Interview with Art Department Chief – Production Designer Bill Fleming
Q: Can you talk about your role on Call Me Fitz?
A: With "Fitz" as with most shows, the production designer is responsible for the visual look - creating the world in which the series takes place. As such, I work with set decorators, carpenters, locations, props and the art departments to create the sets and find the locations needed for each scene in the script.
Q: Can you talk about the process of interpreting what is written in the script into a fully executed design?
A: It depends what the script calls for and what works in the "Fitz" world. While much of comedy is entrenched in character and situation, the where (i.e. the setting), is mostly grounded in reality.That reality in Call Me Fitz centers on the dealership, and its surrounding world of box stores and strip malls that are ubiquitous to suburban North America. We look to that reality for inspiration, but we also have to deal with the practical concerns - time, money, and what we can find nearby in terms of shooting locations.
Q: This season we use standing sets such as the dealership less, and actual locations more. What are the challenges that this presented you? Did you enjoy the chance to use more locations?
A: Creating the Amish farm near the end of the season was exciting, as it is very much a departure from our suburban world. Also, creating the carnival in the first episode was fun to build around our existing Ruptal set. It’s important to open things up once or twice every show so that we do not get too claustrophobic.
Q: Per episode, how long does it take you to create and execute a design start to finish?
A: Time usually depends on how big the build is. A typical example might be the morgue set, which probably took about two hours to plan, half a day to draw, a day to build, a day to paint, and half a day to dress (decorate!) – start to finish in about 2-3 days. However, a more intensive set such as the hospital scene you’ll see later in season two, took a good part of two weeks from design to dressing.
Q: What is it like designing for a real location versus a set?
A: When we were planning the first season we had originally talked about building the showroom and offices (our dealership is housed in an actual car lot) in a studio. I was very keen to put these sets on a real location with live traffic driving down a busy street. You feel the street when we are on the dealership lot, and it really grounds the show. It’s hard to get depth - real long hallways, layers, and large-scale rooms - on our very small studio spaces. For that we need to find actual locations. Studio sets can look as real and impressive as the real thing if time, budget, and imagination allow them too. The advantage of the sets on Call Me Fitz is that our studio is right beside our main location (i.e. the dealership), which means the crew can roll right into a studio set from Fitzpatrick Motors without moving the whole production. Its our own little studio backlot!