2017 • Production Design • Backstage

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90th Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: Production Design

SPEECH BY: Paul Denham Austerberry (Production Design); Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin (Set Decoration)
FILM: “THE SHAPE OF WATER”

Q. I’d love to hear a little bit about the process of how you arrived at what looks to be a kind of faded Piaf Parisian color palette mixed with that incredible noir sensibility. How in the world did you put those together?

A. (Paul Denham) Well, it all really started with Guillermo. You know, he has a real visual eye and lots of good reference, so he had already picked before we even started a building that we used for the exterior which set the tone as a late Victorian building, and from there referenced a movie, THE RED SHOES for an arch window, and then we all worked together to develop that, and these guys brought beautiful wallpaper, kind of like that, to bring the scales into the room, and the palette is a very Guillermo thing. The first thing we did was deal with the palette. So that’s why the movie is so color coordinated.

Q. You spoke about your Toronto team in your acceptance speech, and we’d just like to know how significant it was to have a team from Toronto working with you and how it feels right now.

A. (Jeffrey Melvin) I have 35 years in the business now, and worked in Toronto almost exclusively. So I’ve worked with and watched the business grow in Toronto and go from children’s television to Academy Award‑winning films. It started with GOOD WILL HUNTING, CHICAGO, now us. We have world‑class technicians, and we want to keep it that way and keep going. Build more studios, and we can do more.

A. (Shane Vieau) The other thing too is that what’s amazing about this year with trades is that Toronto, above and beyond with everyone in North America, with THE HANDMAID’S TALE and THE SHAPE OF WATER, we really came out on top. So it’s a really, really big thing for 873 and all of the other unions in Toronto.

Q. Congratulations. And in a way, this is a continuation, I guess, of the first question, but could you talk about some of the, sort of, the Cold War period aesthetic and the institutional aesthetic that you also used for the design?

A. (Paul Denham) Yes. To contrast the, sort of, romantic notion of her apartment, the late Victorian apartment, Guillermo and I talked about institutional architecture, and we chose Brutalist‑style architecture which was very prevalent in ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. And the reason why we wanted to do it, we wanted heavy contrast with the hard, harsh materials of the concrete and then we introduced that teal green color that was very, very important. It was very important to have that very, very visual contrast between the two worlds, the worlds where she meets her lover and when she brings him back to that wonderful decrepit, but beautiful, old apartment.

Q. What was the toughest part of working with Guillermo del Toro?

A. (Shane Vieau) You know, the really amazing thing about Guillermo is that he knows what he wants visually. So as long as you’re in there with him, the guy is with you. Like, he really ‑‑ you know, once you develop a language with the man, he lets you do your thing and lets you go above and beyond what he, sort of, has given you as a basic. But no one is more well‑read than that man. No one knows more about things than that man. He’ll reference everything and give it to you, and then you can go with it.

A. (Paul Denham) And he doesn’t forget anything.
A. (Shane Vieau) And he forgets nothing.

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