The Hour

Production Designer – Eve Stewart

After graduating from Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, and later The Royal College of Art with a masters in Architecture, Eve Stewart began her career in theatre design. She met director Mike Leigh while working at London’s Hampstead Theatre and became his art director for films Naked (1993) and Secret & Lies (1996). She then became the production designer for Topsy-Turvy (1999) for which she was Oscar nominated.

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The film required a recreation of the Savoy Theatre in the Richmond Theatre, London. Eve Stewart photographed original samples of wallpaper from the Savoy Theatre kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum so that she could recreate them later for Topsy-Turvy.

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In films such as Vera Drake (2004) Mike Leigh would often not use a script, so Eve Stewart would interview each member of the cast for an hour while they were in character to help with her research. She says her role as a production designer means she is ‘responsible for everything that appears in the film: locations, scenery, props, graphics, coordinating other departments such as costume and make-up to make sure it’s all part of the same visual world.’ (Hudson, M. 2011).

In 2005 she worked on the mini series Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren and directed by Tom Hooper. She later worked with Tom Hooper on The Damned United (2009) and The King’s Speech (2010).

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Her most recognised work is for The King’s Speech, for which she was again Oscar nominated. She was one of the first people to get involved in the film, having previously worked with the director Tom Hooper. She uses her sketches as a form of brainstorming which she can then show the director. This is often her first step in the design process, which she uses to narrow down her further choices.

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The most talked about set in particular was Logue’s office and what is often referred to as ‘that wall’. Eve Stewart explains her design choices in her interview with the ICG Magazine (The International Cinematographers Guild):

Logue’s office was the only “bright spot” in the early scenes, contrasted by the dank waiting area. Why did you decide to do that? The film needed opening up at that point as Bertie’s world was opening, too. This character Logue is quite theatrical, down to some of his larger-than-life techniques. The room fed that. The place seemed like a beautiful garage where great ideas and notions are born. The skylights signified their being looked down on by eyes of the world. Textures were really important to show the layers of people who’d been there before. (ICG Magazine, 2011)

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She also talked about her working relationship with the film’s director of photography, Danny Cohen, who hosted a BAFTA Masterclass on Cinematography that I attended earlier in the year.

‘The DoP is very influential. It’s a subtle relationship – a bit like a spider dance. You wander around each other till you know what makes the other one excited and what visual references you can both engage on. It’s quite intricate: [Cinematographers and production designers] have to feed into each other and offer the things that each needs.’ (ICG Magazine, 2011)

You can read my post on the Danny Cohen’s talk here.

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Eve Stewart believes that the relationship with her team is very important and she often tries to work with people she has worked with before. She finds that develops a short hand of communication with people she has a good relationship with. For The King’s Speech, there seems to be a lot of mutual choices in the design.

‘I’m a great lover of practical lighting and Tom and Danny were keen on sources being real and not contrived. We used original lamps and old light bulbs still being made in Poland with right elements so they didn’t look modern at all.’ (ICG Magazine, 2011)

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This love for authentic lighting is also evident in the BBC mini-series The Hour (2011-2012) for which her design was nominated for an award by the Art Directors Guild.

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You can watch a behind the scenes featurette about The Hour below.

Eve Stewart has just finished work on the musical Les Misérables, again with the director Tom Hooper. Take a look at the Craft Featurette on the production design below.

References:

  1. Hudson, M. (2011). Baftas 2011: sketches of The King’s Speech. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/baftas/8319022/Baftas-2011-sketches-of-The-Kings-Speech.html. Last accessed 2013-01-09
  2. Admin, (2011). Eve Stewart. Available: http://www.icgmagazine.com/wordpress/2011/02/02/eve-stewart/. Last Accessed 2013-01-08

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