SKETCH GALLERY: Anne Seibel
Some Production designers do not draw and use other skills to express their ideas, some are illustrators and draw like they speak a language or others, like me, are architects thrown into the movie world by an amazing coincidence, using their own tools and creativity to create the sets and the visual mood of a film.
Everything was new and magical for me when I discovered that I could use being an architect for something else than building in the real life and I could become a dream designer. Even the way of drawing was different. I was finding myself too architectural and spent time with a teacher learning to loosen up my hand, use colors, break my rules and let myself go wild and inventive, making mistakes that were sometime becoming extremely interesting.
I learned how to fit into that new world working for great production designers, drafting hours on my drawing board using my architecture skills to make plans for feature films, from survey of locations to detailed plans, mouldings, furniture and props drawing as well as illustrations for some production designers.
Whatever I was drawing it always started by hand so my mind could express itself on paper, searching, spending hours to find the right shape, the right proportion, until it‘s done, nothing to add. A magical moment coming from nowhere, an idea, a genius intuition from a mysterious source. It’s perfect to your eyes.
Being an art director was a fantastic period where I learnt so much from talented production designers, especially Anthony Pratt and Rick Carter, who helped me to dare become a production designer.
I always thought I was not good enough as an illustrator and now being a designer I barely have enough time to do beautiful renderings and illustrations, so I started to work as much as I can and when it is possible with an illustrator.
Over the years I’ve mainly worked with illustrator Lilith Bekmezian because her personality and her drawing style is very close to me and my sensibility. With time we’ve gotten to know each other so well that we don’t really need to speak. I talk to her about the story, the director's views, show her my references and share my vision of the design. Then I draw quick sketches and plans, placing furniture and props, and she enhances my creations using her own skill and tools.
I like working with Lilith, and include her in the process of creating my set illustrations. It is in way what I would call “two hands illustrations” work. Then I use the illustrations as part of each set mood-board I create, with paint samples, visual references and fabrics that I present to the director, director of photography and costume designer.
Designing dreams is a human adventure as well. Behind me, the production designer, is a team of talented people. Some of my assistants use new technology like computer drawing, photoshop. They get faster and faster in providing plans and images, but I always start my drawing team with Jean Yves Rabier, an art director who draws beautifully-technical plans by hand as well as on the computer.
To keep in mind the importance of good old hand-drawing technique, I remember my first film as a production designer - "Road Movie” by Dev Benegal. The producers Ross Katz and Fred Berger sent me to India alone to design this beautiful independent Indian movie. I had only my hands, a camera and a pencils box. With no electricity at times and not speaking Hindi I managed to provide my Indian team with drawings and mood-boards, and was able to communicate my ideas to them and all of the Indian film crew.
I always say to my design students at “La Fémis” (National French film school in Paris) that there are many ways of designing films but they need to have in their tool box the art of drawing. Wherever they will go in the world to work, they will be able to communicate.
Drawing and especially hand drawing is a universal language.