Anne Seibel is a production designer who attended the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture, DESA in Paris. She has worked on many feature films including ‘Midnight in Paris’ with Woody Allen and ‘Marie Antoinette’ with Sofia Coppola. In 2012 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her work on ‘Midnight in Paris’ The film was his most successful in 25 years and won Woody his third Oscar for Best Writing for Screenplay. She also designed his latest film ‘To Rome With Love’ which opened the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Anne began her career working as an Art Director on mainly American productions that filmed abroad in France. She has worked on Clint Eastwood’s ‘Hereafter’ Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich’ and David Frankel’s ‘The Devil Wears Prada’
Here she discusses with Louise Leverett her influences behind the work, her style and expression of creativity and the cultures that drive it.
LL: Let’s go right back to the beginning. At what moment in your life did you decide that you wanted to be an Art Director? Can you pinpoint it?
AS: I did not really decide, life decided for me. I think when I go back in time I was 5 years old when I started building sets for muppet shows we were doing with my cousins and sisters in the garage of our parents. Then I was dancing and every show we were doing was an occasion for me to design the set on stage. My first one was when I was 15.
LL: But was there a point where you thought it would be possible to make this your career and focus solely on an artistic path?
AS: Yes, when I was studying Architecture not aware of the production design job, I had been invited to see a film shooting with a friend and I realized looking at the art director working on set that I would love to do that kind of job. Especially because it was like what I had done since I was a teenager without realizing.
I was supposed to become a doctor…I was so happy to think I could make money and have fun doing my job. Then I did everything possible to enter the movie industry which was not at all my family environment.
LL: In terms of the process, are there set markers you like to follow within your process or does it happen quite organically from film to film?
AS: Every film is different, but what remains on each film, if possible, is my team. We have a way of working that allows me to be creative as the logistic and fabrication is organized for me. Sharing ideas and discussing is very productive. It depends as well on the director and Director of Photography I have. Sometime it is a collective creation. Sometime I have total “carte blanche” and let my intuition drive the creative process.
LL: Since the beginning of your career have you found that your process has changed or evolved?
AS: Some things have changed since I started. The new technologies arrived and especially Digital Images. The VFX have taken some space in the creative process. We have to adjust and make sure the final look of a film matches what we had in mind. It is as well a fantastic tool and I love to learn it as I continue my route designing
LL: Throughout this time has there been a person or particular influence which has made an impact on your creativity?
AS: My mentor, Rick Carter. Not only because he is a fantastic artist but as well because he is a marvelous human being, a philosopher. Our conversations helped me a lot when I started designing. He is like a Godfather for me.
LL: And whom do you look to for inspiration?
AS: Maybe it is more an inside search with a lot of artistic immersion, painters, photographers, nature…
LL: You’ve worked with a lot of mainstream directors namely Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola. Is it sometimes difficult to find your own creative voice within their style or do you to some extent still have an element of creative freedom?
AS: With Sofia, history has driven our creativity with some strong ideas that Sofia wanted to take some liberties with colors, props and music. But with Woody Allen, I have total freedom. He gives me a few words about what he wants to say with the story and then off he goes to come back to film. I share ideas, photos, drawings with him and he has most of the time agreed and let me even have an impact on the script locations when I found nice, unusual locations to film.
LL: In terms of this collaboration within the film process is there anything that still surprises you today?
AS: Yes the professionalism of some Directors and the way they work with such a simple and effective way, being so humble like Woody, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg…Masters!
What is surprising me at the moment is the way technology is going. Everything is so fast. Soon we will be living like in a science fiction movie
LL: On a personal note, do you see your own culture and background, your roots, influencing your creativity in any way?
AS: Absolutely, I saw that when I worked for ‘Road Movie’. The Indian director wanted to mix my culture with his to give a different look to the film. I think it is really what the movie reflects. I realize as well that the way I have been brought up, my interest for various fields’ give me the ability to express it and it show in my design whether it is obvious or subtle. It is there.
LL: A lot of artists credit other artistic elements as influences. Do you use music, for example, as a point of reference for your work and if so, what pieces inspire you most?
AS: I can’t say I use music as a point of reference but I use it to get deep down inside myself and concentrate.
LL: Depending on the project, do you find that different cultures inform or influence your work?
AS: What I love the most in my job is to discover people and culture. I am lucky to be able to meet all kinds of people in the world. I am totally drawn to Indian culture. Asia in general is interesting me. China is a mystery I should jump in. I would love to visit Butan.
LL: You mentioned travelling for your work. When you’re in your studio I would imagine you are very much in your own world. Do you find it easier or harder when you go away for your work?
AS: I do not have a personal studio in Paris, just an office with lots of books as I am constantly on the road and I love it. My country home is my universe where I have my own world and secret garden.
LL: Do you find other art forms or artists influential?
AS: Yes, photographers, architects, designers, light, philosophy.
LL: Your career has spanned many years and many films, when you look to the future what are the fundamental factors that you hope to navigate towards professionally? Are there specific things you’d still like to achieve?
AS: I just want to continue to work with people I like or admire, with my favorite team. Like the conductor of an orchestra I would like to play the right music to enhance and create the vision of directors I like. I would love to design a fairytale and express without barrier or money issues the creativity burning in me.
LL: And finally, if you are the centre of your world, what makes your world turn?
AS: Love, family and friendship.