Sounder SIGN UP FOR FREE
Craft Services
Craft Services

Episode 3 · 2 years ago

DA 5 BLOODS (2020) with Production Designer Wynn Thomas

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Parth and Trent talk with Wynn Thomas, Spike Lee's favored production designer since his first film. 

Edited by Parth Marathe

So what have you guys been eating? Thanks for asking, despite it being three PM. I've only just had breakfast, but I had some cinnamon raised and toast, and boy was it fine. Moving on, Jackson, have you eaten anything today? I have eaten. I had blueberry pancakes this morning and then for lunch I had a sandwich. What was I that's such a good question. I don't remember. I purchased it, so I didn't make it and it just like had green stuff. So I was like, I'd eat that. Do you mean like Lettus? Yeah, that was that was that was definitely some of it, and it had like maybe pickles on it. Maybe you're the one who ate it. I think. If anyone should know it is, it was kaprice. I asked in origin. All right, parth, it's got this. I had a Spanish omelet. My Mommy made me Porku. See what I did there? Wow, you're so multicultural. Yeah, I went. I got up to Spanish. Three. We just scamed three listeners in Spain. Yeah, we're really expanding our audience. Mucho Gusto. Wait, Trent, see if what when did you eat breakfast and L I'll stop trying to talk in Spanish about an hour ago. Why, it's lunch. That's no longer breakfast. No, no, no, Oh, see, parth, if the your first meal of the day, no matter what is breakfast like? I wake up at like noon when my the rest, the remainder my family, is already eating lunch. But it it'd be wrong to just wake up and eat like a Bologny Sandwich. So I start with breakfast food and then from that point you can have lunch, but you can't just jump you can just dive straight into the deep end of lunch. Breakfast food is easily the most overrated. I would like to cordially disagree part break it. I would also days. I would disagree with that. I'd rather eat dinner for breakfast than breakfast for dinner. Oh, take that to the Jackson. That's blasphemy. Not you want to eat like meat low fit like nine am. Well, I would not eat meat loaf ever, but I would eat Ravioli any time. Are you saying just Ravioli, or is that just an example, something that feels, an example of something that appeals to my very core? Jackson, I, I just can't be bothered to hear more of this. What's it work. What's your grief? What's your beef with Meat Loaf? Pun intended? I mean, I don't know. I've never had me loaf. So I thought, well, you have because have your head. And Meat Ball is a meat ball is just a small it's just like a segment of a meat loaf. Is that would meat loaf is true? It? Yeah, like a meat loaf is just like a big, like pile of meat. And the time I've never act know what a meat looks so weird. Yeah, it's like any other beef project by this metric. Is a burger like a slight? Yes, know you're lying. Yes, all beef products are just like. They're derived from the same place. It just piles out if tapes. How the same place. Well, I feel like how's the origin? Interesting? How we exhausted? This topic enough. Yeah, I'm exhausted. Onto the show. Welcome to craft services, where we talk about the movies. Part Murrte, I'm trying all Gere cohost of percraft service, and I'm Jackson Clark, friend of partner at and Trentell Gare afore mentioned cohosts. Each week we discuss a different film and hopefully have an interview with the crew member of that film to talk with us about their experience. This week we've got a special two part episode. We were able to get in contact with the production designer and art director for our movie today to five bloods. So I'M gonna START OFF BY READING OFF OUR IMDB Synopsis Of the movie. Part tell us the basic plot of the movie in like two sentences. How does that sound? I could tell tune one. Huh. For African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they returned to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader. At the gold fortune, he helped them hide. You summed it up well. You was then your own words. There was that from imdbcom I won't comment, but I will say that it was from my MDB. Well, that was a comment, but moving I didn't know. Did you guys know prior to watching this about the gold fortune aspect? Well, I saw the...

...trailer. If I didn't see the trailer, I didn't know that was going to happen. So what were you expecting? I was thinking. I knew that it was about like achieving their fallen friends remains. I didn't know about the gold I feel like that's more of a subplot than the goal. Yeah, truly, we should get into the production history. Yeah, part tells about the production history. Well, originally this was a script. It was a SPEC script by Danny Bilson and Paul to the MEO. It was called the last hour and Oliver Stone was supposed to direct and then after he dropped out in two thousand and sixteen and Spike Lee and Kevin Wilmot performed a rewrite after they finish their work on black clansmen and changed it so that it was African Americans in the script at certain at a sum at some point. It was supposed to be Samuel Jackson, Gian Carlo Sposito, Don cheetle and John David Washington in the lead roles, but all of them were had conflicting schedules, so they were they had to pass. So we were instead, we were left with Chadwick Boseman, Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors, which I feel like. I was happy with what we got. So it was had a budget of thirty five to forty five million dollars and we have no idea how much money this would make because this is a movie released on Netflix. was that the original plan, or is this just was that improvised due to lack of theaters? Know it that? So that was the original plan. It was going to premiere at the can fill festival, because I'm pretty sure they're trying to go for Oscars for this movie, and for that to happen you have to have had it and some sort of scheduled theatrical window. So like that's what they did with Roma and the Irishman and marriage story. Are Are they going to do like online versions of I don't know, like can and all the other major qualifying film festivals? Yeah, are they? Yeah, I'm pretty sure south by southwest has already. Oh Wow, but I'm not sure for sure. Yeah, can you buy tickets and they'll just like send you a link. That sounds so dangerous because I would imagine those who get passed around or so I could just screen record, but I can. Can you do like a limited time file that can't be like exploited and copied? No, I mean, if there's a file, you can find a way to record it. That's computers, one and one. Just after a quick Google search the south by southwest movies from are they had them premiere on Amazon prime video at the time of the festival. Good shout out to Amazon. They really need your small business at times like these. Thank you, Jeff. Jeff Bezos has no problem for as my Jeff Bezos impression everyone really good. Jet pisos impression, yes, accurate. So we were able to secure an interview with the production designer when Thomas, who's been spike Lee's longtime production designer, going all the way back to his first movie, and so we're going to cut right to that interview and then for the next in it for our second interview. You can tune in to our second episode. So enjoy our interview with when Thomas. Hello, everybody, and welcome to our interview with the legendary when Thomas. He's a production designer who's worked on many films such as do the right thing, Malcolm X, a Beautiful Mind, and our film today to five bloods. We're super lucky and excited to talk with them today. Thank you for joining us. You're welcome. So we just wanted to start with how you got involved with film. My beginnings were in the theater, as a set designer in the theater and I got tired of being poor, so I decided to pursue some movie work and what happened was it took me a long time to kind of break in because a lot of people didn't want to hire me. So the short version of the story is is that I volunteered from my very first film, which was the cotton club, and the designer decided to take a chance and hire me as a as a volunteer, and then my first day there, after four hours of being there as a volunteer, I ended up getting the very last job in the art department and I got hired for two weeks and that two weeks turned into six months and that's how I got my first film. So I was working for a very famous production designer named Richard Silberg, and the movie was the...

...cotton club and it was being directed by Francis Ford Copo. Oh Wow, working big. It was building models of all the sets for that film and I would take them down the hall and give them to Francis and he would have a full he would always Francis is always interested in talking to people, and I would have these full on conversations with Francis Fut Coppola. So that was my first job and then after that happened. The barriers kind of came down very quickly because I had this very famous designer who would call up the people I was trying to get work with and give me a good recommendation, and the barriers all kind of came down in my career just blossomed and took off. So, just for our listeners at home, can you describe the like the textbook definition of what a production designer does on a day to day basis? While production designer is responsible for the look of a movie, we are responsible for providing these sort of conceptual framework for in which the movie is going to take place in and we do that by having conversations with the director and then working with every aspect of the production that's visual, because we're providing the visual framework for which everybody's going to be working in. And I think sometimes the simplest definition that I use is that the production designer is the person who takes the writer's words and turns them into concrete visual images. Nobody else in the film does that. The production designer really is the only person that does that. So you mentioned using models. Is that your primary form of like imagining a scene, or do you sketch or how else do you put your mind on the page? Well, I think a production designer has to have a lot of different skills. We have to be able to draw, we have to be able to do technical architectural drawings. We also sometimes need to do physical models. There's something called dmodeling now, which happens in various computer programming and I don't quite know how to do that, but all my assistants do. And so you have to have a lot of different artistic skills in order to do this job. You have to have a real strong sense of color, you have to have a sense of history, because we are utilizing all these skills to help tell the story on every film that we do. So then you said that the production designer is kind of the first person that takes the text and translates it to a visual so then, what communication do you have with a DP or something, or director photography or something like that? Yes, well, clearly it is a collaboration process. I often like to think of the collaboration process in terms of describing visual terms, is kind of like a triangle, with the director the top and then the production designer and the cinematographer occupying the other corners of that triangle and depending on who the job, what the job is and who that cinematographer is will depend on what the extent of will define the scent of that collaboration. But generally what happens on most films is that the DP doesn't come on until much later in the process. So very often many of the decisions, are most of the decisions will be made between myself and the director. The locations department becomes a very important part of the process at the in the very beginning of the film, and I think what people don't realize that that the locations department is part of the art department. During the first weeks of preproduction they work with me to begin to shape the look of the movie and they're in I don't know how it is on other people's movie, but on my movies they're talking to the locations department is talking to me. They don't really talk to the director. I'm the only person talking to director about the visual look of the film, not the locations department. So you mentioned that like an artistic foundations, like the backbone of a good production designer. Did you have any? Have you been artistic like since you were very young, or was this just something you were thrown into and had to figure out as you went? I was very lucky. I got the bug hit me very early. As a teenager, I saw a movie called summer and smoke, which is based on a Tennessee Williams play and Laurence Harvey and Geralding page in it and for some reason it really spoke to me. It really kind of changed my life. I was all of thirteen or fourteen when I saw this film and I what that did was open the door to theater for me and I became a real theater...

...geek and really kind of just sort of began to live in that world and I started working from Philadelphia and I started working at an amateur theater company in Philadelphia as a teenager and really worked there really every day of my teenage life from the age of fifteen to the age of eighteen. And this theater company was doing very unusual stuff. They were doing durhamns and Gunter Grass and broke top bret and so I spent my time there acting and plays and painting scenery and designing sets and stage managing shows. At the same time I was a art major in high school and so when I decided to go to college, I wanted to combine my love of art with my love of theater and I decided to become a set designer. So I worked. I went to Boston University and studied theater design and then I came out and when I came out from school, I worked in the theater for a good solid ten years before I transferred into movies, most recently, of course. We're talking about to five bloods and you've had a working relationship with spike Lee for a very long since this first movie, and so we were wondering what type of relationship you have with really any well, you've said like the communication line is like a triangle, but like what type of relationship do you have with the director and Spike Lee and specific well, you know I've been I met spike early on in my career. I actually met him before he started directing. The quick version of that story is is that I was working, I was art directing a movie called Beat Street, which was a break dance film a long time ago, and spike came into interview for the Assistant to the director job, which is a coffee fetching job, and he stopped by the art department because there was a woman that our PA was, a woman that he had gone to college with, and when he stopped in he saw me and he said wow, I didn't need to know the where any black people doing this and I said well, yeah, I'm doing it. And so as a result of that we stayed in touch and then at that point in Spike's career, he was, he was where he was. Very wise is that he started gathering people as he would meet them, and and about a year later we made a movie called Messenger. We started working on a film called Messenger, which was the story of a Bicycle Messenger who's mother has and it's fat. The my cycle miss and his family. The mother has I a year later, the father brings home a woman that he wants to marry, and this script was based on Spike Lee's family. So we started working on this film. We had about two weeks prep time. Nobody was getting paid any money and the film was being produced by a guy who owned a bicycle messenger shop. Ironically, unfortunately, we the Friday before we were to start shooting a film, this guy pulls out all his money and the movie collapsed and we were all devastated, but spike in particular was really devastated by this. He was very, very disappointed and the film, unfortunately, was a very big film and had lots of actors in it and it required a bit of a budget in order to get it made. So we folded and I but I think the thing that was significant about that film, which is why I'm telling the story, the story today, is that it really planned the seed and spikes head that he had to produce his own films. He spent the rest of the year trying to raise money to produce this film again, which was called Messenger. Couldn't raise the money and then he said, we're looking, I have this other script. It's a smaller film and has only four actors in it. I'm going to borrow the money for my grandmother and I want to let's try and let's make this movie and that movie, which she's got to have it, she's got to have it was our first room that we did together. The film was produced for Twenty One thou dollars that he borrowed from his grandmother and Oh my, I mean it's amazing when you haven't heard of I mean that you for that amount of money, and especially when you look at the film, because the movie looks sensational. Ernest dickerson was the cinematographer on it and it was the beginning of that film was the beginning of what I call the Spike Lea family because after the success of that film, a family which included his cinematographer, Ernest Dickerson, Robbie read, his casting designer, casting director, and then Ruth Carter, is costume designer, and there was a gentleman named Monty Ross who was there. That group went on...

...to produce essentially the next ten spike lea films and the great thing about my relationship with spike is that it's been a fantastic artistic collaboration. We have a very we clearly we have a very strong I think we have a very similar sensibility when it comes to approaching material and therefore our collaborations have been easy collaborations and they've also been you know, I think the mythology and the business is that the director does everything, and that's a mythology that I really wish that we would get rid of, because it really is a team of people who come together, working with working with the degree directed to service his or her vision. That's what happens and each person is bringing a different something to the product, to the to the to the product, and a good director will put us around himself with a team that is supporting his voice, and that's what spiked it in the very beginning years. I've a question. You explained how what the responsibilities of a production designer in preproduction, but what would you say you're doing on set? Well, we're not really doing very much. You know, our where the advanced team, the art department and the production designer are the advanced team and in a perfect world, when preproduction is working well, essentially all the decisions are made in preproduction so that by the time that you're doing a movie, you are essentially shooting and and working within the framework and the decisions that have been made within in preproduction. That's what happens in a perfect world. So what happened? Since the art department is the advanced team, what happens is is that I will be there every time we're opening up a new set and I usually stick around for half a day that first day just to make sure, just to see how they are establishing the sets. So if there are any changes that are being made, I can be there to participate and whatever those changes are, and to be there to advise because sometimes, you know they want to come in, they want to change your furniture, they want to change something, but I want to be there to make sure that I'm protecting the integrity of my set. So so usually I'm there for about a half day. I kind of wait till they established that wide shot. Once they've established that why shot that I can see, I could be there to assist in the if there's any changes that have to be made, and then once that's done, I leave the set and I go on to whatever set we're prepping for the next day shoot. So to get more specific about to five bloods, I really like the movie a lot and I thought it was a really beautiful looking movie and I was wondering how much of the film was shot on location versus what was shot on a set and how you make those decisions right. Right. Well, five bloods was shot in Thailand and we also shot in Vietnam as well, though, so the entire film was essentially built on locations in mostly in we were the company was in a city called Chang my Thai land, which is about seven or eight hours and north of Bangkok. And then most of the locations, most of the jungle locations that we found, were either on the perimeter of Chang My, because Cheng my is a city, or three hours away. So we so you know, there was extensive scouting of jungles throughout the jungles of Thailand. The final set of the film, where the movie movie takes place, is, as you know, is a ruin. It's based on the Messan ruins which are in central Vietnam. We could not shoot at the real ruins, obviously, because it's a world heritage site. So I had to build the load that my version of the Nissan Temple in a jungle from scratch. So everything that you see, all those structures that you see, were built by the Thai Art Department, but designed by myself and just, you know, built by the construction and paint crew and sculptors that were there in Thailand. So those, you know, it's all wood and style foam and beautifully sculptured by the local crews and beautifully painted and some great work by...

...the local Thai film community. So are you you mentioned how you designed the sets, like on a larger scale, like the like, like the walls and structures and such, but are you worrying about like individual props as well? Okay, our smaller items like that. Yes, the production designer is responsible for everything visual that you see in a film. So that means all those departments. Everything works under my department, starting with the locations. Obviously my art director and I set director, dirt decorator, are key members of my team. But everything visual, from props to all the graphics work. I work very closely with the costume designer to coordinate how the costumes are going to work within the look of the film. And generally what happens is, again, just so you're clear, the production designer is providing the conceptual framework in which everyone is working in. So it's not sometimes my process is to actually write down a concept that I've that I've with, that the director has approved, and I will share that concept with everyone working on the film and the ideas that every department is working within that framework. But props is part of my department, so I see everything before we show it to spike. I see everything and approve everything. All the graphics graphics people, Graphics Designer, all the graphics are all under my department. I am working very closely with the graphics designer and everything is approved by me before we show it to the director. So everything visual, everything you see before the camera is turned on. So then a question that that brings up for me is now with films, it's very common for them to incorporate CG elements for like set extensions or just to make things more accurate, and so I'm wondering what kind of communication you have with the VFX team, or is there a standard procedure or like? How do you how do you operate with that? Again, this this the relationship with the visual effect team is evolving over the years, but what used to happen and what still happens on some cases, is that the final image that the visual effects team will be doing will be generated in the art department. That was that used to happen all the time. We would do those sketches, those sketches would be done by us. But because that world has taken on its own life, so to speak, visual effects has has started to articulate some of the final solutions within its own department. But again, once should be happening again in the perfect world is that the production designer is a large participant and though that process and in those decisions, when you are planning a set design, are you considering like colors and themes, or you more focused on historical accuracy, especially in reference to this film? Well, I think we are responsible for all those things. You know, part of the job and the very beginning of the film for me is to go out and do extensive research. That's how my conversations begin with the director. I take all the research, are much of the research that I have, and my early conversations with the director are to sit down and talk to him and we both look at all this visual material, because I don't know how you talk about something visual without having visual aids. So my early discussions with the director, you know, for example on five bloods, my early meetings with spike, we're sitting down and looking at books from Vietnam or looking from images from Vietnam, and that is really where the conversation begins to occur about the approach that you want to take to the material. Okay, because you're looking at these visual aids and it's going to be images of photographs that the director is going to respond to there's going to be stuff that I respond to, and so that those early conversations are trying to set up a visual vocabulary with to establish a visual cabulary with the director. That's what we're trying to do. And then again, in terms of so for me, the...

...next part of my process will be to begin to form a visual vocabulary for the film, and part of that visual vocabulary is to determine the use of color. I mean color completely falls under our domain, and then I will choose a color Palette for the entire film and again, share that information with everybody WHO's working on the movie. I share that information with this cinematographer, I share that information with the costume designer. So again, everything visual. Again, the production designer should be forming the conceptual approach to the movie. Part of that conceptual approach will be to determine locations and color and textures that you're going to be using, sharing that information with the entire team, and then everybody should be working within that those within that framework, to make the movie. And by doing that it pulls the whole movie together as a whole. You're not looking at things that don't seem like they don't fit. Another question we were going to ask is. Obviously this isn't like, this isn't a marvel movie in terms of scale of production, but it it's certainly bigger than the twenty one thos you were working with way back when. So does your process change depending upon the budget, and if so, how, and if not, is yeah, just if you could, don't. My process doesn't change. I did a low budget movie last year called The Sun is also a star, which is a lovely romantic drama amongst young people. That was a five million dollar movie, but the same thought process is still at work. What you have is less money to deal with, so instead of spending money to solve a problem, you solve it by the types of locations that you choose. And in a situation that's so you're making, your choices are are limited on a lower budget of film. With this, the thought process and the approach to determining how the movie will look is still the same, whether you have fiftyzero or whether or not you have fifty million. On a movie like a of five bloods, for example, you know we I had a little bit more money to spend, so I was able to build that room. You know, those are that ruin is they think about that? I building ruins from scratch. I mean it's enormous. Took months and months and months of time to build. But then also some of the locations that we went into needed a great deal of work. You don't and ten's apartment, for example. We found that apartment, but I had to come in that apartment. If you remember, the film, is very red. Right. Yeah, read and because, you know, again, part of the concept of this movie, this movie is about the you know, the search for gold and who's going to get the gold. Right, if you look at ten's apartment very carefully the next time you see the film, it's filled with red, but it's also filled with gold, because it says something about her care. And if you look at the ceiling, her ceiling is black. So I'm trying to say something about create a mood about her character through the use of scenery, through the use of production design. Now, this is not something that's going to hit the audience over its head. It's there to guide the audience on a journey, because ten's character, we don't quite know who she is, but if you look at the apartment, you can see this. She likes gold. The same thing happened in de Roche's office building, which we unfortunately they didn't shoot enough winde stuff of it, but if you look at that very carefully there's one or two wides in the film. Again, that office is filled with gold details because again he's interested in the gold. So there's something about it. So we don't know that the characters are interested and we don't know about the gold yet, but all these clues as to what's happening are being are in the background of the story. So it's part of what part of my job is to take this audience on a visual journey and and support the story from a subtextual point of view about what the overall theme of the film will be. And so you see that reflected in both those characters and in both those locations. We had to come in and do extensive work, from wall papering to painting, you know, bringing in all the furniture and none of that stuff was there, you know, into to empty environments and fixed. So some of my favorite sets...

...are set pieces from the film. Were like the river market and also the like the helicopter crash shootout. So is there ever a outdoor location that just like works just right or was there a lot of work to be done there as well? Yes, there was a lot of work. The crash site, the helicopter crash site, we see the movie. We see that location twice in the contemporary scenes. That is the air, that same area, the same that look. That location was three hours away from Tang Bai, okay, and so in the story, in the contemporary time in the story, that is where the guys find all the gold bars, okay, but it's also when we do the flashbacks, it's also where where the helicopter crash and where the plane is. So we shot the contemporary scenes first because I didn't need to change the physicality of the landscape where the for the early sequences. When we go back to the flashbacks, we had to the art department had to come in and put in thousands of palm trees in that space to make the topography of the space look very different. Okay, so literally, I mean literally, I had villages of local the local we employed people from the local villages to come in and plant all these trees. I mean it's crazy. It was literally hundreds of people there. And then we also had to build the plane. I mean, you know you just you know, the plane, the crash plane, which is all broken up in pieces, was built from scratch and then we had to we had a helicopter. Once the helicopter crashes, we had a helicopter that also needed some construction as well. So all this stuff which looks organic to the time and the place, is actually scenery that's being built by the art department. So we just mentioned the helicopter crash and obviously this movie jumps between two timelines and so we were wondering if, for the the past sequences are short shot in a four by three aspect ratio and in sixteen millimeters. So there is an obvious attempt made to make a visual difference. So in terms of your production design, was that? Were you simply trying to get as period accurate as possible, or were there certain stylistic things that you put in place to kind of make the difference in time period more distinct? I think those those were choices that, you know, to do it in different aspect ratio was attempt to make it feel closer to footage. Are Sense memory of footage from the Vietnam War. You know, when we look at most when you look back at the news footage from that time period. It was in a particular kind of ratio. So the choice was made by spike and the cinematographer to treat things that way. It did not have an and you know, my location choices, or the choices I had to make a didn't change because of the aspect ratio. And and another question is, at least on to five bloods, it's it seems like you prefer shooting on location versus in a like, in a studios, like a set. Would that? Would you say that's accurate, or is it just how this project ended up working out? Again, I think it's the choices was to keep it in the put it in environments that were organic to the story. I don't think we, none of us, are opposed to build. I mean, you know again the the ruins, a big set. It's just kind of putting it on a state. You're building it in the jungle. Yeah, you know so and again, but the audience doesn't know that. And I think it doesn't look like a piece of scenery. But I had no clue say so. I mean the thing that I mean again, these artists in Thai, Thailand are exquisite crafts men and women. You could literally go up to that room, that set, and stand two into from it and you would have thought that you were looking at stone that had been culped and scarred hundreds of years ago. That's how talented they are. So I just think that there wasn't a really an opportunity to there wasn't any reason to build something on a stage. Um, my question. Do you ever make a decision in advance and then you're on set and...

...something isn't clicking and then you have to improvise a solution? Or once you once you decide on something, do you just have to like to hope, hope for the best? Well, and again, in a perfect world, all of the questions should be being asked in preproduction. There's a reason you go on such extensive scouts with the director. You know, usually you go on as your first scout is with the director and sometimes the DP is on that scout very frequently. So a series of decisions are made in conversations are had and then you return to all of the locations that you're going to be using with the entire crew, which is you guys know as the text Scout, and then all the decisions and all the conversations should be happening on that text scout so that everybody is getting their questions answered weeks before we go there to shoot. That's the whole goal. So and again, in a perfect world all those decisions are mate in advance. If you don't do that, the process can become very messy and I'm complicated. I know that it does happen on Sun movies, but usually what that means if there's something wrong at the top of the food chain. Someone's not doing their work or something's happening, because usually you don't change your mind after going through the process. We were just wondering how quarantine has like. Are you still able to do your work and how is it changed your job description? And Yeah, how are you? How are you dealing with these new conditions? Well, I haven't you know, I'm not working right now. I don't think a lot of people are working. I think the industry is trying to figure out how to come back and I think it's going to be very complicated. As you know, movie making as a communal experience and it's very you know, the the idea of trying to social distancy. Distancing does not work. So I'm not sure how the powers that be are going to solve this issue. It is also unfortunate because part of the joy of the process is to be working with all of these people. I mean that's the great joy of it. So to put in some sort of restraints that are going to separate people, I'm not particularly looking forward to that and I don't know how they're going to solve it. Rightly, I think we're all going to be signing forms that release the studio of liability issues. That's what I think is going to happen, but it is you know, there's usually, I mean I know you know generally. You know, as you probably know, on a regular size movie sometimes the shooting crews up to a hundred, twenty five people, right. How do you social the assistance? I don't know how you do it. You know, yeah, you have one actor on the screen and there's fifty people behind them. I don't know. You know so well. This is what this will end up being our last question. But so I'm a person of color and you are as well and, like you said, Spike Lee, saw you and I was like wow, there's not I didn't know that there were black people working on this. So we were wondering how being a person of color has affected the work that you do in the industry. UH, Huh. Look, I think the world is a complex place and bias, racial bias, is still present in the business and once happening now with the current voices that are being heard is that it's drawing attention to this issue in a way that it hasn't been drawn to before. My hope is that is that. My hope is that there will be some real concrete change because of the sort of heated conversations that are happening today. So that's my hope as a person of color. You know I you know I've been doing this for a long time, when I was there by myself for many, many years, and I think the thing that is true and has been true for me over the trajectory of my career is that if you are good at what...

...you're doing, if you have the skill set and you have the tools and your and you're good at what you do, it's very hard to it's very hard that it is your skill set that's going to serve you and is going to break down the barriers that exist. Okay, so, which means that over the course of my career. I had to know what I was doing in order to break down the barriers, you know, and because I knew what I was doing, I broke down those barriers. What I just said is going to be true of every job that's available in the movie business. So I think it's very important for what who whoever you are, and whatever you are choosing to do, that you do your best to become good at that particular job, because the racial barriers or the biases that are going to be there, they're going to be there and you're going to have to figure out how to get over them. You know, I I've had a pretty great career, but I haven't done all the kinds of movies that I would like to do, and I have to know that whenever there was a problem, and it's particularly if there was a racial problem or whatever the problem is, I'm going to look at that situation, identify what the problem is, identify what the barrier is and I'm going to figure out a way to get over that hurdle, to get out beyond that barrier. And that's what I had to do as an individual, and now we as people have to try and figure out how to do that as we move forward in our various communities. If you don't mind my asking what movie is like, would you like to do? Well, I'm moving forward that that you feel like you haven't gotten the opportunity to thus far than curiosity. Here is my James Bond movie. Good question. Where where is my nineteen century English upper class draw carried film? Yeah, yeah, you know, that's I mean, this is ridiculous that I I am not doing more of those films. You know I have the skill set, as you can look at the resume. I've done a wide variety of movies. But sure I haven't done you know, I keep saying, you know, I read Shakespeare all the time. Why aren't I designing those kinds of movies? You know, you don't. Just because you're born white and your British doesn't mean that you inherently more talented or right qualified or like hamlet anymore than you do. That's exactly right. I mean. So it's very interesting what happens to your out example that I give is it was a series a couple years ago on TV, and there's probably a more recent example of this where it was about John Adams and so and so and I remember, I think it was Tom Hanks's company that was producing it or something, and I remember having a meeting with the executive about that and about why. And the thing is, this is a story about an American and they went to England to get the production team. I mean, that's crazy and that's a bias. It's like the white British designer knows more about our history than we do. Of course that's that's an absurd thing. It's absurd because that person has to would have to do. If I had gotten that job, I would still have to do the research, I would still have to do all the reading that was necess necessary. I would still have to have this exact same process that that white British designer rings to the material. And so this is true and this is this has been a huge stumbling block for many people of Color. We have the the the business. It's very comfortable putting the black talent in a black box and saying that they can only do this kind of work. Well, this is a travesty and it's a tragedy. And you know, I'll give you an example. Ruth Carter is a costume designer, three Time Academy Ward nominee finally won her award for a Black Panther. Ninety percent of the films that she has done have been films about black folks. She's very capable of doing films. She should be doing Downton natty right. I should be doing downton natty. It's kind of like getting tapped type cast as an actor. That's except you're forced into your kind of forced into making a specific type of movie. That's right, just because, yes, exactly right. So this affects all groups, Asians,...

Indian American Indians, native Americans, Latino people, and it's a it's a tragedy. So my hope is that with the conversation that's happening because of the black lives matter movement right now, that some of these biases will be addressed. But addressing these issues is extremely difficult because people cannot see that they have these issues and they're just not aware of them. So well, thank you so much. That was a really great in depth answer. A Trent. You got any question? I think that just about wraps it up. Thank you so much for coming. We really appreciate your time. All right, so thank you so much for taking the time with us and that was when Thomas and you can see his latest movie, to five bloods on Netflix. It released on Netflix last week. Thank you all right. That was a great interview with production designer, when Thomas. We thank him again for giving us his time to hear our next interview with our director, Jeremy Woosley, turn into next installment of craft services, the five bloods, part two.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (109)