Patrice Vermette

Patrice Vermette

Remember the Star Wars figures? My parents had an unfinished basement and a bit more than a third of the basement was my Star Wars world. My parents said, The basement is unfinished and you can do whatever you want with it. I had a lot of cardboard and scale models. Whenever my parents had their friends over for supper they took them downstairs to show them my Star Wars world!

During the same period I was very influenced by KISS as well, that theatrical rock. My parents took me to see them in 1979 when I was 9 years old. That was production design from a kid’s perspective.

AS: What is it like working in Canada?
PV: It’s very different because our films are a much smaller budget. You have to wear many hats when you do a film in Canada. What I really enjoyed about England is you can concentrate on your real job. Because in Canada most of the time you’re your own set decorator and your own art director. Sometimes you have to do a bit of painting and carpentry. You have to because otherwise the job won’t get done. You can sit on your ass and say, I like the location as it is, or you can go the extra mile. You don’t have time to do that? Okay, give me the tools, let’s start rocking. It’s good. The industry is a lot more artisan. So you touch a lot of things as opposed to the big business where you only do the vision and simply oversee every department under you to make sure that they follow the vision. You do that as well in Canada but sometimes you have to go the extra mile.

AS: How have things changed since you were nominated for an Oscar®?
PV: My life is not really different so far but I hope to have access to good stories. 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?

I’d like to be able to do more films in the budget range of The Young Victoria. More like There Will Be Blood, Crazy Heart, Boogie Nights. James Gray material. Good stories, good films, great film makers. Those are my heroes as opposed to the Michael Bays. Those are the types of films that I really want to do.

AS: People are talking about how a lot of films are going in the direction of the green-screen. What are your thoughts about working with visual effects?
PV: It’s a great tool. For instance at Lancaster House where we shot the ballroom scene after the coronation in The Young Victoria, the room was pretty darn big. We had a lot of extras but we needed to make it more impressive. So that’s when visual effects comes in. Let’s double the size of that room. Let’s triple it. You bring references. Let’s hang that picture on that wall there. There’s good teamwork with visual effects. For Westminster Abbey you know it was impossible to shoot a real coronation so we did it on green-screen.

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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