Laurence Bennett

Laurence Bennett

LB: For certain kinds of pictures that might really make sense. I think there’s a balance to be struck. Certainly I want to be as available as necessary throughout the process if I can help make the picture better.

AS: When you’re shooting, are you on set during principal photography?
LB:
Yes, but not nearly as much as I’d like to be. I open every set and try to steal as much time as possible to watch performance and be involved in how the set is shot but frankly with aggressive schedules on small or medium-sized pictures, you never really finish prepping. Prep continues through the shoot so it’s a matter of chasing between the mill, the stages, the locations, and back to set.

I just got back from doing a picture with Robert Redford directing. And it was just incredible to watch. Just an honor working with Redford. He’s incredibly collaborative. The cast in this picture was so phenomenal that I couldn’t resist the temptation to keep popping back to set whenever I could, day or night, to watch some masterful acting.

AS: Was that The Company You Keep with Robert Redford directing and starring?
LB:
Yes, along with Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Anna Kendrick, Sam Elliot, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Susan Sarandon. It’s a contemporary piece. Bob plays a former member of the Weather Underground who goes on the run when he’s about to be exposed by a young reporter, after living under another identity for thirty years .

AS: Is Robert Redford visual? Is he involved in the production design?
LB:
Yeah, incredibly. He studied painting. He thought he was going to paint. But that really informs the way he sees and the way he communicates. He was very involved. For one set in particular that had great emotional significance to the characters and story, Bob and I traded sketches with one another about how it might be oriented and laid out. And we poured through a lot of imagery for tone, specifically paintings. Andrew Wyeth’s work was a touchstone of mood for me for that sequence.

AS: I’ve asked a few people about whether they like being on set during the shoot and Jack Fisk, who did the Terrence Malick movies, said that he likes being on set as much as humanly possible. After putting that much work into the sets he wants to shepherd them into existence.
LB:
I love Jack’s work. I have enormous respect for him. He’s doing something right. Maybe I should be spending more time on set!

AS: What do you like about production design?
LB:
We are so blessed to do what we do. I make my living by helping tell stories. Entertaining people. Maybe challenging them, maybe teaching them a little something now and again. Maybe inspiring them. I travel to fascinating places and go backstage into people’s lives and jobs. See things that most people never get a chance to see. While that’s a responsibility it’s also just a huge, huge blessing. I’m very fortunate- I get paid to play.

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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