John Muto

They ended up using footage from that test in the final movie. In fact, I’ll tell you the reason that’s in the movie is the editor was smart enough to know that it was working but he didn’t open his mouth. He just rolled up the shot and put it in his drawer and pulled it out when he needed it for the movie.

AS: So in the final edit they used the test which at the time the director was screaming about.
JM: Yes.

AS: So it was your knowledge of editing that gave you the upper hand, not just looking at the movie from the design side, you were thinking of the movie as a whole…
JM: What do you need to make this thing work? You need 8 frames. It’s hard to do more than 8 frames that work but it’s easy to do eight frames. To me that’s what production design is about. And not everyone agrees with me. I mean there are plenty of production designers who don’t draw. You know, maybe they know a little bit about interior decoration. Some production designers are producers. They don’t really have any artistic talent at all. They assemble a great team.

AS: They bring everyone together.
JM: Yeah. And on some of those movies they do it great. There’s a lot of ways a movie can be great. Anybody can do one or two movies and be a genius designer or even a genius actor or anything else because it’s such a collaborative medium that just by keeping your mouth shut, if you’re working with good guys, you can wind up looking like a genius.

AS: You get in with the right people…
JM: That’s why Dick Sylbert is amazing, I mean over an entire career he never fucked up. But you start seeing certain designers that are great designers when they’re with a certain director. When they’re with another director they’re no good. Same with DPs. We think of some directors being very visual then you realize they’re always with the same team. So you can’t separate it out.

AS: You were talking before about how every designer has that one movie that they’re proud of that never got the recognition it deserved- do you have one of those?
JM: Yeah, my lost film is called Wilder Napalm. I used to joke about that, saying this is the film that will enable me to steal some of Bo Welch’s work because it has a carnival. It’s a fantasy kind of movie. Like almost a Tim Burton kind of picture. Written by a very interesting guy named Vince Gilligan who wrote it when he was very young. He created Breaking Bad and directs most of it. He was also on the X-Files for ten years. And it was directed by Glen Caron, who couldn’t be more interesting, the guy that did Moonlighting and Medium. Just an endlessly interesting kind of a guy. Debra Winger was incredibly cute, sexy, wonderful. Dennis Quaid is in it and Arliss Howard. Jim Varney, the Hey Verne guy, was in the movie.


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