Old-school filmmaking can be lost due to technology: Hollywood production designer

By Sugandha Rawal

New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) Be it “Paranormal Activity 2”, “Insidious: Chapter 2”, “Lights Out” or “The Bye Bye Man”, Jennifer Spence has infused life into many horror and fantasy tales through her set designs. The Hollywood production designer says technology might have opened new facets of storytelling, but it can also lead to the death of old-school filmmaking.

Her latest work is in “Annabelle: Creation”, a film about a demonic doll which Warner Bros Pictures released in India on Friday in four languages, English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

Spence tries to go the traditional way while working on her projects. She says her attempt is to “maintain the integrity of what an old film looks like”.

“I think it (Hollywood) has changed… I think it has changed because of the internet… There are so many people who are available to us across the board,” Spence told IANS over phone from Los Angeles.

“At the same time, old-school filmmaking can be lost because we have so many things like CGI. But for Warner Bros and James Wan (the film’s co-producer), they want us to do old-school as much as possible.

“Annabelle: Creation”, directed by David F. Sandberg, is the fourth film in “The Conjuring” series. It is the prequel to the series, which is based on a haunted doll.

The team made two sets of the house’s interior, and the house for the film was made from scratch with Sandberg’s vision and Spence’s creative inputs. With the film set in 1950, Spence says there was extensive research involved.

“It was a movie for which we had to give a period feel; so for that I really wanted to create the most interesting kind of home. We did a tremendous amount of research and also travelled to different spots in Los Angeles where they have kept some of the older Gothic homes.”

Spence has also worked on projects like “Splinter”, “I Will Follow”, “Paranormal Activity 3” and “Mockingbird”. She credits Wan, who created the universe of horror films like “The Conjuring” and “Insidious”, for recognising her knack for production designing.

“James is a very passionate filmmaker. I first met him on ‘Insidious’ and I wasn’t the production designer. I was an art director for the film. He saw in me something that I may not have seen in myself by that time… That I had an eye for that kind of thing. He wanted me to become a production designer, so every opportunity he gave me has been fantastic.

“I am so grateful to him for that. We have so much fun together. He is such a friendly, honest guy,” she added.

Spence says designing for the horror genre can be challenging, but fun too.

“Designing can be more challenging because it is fantasy, but that makes it way more fun for me. I love the idea of creating new characters in new spaces… Like it is not just about the wall but what is within the walls… It is more interesting for me (to do horror film) at times than doing a regular film because I have way more to do and I am way more involved.”

Spence is also working on “The Nun” — another story from the universe of “The Conjuring”.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

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