Patrice Vermette

Patrice Vermette

Visual effects is an essential tool in moviemaking right now. Another good example is what Sarah Greenwood did with Sherlock Holmes, you know, with set extensions. I saw the latest Tim Burton film over the weekend, Alice in Wonderland. I consider it really amazing production design. I think all types of film will still exist but with visual effects you can go the extra mile. Instead of showing just a quarter of the street because you only have enough money to dress that much well, you can shoot a bit wider and say, Hey, let’s have the rest.

For example, it would have been impossible for the production to shoot the exterior we needed in Bavaria where you see mountains with a bit of snow on them so we added those mountains in post production.

There was also a scene that was supposed to be taking place on the Isle of Wight and I looked at Jean-Marc and said none of the locations we have are next to water. But when we were walking in the parking lot of a castle we realized we could actually shoot that scene right there. There were flatlands and a bit of mountains so we kept the mountains but we replaced the flatlands with water, in post. So that’s why I can’t stress enough what a great tool it is.

AS: What advice would you have for production designers starting out?
PV: There are two ways. You can start out being the apprentice and production assistant and go the feature film route. Or you could go into music videos. That route goes faster because you shoot different projects and you meet different directors. And every director in music videos and commercials has a hidden script somewhere that they want to write eventually. They all wish that eventually they’ll be recognized as feature film directors as opposed to commercial directors. They all dream of that. And by meeting these people on commercials and music videos eventually you’re going to make a good connection. You’re going to meet a guy like I did with Jean-Marc Valée. Someone that you click with and you have basically the same philosophy with about filmmaking. And that person will take you onto their feature film project. It might take four, five, or six years to write it and to finance it but eventually they will finance it. One of the directors that you work with will get their project on the road. Might not be a great budget but you just do it. Do it with your passion.

AS: Would you say passion is important as a production designer?
PV: Yeah of course, it’s the drive, it’s the fuel. On days you feel tired that passion has to push you to try to go further, to go the extra mile. It’s the passion that drives you. It’s the motor of everything. If you’re not passionate, even in life, you’re wasting your time on earth!

You have to be passionate with food, you have to be passionate with music. People who say food just to feed yourself- that’s boring! Come on, have fun! Having fun is also a key thing. When you’re passionate you have fun because you don’t count the hours.

We’re lucky enough to have the best job in the world so you might as well enjoy it, right?

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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