Regardless of your discipline within the entertainment industry, certain necessities remain ever-present. Quick project turnarounds, for example, are often required of you, but so is the need to collaborate with other professionals.
We’ve shared multiple stories about how you can leverage Vectorworks to improve collaboration. Check out a couple of them below:
But don’t just take our word for it! Entertainment industry veterans Dawn Snyder, Beouwulf Boritt, and Michael Klaers also have advice for you. Continue reading for their tips on working with directors, writers, builders, and more.
Dawn Snyder, Art Director and Production Designer | Collaborating with Directors, Producers, and Writers
Dawn Snyder is an artist who’s worked on massive productions like Arrested Development. Snyder also devotes much of her time to the education of other designers, being named the director of education for the Art Directors Guild in September of 2021.
Dawn Snyder. Image courtesy of Dawn Snyder.
Working as an art director and production designer for nearly 40 years, Snyder has a wealth of experience working with directors, producers, and other designers.
While working as a production designer, Snyder remarked how a producer always tried to “haggle” with her as much as possible on a budget for her set designs. Her solution to such haggling was ensuring the director and writers approved the sets.
By serving the story, Snyder was able to bring her design project to life. She now teaches this to her students at the American Film Institute: “The script is really our bible, and that sets the tone,” she said.
“Because it’s scripted, television and film are narrative-driven. So, for me to understand the characters and get in the heads of the characters is important. And I like to design from that aspect, whether it’s the lonely farmhouse on the Iowa plains and what that family is going through, being isolated and struggling with the land. How does that inform the space that they’re living in?”
As an art director, nearly all of her day was spent checking in with all those involved in the production, whether it be visual effects, special effects, set dressing, the production designer, or even props.
And with such a demanding number of interactions, Snyder stressed a balance between conceding on creative decisions and still proving one’s artistic vision. “Once they trust my decision-making process and that I’m showing them and being transparent about everything I’m interested in, they let me go.”
Beowulf Boritt, Set Designer | Collaboration in the World of Broadway Theatre
Beowulf Boritt is a Tony Award-winner who’s been referred to as “feverishly inventive” by the New York Times, “miraculous” by the New Yorker, and even as “a genius guy who does crazy sets” by the great Mel Brooks.
With so much experience in the world of theatre, it’s no wonder Boritt has lots of advice for other designers. So much so, in fact, that he published a book, Transforming Space Over Time: Set Design and Visual Storytelling with Broadway’s Legendary Directors.
The designer, for example, feels that the key to getting into the crowded industry is to network with passion and build connections wherever possible. “If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it.”
Boritt remembers that when he got out of graduate school, he met Hal Prince, a legend of American theatre. Boritt sent Prince postcards, resumes, and letters for nearly 10 years before he finally got a chance to work with the director.
Beowulf Boritt. Image courtesy of Beowulf Boritt.
Boritt feels collaboration in commercial and Broadway theatre is “magic.” The designer prefers when projects are more open, leading to a final product being greater than the sum of its parts.
“There’s no point in having a brilliant idea that has nothing to do with what your director wants to do,” he said bluntly. “It’ll just be a mess.”
The designer also values collaboration with the production manager and recommends frequent collaboration and communication. “When building a set, I’m in the shop a fair amount,” he said.
In a perfect world, Boritt explained, his relationship with those executing his vision should be as collaborative as his one with the director. If an idea of his isn’t practically possible or within budget, the production team can help create new solutions and offer alternatives that still help the project come to life.
Just as an idea that isn’t in line with a director’s vision isn’t practical, neither is a set that is all style and no function.
Michael Klaers, Lighting Designer | Working with Corporations Using a Theatre Background
Few designers have as interesting and eclectic of a resume as Michael Klaers. A Vectorworks expert, Klaers does drafting for an architectural firm while also doing lighting design for projects for regional theatres, performative dance, and corporate events.
Michael Klaers. Image Courtesy of Michael Klaers.
When working in theatre, Klaers’ encourages other designers to have conversations with collaborators around how they can put a unique spin on a piece of work. “Hamlet has been done many times before. What do we have to add?” he said.
Designing for corporate events is very different, Klaers points out. There’s no source material to reference like there is in theatre. Instead, Klaers is asking his collaborators what message they want to deliver, what experience they want an audience to have, and other, more logistical considerations.
Klaers advises designers to communicate with grace and generosity when working on corporate gigs. “Nobody sets out to do a bad show,” he added.
And if you’re a lighting designer looking for even more advice on taking your designs to the next level, check out one of our free webinars on Vectorworks University.
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