RC: I’ve done that a lot. It’s very helpful. On this last movie, The Rise of Skywalker, what we did, before we even knew what the scenes were, was to create the cave set based on the idea the co-designer Kevin Jenkins had of putting the Blockade Runner ship in the middle of the cave. We made it as a model that he could get down and look at, as though he was a kid. But we also showed him how big it would be on a stage, mocking it up in very rough ways. We did the same thing with the snowy city Kijimi set. We first made a model of what we wanted to build and then, with scaffolding, we put it up in the parking lot to give J.J. [Abrams, director] a feel for how big it would be. That’s how we got the go-ahead to build the sets even before J.J. knew what all the scenes were. We had to get a head start to be shooting in five months.
Sometimes you have to come up with ways of showing your ideas that are inspiring so the director can grasp what it is and particularly so they get the scale of it. And with the Gump house for instance we were able to show Bob what the light would be like where it would be situated. We did the same thing on What Lies Beneath with Bob but when I saw what we had planned and I put it up with scaffolding I could see immediately that it was too big. We had a whole scout coming out that weekend to look at it. I called Bob up and said, I can’t show it to you like this because all you’ll do is look at it and say it’s wrong. He said, Well, good, I’m glad you’re not wasting our time. We’ll reschedule it for next week. Sometimes you bite the bullet and say, That’s not what I thought it was going to be. You don’t try to talk yourself into the idea that it’s really okay when you know it’s not.
AS: People get so attached to their own idea and then try to convince themselves it’s great.
RC: You don’t want to be out there thinking it’s so great and then have everyone else come and say, It’s not so great. And not only that, it’s not what we want. It’s fine if it’s in the preliminary stage, up to a point. Although that’s a lot of money to have everybody fly across the country just to look at something you know is wrong. Worse, of course, is to not have everybody come to see it in some way ahead of time, so that instead they’re doing that the morning of. And then that’s a real problem. You’ve created this situation where now a lot of work has to go into fixing something that earlier could have been much less of a problem.
AS: Do you have any advice on navigating conflict on set if someone doesn’t like your idea but you have a strong feeling about it?
RC: You have to work it out. You don’t have a choice. You can get fired if you want to make a big deal out of it and put everyone else on a defensive level. Or you can figure out what’s the solution. What’s the problem and how can we get around that problem.