Jane Musky has spent 40 very fulfilling years as a Production Designer for theatre, film, television and commercials. Her films include "When Harry Met Sally", "Ghost", "Hitch", "Mona Lisa Smile" and "Glengarry Glen Ross", among others. She has had rich collaborations with Directors; Francois Girard, Peter Bogdanovitch, Joel and Ethan Coen, Rob Reiner, Michael Mayer, Alan Pakula, Gus Van Sant, Mike Newell, Diane English, Ivan Reitman, Andy Tennant, Jerry Zucker and George Tillman.
I have never thought of Productions Designers as being allowed to have Designer's Block. There have been times when I don't quite understand a Director's point of view or when working with a weak script I have to struggle to find a home for the character or characters. In these instances I fish. I delve into my books, my image bank, research to try to find a catch; an idea or visual cue to spur the visual identity for the story and characters.
There is no Block just digging and digging until something hits, refining, calling upon experience and then working up a presentation for the Director of the idea. This idea could be wrong but at least it gets the conversation going.
I am very mathematical in my initial approach in Designing a film. I set up the story in layers on paper; separating each character into a pod of sorts and drawing arrows of interactions and importance and then work on each individual. I reach further out visually at first to stretch the ideas and by doing this the "Block" will always be at bay. By setting free and broad ideas early on it then becomes easier to tailor the evolution of all these ideas into one visual story style and trigger ideas that will help the Director embellish their take on the script and move them forward visually.
It is also very important to carve out time early on with the Director one to one to entertain this exercise. Many times we both might be stumped at an approach but talking and refining ideas together we hit on it most of the time. No Designers Block, just communication and drawing upon our craft.
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