Dennis Gassner

Dennis Gassner

AS: That’s an amazing book! Speaking of concept art, what was your interaction with the futurist from the original Bladerunner movie, Syd Mead? Aside from revamping his Spinner design…
DG: Syd did concepts for us for the Vegas environment. Denny wanted him to be involved. He did Syd Mead stuff and we reorganized it. It was great to have him involved.

AS: Do you ever have the feeling when you leave your film in the hands of VFX artists in post production that they might alter your vision?
DG: I give everybody a document. Just follow the document. That’s their foundation. It’s digital- a PDF of all the concept art, scene by scene by scene.

AS: How do you see the field of production design changing in the future? Do you see films becoming all virtual reality?
DG: Something will come out of virtual reality but I don’t think anyone knows what it is yet.

AS: What about a situation where you’re watching a scene take place in front of you in virtual reality and you hear a noise behind you so you turn your head and you can see another movie sequence unfolding in the world behind you?
DG: It’s a gimmick. It’s a great piece of technology but the future is still just telling good stories. Finding good stories and styling them in the proper way so that the environments and the lighting and performances all tell the story. That’s all.

AS: Any thoughts you have for someone trying to get into the field of production design?
DG: Having the strength of a strong mentor is important. In my case it was Dean Tavoularis. Production designer Rick Carter and I are good mates and we talk about this a lot. His mentor was Dick Sylbert. Dick and Dean were the two top guys when I was coming in. The Godfather, Chinatown and so on. Both interesting minds. And bravo to you for doing the Artstars blog because it’s also like a great mentorship.

AS: Thank you! Is there a difference in your process between working on big tentpole movies versus more independent Coen Brothers films?
DG: You take the advantage of your circumstances. The budget you’re allowed. You can’t build a lot if you don’t have any money. Everything to me is a logical presentation. You have to justify it. Because the justification says, You spend this amount of money. You have to spend money to make money. The producers are just looking at the back-end bottom line.

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About the Interviewer

Tom Lisowski is a production designer who has designed swamp mazes shot in China, crumbling cliffs in Utah, future arenas in South Central, dilapidated tenements and twisted laboratories under luxurious mansions... William Anthony is a Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle and documentary imagery... Guest photographer Nelson Cragg is an award-winning cinematographer who shoots and directs television, feature films, and commercial projects. Contact ArtStars: tom@artstars.us