AS: How about as a Production Designer? What characteristics are good to have in this job?
AS: I think that communication is really important. My goal is to be making good scenery but also to be communicating the entire time what I’m doing so that when the day comes to shoot, the director and the cinematographer and everybody else comes to the set and looks around and says, Great! This is exactly what I was expecting to see. Because I saw pictures of it yesterday. Because I had a discussion with you a few weeks ago and I’ve been totally on board with this direction. To be a successful designer who delivers that, you have to be good at having those ideas, communicating them, and pulling together a strong art department who can pull it off. Running your team in an efficient manner so that things are done in a timely way so that you can be showing these things before the last possible second when you have to shoot it and you don’t have a choice anymore. Everything that it takes to get to that point is what it takes to do this successfully.
AS: When you were at Yale did you ever think of getting into movies?
AS: No, not really. Not because I didn’t want to but only because it didn’t seem to be on the table. I wasn’t aware of how to make that happen.
AS: Do you think a set can be a character in a movie? Do you think the Grand Budapest Hotel is one?
AS: Other people have said that. I don’t focus on it. You just try to make sure that the set is the best that it can be as a background for the story and to support the story and to support the actors and to be as real and rich and full as you can possibly make it be. But I don’t think about it beyond that. To me it’s always the thing that’s there in the background to be supportive rather than to be aggressive.
AS: Some people say that design needs to be invisible.
AS: Not always… You never want to be pulled out of the story for any reason. You never want to be pulled out of the story to say, Look at the clothes they’re wearing! You never want to be pulled out of the story to say, Look at that visual effect! But it depends piece by piece on how quiet or how bold it can go.
What do you do when you first get a script? Do you start making sketches?
AS: No. Sketches come much, much later. I start with imagery. I start pulling references for things.
AS: You go online and find reference images?
AS: A lot of it starts online now because there’s so much there and every year there’s more. But then you start watching films as reference and you start looking into books. And stuff that isn’t always online. And then you start going places and looking at the real thing. So it grows.