Craft Services
Craft Services

Episode 91 · 6 months ago

APOLLO 10 1/2 (2022) with Production Designer Bruce Curtis


Parth and Trent talk about Apollo 10 1/2 with its production designer, Bruce Curtis. They also celebrate Mother's Day.

We are tonight's entertainment. You can't handle the truth. The fire risals pizza time. You're a wizard, Harry. So we you know you think that's where you're breathing, proving I don't have friends enough through so Trent. So far. Funny we should meet here today. M funny. Yeah, for her ninety one ever episode of the pod. been doing this for a while now. Just starting to get to know each other, though. We've gotten past the ninth decade. You know, almost at one Huntret, you know, we can. I've been joking that once we hit one hundred I can explode. But before you do that, tell me what you've been eating. It's Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day, Happy Mother's Day. Parts mom and I just came from Mother's Day, Mother's Day Brunch with my mom and it was a Buffet Style and my dad always does this thing. We're like, you know, the buffet tickets a lot of money and so he tries to get his money's worth on it. So I think he had four plates, I think I had to and I think the last thing that entered my body was a piece of like Oreo cake sort of thing from the dessert table. Yeah, what about yeah, it was pretty good. What about you? Similarly? Well, I didn't go up, but similarly, we were having food for Mother's Day and my dad was making pizzas miss people because he has a Famut Pizza Parts, dad's famous pizza of it. It's a long sentence. Well, I moved back in yesterday to my hometown, my old room, as it were, but where you were, where you were born, you were born in that room. Yeah, no, that's true. But yeah, so we had I had what I have, goat cheese and Spinach Pizza that my dad, Whoa just yeah, I mean he made normal pizza as well, but this is a specialty item, as it were. What so, you know, and like you're trying to like buy a pizza for group and you're like, okay, like we need to find like an equaliser, and I feel like the People's tendencies to go for like cheese or Pepperoni, but I feel like Margarita should forever be the default pizza. I think that's like, yeah, I agree, because it's like cheese, but just like all of the elements are substantially better. Yeah, Tis like an Artistan crafted it for this bear. I think. I think that Margharita pizza should be the default and then either, depending on your crowd, a meat pizza or like a penny vodka type situation, like something like that should be your defaults. Yeah, and you're saying if you're if you were traveling a circle that was able to get two pizzas at once, that you that that that's what you do. Yeah, that my default would be Margharita and then, if you were with people that a meet, you would get like Pepperoni or, you know, something along those lines, and if you were with among people that did not, then you would find some other kind of alternative. Well, this has all been a really exciting intro, but let's move on. Q The intro. Welcome back to craft services, where we talked about the movies. Each week we talked about a film and hopefully have a crew member of that film to talk with us about their experience working on the picture. This week, who do we have? Trent, this is week we had production designer Bruce Curtis, also known as Richard Link later's right hand man for like a lot of the past two decades. He worked on, you know, a scanner, darkly Bernie. Everyone wants them on our film for..., Apollo Ten and a half, which is now available on Netflix, I believe. Yes, and it was. It was a pretty good interview, would you say. I enjoyed it. I liked the movie rodoscoping. That not our standard live action sort of deal. So we had some new questions to ask. We talked about Apolo ten and a half, we talked about as dinner darkly, we ended up talking about the girl from Plainville, Bernie, all sorts of crazy things. So it was crazy. Yeah, without further ADO, I guess. Let's just let's get into that interview, you know. Yep, q the interview. Hello, everybody, and welcome to our interview with Bruce Curtis. He's the production designer behind such films as a skinner, darkly, Bernie, everybody wants them, and our film for today, Richard Lick later's film, Apollo ten and a half. Thank you so much for being with us today. Well, you're welcome. It's great to be here. So just to start off, what would you say your relationship with film was at a young age? I don't know if I I mean I always enjoyed Hollywood, big movies. I grew up in the Midwest in Ohio on a dairy farm. Couldn't be farther from Glamor. But but I always, I always enjoyed the escapism of film. I wasn't really drawn to that professionally until much later. I went to college hen state briefly and was studying fashion design and that's where I thought I was going to go and I moved to Los Angeles mid S and sort of walked into design. I was always, always, always, I had I had my own shops to be been to begin with in a Minneapolis and in Florida briefly, and I was going to take that to Los Angeles and I sort I was always more pressed or more excited about environments other than product and so that's sort of led me into the art world of film, starting out in music videos and moving into commercials and then eventually into long form. So what was the first major motion picture you worked on and how did you gravitate into becoming a production designer in your own right? I start look is that I started in video, in the video world and sort of was, unbeknownst to me, part of you know, developing pop culture in that era with, you know, doing fresh prince of Bel Air, pilot and parents don't understand video and California love and I was coming up rapid in the music world and and well as making money in the commercial world, you know, selling tacos and cars and building, you know, fun sets for that stuff, and then really really started fine tuning my you know, skills into concentrating into film and really making art that counted. That was going to be there forever first feature, I guess, for I think I have to like do some facts checking, ha ha, but I think my first my first studio film was probably bad news bears, even though stanner free dates that and we were with a studio but it was run more like an independent. So obviously a follow ten and a half... a Richard Linklater film and you have a long working relationship with him and we were wondering how the two of you met. If you could speak on that. We met. I left La and moved to Austin sort of part time resident. I had visited Austin commercially and I was working with a country music director and he had brought me here from Lah and, being a country boy, I did I was really driving with I wasn't really driving with La. I wanted to. I wanted to raise a kid and so I was sort of concentrating on that in my life and I met link letter because I knew he you know who he was and that he was in my backyard and our first meeting was very hilarious. Rick and I are very different. We're at opposite ends. Yes, subtle, sweet loves the delicious sleep. Now I come in big, loud and full of glitter, and you know, and he gave me an incredible amount of trust and and wellfare and we taught each other a great deal, I believe, in our, you know, more than a decade relationship now on what what is important in films and what is important in design, and what is important to him as a filmmaker was important to me as a designer. I was just going to ask, since skinner darkly was one of the earlier films you worked on and Apollo ten and a half one of the more recent, and the through line being the rotoscoping and you being the production designer, does that change how you approach your production design at all? Well, it did, because we had, you know, we had done it before and you know, the technology had changed somewhat. It became a lot easier. We were able to see on scanner. We were able to really see what was happening until maybe five, ten days later into filming, you know. So we had a lot under our belt until we were starting to see results. And I remember a funny story about scan or when we were doing it. The animators were like, don't worry about the cables and the craft service tense and the grip trucks. We just won't you know, we won't draw. And of course when we got our first rounds, you know, there was the grip truck and there was the craft service ten and there was like the cables of the like agents, and I was like so, so we actually, you know, we was fine tune. Scanner was shot primarily almost all on location. You know, technology had grown so much that we were able to shoot all all of ten and a half on stage. HMM. So the designing was less physical and more virtual. For me, when we shot scenes and ten and a half. I'll use the living room for example, which is that, you know, of their house, of the main house. Everything had been selected. Not Everything was present. You know, stuff was present, furniture, some furniture was propped, mainly stuff that the the actors interacted with, you know, if we were going through a door or we were sitting on a couch or we were turning on a lamp or we were pouring ourselves a drink. Those, those were present elements. Other than that, it was fully designed virtually down to the you know, the wall color and the texture and the linoleum on the counter and etc. With a process like that, I mean how much what did you have? Did you know going into it, when they...

...were filming, that this is how it's going to look in the end, and how much of that was like a discovery after the fact with the artist when I when I left production, you know, and then they went into year, late year plus of animation and I went on to other projects, of course, but I presented, they were presented, a complete package of every single set, you know, that was going to be shown in the movie and you know, without that it was you know, news footage and stuff and clippings that we had researchers and producers were pulling, but everything that was shown in the movie, you know, was fully designed before it was turned over to the animators. There's a lot of like archival footage and like old movie footage and news footage, etc. And this, and I'm I was wondering if you like played any like obviously you couldn't design that, but could you? was their designing to be done like in like the TV frames and like little accent marks around like the arrangement of stuff? Yeah, exactly. Thank you for noticing. But all the all the TV frames and all the were was all research done for by myself in my department. Every style, you know, that was true to time and before. So everything was as true is we could get it research wise. Now, the footage, I didn't have a lot to do with. We just, you know, that was just rhtoscoped and, you know, researched on, you know, those specific dates of that of that time period. So, like, I mean talking about the time period itself, this is like a obviously very specifically about s America, a specifically in Houston, and I was wondering what when you started working on the project, was there like a whole lot of research you had to do, or were you kind of trend and just like focus it on the specific, you know, whatever you're working on at the time? Well, when I do a film, I do heavy research, of course, you know. I submerse myself into whatever I'm doing, whether it's, you know, whether we're going to the moon or, you know, were going into Philip K Dick's head. But you know, I usually am very aware of everything that's going on globally. You know who's WHO's in office, who's you know, even if it doesn't have anything to do with us, it tends to focus me into how we were or how we were as a humanity in that time. So, in your collaboration with the artists, are you in articulating to them what you want? Are you just like putting in writing, or you doing drawings and then are they sending you back like drafts and then you're giving them notes? Or what's the process? They're well, it's different on this, you know, each time. Usually, usually on a job, I do my own drawings. I do step drawings as well as I do I build decks with all my reference and, you know, inspiration. I now on ten and a half. We built a lot of models in sketchup because it was so fast. Everything happens so quickly. We didn't film for think we barely film for maybe twenty five days. I'm not we won't quote that ha ha, but but so to give the animators, you know, just height and W and, you know, and and style models were built in sketch up that they were able to take into consideration.

Speaking of collaboration, we've spoken to a few production designers and a few cinematographers and they both have basically said that, in conjunction with each other, they come up with everything you see on the on screen. And so I was kind of wondering. You've worked with the cinematographer, Shane Kelly, I believe, many times, and I was wondering what kind of if obviously this is filmed mostly on green screen and stuff like that. So like, what kind of collaborate did you have to have with him on this film and what's your what's the two years collaboration like on other films that you've worked on? My collaboration with Sean, I mean not with Shane, pardon me now, Fans Shane Kelly on this was we had to be very aware of since there were no true walls at a lot of a lot of times, Shane. You know, Shane and I discussed where the windows were in that set. You know, where the where are the windows in these bedrooms? Are there windows, you know. Are we just, you know, overhead lighting and ombient table lighting, you know? So there was a great deal of discussion mostly about, you know, lighting with shame, because that's why he's there, you know, to make it look good with light, you know, and we did taking consideration with, you know, the Texas light to which is very different from, you know, everywhere else in the nation. It's, you know, that bright white sort of Florida light that so we were very aware of that. You know that. You know, he probably wouldn't approve of this, but sort of overcooked, you know, to get that scorching Houston light. So just since you've worked with Richard Link later like so much over the past like twenty years, do you still every time like he's casting for a movie, are you like applying and showing him your look book and all that stuff and he's picking amongst a slow production designers, or are you are you just like his guy now, or one of his few guys? I think my C I think my position is pretty secure. Cool, Nice. I mean, I mean next next month, could be another story. But you know, have you worked on every movie like besides with scheduling conflicts or whatever, I haven't done. I haven't done every movie he's done and but it's been very close to since I met him that involved in almost all of his projects and you know, I have a great deal to him. Means incredibly loyal and, like I said earlier, he has immense trust and allows me a lot of freedom and we we we rarely have scre fuffles or in you know, disagreements. We've only had a couple in our career. I think maybe wine that I can really remember. and was it a creative kerfuffle or or a Oh yeah, yeah, it was a it was a a funny story. It's a he what it was on. Everybody wants some and we were doing the disco that a big part of the movie takes place in and I believe my art director had found in Houston. We were shooting in Austin and get found period appropriate, under Lt dance floor from a disc attack in the s that was in mint condition and he didn't want it.

He said that's not he's like, I don't you know. He's like lit dance floors are from the movies, they're from Saturday night, you know fever. That's not something that we're going to do and I was just like, I disagree and I let him have it. I let him win, but I did, I did ride it a good log time until I was for bottom to have a lip dance floor. You had me under let dance for you. Like. Has Your guys as create relationship changed or has it basically stayed the same for the past twenty years? I think it's definitely, you know, it's morphed into because rick was one of my early clients and narrative and feature work. I had never you know, I and he was used to being so much more creative as a filmmaker that I was coming from a commercial background. You know, I had lots of money, not a lot of time. He was working with a lot of time and not a lot of money, and so we sort of, you know, we were coming at it from different ends of the business and even though I had technique, I was not, you know, or am still not, you know, I'm not a film director, I'm a designer and that's what I love to do and I think are you know, certainly our relationship has become way more, how do you say just fluid and sort of unspoken word. As far as we kind of know, where we're coming from and he's he's gotten to be work was very, very quiet when we started working together and he's really found a voice through the years and is very appreciative of work done and very thoughtful, in mindful of bringing his ideas, you know, up up and up front. Before you know, things get fully cooked, which I completely appreciate. You know, I don't. I don't designed by myself. It's fully a group effort, you know, as we touched on before, and collaboration between all departments, especially director. So I like to think that, you know, I kind of know what he's expecting and I do know what excites him. So so this movie was shot just before covid hit and everything had to get shut down, I believe, but had to be edited obviously during Covid and I was wondering, did that cause any challenges for you or was it were you able to sort of seamlessly move into that? Well, I wasn't really involved in that deep of the prep. I guess I was involved maybe three months after shooting I was still looking at stills and we were starting to look at cells and we were still discussing colors and layouts and dressing him some overall big design work like the drive in hadn't been really a hundred percent signed, sealed and delivered, and that was something. But the animation teams were split up. There was the Amsterdam team and then there was also the Roado scoping team here in Austin. So I was involved, you know, briefly, but the pandemic didn't really affect me with this project other than, you know, it really hit all of us hard because we were on stage and, you know, we knew about it like y'all knew about it, and it didn't really get serious. So really hit hard until they...

...cut south by that year, which we were just we were about a week away from southby and we were just finishing up filming and we were like wow, shit's getting serious. So the production designers we've talked to in the past, we've always I think something we've I through line has been that they're like, we're not worried about the current set. Were while they're filming. That's that we're worried about the next one. Like we're always on the next thing. Have you found that to be the case? You're always a step ahead of yourself. You have to be. You've got to be. You've got to be you know, and you know that's just a common in the you know, world of six about successful designing. You know, if I'm not, if I if I don't feel that I'm a week ahead of production and filming, I'm behind. You know, I have to be a ready because I have to give myself enough rope to pivot or, you know, react to changes or and and especially working in today's, you know, post pandemic climate, you know anything can happen. You know, you don't. You have to be so prepared, not only for, you know, the usual challenges in filmmaking, but now you know, you know the god Um pandemic taking you down for a week and you know you've got a set lingering out there. But yeah, yeah, now I'm always a step ahead and it's different. It's different on every project, of course, and different in sections of like it's different. When I'm doing television, I'm sort of sort of a gradual. I'm ahead of the pace. When I do a feature, by the time we're shooting, I'm ninety eight percent all figured it out. I know what everything is going to happen. You know, I and now it's just execution and scheduling and fine tuning. So you know the waves of preparedness and timelines are being ahead of. Ready Change during you know, according to what, what medium you're working with. Trent, I'm ready to move on to a different movie. Any Apollo questions you want to ask? No, you can. Maybe we can circle back and need to be about ask your question. Yeah, so I guess the way I'll segue into this is you worked on a another Richard Like later film starring Jack Black, Bernie, and I really like that movie and I was just wanted to know how that was to work on and if you have any cool stories from that set. I've thought there was a great movie. I really had a good time on that and you know, I twisted story indeed, and and working with Shirley mcclaine, I mean wow, what a force. But Um and Jack Black couldn't be a sweeter guy. I mean just real. He's a dad, you know, but he remember him doing Bernie and I don't know if he put on. Wait for that. He's always been a little husky, but or bigger, and I think I can say that because I'm Husky. But also it's established that Jack Black is a famous large man right, the first person to say it. But he he was very much in a character and very burnie asked he you know, or his pants high, you know, just during rehearsals and Shit, and you know, was very it was very odd. Was An odd, odd movie, especially we researched that movie by going to Carthage early on, and this was before linkletters. Not Very recognizable... the real world. He's not a, you know, George Clinton here he's a celebrity that can still go to the grocery store. He very much, so, very much. So I don't know about that in Austin. But and but I think that, you know, we went to Carthage and we wanted to really get a, you know, inside of what Carthage was and what that town was a out how small it was. And I had never really been to east Texas and and seeing the oil and gas money and how how they lived in the pines. And we did. Rick wanted to go even more low key and said, you know, he presented our pack and I think Shane Kelly was a long and a producer, perhaps ginger sledge, and we would just sit down in a cafe and say, Hey, you know, we're going to do student film. You know, what's Carthage known for? And you know, the first answer was oil and Gass and then it was always but there was this Guy Bernie Ted. So was it was super interesting and a little bit creepy and you know, during my research of that show I had seen way too much. Again, in my research I had seen, you know, police photos of the body, of the freezer and stuff that we never showed. But you know, yeah, I love thanks me laugh. So another movie worked on. I was explaining every everybody wants them to parth before we got on and I was like it's the spiritual successor to do. See Confused. So I was wondering if that spiritual successor influenced your design at all. And all so, how it may have been to work with a director who you had like an established fandom of, like from like ten years prior to working with them. It was, it was and I knew that it was. You know, we had talked about it and Rick had presented it that way before we started that. You know, that's what it was, and so I think I gave it a nod to as far as minimalistic dressing, I was very mindful to dial it way back and I knew, you know, that we were in Texas. We knew we were in Texas. We were, you know, and we were college housing and and you know, we were male bonding broth moments. So it was, you know, played a very straight and very pulled back. You know, I pulled. I pulled a lot back. Now that's not to say, you know, that I didn't let loose several times in that film. And the Jolly Fox, which was a hilarious little bar, and the disco. So sound sound machine, yes, and that was a direct nod sound machine to today's and confused that mural on the wall. That was my biggest my biggest gift, I feel as the designer, to link those two shows in universe. Yes, yes, I guess to get out of the link later verse a little bit. I've been watching the girl from Plainville and then I found out you did production design for girl from plain bill. So what was that show like and how how different is it? Doing sort of like eight episode miniseries as opposed to hour and a half to our film?...

It's a beast. HMM, it's like a ninehour movie really, you know, because you know, you know as a designer. I was committed to the entire eight so I was the only constant creative other than the show runners the DP. The DP swapped out, the director swapped out, so it was a continual revolving door. So I kind of had the creative power to keep the company focused and, you know, was able to talk to, you know, new directors, like taking it from Lisa Chortlanco to Dan Daniel Minihan and saying, well, that's great, you'd like to do that, but we've already been there and this is how it is. I'm sorry to crush your dreams. Or we had seen that and let you know we can do whatever you want in here. I think it was my second show with a show runner, Liz Hannah. Liz Hannah was a producer of writer bright places, also with Al Fanning, so that was that was my connectivity there for that project, a difficult project to design. We were in Savannah Filming, we were in Georgia because of the rebate, you know, and you know the story takes place in Massachusetts, so we couldn't have been farther away from where I was supposed to be. But I liked it. I like I liked the pace and the grind, but I was happy with it and I think was an important story to tell and that's what gravitated me towards that show. So our next question is, what are you working on now or what do you have coming out next, if you're at liberty to speak on so I think I can speak on it. And I'm about to do a film with Old Place Judd Affatas company. I'm Gona do my first real full on comedy. He's executive producing and it's with the with the guys of do not destroy, snl skin. Very funny script. Do you know where is that? Coming out on something or have is it? I haven't started yet. Okay, okay, yeah, that's my next project. I'm a week out from beginning. So see you next year about that part part, would you say? It's time for the pick, the BIG CAHUNA final question. Okay, only unleash. So the big COHUNA final question is what's the last great movie you watched? And it can be a re watch or a firsttime viewing, but not good great. Oh, okay, you three me. The last great movie. My God, are you kidding? I don't fucking answer this question. Um, this is a question that's always guaranteed to stuff our guests to something. Industry professionals, I'm always shocked about how many great films come to fruition at the end of every year, like it's mind blowing and I'm like, I've been really fortunate to be, you know, in opening festivals from New York to south by to Toronto, and I'm always really blown away by all the stuff. I think this year I was really really my God, why, I just saw Batman now. I was like I would think like Dune really was did inspire me. I thought those guys did a fantastic job. I love it, but I don't know if I...

...want to go with that my final answer. I'm going to, I'm but I'm gonna let me do doing is respectable at one like six Oscars. Yeah, I better, but you know, I love you know, and we're just talking to last movie I watched with what I watched last night, channing, channing tatum's dog. That's not see, I almost like I almost hate watch channing tatums doll. I like to think that it's the same character from twenty one and twenty two jump street, which, yeah, I just then. That's not the answer. I would say the less the less. Movie that I was really in awe of was was dude this season. I was just like, wow, that's fucking great, that's fucking art beautiful, and you know I watched his some of his design interviews and that the detail was great. I really am we've been trying to get him on the show. Yeah, yeah, it was. He did really lovely work. Does the dog at the end of dog die, like at the end of every dog movie now day? That what I thought. It was a takeoff of Tier Turner and huge. That's why I was all excited. But it's not. I mean, let's spoiler alert for you know it. We'll put a big spoiler alert, say for Dog Jenny tatum stuck part. You want to, you want to bring this out? Yeah, sure. Thank you so much to Bruce Curtis for coming on. He's worked on the movies that we've talked about, skinner, darkly, Bernie. Everybody wants them, and our topic of today, Apollo ten and a half. Thank you so much for coming on. Thank you, guys, with my pleasure, what an interview you're telling me. I was there parth. I enjoyed it just as much as you did, if not more. The joke here is that I almost immediately went what an interview right after we said que the interview. No, no, through the magic of editing. Yeah, the listeners will never know. Yeah, but you know what they do know, Trent, that we're gonna have a discussion next week. I guess that I was going to say that this interview was awesome because they just listened to it. But no, yeah, if they stayed for the whole thing, I would imagine that these kind of like to. Yeah, I would hope so. But yeah, next week we're going to be having our discussion on the film. I don't think we're having a guest on this one. Sorry guys, but yeah, I go listen to us on Apple podcast, spotify, Amazon music, Google podcasts, wherever you want to get your podcast. We're probably there. But you should also what you should do is leave us a good review and rating on all of these various latforms and and like all that digital mayhem sounds pretty cool coming out of parth mouth, but what you should really do is just like go tell a friend like your mom, your aunt, whoever like consumes media and like information. You should tell them to listen our show, because that would help us gain listeners and gain power over the rest relate. That's that's all we want is power and fame, maybe money if we're lucky. You know. Yeah, I just I branched my mom. She's like, so, were you successful yet, and I was like no, not, yeah, I would. I frequently get the are you successful yet talk, and always with upsetting results, is how we'll put it. Yeah, well, Um, after Apollo ten and a half, I don't know if we know. If you know that? I know that we don't know exactly what's going on, but we're going to figure it out. We have an idea.

But Oh wait, we do. There's like it hasn't happened yet, but it's a signed up to a thing. But yeah, but I'm pretty excited about it. And wait, Trent, you're going to like this. Wait, Trent, hold on, Trent, I need just can you please that I'm holding just sitting here. Yes, part is showing me Blu ray copy of the film that we will be discussing. But since you buffoons can't see parth like I can, you don't know how handsome he is or the movie he's talking about. Yeah, you'll just have to infer both, but join us next week for our discussion and then, hopefully we'll have a better idea of what's happening the week after. Yeah, Job Bella, you know. Yeah, also away go.

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