Eve Stewart

Eve Stewart

AS: When you first worked with Mike Leigh you worked as art director. How was it different working with a production designer as an art director versus working as a production designer?
ES: I was a standby art director so I was on the floor. It was brilliant to fully understand you have to get everything ready and you can’t take short cuts and leave the crew on the floor without extra stuff. It was all-in-all a good background before becoming a designer.

AS: In Mike Leigh films did you ever build sets?
ES: Not for films I art directed. But for Topsy-Turvy much of that was built because none of it existed how it would have been. But then with Vera Drake the majority was locations because Mike likes the history that you get from the real thing. It had ghosts in it and more lumps and bumps. It’s been around the block and that’s always good.

AS: Do you spend a lot of time with the location managers and scouts?
ES: Yes. But having grown up in London and done an awful lot in London I’m pretty good at knowing where stuff is now.

AS: Do you ever just go out on your own scouting?
ES: I don’t go out on my own scouting but I’ll certainly know where to suggest quite quickly what would be a good area or what type of building would work.

AS: When you first get a movie what is one of the first things you do? What is your process at the outset?
ES: I’ll always read it and start drawing all over the script. And I buy a new sketchbook and start drawing. I’ll sit in a room with the director drawing and thinking. Looking at research and pulling out books and images.

AS: I hear you’re involved in a Frankenstein movie?
ES: Yes! I did the Muppets Most Wanted and then I did another Call the Midwife television series and now I’m doing Frankenstein.

AS: A historical period film?
ES: Yes. It’s all set in the 1800’s. It will be another big historical thing but given that I’m now doing the research I’m learning how to bring someone back to life. I should have it licked by the end of the year.

AS: Is that another attribute a production designer needs to have? The ability to bring people back to life?
ES: Yes, it’s a useful extra skill!

AS: Say someone’s starting out in the business. Any advice?
ES: Learn to smile all day! Be positive. And learn to draw. For God’s sake learn to draw! It’s the only way you’ll ever get in your own way.

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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