Grant Major

Grant Major

AS: It gimbaled back and forth?
GM: The exterior, backlot one did. The huge, big steel structure. Actually we made it again a forth time in miniature as well when it was touring around the rocks. And there was a digital version as well.

AS: Say someone is just starting out in the business. Do you have any advice for them to avoid any pitfalls?
GM: I suggest for people wanting to train up to get into this sort of thing they should get a degree in architecture. Or go to film school and learn to be a production designer with all the requisite drafting skills. You must be able to draw. A lot of art schools these days don’t encourage drawing or don’t actively teach drawing. But I think drawing is very, very important. And computer skills now. The young kids are overtaking me now with the ability to use 3D Studio MAX and Rhino and these sorts of things. Having experience in those sorts of programs also gets you in the door. You can be brought in for a specific job, to design a 3D set or something like that, and then once you’re in the art department, at least in New Zealand, you can move around within that. Coming to the project with skills is really important.

And lastly what I tell everybody is just to make your own films however you can, shoot them and get friends to act in them, edit it yourself and just sort of hone that manufacturing business of filmmaking. And make it your own way.

AS: Making your own films is so much cheaper these days.
GM: And there are more and more venues to get them screened as well. More and more ways of showing them. They have this 48 hour film festival where these kids get together and they’ve got a weekend to write, shoot, and edit and present their film. It’s a fantastic sort of competitive way to just sort of get in there and do it.

AS: How about the future of production design? Do you see more and more greenscreens and less practical sets?
GM: In the early days we were doing 360 degree builds but it’s getting harder and harder to justify that sort of build when the cost of doing CGI work is coming down and becoming more competitive. Hands-on skills in visual effects is important for production designers because the vis effects world is currently being colonized by technicians. We need to move into their world majorly with creative skills and film design skills. Being able to design the sets and design the film and follow right through to the visual effects is the future of what we’re doing. As a profession we need to be there every step of the way.

AS: What do you like most about designing movies?
GM: The whole thing is pretty amazing. But in terms of a phase, the phase I like best is just the sort of “blue-sky thinking” I suppose you’d call it. At the beginning of a project where the film can be anything. The middle part of it you’ve just got your head down dealing with the day-to-day making of the thing. But those first ideas that come out go full-circle, sometimes taking years. Then you’re sitting in the cinema and you’re looking at the film and here it is on the screen. It’s taken this long to get there. I like how where we begin influences where we end.

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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