AS: What do you like about production design?
HB: I’m very lucky in that I get to travel for the films that I work on. I get to meet all kinds of people. When I was working on Beyonce’s On the Run II tour we were in Jamaica for two weeks and the whole crew was Jamaican except for my art director from LA. We had a blast. And one day I was like, We’re going location scouting! And we spent the whole day in the ocean. We went out to the bush in Jamaica because one of the guys we needed to paint these speakers for the dancehall scene actually made the pigment for the paint himself. And he lived on the beach. He built this compound on the beach and we hung out drinking Red Stripes and watching the water come in. Those experiences inform my design. Meeting people and hearing their stories informs my ability to create a world. Whether I like it or I don’t like it, whether I’m in a situation that makes me nervous or not. You cannot create any world if all you know is the bubble that you’re in.
Like when I was on Dark Waters we spent a week in Parkersburg, Virginia which is very, you know, Red. I was like, This could be scary, but it was lovely. When I was in Des Moines, Iowa, working on a film I felt the same way. People had different opinions but we were able to discuss it and the people were lovely. Spending the time in South Africa and South Korea and scouting in London, just having all these different opportunities. Going to Zaha Hadid’s DDP in Seoul, Korea, seeing that masterpiece, seeing her masterpiece in Italy, the MAXXI museum in Rome. She’s a huge influencer for me to this day and inspiration for the next Black Panther. Her designs were the first I was drawn to for possibilities for Wakanda. And to actually be in one of her buildings and walk up and down the stairs that you only see in pictures was an amazing experience. Just to hear the people who run the building tell you about the construction of it and the idea that led to its inception, and how the government reacted to it.
Or in Ladysmith, South Africa, speaking to a young man who is part of the Zulu tribe and who told me about all his struggles and his dreams of coming to America to become a filmmaker. Talking to the bellboy at the hotel and then going back to the township where his family lives and hangin’ out. I’m a traveler. I’m an adventurer, although maybe sometimes a reluctant one! You cannot be a designer if you do not open your world to those types of experiences.
But it’s not always easy. There are days when I’m like, I hate this! I’ll never do this again! That’s never true, I just say it. My friend and I were talking about retirement the other day and I said, Maybe when I’m seventy-five! You look at people like Dante Ferretti, he’s in his late seventies and he’s still going!
I can’t think of a job where I get to be around people like Ryan and Ruth and Rachel [Morrison, Black Panther DP] and get to travel and get to meet all kinds of people, eat all kinds of food, and then end up at something like the Oscars! I just don’t know of another job where that can happen!