John Myhre

John Myhre

Hopefully that will all change. It affects not just filmmakers but it affects the whole economy. If we can find a way of getting some of these tax benefits here in California that seem to be able to happen in so many other states it’s not only going to help filmmakers and the families of filmmakers in Hollywood, it’s going to make everyone’s life in California better. So much money is spent. It makes such a big difference. When we had the writer’s strike three or four years ago it was amazing that there were restaurants that closed, there were people that do landscaping that went out of business because just the money that the film community brings in wasn’t being spent. So if we can get that money back I have to think that it would be a huge blast to the economy.

AS: Guy Hendrix Dyas mentioned how at one point everyone was talking about moving to Canada for film, but that never ended up happening…
JM: The economy changed. When I did X-Men in Canada you took a US dollar and changed it into a Canadian dollar-fifty and the Canadian dollar-fifty bought you three dollars. It was just crazy. So everything for production, I mean hotel rooms, beautiful hotel rooms were a quarter of the cost and we built a lot of scenery for very little money at that time. I went there a year ago on something and my US dollar bought me ninety-eight cents. The economy has completely changed and it’s really hurt Toronto. I think Vancouver’s still doing okay because it’s so close to LA. The only reason people are taking movies to other areas is to make them for less money. Anything I can do to fight to get films made in LA I will.

AS: What qualities would you say a production designer should have?
JM: I think you just need to be aware of everything and look at everything. Every life experience I’ve ever had has influenced my work. Even just us talking together, having this interview, maybe I’ll use something of this in my job at some point. And I just feel I’m the luckiest person in the world. Because this is what I’ve always wanted to do. When I was a kid I didn’t know if I wanted to be an architect or I wanted to be a director and now I found a way that I can be both. Because I get to design the visuals, the architecture, and tell stories with it the way a director tells stories with the actors. Being creative, being open, being excited about what you do, I think those are all great qualities.

AS: Do you look for those same qualities in the crew that you hire?
JM: I would rather get a young person who’s full of enthusiasm and full of new ideas than someone who’s done the thirty biggest movies in the world and is just sort of tired to come into work anymore. I mean I think enthusiasm really means a lot. What we do is hard work. We work really long hours. We work six or seven days a week. We work fourteen hours a day and it’s important to keep the enthusiasm and the fun and realize that we’re doing something very special and we’re lucky to be doing it.

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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