A way into the world of design

A way into the world of design

Thursday, 16th December 2021
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The RTS centre held a series of “Breaking into media” sessions throughout November, including two sessions on television production design. 

Bafta award-winning production designer Joel Collins, whose credits include BBC One/HBO fantasy drama His Dark Materials, was in conversation with Falmouth University’s head of television and film, Kingsley Marshall.  

Collins explained that the role went way beyond an “opportunity to sketch and draw, visualise stuff and wear a cravat”. Instead, Collins explained, “you’re like a ringmaster of a circus, which is really more complex than anyone realises”. 

Offering advice to a student wanting to keep set costs to a minimum, Collins said: “Good taste doesn’t cost anything, so ‘less is more’ is my suggestion. Every time you want to do more, you are probably taking a risk that it will start to look less.” 

He advised people new to the TV industry: “Know how to be invisible… while you’re watching and learning…. [Don’t go] barrelling in and go, ‘I’m special’.” 

Two behind-the-camera talents from Bridgerton – ­production designer Will Hughes-Jones and standby art director Dave Crewdson – offered further valuable insights into TV craft.  

The duo, who have just wrapped filming on series 2 of the Netflix period drama, were in conversation with Plymouth College of Art senior lecturer Chris Bailey. 

“I’m basically the art department representative on set – Will is effectively my boss,” explained Crewdson, who was speaking from a prop truck. “Every [prop] that’s in the script… that needs to be there for a scene, you make sure it’s there.” 

“I’m normally the first boots on the ground, quite often before even the directors are employed, especially when you’re doing a big, streaming TV show,” said Hughes-Jones.  

“It’s a big team effort…. My position is at the top of a very big pyramid, with a lot of people supporting it. There are a lot of positions in an art department and set decoration team,” he continued. 

Hughes-Jones and Crewdson broke down their work on a scene from the historical drama The Spanish Princess to show the huge breadth of their input to a series. 

It is a high-pressure job, said Hughes-Jones: “You have to experience the pressure that you’re put under doing these roles… it’s not something that you can really teach people. 

“You have to leave college with an open mind and know that, although you may have a first-class honours degree in design for film and TV, it’s a gateway into doing the job – you can’t just go in and think you can do it just like that. Be attentive, listen and take note of what people are telling you. We’re very keen to push people forward because the industry at the moment is saturated with work… but don’t run before you can walk.”  

Report by Matthew Bell.