Colin Gibson

Colin Gibson

other peoples’ productions and when I got back to Sydney I continued doing props. I then discovered all the things that prop people were supposed to do. Nothing that I knew very much about. For example, I needed a truck but I didn’t have a driver’s license and I needed tools but had never actually used any. And when you need to smoke up a hall and you don’t have a smoke machine you do go through an awful lot of Camel unfiltered cigarettes!

AS: You went from props to Art Director?
CG: Yeah, I was never very good at taking orders. I think the only reason I became a production designer is I just got sick of other old men telling me what to do. Although it doesn’t actually solve the problem because there’s always a director or producers. But you’ve thinned out the ranks.

AS: What was your first experience as an art director, before you became a production designer?
CG: Young Einstein. Slightly odd-ball stuff. In the good old days when you were an art director you didn’t have to just art direct, you got to also stunt drive and help the grips set tracks and rig cranes and light the odd set and to this day I’m still not comfortable with specialization. I like to give everybody a go with everything just to find out how you can expand the universe.

AS: Production designer Jack Fisk was nostalgic for the days of the art department being just four guys where everyone does everything.
CG: I’m all for him. I had a look at the Artstars site and I fell in love with Jack Fisk for all of those reasons. We have a similar M.O. The disadvantage with a lot of specialization is that on too many gigs it’s about coming up with shiny concept art and not really thinking through the problem. Something else Jack said that really rang true was that it’s the parameters that make us what we are. It’s what you haven’t got that makes you come up with a new and exciting way to do it. Otherwise we all just go out and do the same thing over and over again.

Those of us of a certain age were never tested in battle. We haven’t had a war to prove whether we’re actually responsive and resilient enough. So instead we go and make a film. George Miller on Fury Road often referred to it as a battle. Although when he referred to me as the one he was doing battle with I guess it wasn’t such a good metaphor!

AS: When you’re hiring people for the art department what kind of qualities do you look for?
CG: Someone who doesn’t look like they’re pretending to laugh at my jokes! It never ceases to annoy me how many people it takes to make me look competent. I love to find people who are passionate about what they do and they make me passionate. Because I didn’t go into this as a dyed-in-the-wool revhead, God I just love V8’s! Like all the other jobs you do as a designer you become passionate. You become fascinated.

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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