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Brent Lambert (set designer) - Immortals

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Brent Lambert's education was deeply rooted in architecture, philosophy and science, which has given him a strong understanding of design. He has ten years of experience in the motion picture industry, an intensely creative and fast-paced working environment. He has also edited the website since 2010. Other film credits include: Gothika (2003), 300 (2006), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). Brent also worked on the visual development and design of Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour (2010-2011). Darren Rea caught up with him as Immortals was due for release on Blu-ray and DVD...

Darren Rea: When you were originally studying for your Bachelor of Architecture degree did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that you'd be working in this profession?

Interview imageBrent Lambert: No, not at the start. It was a theory based school and it was a five years program and as the years went I realised that a lot of the other students were going off in to other directions such as music, painting or directing.

A few of them went into film, in various cities, in set design and I had an opportunity to follow a fellow graduate who got me onto a small TV show after I graduate and it went on from there. Then that turned into film... and now it's been ten years [laughs].

DR: Typically when are you brought on board in a movie's production?

BL: Usually the set designers get brought on right at the beginning. The producer will hire a production manager in the city where it's being shot. There's two people that are hired first: the production manager and the supervising art director, so there's left brain and right brain action going on [laughs] - art is the right brain. The production designer, who can come from anywhere in the world, will work with the supervising art director who will be from the city the movie is being filmed, in this case Montreal. In this case the supervising art director was Michele Laliberte, and she was responsible for getting the set designers together.

We're usually the first people to get started and because of that we're usually among the first to finish by the time the movie starts the sets are usually completed. Some of us will stick around for some time after.

DR: Do you constantly feel the pressure of that looming deadline for completion? And is there ever enough time and money?

Interview imageBL: Sometimes when the budget gets cut it opens doors for other interesting challenges. When the budget does get cut there are moments when it does get heart breaking, but then other things happen that would have never happened.

DR: What were you responsible for working on in Immortals?

BL: The shrine on the top of the dam, which protected the city, at the end of the film, that was a big thing for me. On the top of the dam you look to the right and it was sort of the entrance to Mount Olympus - the giant sacred cave inside where the Titans were being imprisoned. The ochre coloured shrine was a big thing. The boat was another big thing for me. The boat was interesting because Tarsem [director Tarsem Singh] planned out certain moments in the film where he was transiting from one scene to another. There's a top shot of the boat that transfers into a mask worn by Mickey Rourke's character. So the boat design developed along the same path as the development of Eiko Ishioka's [costume designer] mask design. If you look at them close, they're the same sort of structure; the same design.

That was really fun, to work on a project where so many things like that were happening, where the design of the sets, or certain elements, were coming out of preconceived connections to other parts of the film. That was really fun.

DR: Of all the projects you've been involved with, which would you say you were most proud of?

Interview imageBL: I would say 300, I think, would probably be my favourite one so far, or The Fountain, for different reasons.

For 300 it was sort of an interesting situation because we had a film that was coming to the city and no body had heard much about Zack Snyder [director] before so we had a sort of strange project where the actors were on set basically in their underwear, shouting all these crazy lines. We didn't realise at the time how special it was. It was sort of this playground and that was really amazing. I did a lot of work on King Leonidas's throne, so that was a big responsibility for me. Working on that was really neat because it was so true to the graphic novel that we were designing certain sets and objects directly from the graphic novel. Zack was so ahead of his time. To see someone putting that much care and progressive experimentation into that sort of project... it was like Immortals...

There was a moment in 300 where there was a battle and he developed a technique where he had a pole which had three cameras on it. They were all aimed in the same direction, but they were all at different focal lengths. So that zooming in and swishing in and out had never been done before. Everybody gets excited and it contaminates throughout the production when you have a leader that is so into it that's were the magic happens, and that's where the magic happens because everybody gets so excited.

Interview imageWith Tarsem it was the same thing. It was December 2009 when we started and he would come in. I remember the first week he was pacing around a lot. He wasn't saying a lot, just pacing around looking at the drawings on the wall and this went on for several days. I didn't know exactly what he was doing [laughs] he was just walking around the office in the art department and we were all intimidated by him because he's this genius. It was very high concept and we knew from day one what we were getting involved in, but we didn't know what to make of Tarsem before he turned up. But our first impression was Tarsem walking around this office thinking, in like a Rodin Thinker's pose. And then one day he turned to the production designer and said: "I got it! I can see the whole movie in my head!" The whole time he was planning the movie visually in his head and that was my first impression of him. I'd never seen that before, someone doing the pre-vis in his head.

DR: Can you tell us more about

Interview imageBL: That's a personal passion project of mine. I started it in September 2010 on a bit of a whim - I wasn't sure what it was going to become. It's sort of turned into this platform of discovery and covers many things: design, entertainment, philosophy, psychology and current affairs. It's something that's become a major part of my life.

The other day I was on it - I try and do about four posts a day - and I sat down and started doing my daily curation and I realised I have the same feeling for it as I do for very close friends. Because it's become such a big part of my life, it's sort of developed its own personality, consciousness... I have conversations with it. It's the most amazing place, it's the most amazing creative project that I've engaged with because I figured so many things out because of that blog. Writing is a great way to do that, but something like that adds a whole other dimension to someone who is trying to figure something out. I never thought that it would become what it has become. I don't know what I did before - what I did with my spare time.

I'm working on The Smurfs II right now and then I'll get home at night and then I'll work on the blog for three or four hours every night. It doesn't feel like work because three hours can go buy and it feels like only half an hour. So that's my baby right now.

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With thanks to Nic Forster at Fever and Amanda Lovelock at Premier

Immortals is released through Universal Pictures UK on 05 March 2012.

Click here to buy this on Blu-ray for £14.99 (RRP: £24.99)
Click here to buy this on DVD for £10.99 (RRP: £19.99)

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