AS: When you were in school yourself were you planning on being a production designer on movies?
ES: No. I wanted to design operas! But there aren’t many operas.
AS: And have you designed many operas?
ES: I’ve designed a lot of plays but nobody has ever asked me to do an opera!
AS: Dante Ferretti mentioned he’s designed quite a few.
ES: Well, he’s Italian -they do more in Italy!
AS: Would you recommend people go to art school?
ES: If they can afford it, yes, for sure. And if they can’t afford it still practice drawing. If you’re sitting in a meeting and there are twelve people sitting around looking at you and you’re all talking about a chair, unless you can draw the chair that you think is right, they’ll all be thinking of something different. You’ve got to be very clear and communicate very well.
AS: What is your relationship like working with the DP?
ES: I’m really good at being friendly with everyone. You have to be. Being able to draw and make visuals look beautiful and be able to get your message across quickly has also been an enormous help with DoPs.
AS: Are you on set during shooting?
ES: I’m always on the set at the beginning of each new set to make sure it’s all okay and has no teething problems and then I have to move onto the next one because they’ll be eating up that scenery and then they’ll be behind me. It’s like having a supertanker up your arse! You have to really keep going.
AS: What would you say that you most like about production design?
ES: Probably the initial working-out period. The drawing and the research I really love.
AS: Is that part of it usually just yourself or do you have a small crew?
ES: It’s usually just myself and the director. It’s gotten quite more like that because my research ability and my resources have gotten quite great. I get called in earlier so I can work with the director to kind of show them, especially with a period piece, exactly what the world would have been.
AS: How do you go about that research? Is it a lot of internet searches?
ES: That’s a big part of it but no I’m very good at using the library resources in London and I have an enormous library myself. And I’ll look at anything. I’ll talk to anyone.
AS: Do you prefer period pieces?
ES: I love them and if you love research like I do that’s a really big help. But I would love to do some science fiction, I just haven’t gotten it yet.