Sarah Greenwood

Sarah Greenwood

The geography of the factories in Sherlock 2 was as involved as I got, really. We found locations in Germany that we photographed and did visuals for, sort of overall concepts. We’ve given them potential layouts.

AS: Do you ever build foam core models or use 3D programs like SketchUp?
SG: Both. I’ve always made models to different scales and for every set we build we make a model. Even for sets that are going to be digital we sometimes make a model. But interestingly for the first time we just had this amazing guy Nick Henderson who’s a 3d modeler with SketchUp. And having him do the fortress models for various shots was incredibly useful. 3D imaging has been there before but it’s never been so easy to use. It’s always been such a pain in the ass. It’s always been so long that we’ve almost built the set by the time they’ve worked it out.

But this time what he could do was incredible and very fast. Like to position the fortress in the valley. It was literally a kind of wire-frame and you can push it and make that mountain further in. That kind of technology was incredible and worked really well. I mean I’m all for technology when it works. Personally I’m crap with it but I can see what it can do. When somebody knows what they’re doing and can do it with ease I think it’s great.

Now I know that much more about CGI and how it can work. It’s great to be able to get it to Joe with more confidence and to use it more subtly and use it in a way that it will give us more scope. And also it’s getting cheaper as well. In the old days you couldn’t afford it.

AS: Do you yourself get to do any sketches when you’re working on a film?
SG: I scribble. It’s called the Art of Sarah Greenwood. It’s basically crap. They photocopy my sketchbook with scrappy plans and ideas. So no, I very much rely on the artistry of my team! I have an amazing illustrator that I work with called Eva Kuntz. She’s German and she is brilliant and I’ve worked with her on the last three or four films. The illustrations we do, they’re slightly more “montagey” –do you know what I mean? They’re not polished. I really don’t like polished, finished illustrations. They’re atmospheric, they give the mood of the scene. They’re not detailed as such. Maybe they’re slightly disproportioned or the perspective is slightly off but you know I quite like that. They’re atmospheric, to give a feel. They’re not these perfect, glossy, finished pieces. They’re done from my initial location photographs, from references, they’re the juxtaposition of all sorts. You play with the color and the texture of things. That’s a strong tool.

AS: Did you go to art school or to film school?
SG: I went to art school and did theater design. And I worked in theater for three years and then I went to the BBC which was a fantastic training ground. To come up through television is great because you get a real hands-on knowledge of everything. And I’ve been freelance maybe fifteen years. I actually got my first feature film through a director that I worked with at the BBC doing dramas. And the BBC drama department was and is amazing. You can’t want for better training area than that.

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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