Cherish Magennis Hale
Cherish Magennis Hale has worked in film and TV for over fifteen years, on projects ranging from feature films to well-recognized television series such as "The Affair", "Blood Ties", "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" and "Believe".
I think the key to a good collaboration between a PD and the decorator is communication. Nothing is going to look 100% if you do not talk. It is very important to have a close bond with the designer you are working with. Having good chemistry is essential. There is either a spark or there isn’t. That spark determines if you will be able to work seamlessly together or not. There is definitely a symbiotic element to the PD and decorator relationship. There is a certain romance that comes with working in this industry. It is vital to develop closeness with the people you work long hours with. You have to know that your partner will have your back and, more than anything, a relationship between a PD and his or her decorator is a partnership. You have to be able to shoot things at each other and problem solve. Often you have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan together. It has to be a collaboration all the way through. Sometimes a couple of hours together on a shopping trip or thrift store hunting is enough to start a dialogue about a certain set and to get inside designer’s head.
Trust level is something that is very important as well, especially when you are working in the fast paced world of television. Most of the time you are left making the decisions without the PD being physically present and the communication is done via phone and emails. Having access to modern technology has been helpful but it depends on the designer you are working with. A lot of designers still prefer to have tangible things in front of them to make their selections. The designer has to know that he or she can be fully confident that the final product will be delivered accordingly. You also have to have each other’s back and be in each other’s corner in case things do not go according to plan. I always fight my own battles as far as asking production for my crew needs, etc., however if you have a good trusting relationship with your PD they will support you in your demands and help you get what you need to get the job done.
I would say that an unreasonable demand that can’t be satisfied is the ultimate demise of the relationship between a PD and the decorator. You have to be clear and be on the same page of what you are trying to achieve from the start of any production.
Decorators are the unsung heroes of the filmmaking and don’t always get the credit they deserve. It is nice when the designers respect their decorators and give credit where it is due. It has always bothered me when people say that it is the designer’s vision. At the end it is not just the PD vision that comes to life on screen but a collaborative vision between PD, the decorator, the director and the DP.