Laurence Bennett

Laurence Bennett

entire piece or of individual scenes in a very oblique manner. For example when we were prepping In the Valley Of Elah we were in different parts of the country and we spoke on the phone briefly just to get going. He asked me what I thought and I said, I think it’s a Western. I’ve been watching a lot of John Ford because I think it’s about individual in landscape and individual in society. The strength of morals and ethics and conviction. And Paul said, Yup, that’s great. That’s right along the lines of what I was thinking. And that was pretty much the entirety of the discussion that he and I had to set the tone for the design. Paul is remarkably visual. It’s just that the way that we discuss it is less direct and more oblique.

AS: You’ve done a lot of TV as well -how do you feel working on movies is different from working on TV?
LB:
Television is wonderful, engaging, hard work. For me it was just a great grounding in telling stories through film. The process was absolutely the same. It’s not tremendously different other than budgetary and schedule differences.

Whether it’s a television show or a film I try to sit with the director for one very focused session after we’ve had some time to prep for a while. Just do a scene-by-scene quick skim through the script and discuss tonality and imagery. Bounce ideas off the director of what I might bring to complement what’s going on in the script dramatically. Also to find out from the director if there’s anything that I might have missed or that they can add.

AS: I noticed some of your sketches in Perspective magazine, do you do a lot of sketching when working on a movie?
LB:
I do. I don’t publish many of them! But I’m constantly scribbling and for a lot of sets that’s the easiest way for me to puzzle through layout and determine how complex or how simple it need be.

AS: Did you go to art school?
LB:
I studied art at a fine arts college. I went to Occidental in Los Angeles and Waseda University, Tokyo. I studied at Otis years later and I actually taught art for four years in Dublin. Visual arts have always been a part of my life. When I was about seventeen one of my first jobs summers before I went to college was working for a very small design firm in West Hollywood. The focus of the firm was interiors and the principal had been a part of the Eames group down in Venice. He’d left to go off on his own. It was from him, Chuck Kratka, that I got a great background in space planning, layout, presentation and a disciplined work ethic.

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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