Documentarian

But that humor and that sensitivity towards the world is what really got me going, Wow, someone has to be filming this.

AS: The humanity in it, combined with his artistry…
DR: Exactly. And I grew very excited and extremely intimidated because this guy was, for me, a larger-than-life figure, he was a mentor, and who am I to take the responsibility of telling such an important story? I was rather terrified.

So a buddy of mine at the AFI finally sort of broke the ice when after a class he called Bob Boyle back into the classroom and said Dan has something to ask you and I’m like, No, I’m not ready, and Bob comes back, looks at me deadpan and says, What? and I stood there and I looked at him and I said, Bob, with your permission I’d like to make a film about your life and your art and he looks back at me deadpan and says Sure, let me know what I can do and turns around and walks away and that was that.

AS: So that was the beginning…
DR: That was the beginning in a very Robert Boyle way.

AS: What would you say is the difference between Bob’s whole view and the views of the other old-school productions designers in you films like Henry Bumstead, and the modern production designers of today?
DR: Henry Bumstead talks about the fact that ageing is a bygone art-form in production design today. He is well-known in the industry as the master of ageing sets and in Something’s Gonna Live he describes his process and why it’s important. He says you know that in a lot of the films he watches today the houses are so polished and clean it feels like the kids don’t live there. And there’s a- I’ll say it here but this is the first time I’ve actually mentioned this- there’s a story that Bummy told the class. He worked on Home Alone 3, and you know, true to form, Bummy aged the home. He aged the railing and the wall- the way the kids put their hands on the wall as they come down. And at one point before shooting some executives came in to see the set and they brought with them the marketing department for the film and they took one look and said we can’t sell our products in here and demanded that they repaint the whole house and “un-age” the set.

And I think that sort of points to the kind of quality that these production designers that are featured in Something’s Gonna Live find at fault with the current state of the industry and it’s not just from the standpoint of selling products, it’s also the sense of the humanity that’s lost, the sense of character. Why are we telling these stories in the first place? Our major concern is to tell our story, a human story, and what we’re doing as production designers is interpreting the emotional and psychological needs of the screenplay into the physical environment.

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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