Friday, April 22, 2011

Production Design Meeting

Thursday night was another great night of inspiring talks from women in film doing what they love. Be sorry if you missed it. (I’m sorry if you did.) The best thing about these meetings is always the candidness of our special guests’ stories. Costume Designer Amy Maner and Set Decorator Jeanette Scott weren’t any different. They didn’t just list all of the technical aspects of their jobs, but rather, they infused their dialogues with colorful anecdotes ranging from a phone call with Dennis Quaid to “that one time” after a 22-hour straight shift ended in an abandoned, gasless, car on the side of the road.
While both Scott and Maner talked about the technical sides of their jobs, there’s no question that they love what they do. Scott gushed that one of the greatest benefits of being a Set Decorator is the prep work involving meeting people and immersing yourself in their culture. Whether it be talking with some fishermen who make old wooden boats or having dinner with some town locals as you research the set location, the prep work that a Set Decorator gets to conduct is a highlight of the job and an integral aspect, too. Scott notes that the number one rule to remember when doing your research and creating a set is to ask yourself, is this in service to the story being told? She says that while it can be tempting to choose things you really love or things that “look cool,” ultimately, everything has to be authentic and integral to developing the story. (When you see “The Tree of Life” in theaters next month, take note of the minimally decorated—and authentic-looking—50s style living room. Know that that’s how Scott the job.) Less is sometimes more.
Not necessarily for Maner, though, who likes to juggle an array of jobs. Whether it be costume designing, supervising, buying, directing or acting, Maner keeps herself busy by switching it up a bit on the work front and always staying plugged in to various projects. She encouraged students to do the same, agreeing with Scott that first step is getting your foot in the door and the easiest way to do that is to intern. Interning, says Maner, is a great way to make connections and stay plugged in. On that note, Maner that if you want to work for her, you have to know C Plot Pro, a software program that breaks down a script scene by scene and is something she refers to as "the Bible" for Costume Designers. Keeping up with scenes and sizes, budget and time frame, and keeping actors happy and corresponding with the art directors and the film’s director can be exhausting, but Maner’s passion and energy for her job seem to make it look relatively breezy. Geographically speaking, she’s also in a good place that enables her to do it.
Something both ladies agreed on was the benefit of living in Austin as a film devotee. As opposed to LA, for example, “Austin is nurturing…it’s really a town that is in love with film,” said Scott. Maner agreed, saying it is “an honor” to live here. Hear that, Hollywood? You’ve got some competition.
The thing that really struck me (for the 1040th time and may or may not have gotten me a little misty-eyed as senior on the verge of graduation) was toward the end of the meeting when both guests were encouraging all of us to find our passion, and “do something that makes [us] smile.” If these two ladies aren’t living out the adage of doing something you love and never working a day in your life, then I don’t know who is. On the note of being passionate about your work, Scott shared a story that a professor had told her daughter: this professor mused that so many people say certain fields are too competitive and odds are slim that you’ll be that one successful person in your field…but why not you? If you have that passion and you work hard, why can’t you be the person that is crazy successful in your chosen field?
So find your bliss, the thing (or things) that make(s) you smile, work hard, stay plugged in, and go be crazy successful, y’all. Why not you?

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