art Director is often just an extension of me.
Set Dec: The set dec runs the team of shoppers, who go to prop houses and pick out options, and the set dressers, the people who actually put things where they go on set. So the Set Dec basically oversees that little mini dept who dresses sets.
Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have swings who drive trucks, and art coordinators who do paperwork and prop masters who handle all the props and lots of other roles… but those are the basics. And I’ve done MANY gigs where I am all of those things at once;)
I’ll try not to take over Marie’s AMA (I’m in here because she’s one of my favorite people and I wanted to support her [that’s a lie I wanted to see her fail]) but:
Before anything, I send Marie scripts. Often, I have ideas – sometimes very specifically, sometimes vague – but after we both read them, we sit down together and we talk over our individual visions. I really like giving talented people room to change the project I’m directing/writing – they’re there to bring their art to my project, not to listen to my every command, so, in our conversation, Marie and I develop a style we’re going for.
Separately, I also have this conversation with my director of photography. Then, the three of us meet and hash it all out. Marie tells me, “we can’t afford that” I say, “I know, but can you though?” and she’s like. “Ugh, shut up.” And then she makes it happen because she’s super good at her job – more on this in a second.
The process varies a lot depending on what the project is. When did an 8 episode series that I also wrote, I had a lot of visual ideas for what I wanted, so in that situation, I showed Marie and my DP a lot of pinterest photos of films that I was impressed with and wanted our show to feel like. That show had a month of prepro, so we really had a chance to dig in. Other times, on smaller projects, it’s honestly a very quick conversation – “I’m seeing it like this and this and this” – “Me too.” or “What about this and this and this?” - “Okay, let’s do it.”
And then, I trust Marie to make things happen. She’ll show me examples, of course, send me thoughts, text me photos, etc., and it comes together.
As far as Marie and gamechanging, it’s a few things:
I trust her completely. We’ve worked long enough together that I think she knows what my style is and she plays to it. She’s got a similar sense of humor, so I absolutely love it when she finds jokes in the PD (I love that kind of stuff) that I never thought of. The trust is important, it means once we’ve settled on the idea, I don’t need to worry or think about it anymore, I can trust her to get it handled.
Marie is a perfectionist and has visible anxiety when she doesn’t like a set or a prop or whatever. To the point where I’ll have to be like, MARIE I ACTUALLY LIKE THIS IT’S OKAY. But she’s the kind of person who’ll switch out a couch in the middle of the night because the one she got is driving her crazy. She’s tireless and committed and every project we do together doesn’t feel like – oh, it’s my project and I hired Marie, it feels like it’s her art piece as well (even when it’s dumb cat videos) and that’s one of the reasons I hire her literally for every project she’s available for.
In fact, the last two years, I think I’ve primarily hired her, and if she says no I might be at a total loss.
She’s great at scrounging and coming up with low-cost ideas for big set pieces. There’s a reason our stuff looks competitive with higher budget series – it’s because Marie (and other department heads) manage to scrounge with the best of them.
She’s awesome and I thoroughly enjoy being on set with her. In a stressful situation like filmmaking, that’s such a big deal,