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 do you do when you first receive a script?
PV: When I read a script I don’t necessarily think about the production design aspect of it, like whether I will have a lot of sets to build. Instead, I tend to read it and just ask myself, Would I be interested in seeing this film? And then, how can my approach make that film even more interesting? Do I have something to give, to add to the script?
AS: What would you say are good characteristics of a production designer?
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.
Also, lazy people shouldn’t go into production design. Lazy people shouldn’t think about doing any job in the art department! You have to be a bit crazy to do it. You need a bit of insanity as well!
AS: What do you do when you disagree with the director or producers?
PV: Well in the end of the day the director is always the one that you’re working for. If he doesn’t agree you have to remember he’s the captain of the ship. But the director has to choose you the same way you choose your own team. He chooses people who will be able to be in line with his vision and also to bring their own vision to help his vision grow.
But you know, I’m pretty skilled at convincing. I learned that doing TV commercials, because there you have to convince people all the time. You need to just be passionate about your ideas. If they’re good the director or the producer will go for them.