AS: Is the ability to work hard a characteristic you need to have as a production designer?
ES: You have to work all the time! You have to be so fascinated by everything because you’re doing everything from what the wheels are like on a carriage to what they’re eating. What the lighting is, controlling the colors, working with the cameraman, the director, the costume designer, and the makeup designer as well. I think it’s very interesting that one minute you’re drawing a picture and the next minute someone’s throwing three million quid at you to hire carpenters and painters and everything. You’ve got to be a good politician as well. And good at adding up.
AS: In terms of how much money is being spent?
ES: Yes. You’ve got to stay all over it.
AS: When you are hiring all the craftspeople what kind of characteristics are you looking for?
ES: That they’re really good-humored mainly! That you can have a laugh. And that everybody gets on. The people that I tend to use also have a very theatrical background. They’re very skilled. They’ve not only done film. They have an appreciation of real life and real characters.
AS: Jon Myhre told me if he ever walks on set and hears people complain about something he says, “Well, Goodness Gracious, we’re working on a Movie! Isn’t that fantastic?”
ES: Why make it work? And you’re thrown into a really intense working relationship with people for a very long time and you’re with them 12, 14, 16 hours a day. If you’ve got some misery stomping about it disrupts everything.
AS: You said while doing Les Mis some of the tattooed crew members would sing the songs while building?
ES: Yes, they would start singing the songs while they were working! But then they did the same on the Muppets! They love it!
AS: Do you always work with the same crew?
AS: Have you only worked in England?
ES: I’ve worked a lot in Spain. The British do a lot of commercials in Spain because of the weather. And I’ve done an awful lot in Eastern Europe and Italy. And a little bit in the U.S. but not much.
AS: How would you say it’s different working in England versus Italy or Spain.
ES: I would say the British are like the Germans. They’re very ordered and meticulous about time keeping and just have a general Protestant work ethic. A different approach. But then on the flip side some of the jobs I’ve done in Italy have had some of the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen.
AS: Are you able to bring your crew with you to places like Italy and Spain?
ES: I’ll bring the same core crew. But I’ve been very lucky for the past five years in that I’ve been working in and around London. My children are doing their final exams before they’re grown up and I wanted to be around.
This is a very interesting conversation. Thank you for sharing your insights about the production design and entertainment industry! As a student aspiring to one day work in the entertainment or production industry these insights are very inspiring and helpful in career planning. Wish you the best in all your endeavors! Keep up the incredibly beautiful work.