Academy Award Winner for best Set design
You are currently working on the theatre remake of Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge. Is there anything special you would
like to share about this production?
Getting into the theatre, walking inside it, looks like being in the Moulin Rouge. The movie had such extraordinary energy. We
tried really hard to capture it. The incredible energy of the movie. I am excited about that, and that’s a big part of our
production. It’s very exciting to watch. ̋
Could you describe to us how is the creative process of developing a set design ?
Well, every project is different from another one, but a common trait is certainly the fact that it starts with reading a script,
reading a story, and then I talk with the director or the choreographer. So, we start the conversation by saying “What if” and
so on, that’s true for every show I produce. Looking at a picture, a video – these are the different sources of inspiration I look
for. Sometimes, the relationship to the project is obvious. We collect images. As a set designer, I create a visual world and
then I tell a story (that the audience finds emotional) those are the two cores of developing a set design. ̋
A milestone of your career has certainly been the 2018 OSCARS set design. Could you share with our readers your
funniest me- mories related to this event?
This last year, as this amazing project was assigned to me, I found an inspirational image and I wanted to base my project on
that. I didn’t know where the picture was from. Then, Swarovski invited me to Austria, and that space where I arrived to was
the set I had seen in the picture. Incredible. ̋
Which were the main sources of inspiration and references your teachers taught you to have and to follow while you
were a stu- dent at Harvard and how did they shape your work and your way to perceive life and work ethic? ̋
I didn’t study Set Design at Harvard. I designed shows, but just as an extracurricular activity. There were some exciting
students, I worked with a classmate that was very inspirational. The core of my training after Harvard was Yale, where I
studied Set Design. That was really inspirational. ̋
When did you realize you wanted to be a set designer? ̋
When I was at Harvard. There was no program, but I jumped in casua- lly in Studio Production and I felt the energy of the
theatre. I stumbled in set design and I fell in love with it. I never considered it before. ̋
OSCARS 2018 set ©Derek McLane ̋
Which are the main differences and similarities in creating the set designs for theatre and TV? Is there a field you
prefer between those two?
I feel comfortable in both. The big difference for the theatre is that the audience doesn’t move, they have a single point of view
on the set design. In TV and movie, the point of view is moving all the time through cameras, steady cameras that are now far
away, then close. Perspectives are more. In the theater, you can create a composition. In TV, the composition is controlled by
the camera. ̋
You won an Emmy and an Art Directors Guild Award for your de- sign for the 2014 Oscars. What do these prizes mean
to you and how have they affected your business?
It was a huge honor. People who voted Art Directors Guild Award are others set designers voting. To receive this prize from
your co- lleagues is special. It’s a real insiders prize. I love being in a room where designers are celebrating their work. ̋
When you are blue, or not productive, how do you fight those feelings? Anything special to recommend to fight
A couple of things. To exercise; go running or work out, it helps. Working a lot also helps. For example, if I keep on working
on a de- sign for a play and I feel stuck, I move to another project. It freezes your mind. It unblocks you. ̋
Is there a theatre you are particularly in love with and why? What is the best one you have ever worked for and what
makes is so special?
I really love the Lyceum theatre in New York. It was a very special production at the time I worked there. ̋
The theatre is ideal for a play, it has a perfect architecture. The au- dience feels close to the acting. It is so elegant. ̋
What is the biggest gift life can give to a man? ̋
Emotionally, it is the relationship with family and friends. I feel blessed to have three amazing children.
They are grown up and it’s wonderful to see them grown up. They are living their own life. ̋
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children? How do you balance being a good parent and been
such a talented artist? It’s a big challenge. Sometimes, my work takes me away from them. But I am freelancer. ̋
So, I can organize my schedule.
I have time to go their baseball and soccer games. I try to be there. That is important, it’s a challenge. You have to balance.
Now it’s ̋
easier since they are grown up. ̋
What things inspire you? ̋
Paintings, artworks… I often go to see art at museums and galleries for inspiration. Buildings. The skeletons of a building’s
structure. Architecture. ̋
Apart from creating their sets, do you often go to theatres? If you do, What would you suggest seeing right now?
A lot of exciting ones. Network on Broadway by Ivo van Hove is my favorite. ̋
It is unusual, it uses technology and video in a spectacular way. ̋
Favorite TV programs? ̋
Boardwalk Empire is one of my all-time favorites. I loved the first season of True Detective. Good crime series. ̋
Name five Mainstream things you usually do. 1. Cooking
- Going fishing
- Going out for dinner ̋
- Traveling: especially in Europe, in Morocco and Asia 5. Riding a bike around NYC when the weather is good ̋