Inside the art direction of Parks And Recreation, Mad Men, and Rent: Live

Inside the art direction of Parks And Recreation, Mad Men, and Rent: Live


(upbeat rock music) (audience cheering) – The art director manages
time, space, and money. So oftentimes I will find an empty soundstage
through the help of a producer, and we fill it up with scenery based on what the script needs, and I’m the one who’s trying to help negotiate space and time, so like if we have five
weeks to build something, can we build it in five? Can we build it in three? Can we build it in two? And what else can we fit in
that shoebox at that time? And then money, we help budget, of course, you know, television has to be worried
about the bottom line. And so we have to monitor
how much labor we spend, and who’s doing what, and how much the wallpaper costs. So I track a lot of that information with the help of the
construction coordinator and the paint department. And then we turn those budgets in. So if you think about a
typical office setting, the art director kind
of works as the manager of the office setting
for the art department, but then also is on the
shop floor making mistakes, helping fix mistakes, helping change things if the
designer is in a van somewhere and, you know, who knows where scouting and they have a change, that comes to me and I
try to help execute it. – Being with a client is
like being in a marriage. Sometimes you get into
it for the wrong reasons, and eventually they hit you in the face. (laughing) – My parents really wanted
me to be an engineer. I say that because my mom
worked for an engineering firm, and my dad worked for
an excavating company, and I remember kind of driving
home or having a moment where I was like “Is this for me? “Am I going to be an engineer, “Even though I’m really bad at physics?” And I was terrible at math
and I got a D in chemistry, like, “Am I gonna pull this off?” And it was in the middle
of my Sophomore year that I switched to undecided
and through the course of a bunch of meetings
of different people, I decided to go into theater, and not as a performer, as a behind-the-scenes person. And I had some experience
in it in high school, but I wasn’t really sure how
you could make a life in it. And lots of educators,
lots of other schooling, and I graduated through a Master’s degree at the University of Illinois, and that’s kinda what brought
me into the theater world, and then brought me into
the television world, and there’s a lot of nuts and
bolts in between all that, but I moved here in 2008 and worked at a scene shop
painting Forever 21 stores. And if you’ve ever been
in a Forever 21 store, you know they’re all white. So I’m like, “I’m gonna
die in a Tyvek suit “painting Forever 21 stores “in the middle of the
San Bernardino Valley.” So I started talking to some friends, and a friend was like, “You
should go meet Dan Bishop at a coffee shop.” Now, I didn’t know who Dan Bishop was, and I didn’t know what
I was interviewing for, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I brought a six foot submarine sandwich that I had carved for
a Subway photo shoot. And Dan Bishop hired me as the art department PA for Mad Men. Which was a show that nobody
had heard of at that time, it was only a pilot. So I came on Season 1. And that introduced me
to the people who did Parks and Recreation, so
for the superfans out there, Dan Bishop designed Mad Men, and then went over and
did Parks and Recreation. So that was my connection, through that group of people. And when Season 3 of the The Good Place had the position open as an art director, I basically leaped at the opportunity. Ian Phillips, who was the designer, called and asked if I would do it. And at that time I was
working on the show Forever, for Amazon Prime. And that was a writer from
Parks and Recreation, Alan Yang. So those circles kind of all
kind of dance around each other and there’s a lot of similar people. Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99, Veep, and Good Place all have a linear quality of several staff members that
have done all of the shows. ♪ You wanna prowl, be my night owl ♪ ♪ Just take my hand, we’re gonna howl ♪ ♪ Out tonight ♪ Rent started for me in
August of last year. So I lived with it from
August until January, so you can imagine– I’m not gonna go through
the whole detailed list, but it’s very very long, and it’s very complicated. Because you had the public involved, and that is what made
that shit set, I think, so successful, was to get the public involved,
embedded on a rock show so you could see their
expressions and feel them, see the clothes that they were wearing, and that’s what made
that show so exciting. As far as, you know, the reward of doing it. To be a 14 year old mowing the lawn, listening to that CD, not knowing that I was ever
going to work in television, and move out to LA, work like I did, and then all of a sudden
someone comes to me and says, “Do you want to work on
the live event Rent Live?” And I just wanted to give
everything I could give to it, because I wanted it to be good, and I think that those passions came out in the decisions that we made, and I didn’t want to steer
away from dedicated fans and what they wanted. I’m so proud of Fox for doing it, first of all, ’cause many shows, I just don’t think many networks would do something like that. I certainly don’t think ABC
Disney would put Rent Live on their network. And they fought for the
clearance of it all. You know, they really fought
to stay true to the text. Of course, things had to change, but, you know, when was
the last time you saw a musical number about
any of the things that are in Rent on television? We had 10 days, one day for each act, to get the actors acclimated. And think about a
breathing, living organism, not to be too metaphorical, but you have musicians, and
you have lighting people, and it’s a constantly moving
Harry Potter staircase that was changing every day, and one day the dance floor
would go out, and the next day, the bottles would go up above the stage. So there was always those
things that were in my mind, but then we have to pause,
and we have to be like, “Okay, now we’re dedicated to this song for the next four hours to
get the actors acclimated, and figure out the choreography, and all the things, where’s
this prop coming from, where’s the quick change coming from?” When you do a proscenium style, those things are
sometimes inherent, right? You just exit left or exit right. When you have 360 degrees
and you make those decisions, and then the camera crew comes in, you have to do it all over again. So we did 10 days of
the actors and dancing, and then we had nine or
10 days with cameras, so that they could do the same
thing and they could learn how to get out of the way. And you’ll see, it was very rare that you
caught a camera person, and that took an incredible
amount of choreography on the director’s part. – Versace has invited me to the opera. (operatic singing) – You’re creative, yes? – Of course. (gasping) – Cameras are changing the
way that we do art department, because we can’t fake
a countertop anymore, it has to be real. The sound of the perfume bottle
going down on the counter is different when it’s Formica
versus when it’s marble, and in a show like Feud for instance, you want those moments. American Crime Story was another
one where we really tried to do as much real as we could because we never really knew
how they were gonna shoot that. It was long periods of silence. I mean, we didn’t know when Andrew Cunanan was doing the last few days of his life, and he was alone. So we needed to provide a room
that could tell that story. Is he pacing, is he going through things, is he roughing up the house? That’s kind of a long
meandering way to say that yes, budgets are getting bigger, but it’s because the stories
are getting more complicated. Cameras are getting more detail, and audiences want more
information, you know? They wanna see it.

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