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A PDC Interview: Jade Healy

September 24, 2016

Jade Healy is a Canada-born, LA-based Production Designer working in film, commercials and music videos.

Her film credits include Ti West's films "The House of the Devil" and "In a Valley of Violence", "James White", "Mississippi Grind" and David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints". Last year she collaborated with Lowery again on the Disney Film "Pete's Dargon", and she recently wrapped production on "The Killing of a Sacred Dear", directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

 

 

 

Jade, congratulations!  Pete’s Dragon is out in theaters and getting some lovely reviews. 

 

Thank you!

 

You’ve been known for your work in independent cinema for a while, but this is your first large studio project, it must have been quite a change.

 

It was.  And I’m probably going to do another one with David Lowry, who was the director on Pete’s Dragon, in about a year or so, which is good.  If I could just do big movies with David I’d be happy.  I got really lucky, to do such a big movie with someone I’ve worked with before. 

 

Did you have the same rapport with David as you’ve had before? Were you able to have the same conversations or were there more hurdles to that?

 

I think it benefitted us both to be working as a team that had worked together before.  For him to try to learn how to have a dialogue with a new designer on that scale probably would have been hard.  When you work with directors that you’ve had relationships with, you don’t always have to say as much, you just read the script and give a look book and it’s fine.  Our relationship didn’t change.  We still had the same understanding of space and palette. We’re very connected.  I’ll send him images and he’ll be like “are you in my brain? That’s exactly what I was thinking.” It’s really nice when you find those collaborations.

 

So how did it happen?  This is a much bigger film than your past work, did he fight for you?

 

Well, he asked me if I was interested and originally I said no.  I thought, “I’m never going to get it anyway,” and I was working on my first feature that I was hoping to direct that summer, when Mike Simmons texted me to ask “is your friend David doing Pete’s Dragon?” I said yeah, and he asked “are you going to do it?”  I said  “No, I’m doing my own thing” and he said “are you out of your fucking mind?” I was instantly like What have I done?! So I emailed David and asked if he’d hired anyone yet.  They were about to bring someone on, so I told him I was interested.  He said “well, it’s going to be an uphill battle” but I figured I should at least try. 

 

I had a meeting and did a lookbook for the project, he loved it and then I had to meet with the producer’s and, while they liked the look book, their main concern was my level of inexperience.  I hadn't done a much of visual effect or stunt work and they where concerned with how I would handle the challenge. I think the important thing that I conveyed in that meeting was my ability to collaborate and to ask the right questions.  When you don’t know how to do something,  it’s just important to be able to  admit that you don’t know, and also knowing  how to ask the right questions  to find the right solution.  There are so many department heads, it’s not as though any one person ever really knows what the right answer is and every time you do a movie, it’s different.  I could do a million CGI movies, and I’m still going to encounter something that I don’t know.  We were working with Weta Digital, the amazing CGI house, and sometimes they didn’t know the right solution either, so we would work together to figure it out.

 

 

 

How long did you have to pull this together?  You shot in New Zealand - did you start prep in the states and then head out? 

 

On this movie, we had so much prep – I got to New Zealand in September and we shot in mid-January.  So we had a lot of time to figure everything out.  But I started unpaid prep early on, getting on phone calls and hiring crew, meeting with people.  I built the first model myself in New Mexico before I left.  I still have it, it was this little tree, it’s very cute.  I had my friend David Bell do some concept drawings for me early on. They were the first things that I had when I went to New Zealand, and to be honest we didn’t stray that far from those original ideas.

 

Were the Disney executives very involved in the approvals process with your designs?

 

I was so lucky.  They hardly even asked to see my concepts, but I would send them drawings and hardly got anything back.  I sent them drawings of the tree, and the only note I got back was “We really like the tree like this, so if you’re going to change anything, let us know.”  That was the only note I got. David likes to joke that I have been totally ruined by my first experience with the Studio because I have some misconception that it is easy.

 

Your crew must have been much larger than you’re used to, how was it working with them?  Did it feel overwhelming to have so many people or was it necessary to make the project?

 

Honestly, the hardest part of a job at that level is getting the ideas out of your head and into everyone else’s hands.  That’s the challenge.  It is certainly overwhelming to have so many people working for you. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of my first day! But once we got into the groove of things, everything just flowed. 

 

When I started, there were big things that had to happen – a house has to get built, a tree, you have to design it all.  It was just like “oooookay.  I’ve never done this before, how do I do it?”  I started by asking for a conceptual artist on Day One and then I started my model maker not long after.   Outside of my Art Director and my Set Decorator, those were the first people that I had on with me.

 

What was the design process like with them involved?

 

Well, the first thing we did was the tree.  I was really lucky, I had a great conceptual artist, I’d share images with him, he’d draw and adjust. Then I’d show David, and if he liked it, we’d get the drawings to the model maker and start building the model. My model maker started with a Styrofoam model, and then she made a really life like Plasticyne model, and I’d go in and push it around, and ask for changes that I couldn’t just make myself – until we got to a place that we all liked.  We did a 3D scan of the model, and we started building off of it, of course there were still changes to make when that was happening.   We built it in the stage and deconstructed it and then transported it to the forest, put it back together again, which was a lot of work, but it was so fun. 

 

The house was a bit different. Simon Bright was my main Set Decorator, but I also had Adam Willis, who I always work with, who shopped with me in the in LA before I even left for New Zealand.  We shipped a huge container of stuff to New Zealand, and used everything.  It was amazing to start that process so early.  I knew what couch was coming, so when I sat with my conceptual artist, I would know what to tell him to put in the drawings. I did the floor plans with my set designers, built a simple model of the house, and I’d take pictures through the windows of the rooms, and send them to my concept artist.  And I’d be able to tell him “this is where I want the fireplace, this is where I want the couch. I’d go to storage where we had all the furniture, take photos of the it from the correct angle, pass those off and he’d draw those in.  It was insane – the pictures from the concept drawings are almost identical to what they became in the set.   When David and the DP and producers would show up on set they were thrilled because they knew exactly what they were walking into.  There were no surprises. 

 

For the set dressers, it was great because they would know exactly what to get.  And if we couldn’t find those things we would build them.  We had one person dedicated to textiles so if we needed to cover a couch, or custom dye some curtains, one person could just do those things.  We would buy some fabric and if it was too bright, she would spend a day just dying it and bringing it down and show me samples and I’d be able to select exactly what I wanted.   It was fantastic.

 

At the same time, it could also be a lot.  On indie movies there’s no time to sit down and do drawings for every set.  On this, even when we had sets that weren’t builds – a hospital set, or Robert Redford’s house – we had concept drawings for all of them with exactly what was going to be in the space.  It was a great place to test stuff out and see “oh hey, those curtains don’t work” and we’d try others in the drawings so we knew what we were walking into.  We went through the process of designing in these drawings.  Trying out wallpaper, everything.  We built an entire house, and what’s hard about that is that you have to spec out everything.  You have to choose all of it, and your team is coming to you for the decisions, “How big do you want the baseboard,” “what kind of doorknob,” “what kind of trim,” “what kind of screws?”  So I started saying “builder’s choice!"  on little stuff, like “which screws” because my head was going to explode. At the same time as they are asking about the screws, I had the mold maker asking about what trees and rocks they should mold.  I had an entire department just making molds for us – I would find references of the kinds of rocks and tree bark that I liked and they would go out and find them and come back with these plaster molds. That’s how we would build our trees and our rocks.  They would start the models with wood, and then with foam, and then the bark would come in, and the real tree roots would come in, and you would just be like “not this, put this here, we have to change this” and it was so satisfying. 

 

Learning the language of how to talk to those guys about what was or wasn’t working was very interesting. As a designer, you see something that’s not working but you have to find the words, the dialogue to communicate what they should do different.

 

 

 

 

Independent filmmaking often gets known for having a “family environment.” Were you able to have that on something so big?  Did you liaison with a lot of people, or was it very hierarchical? 

 

Everyone was so nice, I couldn’t have been luckier to have such a great group of people who were so welcoming of me.   I mean we come from the indie world, and it’s so different.  In New Zealand, everyone just works on huge things for a long time, no one has  many credits.  So what I always heard from them was “how have you done so many movies at such a young age?”  Well we just go-go-go, three or four movies a year, just popping ‘em out.  So that was an interesting comparison.

 

You know, it was a great learning experience for me was figuring out how to find the best leadership role when working with people that have more expertise than I do. I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m more experienced than my Oscar winning art director, but I’m also going to push as much as I can to get the vision that I want.  When they would say “No”, I knew that there was a “Yes” in there somewhere, so I would push to find it.  For me the best approach was to be very candid about my lack of experience in certain levels and to allow for the dialogue to always be open. The best advice I could give people is you hire more experience crew for a reason and lean into that experience and don’t let it intimidate you.  

 

Were there a fair amount of adjustments? 

 

One thing I learned doing a big movie is that designers change their mind all the time on giant movies.  And it’s fine, and the crew is used to it.   I would come in and say “I’m so sorry, I know you just painted all the cabinets, but now that they’re all painted, they’re too green.  We really need to go a shade less saturated.  I’m so sorry, so sorry.” And they would just say “O.K., sure you want me to paint it again, whatever, no problem.” 

 

I also learned that when you’re doing a project this big, you never have to settle.  As soon as your gut tells you that something’s off, you can act on it, and you can change it five more times.  That’s fine. After that it’s hard to go back to little movies, because there’s no money.  Often on low budget movies you just have to accept it.  You have to accept that feeling because there’s no time and there’s no money.  I always try not to settle – I’ll paint a room three times, even if I have to do it myself, but when you’re making bigger changes – waking in and saying “this wall has to go, this room is too big” and having the response be “ok” and then having it just be done is such a relief.  In the house on Pete’s we did all the floors and they were too dark. And they just went in and fixed it.   They sanded down and refinished everything.  But those overages are accounted for, no one expects you to make one decision and then everything’s done and everything goes hunky-dorey.  It’s really nice to have that breathing room. To be able to make mistakes and then fix them, and no one’s standing there saying “she doesn’t know what she’s doing, she changed her mind on the paint color.”

 

What was the biggest thing you changed?

 

I didn’t have any really huge changes.  The DP made me repaint the living room three times – and I’m talking the tiniest variation in shades.  I did some stuff in the kitchen – I added an arch and changed the cabinets around, made them add a couple cabinets here and there.  But we mostly just created exactly what had been on the drawings and that’s it. 

 

We had a hard time getting the barn doors on the barn where the dragon is kept right.  They had to be old and aged with peeling paint and we had to repaint those a few times.  The scenic and I really got along so it was great, but on that set I would show up as he was working and be like “well…. I don’t know, I guess I’ll come back later.  Keep working…” Then they’d get as far as they could and we’d have to start over with another color.  They were huge doors.  And it wasn’t just rolling paint on - it was a huge scenic process.

 

 

How did you create the main house?  Did you build it all on a stage?

 

We started by finding the exterior house. I let the house exterior inform the interior in window placement and style, but the interior was totally different than the real house. If we found a house we liked, we would have shot on location. It was very important that we made the house feel as real and intimate as possible, which was one of the reasons we built it as two stories so that we could move up and down the stairs like a real location. Also it was important to us that the rooms where normal size. There is a tendency sometimes to want to go big to accommodate for camera but sometimes you sacrifice an intimacy of space for size. Luckily David and Bojan were on the same page.  I started by building a small simple model of the layout to get an understanding of the space. Then I got to do this one thing I like to do: take blue tape and tape out the floor plan on the stage and put furniture in it.  Walk around.  See how it feels. Once I had the infrastructure figured out we started drafting. Obviously there are days and weeks of research that goes into every decision that is made and I’ll skip talking about the process of deciding what floorboards or staircase to build. 

 

 

 

On smaller films the production crew often comes in seconds after the last dressing is complete, but on this one I assume the set was fully dressed well before the team came on to set, correct?

 

Right – I’m always tweaking things until the last minute, but we were done with the house set about a week before it was first scheduled as a cover set, but we ended up having a full three weeks before we put it on camera.  But that way the director and the DP could come in and see it and make sure that everything was how they wanted it. 

 

Once you guys wrapped, was that it?  Were there days added or reshoots later?

 

We always knew there would be pick-ups for the ending but I didn't actually expect to have to rebuild almost the entire house! Of course I didn’t even need to be there, my art director oversaw the reconstruction of the house and I flew in a couple of weeks before we started shooting just to ensure everything was as it should be and to work on a few other aspects of the reshoots. By the time I showed up the house was basically built.

 

I was thrilled because we actually shot parts of the house we hadn’t seen the first time, which is always nice as a designer to see all of your work.  Of course it is also the first tough lesson you really have to learn as a designer…let go! That favorite corner of the room they never saw and you are sad about it, it’s not about that corner! Still a mantra I have to repeat to myself sometimes.  

 

Did you find yourself changing as a designer or simply as a working person, given that the scale of the project was much larger than your prior work?

 

  The obvious difference on this project, is when you are working with so much money that there’s no excuse as to why something doesn’t look good.  You can’t be like “well, they wouldn’t let me change anything, that’s all we had.”  That’s what stressed me out the most – all the time.  There are no excuses.  You want Linoleum?  What kind do you want?  Custom Wallpaper?  There’s nothing holding you back in that regard.  So there was no reason I couldn’t have exactly what I wanted.  I would literally wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “oh my god, did I paint the kitchen the right color?” I really had to adapt my thinking. When you have always been working within limits and suddenly the sky is the limit you have to start working a new part of your brain. You have to learn how to use a new muscle. It’s learning a new language. One of the main differences for me is that I spent a lot of time in my office actually designing the film.  On Indie films its much more physical, when you design something this scale you spend hours in front of your computer in your office painstakingly going over the details. So, yes, I would say I have changed as a designer, but for the better. 

 

Learning the relationship between design and VFX also made me a more well-rounded designer.  One of the best things about that is now no one will ever say “She’s not ready for this budget or she has no VFX experience.”  Fuck that. I can do it. 

 

That’s so important and true.  I just did an apocalyptic movie – it was small, just a couple million dollars, but there were hundreds of weapons, there were special effects and visual effects, and it’s so relieving as a woman to be able to come away from that experience and be able to say “No, I do know what I’m talking about and we can talk about that with real language. You don’t have to talk down to me because I’m a woman.”

 

Exactly.  Often they just won’t give you the job as a woman.  I still deal with that on commercials.   I have a niche commercial experience, so sometimes it won’t translate to people because I don’t have their exact look on my reel.  It’s so funny that people can’t understand that sometimes.

 

And now you have the experience documented, all of those complicated builds.  What were the main practical builds vs. CGI builds?  Were you expecting to build certain things you didn’t have to or vice versa?

 

When you get into that world – mixing real & CGI – things become pliable.  We sat down at the very beginning and had a discussion about who would handle what.  David wanted to build as much as possible – obviously we couldn’t build everything. For example, we only created part of the bridge to use as a point of reference, knowing that as soon as it got into Weta’s hands that they would adjust it.

 

I didn’t expect to build the tree on location. We knew we were going to build the tree because there was a specific cave under it, but we didn’t know we were going to build it on location.  We were shooting in a protected forest for most of the shoot, and we couldn’t build there because we would have had to take down 30 or 40 trees. Late in the game, they made the decision to shoot it practically, so we had to build in a plantation forest where we were stuck with these shitty farm pines. They have a uniformity to them that just isn’t cinematic.  In order to make that location work, I would talk to the effects supervisor and say “I need you add some trees at some angles, and some groupings over there so it’s not just a grid of trees.”

 

The set we had to talk the most about with the Weta Supervisor was the Cave.  The dragon goes into it, and it was initially this giant thing we were building, we had all these study models.  But we realized that, when you’re shooting it the way we planned to, you see the dragon in a certain place, and, well, that’s all going to be visual effects anyway.  So we didn’t need to build parts of it, they would build everything else.  The whole mouth of the cave and the floor was practical, and Weta built everything else.  It took a lot of conversations to get to that point.  One of the things I found out on is that they end up replacing so much with CGI, we often build everything twice.   But you need to ask and make sure that you’re making the right stuff.  With the tree, we did the trunk, but they made the branches and the canopy.  But I designed it all,  I had to show them the model so they knew what the branches and the canopy and the tree house on top would look like.  We built part of the tree house practically, but they built the rest. I would give them the material, the drawings and the plans and the model, I’d show them textures, and they’d take those and scan them in and use them for the base.

 

 

 

It does sound like there was a lot of overlap.  How did you work with them on the design in post?  What was your oversight like with Weta?

 

They usually don’t want to pay for the PD to be a part of post, they hire a post art director to oversee design elements and that sucks because you have this vision you try to create, and then you leave and it’s out of your control.  Luckily I got to go back for reshoots, and we were able to sit and watch the movie with Weta and David and the DP and we gave notes. We were watching the edit and I was like “what have you guys done to the bridge, and what did you do to the tree?!  No!!”  I had to go in and meet with those parts of the team that were in charge of specific elements of the tree and we worked through some of the problem areas and got it back on track.

 

It sounds pretty frustrating that the Post Art Director wasn’t driving things with your input.  How did the other team members feel about the edit?

 

David has a million other things he’s thinking about when he’s looking at the edit, and the DP is looking at the light and how it is integrated with the VFX .  He was always concerned about lighting cues. Weta wanted to light everything, and we where always trying to bring everything down.  I was always like “too much fog! Bring it way down!”  We wanted everything to feel as real as possible, so if a VFX element was added that wasn’t believable we would trouble shoot it until it felt real. 

 

One scene that really wasn't working  was a car chase with the dragon, they  added a sunset in post and  It was making everything look fake.   You’re already dealing with so much CGI that at a certain point you add all that sunset to the rest of what has been added  and it brings you out of of the world.  Luckily I was able to sit down and go through it with David and the DP and discuss what wasn’t working and why.  

 

Next time around I think I will make sure I’m more involved with elements of post.  I would love if designers could be a part of the color correct – that was one of the other things I loved about this project. We had a guy in a DI Truck the whole time. The DP would always spend his lunch hours there, and I would sit in.  If I saw something that was too bright – either a piece of set dressing, or a building in the background – I would ask if they could tone it down a little bit. There was this one terrible bright yellow raincoat left on set one day, and I was luckily sitting in on the color correct that day, and asked what we could do.  They keyed it we made it green, and made it disappear into the rest of the room.  That’s the thing we don’t realize we have the ability to do, often, as PDs.  We’re not invited to that process, I was very grateful to Boyan for letting me in his world. 

 

Were there any scenes that didn’t show up in the edit that you missed?

 

Yeah, a tree falls in the movie and there’s this huge tree root that’s exposed.  That part is in the movie.  At the end of the movie the tree root is overgrown with flowers, its so beautiful.  That set, we built that twice.  First we built it where the big hero tree is in the movie.  Then we needed it a cover set, and we had to move it to the South Island.  It was this gigantic build in the middle of this redwood forest, and – I mean, what are you going to do?  We just said “OK” and we just had to shift it down to the other island.  We had to look for another forest to match what we had established on the other island, we picked it up, took it down, rebuilt it, brought in all these greens and flowers to get it set into the landscape, and shoot it – and of course we never even see it in the movie.  It was so beautiful!

 

 

Were you able to come back home or have visitors?

 

I came back for Christmas. And they gave me two plane tickets for family, so my mom came and my boyfriend came.  They put me up in a beautiful house, but it’s a long time to be away.  It was so nice when I went back for reshoots, though, they were like a family that was just waiting for me. 

 

Was there anything you wished you were able to do or a way you were able to work that didn’t come to fruition?  Were there any strengths you wanted to develop that you couldn’t?

 

I used to feel really insecure because I am not a great illustrator. But I was talking to KK Barrett a while back at a party, and he said “that’s what you have illustrators, don’t worry about it.” I realized on this job that I don’t have time to sit and draw and also design the film.  In the indie world people expect so much from you and you think you have be able to do it all, and some people are blessed with all of these skill sets – “great drawings by great production designers” – I’ve seen that on the PDC blog!  And that’s great, but that’s not what I can do. 

 

But it’s good to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.  I know what my strengths are -  I can understand the emotional context of the film. I can read a script and know what a space should feel like and what it should look like and I know how to bring that world into fruition. Could I be an art director on a film this size? No way. I do not have the technical training. 

 

Right, though that’s also not your job.  Production Designers are the translators of that vision from the script and the director to the people who are the makers, that’s your role, you’re translating.  You have to speak both languages, but as long as you know the language, or you can find the people you can trust to know that language, then you can design. 

 

Any good production designer is also going to be the one that brings all the departments together.  Even on this giant movie, I was the one calling creative meetings with the department heads.  I was the one saying, we need to sit down and go through all the looks, and the look books, make sure everything matches, make sure we’re on the same page and talk about it.  We’re the keeper of the vision, and sometimes it’s difficult.  You’ve spent so much time with the director, with the DP, more than so many other people in these spaces, in this world. 

 

The costume designer will come on later and start creating wardrobes in the world you’re already making. When I’m shopping, I’m always also looking for wardrobe, I’m looking for what I think they would wear, because I want to make sure that we all are on the same page.  Some DPs don’t prep.  You can send image boards and look books and palettes and they just won’t respond.  Sometimes you’ll talk to them about lights and they’ll say “oh talk to my gaffer” and it’s like “what?!”  The DP on Pete’s did not like prep, but he was great on the day.  I could come to him and say “oh, what’s that light doing, is it supposed to be daylight or night? What’s going on?” and he would try things out with me.  If I said “I don’t like that light” we would have a conversation about it, and it was great to be able to talk to a DP at that level.  If something doesn’t work, that’s fine.  But never be afraid to ask.  It’s never wrong.  You’re never a bad production designer to say “I don’t know about that light.” 

 

I have had so much great luck working with some of the greatest DPs in the past few years, and the better they are the more they are interested in talking with me and getting me to see the frame, see what everything looks like.  But there are some people that have such an ego because they stand behind the camera.  It doesn’t make for a good collective experience.  One thing as a PD & a woman that I found is important is to just get in there, as soon as possible establish yourself as a presence.  It’s like “you see me? I’m here, now you know who I am. I’m going to be asking for the viewfinder, I’m going to be looking through the camera to see what you’re seeing.”  

 

I hear that some designers have a rough time with the transition to studio films, but it sounds like you really enjoyed the process.

 

I would love to do one BIG movie every few years, but it takes so much out of you.  It just drains you.  I needed to take a year off movies because I just couldn’t do it.  It was 8 months.  70 Shoot Days.  6 Day Weeks.

 

What?!  6 day weeks?!  I thought that was something they only did on the very smallest of indies!

 

No, we had only one or two full weekends the whole shoot.  When you do a smaller movie you get to day 15 and you’re like “OK.  We’re half way there.  We can do this.”  Imagine getting to day 35 and you’re not even half way there.  By day 60 I was just ready to go home.  I wanted to sleep, I was just so tired, tired of being away from home, being with all these other people – and I loved this crew! – but at the end I was staying in a shitty hotel in the South Island, we were so far out in the wilderness that there were no nice accommodations, and I was just so homesick. 

 

It’s actually a very interesting conversation that I’ve been having with my agent, and with one of my best friends who is a costume designer.  When you’re a production designer, there’s a balance that you want to reach because when you take a job, you have to think about not just your career but your life.  It’s something I thought about when I was deciding to do my next movie, which is much smaller. Do I want to be happy in my life by doing commercials and a few big movies?  Or am I chasing this dream of constantly doing the best work I can do?

 

I began to wonder what I wanted anymore, because it is really hard on you.  I’m a single woman, I’m 35, and I’m thinking “I’m going to be single for the rest of my life if I keep doing this.” It sucks, but you have to think “Is this what I want, constantly travelling around all the time, constantly being uprooted?” It’s not even all about my love life – I have my friends, I have this life that I like, am I just going to uproot myself again for 7 months?  In the end, what am I going to get for it?  It’s a gamble, because I don’t even know how the movie’s going to turn out.  It’s very interesting to be able to get that perspective after doing a huge movie. 

 

I didn’t get that doing all these small movies, I didn’t have enough of a safe place to be able to stop and think “oh, I’m going to be fine.”  I didn’t know if I was going to get the opportunities that I wanted. After Pete’s I was able to say “oh, I’ll be fine.”  If I want a $10mm or $20mm movie, I can get that, I can find work with this on my resume. I’ve turned down so many movies this year because I know I will get offers.  Movies that a year or two ago I would have been dying to get.  But it has to be worth it to me to go somewhere, to give up my life and spend all that time on another project.

 

It’s a very interesting dialogue that I can start to have.  I used to look at all these designers I admired and wonder “oh, how do they do it, why are there designers that just do commercials, ugh.”  But I get it.  I just did a year of them.  I had so much free time, I made money, I enjoyed it, it was great.  It was great. I get why they do it.  So now I think I know what I want in my life.  Do a big movie every couple years, commercials in between, and maybe a special movie here and there.  So that’s what I’m doing.  That’s what I learned from Pete’s Dragon.  Once you have the ability to choose, you have so much more control over your life.

 

Abolsutely.

 

Yeah, I mean you’re going to Baltimore tomorrow, right?

 

Yeah, and I am excited to go – I had a lot of bigger offers but I chose this movie because after years of work I finally am financially stable enough to decide not to do the work I don’t love.  And I looked at those other films and wasn’t compelled by them, so I decided to do a smaller project. I’m also 35 and I just found out that I’m considered a Geriatric Mother if I have children.  I don’t even know if I want to have kids, but fact that I’m already considered medically “too old” to have kids when I JUST got to the point where I can even entertain the idea of them. 

 

Do you have a boyfriend?

 

I do, and it can be incredibly difficult.  I did a few away jobs in a row and we almost broke up. I’m not going to avoid the good movies if I get them, but I’ll see if I can give my personal life some weight.  I don’t want to find myself done with my career, single when I’m 70, and think “I’m going into the home but no one’s going to visit me because I didn’t prioritize my personal life”

 

Haha, yeah, but “I got a lot of movies on IMDB and Netflix, so…” My friend Emma Potter is a costume designer and she’s on a big movie and she’s been texting me about how lonely she is, and I’m about to embark on that loneliness.  I mean New Zealand was magic and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there were moments that were lonely as fuck. We don’t really talk about that aspect of Production Design.  How hard it is.  We’re there the longest.  I got there before the director.  I got there months before the DP.  I had to pay taxes in New Zealand, I was there so long.  That sacrifice as a designer is so huge. 

 

It’s part of what’s so frustrating about the fact that there’s no Independent Spirit Award for us.  We sacrifice so much of our time and our life to make these movies.  And it becomes a question of when to sacrifice on these movies once you’re able to choose.  And thank god you can get to a place when you can make those decisions.  Part of why I had so many credits on IMDb, impressing the local crew, was that ALL I did was make movies.  I had no other life.  All I did.  But now I have a life and I don’t want to change it.  I don’t want to lose it.  Right now I’m in Colorado, I’m with friends, I’m happy.  I have to leave early to help David, and go scout Ohio for my next movie, and then that’s it.  No more surfing.  No more riding my motorcycle.  No more dinners with friends.  Just Ohio.

 

Well, I’m from Ohio, so I hope it treats you well.

 

Me too.

 

Jade, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about Pete’s Dragon and congratulations and good luck on the next one.

 

Thank you!

 

 

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