On the 28th May MannIN Shorts welcomed Production Designer Anisha Fields to the Island to run a workshop. Anisha told us of how she is keen to be working on the Island once again;
‘The Isle of Man is a fantastic place to work – visually beautiful and teeming with talented people, passionate about making film. It’s a privilege to work with the network of people I have met in the MannIn Shorts scheme.’
As Anisha is working on ‘Muck’, one of our MannIN Shorts finalist films being shot later this year, the workshop was organised to provide attendees with a rare opportunity; the possibility to not only learn but potentially be selected as an assistants to work within the Art Department on this particular film.
We asked Anisha to explain in her own words what a Production Designer does…
‘ The Production Designer looks after the visual concept of a film. They work closely with the director and the cinematographer to create the visuals, and paint the picture appearing on the screen through set, props and dressing. ”
Muck, the MannIN Shorts film which Anisha is creating the production design for this year, (written by John Craine, directed by Sonya Quayle and Produced by Bev Lawley) tells this story; “Babs is a wife to a frustrated husband and a mother to an autistic son. An incident on the farm forces her into a terrible and life changing choice….“
In terms of the film’s production design, Anisha elaborates,
“It’s a fantastic script, set in the 1950s, and shot in a beautiful farmhouse on the Island. The film is very design led, so it will be an interesting project to work on, and we’re looking for assistants to help us realise our vision for the film.”
Anisha opened the workshop with an introduction to what a Production Designer does, telling us about her background and how she first got into the role.
‘I come from a theatre background, and had never stepped on to a film set until I went out to South Africa to visit a friend who was making a film in Johannesburg. While I was there, I helped out on bits and pieces, and was intrigued by what happened in the Art Department. A few months later someone asked me to design their film for them. I had very little experience, but threw myself into it and learnt a lot. It went from there really..’
In the second half of the workshop, Anisha organised a script breakdown exercise, where she split the room into six groups of five, provided them with an untitled script extract, and asked the attendees to perform an initial production design break down. This involved searching for clues within the text to what mood, feeling or messages the visuals within the frame had to portray.
“We learned how to pick out visual clues from synopsizes, scripts and treatments to enable us to put together an idea of the mood of the piece, costume ideas and settings. It was interesting to see the different interpretations of the same script from the different groups that participated. Although we had a few differences, by and large we all interpreted the script in much of the same way and seeing it on screen post production was very fascinating. This is testament to the great script and the great workshop that Anisha delivered.”
Richard Hird recent MannIN Shorts attendee
To conclude the exercise Anisha showed the group the actual film the scene was from, to illustrate how many of the art direction suggestions the class had made, infact made it to the screen. Here’s a teaser of the actual film we used for the excercise, the Scottish BAFTA nominated film, ‘Blackbird’, which Anisha was production designer on.
The workshop was a huge success, by the end of which, there were 20 newly informed and inspired potential assistants who put their name forward for consideration to assist Anisha. In the coming week, Anisha will select those lucky understudies who will receive training under her guidance benefiting from her expertise.
Post workshop we spoke to a few of those who attended about the potential opportunity to work with Anisha;
“I think it’s great having MannIN shorts offer these opportunities to help you get into working in film, especially to work with Anisha who has worked on award winning films.”
“The opportunity to work on a film with someone like Anisha and gain experience is incredible and I feel very lucky to have the chance.”
Lorna Smith, 18
“To assist Anisha on any project would not only be an honour but a privilege where a lot could be learnt. “
Ian Walton & Angelita Inocencio
Here’s Anisha’s Top Tips for those wishing to explore a career in Production Design and Art Direction for films…
“Prepare to work hard, get involved with as many projects as possible and get passionate about visual storytelling! Go and see stuff to get inspired – film, visual art, theatre – and get creative. Make sure you are drawing, reading, writing, painting… it all fuels the fire.”