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  • Writer's pictureBen Anstruther

Production Design

In this post I am going to cover the production design of the film. Production design is something that I hadn’t realised until fairly recently I was really passionate about. I imagine I will end up taking on this role if I can’t find someone to do it which I am quite happy about because I have lots of ideas.


Having visited the offices – and similar offices in the judicial world – I have seen they look like the Wernham Hogg ones from The Office. This is not what I have envisioned for the film and so I going to aim to make these offices cinematic.


The first thing I did was come up with some words which describe the aesthetic that I want to achieve:


Tacky, Oppressive, Lifeless, Messy, Cramped, Antiquated, Uncomfortable.


“The office space is dim and confined: the antiquated wallpaper is faded and peeling, the desks and furniture are worn and chipped and the low ceiling encroaches on the workers' ability to think.”


This a description of the office from the first draft of the script. I made a model of the office out of spare carboard here which helps to show the colour and dull aesthetic, as well as the layout of the space and how cramped it is. I also added some stains to the carpet and fades to the wallpaper:


 

The architecture of the world is essential to reflecting Nina’s inner turmoil. She feels suffocated in her job and the locations/sets need to reinforce that. We want to film in locations with low ceilings which are confined to help box the characters in physically. We are not going to have any windows on screen at any point either, to highlight Nina’s lack of optimism. There is currently a walk-and-talk shot planned through a corridor which needs to winding and cramped – almost a visual representation of the bureaucratic system that the characters work in. Finally the office space as you can see is symmetrical and to me, symmetry reflects order and control as it occurs unnaturally.


We have been granted access to film in the Digby Brown offices should we need to.


Production Design, along with cinematography choices, is a great way for the audiences to gain greater insight into who the characters are and it is vital that we can communicate as much information about the characters as we can to the audience in such a short period of time.


The most obvious we are going to this is the characters’ desk in the office. They are going to be decorated and dressed to reflect their owners’ personality, desires and motivations. Nina’s desk for instance will be messily piled with paper and have little to nothing in the way of personal possessions as she is focussed solely on work. Trevor is childlike and puerile so may have something like an inappropriate mug or stickers on his work laptop. These are just vague examples and more concrete ones will come as the characters and script develop over the next few weeks.


We are lucky enough to have been pledged four old, identical wooden desks from a local primary school.


Costumes are going to be fairly simplistic as fiscals wear quite formal clothes and don’t tend to ever deviate from that however we can still work to make sure they once again reflect the individual. Raymond, who is I suppose the clearest antagonist in the film, wears a tartan suit underneath his black gown. This is a completely inappropriate outfit for someone in his position to wear but it tells us so much about this character – he’s materialistic, discourteous and works entirely to fulfil his own self-interests. Nina and Gordon will wear bland and inoffensive clothes which blend in more with the surroundings highlighting their dedication to the judicial system whereas Trevor and Chantelle will wear lighter, louder and more colourful clothes to contrast with them e.g. a light blue shirt.

We will be looking for laptops, phones, printers and other office equipment that was made in the late 2000s/early 2010s just to show how the fiscal offices have been underfunded and the ageing equipment is more prone to breaking – as indeed it does.


I prefer production design that has an impotence on character rather than realism. I love seeing lots of little details within a frame which clues me in to who the characters are. One of my favourite sets of all time is Withnail and Marwood’s flat from Withnail and I. You glean so much information from the posters on the wall, the props and of course the mess its in. Wes Anderson does this amazingly well too – all of his worlds feel singular and part of him.


I hope to be able to pack in a lot of details into the set of the film, even if they don’t appear on camera they can help the actors know who they are character is. One thing my flatmate and I have been working on as part of the Halloween season is this haunted house set. As Lego is just ruinously expensive these days, we decided to build something from scratch and these are the current results:



I hope you can see that we have both focussed on details in and out of the building as well as texture and colour scheme. I hope somehow I can incorporate this approach into my production design work.


That’s all for now!

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