Patrice Vermette

Patrice Vermette

Because it was good fun you know- they were passionate people and I wanted to be with those guys. So I did a couple of gigs as gopher, an art department runner, and then I became assistant to a guy who was production designer. Shortly after that I was working on a music video as a PA and the woman who was supposed to do the art direction on the gig was not able to do her job and I was asked the day before the shoot if I could help with the art direction. It was something that I’d never done before and I looked at the director and I said, I think I could have fun but I’ve never done that in my life. He looked at me and he said, You know what, I’m kind of screwed so I can use whatever you can provide me with. So I did four different sets overnight and from then on that director gave me all his music videos. That guy became very, very popular doing music videos. So he helped me build a name for myself. After that I start working with other guys and in 1995 I met Mr. Valée.

AS: When you would do these projects did you tend to do sketches beforehand?
PV: Yeah, I did sketches. But it depends on each project you know. It’s like right now I’m doing a Bud Light commercial. I did a sketch for the time machine we’re making. We’re having fun right now in a workshop- the time machine is like a sculpture. I’m actually doing it with a friend of mine. I know most production designers rarely touch the tools and materials themselves but I still like to do that once in a while. You keep close to where you came from.

AS: What would you say good characteristics of a production designer be?
PV: You have to be curious. That’s the main thing. You have to be a psychologist. You have to be hands-on. You never know when you have to jump in and roll up your sleeves and start moving things. You have to be a good leader of a team.

Picking your crew is also very important because you’re only as good as your crew. The people you interview want to please you because they all want the job. But you have to see through that because you know you’re going to have to live with those people for seven or eight months. And within those eight months you’re going to go through all these different stages of human behavior. You’re gonna be scared, you’re gonna be angry, you’re gonna be happy. All these emotions will go through the entire crew so you have to find a team that will stick together and be strong together. Through the good and the bad. It’s like being married I guess.

AS: Is that where the psychology comes in?
PV: Yes, psychology is useful there. But psychology is also needed with the producers and the directors obviously.

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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