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Creating the Look: ‘Synecdoche, New York’

Production designer Mark Friedberg moved by script

Fifteen pages into the script of “Synecdoche, New York,” production designer Mark Friedberg was deeply moved, though even now he can’t exactly say why.

“It was overwhelming and emotional and confusing and beautiful,” says Friedberg. “I wanted to be part of it, even though it left me with more questions every time I read it.”

The film takes the audience on a surreal journey with a theater director mounting a new production. To create helmer Charlie Kaufman’s vision of that journey — a landscape that involved placing structures within structures — Friedberg worked closely with art director Adam Stockhausen and VFX supervisor Mark Russell.

“Charlie is a very deliberate director and writer,” says Friedberg. “Even though we’re not saying that what happens in this film is a dream, we wanted to employ a dream vernacular; we had to make sure that feeling was consistent.”

Kaufman wanted to move from an actual set to a digital representation at certain points during production, so Friedberg and Russell worked with the helmer to create compatible real and digital worlds.

“We chose colors, angles and anything we could so that when you go to the digital set, you hopefully don’t notice it at all,” says Friedberg. “Adam was tasked with taking our designs and making them happen.”

Friedberg loved working on such an ambitious film. “It’s amazing to be part of something where the director wants to create a great, honest piece of work,” says Friedberg.

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