Kim Sinclair

Kim Sinclair

AS: When you go to the remote locations like Fiji do you hire crew out there or do you bring people out?
KS: Yeah, absolutely. We always try. The producers always want you to use locals, for obvious reasons. And case in point in Thailand, we basically crewed up out of Bangkok and then what I did was identify where there were gaps in the local skill base. I used a New Zealand construction manager because we were filming in the North of Thailand and also in the South -so we needed a split team. I needed someone who was used to coordinating a split construction department. And that was that initially but then we discovered that they didn’t really have a proper, professional greensman so I used a New Zealand greensman. And we ended up getting a bit stuck for scenic artists. They actually had some really talented scenic artists but they couldn’t quite adjust to the style of the job. We needed guys who could use an airless spraygun and spray buildings quickly. Age them and so on. They were more small scale. We ended up with a couple scenic artists but other than that I used a mostly Thai crew.

Similarly in Mexico they’ve got a pretty big film industry. On Zorro we basically crewed in Mexico. Funny enough, they had the same shortcomings. We ended up using a construction manager and a New Zealand greensman. In Thailand I found amazing sculptors and similarly in Mexico we found very good sculptors and fiberglass workers and metal workers. Very skilled people, very low maintenance. I’ve never done a job where you just go out and bring a film crew from overseas. Fiji is a bit of an exception. There are not really very many Fijians who are full-time film workers. There’s a really good gaffer but in the art department it’s slim pickins.

AS: How do you see things changing in the film industry with CG replacing practical sets?
KS: About ten years ago people started to say, You guys’ll be out of a job soon. It’s all going to be digital. And we were like, Yeah right. It’s kind of gratifying that Avatar, which has the most digital content of any film ever made also had the biggest art department I’ve ever put together. The live action part was 88 days. With Jim the average day is a 15 hour shooting day. That’s quite a lot of shooting on practical sets. If you’ve got an actor it’s a lot better if you can put a real background behind them. It’s better for the actor it’s better for the director.

Secondly, this process is pretty expensive. It’s kind of wanton to say you can do away with the sets with digital ones or just green-screens. That’s a device on 300, it’s been done to give the film a look but I think it’s a stylistic thing and I don’t think it’ll ever replace sets. The digital world allows you to do things you can’t otherwise do. And if it allows you to do things you can’t afford to do, that’s well and good. But for the vast majority of dramas you’re going to want people and you’re going to want a set.

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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: