K.K. Barrett

K.K. Barrett

AS: Karen O. did some music for Where the Wild Things Are. Was she just part of the Spike Jonze circle?
KK: Yeah. She just kind of like swam into the circle. You know how friendships are. I think it’s your job as a friend to bring in new blood to your other friends. And hopefully they do the same. So it’s constantly expanding and contracting.

She can do anything she wants. She can just sit down and spontaneously make something up and it’s great. She was just so good at doing Where the Wild Things Are songs. And this music is completely different. She and I had done another side project that was a live presentation about three years ago here in New York at a small club called Union Pool. Just seven songs that she had nothing else to do with. So we just made this little nautical scene.

AS: A little nautical set?
KK: Yes. A little jewel box. A little Fabergé egg that you just kind of look into. A one-time performance. So this is an expansion on that mentality.

AS: You mentioned doing models of the sets in Stop the Virgens. Do you do a lot of physical models when you do movies?
KK: Yeah. I do a lot of physical models to figure things out for myself. I work with sketch artists too. I’ll sketch a little bit and have them run with it. And play with the model and try to see spatially what happens and then sometimes the photographs of the models take the place of illustrations. I just find it easier to work in those dimensions. I find it very, very hard to work in SketchUp because there’s no romance to it. It’s very hard to show it to anybody. Even in fly-throughs. By the time that you’ve rendered in to the degree that someone can be enchanted by it then they go, Is that exactly what it’s going to look like? And you go, No.

So it’s hard. It’s always that problem of how do you present something so that they can still use their imagination? More and more with computer tools we can show exactly what it is. But it’s time-consuming, it’s laborious. So at the early stages it’s better so show something that still has some romance left in it.

AS: So ideally when you’re going to build some sets and you want to show the director and producers something you’ll build some physical models and show some sketches?
KK: It’s different every time. I also use reference images. But usually there’s a photographed model involved. And sketches. Often I’ll Photoshop alterations to locations myself. But sometimes there’s something that’s intangible and you want to make sure everybody’s on the same visual page. And you shouldn’t talk about visuals. You should always refer to visuals. Because people see different things at the same time if it’s just verbal. It’s a great way of getting everybody back on the same page.

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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