Jeannine Oppewall has worked on more than 30 movies and has four Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction for “L.A. Confidential,“ “Pleasantville,“ “Seabiscuit“ and “The Good Shepherd.“
I am not at all certain that inspiration really exists. Yes, there is hard work. Yes, there is a lot of research. Yes, there is a lot of time spent rolling around inside the subject, the story and the characters. And then there is intuition, personal, and layered on top of all that - how you as an individual think and feel, based on your life experiences. In other words, you plow your field, you scatter the seed, you fertilize, and you wait for rain. That’s about all there is, really. You’re just another farmer in the fields of film.
From time to time you might hear artists talking about how they sometimes think that they are merely the conduit for an idea or a feeling that is somehow using them to find expression. I have had this experience, and more than once. One night I found myself on the art department floor, arranging and rearranging wallpaper samples for a set on “Snow Falling on Cedars.” I needed to make a choice by the morning. But that night I was finding it impossible to decide which one I wanted. So I quit for the night, had dinner, and went to bed. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up with the image of one of the wallpapers in my head, for no particular reason. It just arrived, of its own bidding, as if it had wanted to find its way into the movie for who knows what reason, and was using me to get there. Of course, when I got up in the morning, I chose that wallpaper. And If you were ever to watch the movie, you could see it there, frozen on film, behind a desk, on the walls of one of the many rooms in the story. It was, of course, the perfect choice.
Maybe that’s what inspiration comes down to: something wants to get out, and wills itself to do so through you. You are, literally, inspired, that is, filled with the breath of someone or something else, and you are merely doing its bidding.
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