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THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2019: Paul Cripps

Interview and original photography copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019

All other images provided by Paul Cripps courtesy of Mammoth Screen

DAMIAN: You were the production designer on series five of Endeavour and asked back again this year. Given the fact that you got to design the new CID set, I wonder if series six was even more exciting and challenging to work on?

PAUL: Series six was just as challenging as Series five except that it was two films shorter! That made a huge difference in terms of crew fatigue (and my own).

DAMIAN: In terms of the look and feel of the CID set, I know Russ (Lewis, writer and deviser of Endeavour) wanted to evoke Alan J Pakula’s paranoia trilogy of Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976) with a particular emphasis on the Washington Post newsroom in the latter and also the one featured in Zodiac (2007). Why do you think he referenced these and to what extent did they influence your designs?

PAUL: I pretty much came up with the same references as Russ when I heard the basic tenets of the first script apart from the The Offence. I think both Russ and myself were interested in the idea of seeding the series with alienation. The team have been split up, Endeavour is alienated from Joan, Thursday from Win, Bright from his former high position. We wanted to show the alienation associated through the brutalist architecture of the police station. Thursday has problems with this unfamiliar landscape and we also nod to the approaching world of modern policing and the move closer to the world of the first Morse series. I loved the office in Zodiac and that’s where the influence for the fake wood and metal office dividers came from.

Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: And wasn’t there also something about the light featured in The Offence (1972) that Russ wanted for the ceiling in the interview room?

PAUL: Yes I watched the The Offence a couple of times. It’s a very odd but great movie and the film was a really important reference for many things in the new station. There is a huge strange overhead light fitting in the main interview scene. It’s a little over the top and although I know Russ was keen to put similar in the station I tried to do this but keep with a slightly more believable light fitting. It think it works well but you’ll have to ask what Russ thinks.

Paul Cripps
Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: Obviously one of the most striking differences between the old CID set and your new one is the addition of the lift in the lobby area. Was this something that was required in the scripts or an idea of your own?

PAUL: I can’t remember if it was mentioned but I knew I wanted a lobby and lift to make it seem really modern compared to the old Cowley office. What we’ve done is create a lobby that can represent different  floors in a big police station. With a few additions of walls and doors the first floor lobby and CID becomes the basement lobby with the vending machines and the entrance to Endeavour’s store room office. The set was supposed to last for quite a few episodes as per the old Cowley set so I wanted to be able to create different floors by redressing if required. Redressed and repurposed Endeavour’s office also becomes the interview room so it’s a very versatile set.

Damian Michael Barcroft
Paul Cripps
Damian Michael Barcroft
Paul Cripps
Damian Michael Barcroft
Paul Cripps
Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: I’ve found standing in both the old and new CID sets that they are much smaller than they appear on screen. To what extent is this camera trickery or are certain walls able to removed to accommodate camera and lighting equipment if necessary?

PAUL: The set itself is a lot bigger than Cowley but it uses a number of tricks to create space and depth. The set is longer in one axis  and connects to the lobby using perspective and visual lines and then frames within frames to create depth for the camera. The wood effect office dividers are all glass with venetian blinds to create further frames within frames and to help blur background or foreground which again adds depth. The addition of a low ceiling with lights makes the space feel long like the  All The President’s Men Washington Post office. I did create camera traps behind the notice boards on the walls but I don’t believe they were actually used.

Paul Cripps
Paul Cripps
Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: Technically speaking, what do you think some of the advantages were to the new sets?

PAUL: Well I think the set provides more depth and a bit more playing/blocking areas for the directors and actors. One of the walls hinges away to allow quicker crew access. I think the main change is the aesthetic with the idea of concrete panelled walls, glass and fake wood panels, browns, brown leather; the 70’s are almost upon us.

Damian Michael Barcroft
Damian Michael Barcroft
Damian Michael Barcroft
Damian Michael Barcroft
Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: I visited the set during the shooting of PYLON and noticed from the call sheet that the art department/prop requirements for that day were as follows: Thursday’s pipe, Tobacco, Matches, Drinks, Shoulder bag, Photos of Emily, Stanley’s mugshot, Typewriter, Pony books, Drug paraphernalia, Heroin wrap with scripted heading, Snuff boxes and Photo of Baby Stanley & Mum. Is this about the usual amount and how far in advance of shooting do you have either locate, make or buy these?

PAUL: That is an average kind of day. The time we have to source it all is the day number versus when that version of the script arrives to us, so there is considerably less time for day 1 as opposed to day 24. There is a combination of buying, hiring an making all these things. If it’s a big deal and we’ve had it flagged up beforehand, we may get something made before the finalised script which can always be nerve wracking.

Damian Michael Barcroft
Damian Michael Barcroft
Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: The list also mentioned Thursday’s props, is it actually someone’s job to take items like his hat and pipe from Roger at the end of the day and store them away until the next?

PAUL: Yes we have two standby prop men and a standby art director on the standby crew every day. The prop men have a character box of props for each character. The standby team represent me on set and work with the director and DOP [Director of Photography] and other departments, sorting and placing props, redressing the set if required and fulfilling last minute requests or errors. They are vital to us. But come on Damian, Molly looks after the famous hat, not us. That’s costume!

Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: I can’t imagine how long the props list was for APOLLO but it must have been enormous fun to work on the Gerry Anderson-themed props and sets?

PAUL: Yes it was good fun. Most of the supermarionation props came from Stephen at Century 21 but we designed and built the puppet sets and he worked his magic with the puppets. I thought it worked pretty well with Stephen recreating the 35mm style of filming on his original camera, and as a reconstruction of Gerry Anderson’s studio. We had quite a bit of photo reference of his studio from that period. Sadly his original industrial studio building has gone now.

Paul Cripps
Paul Cripps
Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: Was this the most challenging film to design of series six?

PAUL: I think Film 4 was the most challenging to design as Russ kept his toughest scenario for us to create till that last film.

DAMIAN: I imagine the old building opposite the hangar where the main sets are housed has been dressed and undressed more times than Holly Golightly?

PAUL: Yes it’s appeared in a lot of shows and films in the last few years but we didn’t use it that much as it was used exterior wise in a couple of the earlier Endeavour films before my time.

DAMIAN: Lets say, purely for the sake of argument, that you were required to design a set that had appeared in the original Morse series, would you recreate it faithfully or put your own spin on it?

PAUL: We have actually started to do this as you’ll see in film 4. I think it should recreate the original as much as possible but that in itself allows you to put your own creativity into it. Although I have to say the Kidlington police station in Morse is not that inspiring if I ever had to recreate that. I think I prefer my Castle Gate!

DAMIAN: Finally, is there any visual evidence in the sets this year that Strange is still an Oxford United fan?

PAUL: Well I don’t think we saw it in Strange’s flat when he was looking at his Fancy murder board in Film 1 Pylon,  but he had a little reading matter next to his chair where he sips his whiskey. 1968/9 Oxford United programmes!!  

DAMIAN: Paul, thank you very much indeed.

PAUL: Mind how you go.

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Paul Cripps Production Designer

Above photo courtesy of Paul Cripps (centre)

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

PAUL CRIPPS

Production Designer

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

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DAMIAN: Having lived in Oxford, I wonder to what extent you were aware of Inspector Morse growing up?

PAUL: I was aware of Inspector Morse for a few reasons. I think it started filming around 1987 when I was finishing my A Levels and I grew up in Woodstock and obviously the first Colin Dexter Morse novel was Last Bus to Woodstock. I knew the TV series was set and partly filmed in Oxford so there was a local buzz about it. Also my dad was a friend of Peter Woodthorpe the actor who played the original Max De Bryn. They did their national service together at the Joint Services School for Linguists training as Russian translators.

DAMIAN: Before we talk anymore about Morse, I’d like to ask you about the kind of films or television which may have inspired you to consider the art of production design. Do you have any particularly vivid early memories of trips to the cinema and specific films that may have had an influence?

PAUL: That’s easy, I was a Star Wars kid. I queued round the block to see it several times in 1977. And then in 1978 Harrison Ford came to film in Woodstock my home town for a WW2 film called Hanover Street with Christopher Plummer and Lesley Anne Down. So naturally I was desperate to see him, my sister got him to give us his autographs (my middle sister also works in Film and TV and does big movies like Wonder Woman and Darkest Hour). But also our whole town was turned into a WW2 Nazi occupied French town. Blenheim Palace became the local chateau turned into the German army headquarters. My grandmother’s Florist shop was turned into a Boulangerie. There were gun battles and car chases and Musco lights above the town for two weeks. That fascinated me. Then other films came. I watched Mel Brooks recreate the French Revolution at Blenheim Palace for History of the World Part One. I also failed to get an extras part in Another Country and watched them filming it in the Turl. So I wanted to work in film and TV but didn’t know how.

DAMIAN: If you were to compile a top ten of your favourite production designs from the movies what would such a list look like?

PAUL: Hmm, tricky… off the top of my head, lots of Kubrick: 2001, The Shining, lots of Greenaway: The Draughtsman’s Contract, Belly of an Architect, The Cook, The Thief… lots of Sci Fi: Bladerunner, The Star Wars original trilogy, Alien, Dark Star, Tarkovsky’s Mirror, Stalker and The Sacrifice. David Lean’s Oliver Twist and Lawrence of ArabiaFight Club, Zodiac, All The President’s Men, Brazil, Time Bandits, Kagemusha, Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring, Mon Oncle, In the mood for love. I could go on…

DAMIAN: Can you tell me about your training and at what exact point you decided to pursue a career in production design?

PAUL: I always wanted to work in TV or film but I started doing an art foundation course and was pointed towards fashion. I finally went and did a BA in theatre design at Wimbledon school of art. I worked for a year after that (my first job was costume assistant on a Ridley Scott ad for BP for Charles Knode) and then I went to do an MA in Film and TV Design at the Royal College of Art. I started working in design for entertainment chat shows, music shows, game shows. I worked on TFI Friday for quite a while. Then I moved across and started doing TV drama and films.

DAMIAN: Looking through your credits which include The Missing, You, Me and the Apocalypse, Atlantis, Skins and Merlin, I was fascinated to learn that you worked on both of the Judge Dredd movies; as a trainee in the art department on the 1995 Sylvester Stallone production and then the more recent one in 2012 as art director. Is this pure coincidence or are you a fan of 2000 AD Comics?

PAUL: I had every issue of 2000 AD as a kid but it was pure luck working on both. I got a work placement on the Stallone Dredd for about three weeks making models and tea in the art dept. There were some great people on that film: Nigel Phelps, Leslie Tompkins, Peter Young, David Allday, Chris Cunningham. Then I was doing Never Let Me Go with my friend Mark Digby and DNA were talking about Judge Dredd so I did some Pre budgeting and visuals but then for various reason didn’t work on it in South Africa but then they did a whole load of reshoots and extra bits in London and asked me to do them.

Judge Dredd (1995)

Dredd (2012)

DAMIAN: Before we go any further, could you just clarify for those who are perhaps new to the subject, what the differences are between an art director and a production designer?

PAUL: Basically the Production Designer is the boss, the one with the complete vision and the art director is his or her right hand person who implements the realisation of that vision, dealing with construction of sets, drawing up and handing jobs out to the various members of the art and props department. The other right hand people are the set decorator; who helps with the choices of  furniture and decoration for each scene; and the propmaster who organises he dressing of the sets. I had two talented women in those roles for Endeavour. Stacey Dickinson the art director and Faye Brothers the set decorator and trusty sidekick Simon Drew as propmaster.

DAMIAN: Back to Mega-City One, the first Dredd film was a critical and commercial flop, the fans hated it but it must have been huge fun to work on?

PAUL: It WAS great! My friend Andrea the actual art dept assistant has some great photos. Seeing them build the Mega City One streets in the Shepperton car park was amazing. If you look carefully all the shops are named after puns of people in the art dept. My two favourites were Bill Ying Tong’s Chinese restaurant named after John Billington and The All Day and Night Diner after David Allday.

DAMIAN: I thought the Karl Urban 2012 film was pretty good and did much to restore the hopes of fans for a decent and well deserved faithful comics-to-screen franchise – what happened?

PAUL: Sadly the success of a film called The Raid and being too similar did it for Dredd really I think. I think The Raid came out first and stole our thunder. I think the financial backing came from India and not a recognised studio and it just didn’t make enough money to warrant a sequel for DNA unlike 28 Days Later which was an unexpected hit.

DAMIAN: How did you come to work on Endeavour?

PAUL: Well I’ve mostly done contemporary drama and apart from some fantasy I’ve never really done proper period so I’ve been looking to try and find something like Endeavour to do. A few other shows I was mooted for, that shall remain nameless, didn’t happen so I was kicking around not doing anything much. I read MUSE and met John the producer and I think we really got on so that was it.

DAMIAN: Endeavour has had various previous production designers: Pat Campbell did First Bus to Woodstock (or “Pilot”), and then Matt Gant, Anna Higginson, Anna Pritchard and Alison Butler for the subsequent series that followed. Did you look at their work as part of your research or for reference before you started your own designs and is it more challenging to take over from previous artists or more artistically rewarding to start from scratch?

PAUL: When I got the job I went back and watched every single episode of Endeavour. The one thing about Endeavour is that most single episodes look different, each has its own feel and look and that’s what was interesting for me. You don’t really have to reproduce the look just the quality. This is only the second time I’ve not done the first series of a programme, so it’s unusual for me to follow someone but I took Endeavour as it was one of the shows on TV that I actually watched and liked. Plus my personal connection to Oxford and being born in 1968 in Oxford I couldn’t not do it!

DAMIAN: And is it generally more fun to work on something period, contemporary, futuristic or does really just depend on the project?

PAUL: I think for me it depends on the project, particularly the script and the other people working on the project. Script sells it a lot of the time. And much to my agent’s dismay I’m quite fussy about scripts.

DAMIAN: Which books or websites proved to be the most useful in researching Endeavour’s Oxford of 1968?

PAUL: Probably one of the best sources was the Oxford History Centre which I spent a few days at in Pre Production. It’s in Cowley and holds all the council archives and a fabulous photo library. The council had done a survey of pubs in 1968 which proved useful ref. They also hold microfiche of Oxford Mail’s and Times from the period. I found a few of my Mum’s advertising drawings popping up as I was searching the papers. We also visited a guy who runs the Oxford/Thames Valley Constabulary archive which again was a really useful source.

Reference pic of the original Thames Valley 1968

Paul’s actual model. Photo: Damian Michael Barcroft

Original CID model plan. Photo: Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: Presumably you see the script and then start making notes but can you take me through your pre-production process as a production designer using Endeavour as an example?

PAUL: I read the scripts as they come through. Then talk to the director and then he and I and the location people spend weeks driving round finding locations. Also I’m designing any sets that need building such as Strange and Endeavour’s shared maisonette from this series.

Paul’s model for Strange and Endeavour’s maisonette. Photo: Damian Michael Barcroft

Strange’s maisonette under construction. Photo: Paul Cripps

I tend to start with plans moving into 3D renderings using a programme called SketchUp. Then we do drawings for the construction people. When the locations and sets are all decided we do what’s called a tech recce and the heads of departments and key crew all get in a bus and drive round every location and decide how every scene will be shot. I then talk with my crew deciding how we will dress and strike the locations and then Faye and or myself will go off and chose furniture and furnishings. Stacey and I will decide on what needs constructing and painting, vehicles and graphics and Simon will do a dressing and strike schedule all in relation to the main schedule. Finally I like to go to the readthrough as that really begins to bring the whole thing together and helps me character wise for various settings. Then the shoot starts.

DAMIAN: And then when it’s actually production time and the cameras are ready to roll, can you describe a typical day on set – series five of Endeavour had a particularly brutal schedule but perhaps the very first day of shooting would be the most illuminating example?

PAUL: Well I’m actually not on set much. We normally as an art dept work ahead and behind the shooting crew. So we will go in the day or a couple of days before the shoot and dress the set or location. I will come on the morning of the shoot and check everything is to the liking of the director and DOP and then troubleshoot if required. But I will try to leave as quickly as possible as I will be onto dressing the set for the next day or next section. Also Simon and his crew will return the day after the shoot (or sometimes the night of!) to return the location back to how it was when we arrived. The schedule is often relentless. Often on Endeavour I usually arrived on set once the set was already dressed as the day we started shooting each film was usually the day the next director started and so the whole process of location hunting on the next film would start all over again!

DAMIAN: How many different sets or locations might you need to prepare for an average day’s shoot?

PAUL: Well it varies, sometimes there are two or more sets or locations in a day so we will dress one the day before and one on the morning whilst the crew is shooting the first one. Then once they have moved to the second location we will return and ‘strike’ the first location. Generally it’s one or more locations a day for twenty odd days. Sometimes we are in a location for several days so we can get some respite and recover and re-plan or re-group.

DAMIAN: Is it easier to design sets for location or studio filming?

PAUL: It’s sometimes easier with a set in a studio as locations can have specific problems or issues but then you have to get a studio set to look and feel real. There lots to love and lots to frustrate in both.

DAMIAN: To what extent does production design necessitate a creative collaboration with other departments such as the art director, set decoration or location manager?

PAUL: The art director and set decorator are all in my team so collaboration is essential. And of course there is collaboration with lots of people; locations, costume, DOP etc. Probably the most important are the DOP and location manager. If you don’t find good or the right locations the job is much harder and if the DOP does not light your sets or locations well it won’t matter how well you’ve designed them!

Location dressing plan for Muse. Photo: Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: Where were the Roxy cinema interior and exterior scenes filmed in CARTOUCHE?

PAUL: The exterior, foyer, bar, owner’s flat and roof were all the former Carlton cinema in Essex Road Islington currently a church. The auditorium was the Broadway Theatre Catford with additions by me including an orchestra pit and the rising organ (a hydraulic lift!) Interestingly the auditorium was an almost exact match of a cinema I location scouted in Germany for The Missing 2 for BBC. That cinema was built around the same time in a Nazi training camp called Vogelsang and when I went to Catford for the first time I was astounded by the similarity. We saw a lot of abandoned cinemas for CARTOUCHE it was heartrending seeing the dilapidation of the State cinema in Grays.

DAMIAN: The rising organ very much reminded me of the two Dr Phibes films from the seventies. Were these a particular influence?

PAUL: Actually no I’m afraid to say. I was influenced more by the organ at one of the potential cinema locations we recce’d; The State Cinema in Grays, Essex.

Photo: Paul Cripps

Also I remembered the two remaining organs in Leicester Square one of which I saw playing at the London Film Festival screening of Never Let Me Go.

Rising organ and shooting for the Roxy at Catford Theatre. Photo: Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: As regular readers will know, CARTOUCHE was a particular delight for me as a huge fan of the Universal and Hammer Horrors. To what extent were these a direct influence on your designs and did you research specific films or the work of production designers for Universal such as Charles D. Hall or Bernard Robinson at Hammer?

PAUL: Yes I was very influenced by the 60’s Hammer output. I watched quite a few and the location at an old abandoned school near Wallingford worked really well for the film within a film. I remember watching a lot of those films when I first went to film school at the Prince Charles Cinema late night screenings.

I also sought out some behind the scenes photos at the BFI library. The book,  Hammer Films – The Unsung Heroes The Team Behind the Films was a really useful reference for the filmmaking scenes. My favourite note was that Peter Cushing wore a single white glove when smoking off camera so as not to stain his fingers!

DAMIAN: I know the writer, Russell Lewis, is also crazy about these films so I’m wondering if there were many phone calls and emails back and forth in discussing the right look and feel for the film?

PAUL: Well I have to say that Russ is the ultimate professional in that he never really calls me to demand we do this or that and I’m sure some of the things we do really frustrate and annoy him but he never seems to let that show. I did make an error with a specific book cover he wanted as I didn’t realise it was one of his brilliant nods to other shows, this one being something from Tony Hancock. But I think Russ was so busy writing during the shoot I think getting involved more about how we were shooting them would probably have cost him the only three hours he must get to sleep. I don’t know quite how he does it, keeping up with all the nods and winks to other shows and creating those amazing Thursday quips! But he lets us get on with it and I hope we do it some justice.

DAMIAN: The “Mammoth Pictures” logo with the Morse Code was a stroke of genius which obviously brought back happy memories of the old RKO films such as King Kong. Who’s idea was this and who actually made it?

PAUL: I’m going to claim this as my own. Myself and Andy Wilson knew we wanted a 3D RKO like logo as per Russ’ description rather than just a graphic but the Mammoth, the Iceberg and the backdrop were all the work of my own hand! Luckily it was meant to look a bit shonky!

DAMIAN: Is there a sense of sadness once the shoot has wrapped and the sets start to be dismantled?

PAUL: I did feel a pang of sadness on one of the last days as I walked through Strange’s flat devoid of furniture and dressing. I’ve made Jim Strange an Oxford United fan (Yes!) and would be trombone player so I hope that might remain.

Photo: Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: To slightly misquote Indiana Jones, doesn’t this stuff belong in a museum?

PAUL: Some of it yes. One of my favourite props was the Lapis Lazuli Scarab with the Aktnaten cartouche given to Emil Valdemar which we moulded from one owned by my wife bizarrely. I thought that prop was beautiful. And Russ must have visited the Pitt Rivers museum before us as when we opened a drawer of scarabs and there was one missing just as in the script!

DAMIAN: I have a beautifully illustrated and insightful book, Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner, but what books or websites would you recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about the art of production design?

PAUL: A few books: Setting the Scene: The Great Hollywood Art Directors, Ken Adam by Christopher Frayling, Peter Ettedgui’s book Production Design & Art Direction, The Stanley Kubrick Archives, The Invisible Art (all about glass paintings).

For interesting contemporary stuff I would recommend a website a Canadian art director runs called Artdepartmental. I also like Film Grab a site that shows stills from lots of great films.

DAMIAN: Where is that clock from CARTOUCHE now?

PAUL: You mean the one in the Cinema managers flat? Oh that’s a sad story. I loved that clock in the prop house when Faye and I were choosing props for the Roxy. I said we must use that. It worked so well in that room and went so well with the decor of the Carlton Cinema. But really sadly the prop house it came from, was closed with little notice, shortly after Christmas due to financial problems caused by a compulsory purchase of land for the HS2 rail scheme. All the furniture from that prop house, which a lot of the Endeavour settings came from, have now been split up or sold outside the industry. It’s been really devastating for us all in the business. So who knows if that clock even exists anymore. So sad.

DAMIAN: Paul, thank you very much indeed.

PAUL: My pleasure.

Photo: Paul Cripps

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