interview with

(Production Designer

Please describe the responsibilities of the Production Designer.

The responsibility of the Production Designer is to have visual control of the film, first you create a concept, then you design the sets within these concepts, after that, you have to work with your team to build sets and decorate the sets without losing any one of the ideas that are created during the design period. Then you have to supervise that those concept are the ones that the audience watch in the film.

How did you become involved in this project?

They (Russell Mulcahy, Jeremy Bolt and Paul Anderson) sent me the script and then we had a meeting. We had a great connection and immediately we started working on the first ideas. When we started working together we decided we could make a cool film with a lot of visual attraction.

Was it difficult coming into the 3rd installment of this film or was it easier, why?

I always liked the Resident Evil look. The videogames and the movies have their own code and I really like that code, but this film is completely different. It’s a post apocalyptic film. The world is filled with sand. It’s shot in daylight and that’s unique for a zombie movie. It is unique as well that the action occurs in the desert. I had a lot of freedom to create, to put my own obsessions in the set pieces.

How much did you reference the videogame even though film has a different code?

I took references from the other movies. I took references from the videogame as well. I read a lot of literature about Resident Evil. I wanted to have some continuity of what the previous two films offer in terms of design. Also what the videogame offers visually. We know there are a lot of people that are fans of Resident Evil so we’ve decided to put little details on every set for the people who know about the game. These details are semi-hidden and only real fans will know they’re there for them. I gave the fans little clues so they could discover them.

How did you work with Russell in creating the look of this film?

I always felt that Russell liked what I was doing and he was very supportive. In every process there are times when things become a little tense and I think the most important thing is to be involved with people who trust you, and he trusted me since the first day. We talked a lot about the sets. We did a lot of drawings on black and white first, once we liked the shape of the set pieces we were designing, we added in color and effects to those drawings. It wasn’t a very long pre-production, but it was very intense. We had a whole team of sketch artists and conceptual artists to put on paper what we were creating everyday.

Did you have specific themes you wanted to work with?

The textures were really important to me in this film. There are two environments, two very different environments. One is outside, in the world that is abandoned. This part of the film had to be heavily textured. Lots of rust, faded colors and sand blasted surfaces, chaos and destruction. The other part, the design for the umbrella’s facilities that are located under the surface of the earth, is very high tech. Shiny surfaces, glass, black and white, concrete exposed, aluminium, well designed lines in the architecture and light features.

What challenges did you face in accomplishing the look of this film?

One of the main challenges was to work in the desert. It was visually astonishing but it was very difficult, with extreme conditions of weather and temperature for work. All my team, all the construction guys, set decoration guys had an enormous job there. First they create a road in the sand to get just below the sand dunes. Then they work hours under the sun. We had shade and a full kit of beverages for dehydration but anyway; you have to be aware when you’re working in the desert. There were a lot of sets that we had to create in a small period of time because the pre-production was short, so we were working extra hours everyday to conceptualize and design sets while we were shooting. The other difficult part was that we had to divide the production in two parts. We shot exteriors in the northern part of Mexico, and all the interiors were shot in a studio in Mexico City. So there was a part of the shooting that my team and I had to travel back and forth from Mexically to Mexico City to supervise the construction in the stages. And as in every movie, the main challenge is to give the audience a believable world. And a world that the characters feel that they belong to the sets that you’re designing for them.

What is your favorite part of the process?

I love the conceptual part. I love the very beginning when you’re creating from zero and you close your eyes and suddenly you’re imagining spaces and shapes. The other part that I love is when you’re giving the final touches to the set before everybody starts coming to see it. When you decide that your set is exactly like the one you’re delivering. That you’re not adding anything, but nothing is missing.

Do you have a least favorite part of the process?

Of course, when you create a world, you have to build it, and that has a cost. It’s the part of the process that you have to deal with the reality of the figures. I don’t deal with that directly, but everything I’m creating has to fit in a certain budget or a certain week of shooting or weeks of pre-production and I really suffer a lot when we’re in that part of the process.

Is there a specific scene you’re most proud of? Why?

I think that the Las Vegas strip is a huge and unique set piece. It is very extreme, very difficult. That’s the one I like a lot. The other one I like a lot is the desert trail motel, where the bird attack takes place. We created a gas station with a motel and a diner, a full road and billboards, all this set was built in the base of the sand dunes so the impression that everybody gets is that the dunes have moved and start to bury the motel. It was very impressive to be there, with this wild and powerful landscape. I really enjoyed creating that one. When we finished it, it was a very scary sensation. Plus, everything was abandoned and the feeling was that something tragic had happened in that place.

How did your previous work prepare you for this project?

Every film you do, every film you design, you learn certain things and you add tools that you use in your next project. You learn how to put your creative ideas into a practical process. The last movie I did before Resident Evil was Pan’s Labyrinth and those films have certain similarities. First of all, both worlds were created from scratch. Both had the interiors on a stage and a lot built on exterior locations like the forest in Pan’s Labyrinth and the desert here in Resident Evil, so the process was similar. Also the way that I approached them was very similar. First comes the concept. Once you have the concept you have certain parameters to design, you start with the shapes then you start adding the color and creating the palette, which I think is the bible for a Production Designer.

You won an Oscar for your work on Pan’s Labyrinth. This film received such acclaim. How did it feel to receive such an honor for your work?

Of course every award is recognition to your work. But I’ve always said that I do movies because I can’t do anything else. I do not want to do anything else. I love to tell stories from the visual perspective. Pan’s Labyrinth had been so well accepted and so many people saw it. For me that’s even more important than the Oscar. I always appreciate the possibility of getting an award. It’s always an honor, but for me the most important thing is that I really love the film, and the way people in different parts of world react to it. Every person takes something different from that film: a man from Mexico, 35 years old, connects to certain things, a grandmother from Japan connects to other things and people from the United States connect to other things. That’s my biggest reward, to know that all the work you’ve done is reflected on the screen and touched the people.

What projects do you have coming up?

I did a film in Mexico called Rudo y Cursi. There was a good team of Mexicans working on this film together, Gael Garcia, Diego Luna, the producers are Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Guillermo Del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron and Carlos Cuaron, the brother of Alfonso, directed it. Luckily, I have some projects so I have to make some decisions in the next few days.