Jess Gonchor

Jess Gonchor

AS: How did working with Bennett Miller on Moneyball and Capote compare to working with the Coen brothers?
JG: Well the Coen brothers have made fifteen movies. Bennett’s amazing: he’s a super-intelligent director and he also has an amazing vision and an amazing eye for what’s right and what’s wrong and the level he plays at is really, really high, maybe higher than anybody I’ve worked with. So he also pushes you. The difference, and I think he would admit it too, is just experience. If you have fifteen movies under your belt you’re different than if you have two movies. But I love working with him. I think Capote was amazing and I think he killed it. He killed it in so many ways. And I think this Moneyball thing is going to be amazing too. He’s a tremendous guy.

AS: Any other sources of inspiration for your design work?
JG: I think my inspiration has always been hanging around with my father. He’s an architect and the most creative person I know. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Ever since building stuff in the basement and making sculpture he always encouraged me and the encouragement was unbelievable. That’s really my inspiration, where I draw from. What are you made up of? There’s somebody in your life that really said something to you, that encouraged you, that taught you. And for me that’s my dad.

AS: Are you very involved with visual effects on movies?
JG: On A Serious Man and some of the Coen brothers stuff you do, there are some visual effects. It’s mainly a matter of erasing bad elements that have been captured in the frame. But I’ll put my two-cents in. I’m not going to design a whole movie and then turn it over to some visual effects company. They need to be respectful and understand what it is that everybody’s worked so hard on. I’m involved not to the point where I’m reporting and going to work with the visual effects company every day. But when the movie’s over and we see what we need then I’m going to generate some comps of what I think it should look like. And react to what has been done and put my two cents in.

AS: It looks like the future of production design may involve a lot of greenscreens and a lot more visual effects…
JG: With everything being shot digitally it’s just so easy to change things so it’s not just happening, it’s here. You can still find the odd movie that doesn’t have a lot of visual effects but it’s getting harder and harder. Times are changing. They’ve already changed and you’ve got to get on board with it -you have to change with the times. I’m totally fine with that. They’re never going to stop making period movies so you’re always going to have a shot at that. Then you gotta go the other way and get involved with all the new technology that’s out there. And that makes it exciting.

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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