With the release of Code 8 last week, we got the opportunity to talk to the incredibly talented production designer Chris Crane. Crane’s credits include films such as Disappearance at Clifton Hill, Run This Town, and Operation Avalanche. Crane talked to us about his involvement with Code 8, as well as what lightsaber color he’d have.
Read our interview below, and make sure to check out Code 8 now! It’s available on most on demand platforms.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you talk a bit about how you first got involved with Code 8?
Crane: I had met with director Jeff Chan years before to potentially production design the short film version of Code 8. That production ended up moving to Los Angeles to shoot so it was quite surprising for my agent to contact me with the interview for the feature film version. I watched the short film version (which was both very good and completely different from the original short film treatment I had read), put a mood board together and met with Jeff. He remembered me from our meeting the few years before and liked my visuals and ideas. He hired me on soon after.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you breakdown what a day was like on the set of Code 8?
Crane: A day on the set of Code 8 would usually start with me on set, making sure the correct graphics for that day were dropped off and that the set decorating team was good. We had a lot of signage and coverups, especially in our exterior locations, and since this is supposed to be “Lincoln City” and not Toronto (where we shot), we always needed to make sure we masked that fact whenever we could. Then I would grab a scone/muffin and a coffee, before heading back to the production office. There, I would go over the upcoming builds with the Art Director, Andrea Kristof, and go over graphics with the graphic designers Stuart Pearce and Joël Guzman. Then lunch, then more coffee, then getting more graphics to set or going over set dressing pics with the Set Decorator David Gruer and the Sets Buyer Laura Keightley, or picking paint colors for the scenic painters, led by Christien Edgecombe. I would basically ping all over the place, trying to keep on top of many moving parts that went into creating the look of Code 8. Also, special shout out to the incredible Props Master that is Vic Rigler. Vic did the main shoot and we were so lucky he was available and wanted to do this show.
Nerds and Beyond: What sort of challenges did you face on Code 8?
Crane: Some challenges I faced on Code 8 were usually related to locations. We had a very specific idea of what the different areas of the fictional Lincoln City were supposed to look like, but due to time, and logistics, we did not always find locations that were in line with this. So it was up to the Art Department, including Set Dec and Construction, to find solutions for this, either with set builds, partial set builds, painting and/or graphics to get these spaces to be what they needed to be. This ended up being so much more fun and creative and gave us some really interesting looks that we otherwise would never have thought of or done.
Nerds and Beyond: This film takes place in a world we don’t know. Was it easier to design around that or harder?
Crane: It was both. It was harder, because we wanted to switch out as many street signs, parking signs and license plates that we could. Constantly adding graphics, even to the deep background, to keep the idea that this was another kind of place, could be hard to maintain. I was obsessed with full parking pay meter cover ups and just kept having them re-ordered, because there are so many of these meter parking things in Toronto. The easier part was that we had freedom to play with this world. We created the look of the Lincoln City logo and license plates. What the police cruisers would look like, what the local street drug logo was, and even what the soda pop brand in this universe was (it’s Sash Soda, we put it wherever we could!). Creating those little world building details is so fun and creative — my team really enjoyed that aspect of Code 8 quite a bit.
Nerds and Beyond: Was there a scene, moment, or set from Code 8 that you’re most proud of the way it came together?
Crane: There are so many scenes, because so many people worked so hard on every element. But I did really like how the first Psyke raid (a drug used in this universe) turned out. We had to have a wall removed in the location; but the walls had asbestos in them, so we had to get a special removal company in. After that, we had to figure out a door getting punched in gag, what set dressing to bring in, and creating a secret back room. The DOP, Alex Disenhof, could not really put lights in the space, because of the way the camera needed to move and follow the action, so he only lit through the apartments windows, which ended up looking amazing. Normally you would build the whole thing as a set, to have the space to move, but we crammed the crew and set dressing into this odd shaped apartment and the scene turned out so well. I think the limitations helped everyone find creative ways to bring the scene together.
Nerds and Beyond: How did you get involved in production design? Was it something you went to school for?
Crane: I got involved in production design through a series of random events. I had made some short films in high school, where I learned that I enjoyed setting up the scenes with certain items, and having people wear certain wardrobe. I ended up going to University, for just one year, for photography. I was able to stage some fun photoshoots, but ultimately it was not for me. I then ended up at H&M, when they first began opening locations in Canada. It was a big deal, back in 2006, to be doing windows for their Yorkdale and then flagship Eaton Centre location. But it was the work I did on a friend from University’s low budget feature film that caught the attention of my good friend Nazgol Goshtasbpour. She had studied film, and we had shared some classes in the one year I attended University. I had helped her on some of her films, and we had remained friends. She was beginning production design and I was looking for a new career. She brought me on to one of the first features she production designed. I was the set decorator, having no idea what that even was, and handled props. I basically learned on the job. I made about $1,250.00 for over two months of work, but I learned enough on that shoot to see that this was something I wanted to pursue.
Nerds and Beyond: What is your favorite thing about being a production designer?
Crane: My favorite part about being a production designer would have to be working with other creative people to essentially create something out of nothing. After every project I look back on what we achieved and cannot believe we did it. Things I read in the script, or discussed with the director, that, at the time, I had no clue how we were going to pull off, were now completed. I love the creativity, the collaboration, and the feeling of seeing it all completed.
Nerds and Beyond: You have a variety of credits including television and film. What are the differences between planning and working on a film versus a television series?
Crane: Film feels very finite and like you are completing one person’s vision. I tend to work with writer/directors when doing feature films, so they tend to be the main voice and driving force behind the project. There are lots of other people involved, but there tends to be 2-4 main people you can go to, or bounce ideas off of, or solve problems with. Like with Code 8, there was a core group of people that you could really discuss ideas with. For television, there is a hired director, or directors, there are different writers for different scenes or episodes. I like TV, but it does not always feel as intimate as a film shoot does.
Nerds and Beyond: Since we’re a nerdy site, what’s something you “nerd out” about?
Well, I’m more of a horror movie, mostly slasher flick, nerd. I have seen all the Friday the 13th films way too many times. I used to be able to recite every character and how they were killed in each film. I know way too much about the pre-Rob Zombie Halloween films (I have a special place in my heart for number five) and was a huge Scream nerd back in high school (Scream 2 is my fav!!!). I want to keep going on and on, but I will stop myself for your benefit.
Nerds and Beyond: Lastly, we ask this question to everyone we interview — what color would your lightsaber be and why?
Crane: I think purple — it’s kind of rare and interesting, Samuel L. Jackson wielded it, and I like that it can mean you are teetering a bit towards the dark side. Keeps things interesting BUT you generally choose to do good (I totally looked this up — I didn’t even remember there was a purple lightsaber color!?! So cool!)