“We’ve been a team since doing Terrence Malick’s ‘The New World’ in 2005,” says Fisk. ” ‘The Master’ was unusual in that normally I work as the production designer and David as the art director. But on this, we shared credit as production designers.”
The arrangement worked out because of the film’s multiple locations, which changed as the script evolved.
“We all started out scouting together, and Paul’s very involved in that process,” Crank says. “The original plan was to shoot mostly in L.A., with some side trips to San Francisco and Hawaii, then blend it all into one coherent world. But after we scouted San Francisco for the film’s ship — a cruiser moored in Oakland — we found other great locations up there and presented them to (producer) Daniel Lupe.”
As a result the film ended up shooting for half the schedule in the Bay Area, where the team also found a school in Berkeley that doubled for one in England.
“It was a great system. One of us could prepare the locations up there while the other worked on production in L.A., and vice versa,” Fisk says. “That way, one of us could always be on set.”
The big challenge for the team was creating an authentic late ’40s, early ’50s period look, “when everything’s changed so much.” says Crank. “You start with the cars and wardrobe, then deal with details like lighting fixtures, street signs, road markings.”
Because of the film’s tight $35 million budget, the team achieved a lot “by minimizing and simplifying wherever possible,” says Fisk. “And that became the style of the film.”
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