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.
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.
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: 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.
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: 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: 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: 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.
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.