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Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)

 


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The Imaginarium of Anastasia Masaro

 

Interview with Production Designer Anastasia Masaro on The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009).

Other than being the last film that Oscar winning actor Heath Ledger acted in, this has to be one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen. David Lynch and Tim Burton have some serious rivalry here on cinematic surrealism. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) is like a walk through a Dali meets Ernst painting, on Absinthe!

 

ME: Hi Anastasia, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me about this film which has left my absolutely in awe. Wow! What was it like to work on the set of such an eye-candy tripped out psychologically symbolic film?

ANASTASIA: We wrapped that movie a while ago now - April 2008. It was one crazy ride. I started in England at the end of September 2007. At first, we worked out of Peerless Studio's offices - every day for 2 weeks meetings to hammer out all the vfx components. Then we moved to a storage facility somewhere south of the river - 6 and 7 days a week to battle the short amount of prep. The wagon was being built at Pinewood which was sometimes an hour away, sometimes 3 hours away depending on traffic. Everything was down to the millisecond - I remember dressing the wagon with Caroline (set decorator in UK) and her crew 'til midnight the night before the first day of camera. I can't imagine they made it home before 3am. I then flew to Vancouver to start prep there for all our studio builds (the wagon was built in the UK and then shipped to Vancouver, minus the chassis). We had about 8 locations in London and an additional 6 locations to shoot in Vancouver. It was meeting after meeting to prep the Vancouver component since I was the one holding all the info and had been the only one working in London. We made great progress in very little time - I had a fantastic crew. Terry and the gang arrived and then... the much publicized and tragic demise of Heath. Time stopped that day and work stopped for a couple more after that. Terry held a meeting indicating we would somehow forge on, that he would work it out. So, the art, set dec, construction and scenic paint departments kept working. Full prep resumed and it was a crazy rush. We held 3 studios but, they weren't enough - sets were shot, torn down within hours and replaced. Adding to the pressure was that the construction shop was tiny and wedidn't have a single set fully pieced together until it was installed in studio. The most worrisome one was the monastery set, our largest. We had 4 days to install it - our longest amount of install time. It went in perfectly,looked beautiful and my crew all looked at each other and thought the same thing - thank God! It all ended rather quickly, it seems now looking back. But, it took us all some time to truly be at peace with it.

ME: What was it like to work with Terry Gilliam? I'd love to know any funny anecdotes you have of him and his amazing yet crazy vision. I mean, his films are a like peek into his head and what a fantastic chaotic place it appears tobe!

ANASTASIA: Terry loves to work in chaos! He's incredibly smart, thinks incredibly fast and can be incredibly charming - a mercurial creature who is Parnassus in real life. The best way to describe the way he works is from a memory from when we were shooting "Tideland". We're on a technical scout, about 30 of us. All trailing behind this 60 year old man who is practically running up and down hills deciding on angles and vantage points while we chase after him breathlessly. He was the same in Vancouver on the tech scout - you blink, you lose him. Up a street he'd run. You need to be quick-thinking and fast on your feet with Terry, or you'll simply be left behind.

ME: LOL! Can you tell us a bit about what a Production Designer does? I mean, everyone knows about the actors, the director, the producers, but no one ever speaks about the crucial job of Production Designer.

ANASTASIA: Essentially, my job as production designer is to bring the director's vision to life. It all starts with the script . With a Terry Gilliam film, the script gives you much more to work with then, say, a romantic comedy or contemporary drama. You can easily visualize the ideas. However, we all envision different things. So, we have conversations, talk about drawings and ideas to marry them all into what the director wants. Manydirectors (like Terry, Tim Burton, Wes Anderson) already have an aesthetic they're known for. My job is to design within their aesthetic, if that is what they want. The style is decided and then I design the sets keeping that inmind. Not all sets are built from scratch. Some sets are modified locations. In that case, I have conversations with the director to talk about what we're looking for and then I scout locations with the location manager which we thenadapt for filming.

ME: So cool! It's such an important job!  What got you into working in production, and film for that matter?

ANASTASIA: My dad used to take me to the movies a lot - especially to watch the Indiana Jones movies and The Bond movies. When I got older, I got addicted to Metropolis and anything Roger Corman (especially starring Vincent Price). Older still, I caught The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and, though, that's it.

ME: Any ideas what you think you will be doing next, even if the slightest inkling?

ANASTASIA:  Not sure what I'm doing next. It hasn't chosen me yet.

ME: Great answer!...Okay, last but not least, I have to ask. Do you have anything to say about Heath Ledger and working with him on his last ever film? Only if you want to say something of course...

ANASTASIA: I didn't have much contact with Heath. By the time filming started in London, I'd run off to Vancouver to start prep there. I first met him in the office in London. He was very quiet. But, when the crew came over from London, they had all great things to say - that he was incredibly nice and worked very hard. He had worked through the hanging stunt on Blackfriars Bridge all night, in the cold and rain without uttering a complaint. For me, I watched the dailies and I thought he was not only a wonderful actor but a kind and generous one as well.

ME: Thanks you so much, Anastasia. This has meant a lot to me. Your work is nothing short of genius; to bring the director's vision to life is no small feat. I can't wait to see what new worlds you will bring from fantasy to reality. And when it finds you, we'll be watching. :-)

Interview by Vanessa McMahon on July 24, 2010

 

Production Designer Anastasia Masaro

 

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