August 15, 2011 at 08:39
Hi Grimm fans, I'm Michael Wylie and I am Grimm's Production Designer. I make sure that everything looks like it belongs in our world that we have created. Technically I am in charge of all visual aspects of the show. From sets to cars and props to decoration. It all filters through this department. I say "technically" because there are a lot of people who contribute to the look and feel of the show.
I work very closely with the Director of Photography because we are, for the most part, the ones who are most closely involved in each episode. Since there is a different director for each show we are the ones who try and keep a consistency to the project. Obviously the producers are very hands-on with all of the decisions that are made. But it must be said that making a TV show is still a VERY collaborative experience and when one piece of the puzzle is removed it doesn't work the same way.
Each week we work off the script and how much time we have to do our job varies wildly from week to week. I'm usually given some sort of idea of what to expect even if I don't have the whole script at hand. I must say though that the idea phase, the prep, is the most exciting part of the job for me. It's the part where anything is possible and there is no limit to your imagination. I know that it is often short-lived and the realities of time and money creep into the mix but still it's the most fun for someone like me with a lot of silly thoughts and images floating around in my head.
I'd say the most important aspect of my job is interpreting the characters properly and interpreting the intent of the author/director faithfully. People who are good or even great at this job are (in my estimation) a sort of writer. You are given information in the screenplay (sometimes not much) and you give the people and places that inhabit those pages a past and a future and a reason for being. You camouflage them when they are hiding. You give insight into their worlds that drives a story forward. Just like good writing. You also run a fine line between making people look at your work and making sure an audience isn't distracted by it. I could go on for days but I don't want to run the risk of coming across all geeky.
Describing the "look" of Grimm is difficult. You'll see in October that the premiere is rather dark and subdued. It also has a slight storybook quality to it. Since we are shooting in Portland I plan on letting the look and feel of the city itself really dictate some of the look of the show. What they have done here is mix the old with the new. As you walk down the streets you will see an old-timey brick building that has been restored and right next to it is a state-of-the-art glass and steel structure that is very modern. So we will do the same. It won't all look like an illustrated fairy tale book. Maybe sometimes the ogre will live in a penthouse of glass and steel. Yet, there will be subtle nods to the fairy tales in each episode. I think we want the show to be creepy and scary and fairytaley. Again Portland is our cue. It can be very grey and misty here a lot of the times and that will add a perfect backdrop to the creeps and ghouls and monsters that our Grimm is destined to encounter.
My favorite part of this job is the people I work with and the crazy places I end up in. When we are scouting it is amazing sometimes the access we have to places simply by saying we are with a production company. Submarines. Skyscrapers. Private homes that would blow your mind. Inside bridges, etc. And we are all a traveling bunch of carnival workers for the most part. You just meet the most interesting people on these gigs sometimes.
If someone were to ask me what makes a great production designer, I'd say lack of fear of being judged. Lack of fear of people thinking you are odd. A real true understanding of architecture and art history and why things are the way they are. Conviction is helpful. And really good sense of humor goes a long way because these people are crazy in this business!!!