AS: Do you always have to have a personal connection to the values of the films you work on?
HB: I don’t think you can do those types of things if you don’t have some connection to the material or if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
But you do have to make a resume in the beginning! I did these little $1 million horror movies forever here in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I used them as a place to learn as a designer. It was a good place to learn how to work with a crew and to learn what everybody expected from me as a designer. That was my first time building anything on stage and managing budgets. I still threw myself into it, like, I hate this project but it still has to be perfect!
AS: How did you first get into production design?
HB: I went to school for fashion design but I realized I didn’t want to do fashion design and I dropped out of college. My friends were all in bands and they were like, Hey, we should make a music video. The kind that was sort of grunge and SubPop and 4AD. We just listened to every kind of thing back then and I was like, Sure, I’ll do that! And they said, Okay, well, we want you to bring stuff to dress up the place.
I was like, Okay, I’ll bring the stuff! I didn’t know what it was called! And then we told a little story with it. It was like, how about there’s this party and then the cops come and break it up. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is really great! I should go to film school! And so I was in my late twenties and I went back to film school. I thought I wanted to direct like everybody who goes to film school and I remember on one of my projects one of my professors said, I don’t know if you’ll be a great director or anything but your art direction is really amazing! I was like, Art direction? What are you talking about? I kind of took it as an insult like, You don’t think I can be a great director? But then I started to realize that’s really what I’m paying attention to when I watch films. My whole connection with the story and the characters is through the art direction, period.
I don’t know if that’s because of how I grew up, with my Mom changing the interior of the house every season. And going to job sites with my Dad and seeing things transform. When my Mom would be pissed the house would go all dark blacks and grays. Summer it’s all gray –awesome! It was weird. So I really understood emotion through that. And I realized that there’s a bigger connection to this art direction idea, still not really knowing what production design was, but knowing that there’s a bigger connection from me to it.
And a friend of mine who graduated from my film school called one day and said, I’m doing this really small Lifetime movie and I need someone in the art department. Do you want to come and help? It was me and two other people. I was like, Okay. And she said, We’ll pay you. And I was like, Oh, for real? Okay!
I was scrubbing floors and painting and stuff and that was when I told myself, This is what I want to do! And from that moment on I have not done anything but art department.