In the production design industry, Richard Hoover is a legend. We know you most likely haven't heard his name but you've undoubtedly seen some of his work. He's been nominated for an Emmy, won a Tony, and has collaborated with some big Hollywood names like Aaron Sorkin and David Lynch. His role on a film set isn't as known or celebrated as a director, writer or producer, but it's probably the most important one. Without a production designer, shows and movies would cease to exist.
Both of these forms of media are a visual art. The production design for any film or television series is absolutely vital to the plot and overall success of the production. The setting must look absolutely perfect, yet also organic, or viewers won't respond positively. What we see on screen is just as important, if not more so, than what we're hearing from a written script and without a production designer, stories would be lacking an authenticity that creates success.
As a production designer, Hoover's job is to bring to life a director's vision, a writer's words, and a producer's plan to form a cohesive visual creation that everyone agrees on. If that doesn't sound easy, that's because it isn't. As viewers, we rarely put much thought into the design of the set because to us, that's how it's supposed to look.
The production designer oversees the entire art department and is responsible for any design aspect needed to finish a project. This includes scouting filming locations to find the perfect setting. It's finding patterns that will fit the era and the personality of fictional characters. It's sketching your plans and tweaking it hundreds of times to get the perfect set and then implementing it. It involves lighting, fixtures, knickknacks, and an assortment of other items that will make a movie seem real. You make small models and dioramas to get a real-life for example before actually creating a set.
It's a huge job that involves a lot of planning and adaptability but someone has got to do it. We had the pleasure of talking to Hoover about his production design career and what exactly it takes to pull off such a special feat. Hoover never set out to be a production designer but always had a love for a design and a talent for sketching.
After making a documentary in the '80s, Hoover embarked on the NYC film scene and quickly found work designing for a Rob Reiner film along with a friend. From there, he continued booking production design work on independent films. Then he got a job on a television series that changed his career.
Hoover's first notable job was designing the set for the original Twin Peaks in the early '90s. The cult classic is well known for it's eerie, mystical, and supernatural feel. The look of the show is a huge part of that and Hoover was a big part of that success. He also worked on the sets of hit 90s films Dead Man Walking starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, and Girl, Interrupted starring Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder. See? We told you you've seen his work.
More recently he served as the set designer for the HBO drama The Newsroom (his most difficult job), the rom-com Bachelorette starring Kirsten Dunst as well as the comedy Sisters starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Hoover highlighted the fact that as a designer, you never have free reign to do as you please. The production designer works hand in hand with the director, producer and writer. It's all about team work. That's why filmmaking is such a complicated job. Everything needs to pull together to work.
His next big movie project is a romantic comedy called Second Act slated for a December release. Jennifer Lopez stars as a 40-year-old woman who feels stuck in her life and job. Her real-life best friend Leah Remini co-stars as her best friend and Milo Ventimiglia is the man who swoops in during her second act of life.
For this movie, Hoover had to create a big box store (think Costco) and all the details that come with that. He may as well had been a store manager. Still, he pulls it off.
Production design is a complicated art that doesn't get enough recognition. The amount of planning a designer put in can be thrown out in a second for last minute changes. Or just because something doesn't fit. It's grueling physical work that requires the production designer to be involved in every aspect of the film from beginning to end. Hoover loves it. Obviously. He loves the labor he puts in for the end product. And for that we're grateful.
Movies have a special magic that can take us to different worlds that people never could have imagined. Some of these wolds are obviously fictional and beyond our wildest imaginations. Others look like everyday homes and stores that we know and live in. Hoover's legendary design talent has shaped some of pop culture's biggest films. He continues to create quality sets that impress.
The next time you watch a movie or even binge watch something on Netflix, pay attention to the background. Someone obsessed over every single aspect of it and it should be appreciated.