I design fiction... making fiction real and imaginable...connecting audiences emotionally to the realm of the story we are telling
I say that I "design fiction" because production design is not quite like any other form of design. It's not just about taste or trend. The building blocks I start with are character, mood and atmosphere. My job is to create the physical environment to best frame and enhance the story. Conceiving inspired artistic spaces that carry emotional meaning and accentuate the story, that's my job. I create worlds for stories to be told on screen and I do it with the vision of the tale we are telling. The tone and the mood of the story inspire the sets I create.
I'm here to build on the director's vision in three dimensions. Together, we create a visual shorthand...and when we do, amazing things are possible:
The Versace atelier in it's hey-day at the height of the eighties...
A giant beluga-shaped snack bar on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Saguenay.
The decaying, abandoned home of a depraved rapist that carries such dark secrets, no one wants to enter...
In the last twenty-five-years, I've designed more than three thousand sets-some big, some quite simple. But I don't do it alone. A huge part of my job is to lead and inspire the art department. I love working with a team, from the carpenters that build the sets, to my decorators that help carry the vision, to the petite main that bring in the details nobody else has time to think about. When it all comes together, we step back. When we've done our job right, the director and DP can walk onto the set and find all the tools they need to frame the story. When we've done our job right, the crew and cast will feel immersed in the story even before the cameras start rolling. I make fiction real! I make fiction imaginable!
It all started when...
I began designing for film at Concordia film school. Since graduating in 1989, I have pursued a career in production design. Film school provided me the insight on all levels of the film making process, by testing my abilities in script writing, directing, and even cinematography on various projects, but it was film design that caught my distinct interest. I'm grateful to feel that when I design I have the full awareness of the process in me and not just technically but as a language and an art. Coming from this love of film and storytelling, I don't simply apply "my" design to a film, but find the design in the story, characters, and pre-production process with the director, and then apply all the suitable taste judgements within that particular films visual logic, visual score, that is at times subliminal but heavily informs our grasp of the characters and tone of the film. My understanding of film making has always served as an asset in supporting a director's vision. You can't just talk color and good taste to be a good film designer, design runs much deeper than that, and it is the first vital stage in bringing the script into the physical realm of film making so the director and the cinematographer can feel further inspired to work with the spaces and make the film come to life. You need to anticipate a lot of needs of the director, actors, actions, mise en scene, and cinematographer to be worthy of the title production designer and you have to absorb all you can in life and art, and architecture and research it all extensively. You need all your intuition to design film, and that part you can't learn in school. It has to be in you as a drive to always consume visual information about the world around you and all the subtleties that that entails.
Patricia Christie has been working professionally as a production designer since graduating with her BFA in film production from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1989, following a BA at McGill University in Film Studies and English Literature. Ever interested in creative diversity, she has also co-owned and curated the Archive Art Gallery in Toronto with the architect Johnson Chou. The gallery opened in 1990boasting one of Canada's first and most comprehensive databases, featured in a 1930's rif on a library space. Aside from curating hundreds of shows for Archive and a prominent one for Red Bull Canada, entitled Playing In Traffic, Archive's primary focus was to offer decorators, and ultimatly film designer a vast resource of contemporary art with copyright clearance for use in film and TV. Archive inc. gallery and art library ran until 2010 in Toronto. Originally from Montreal, Patricia's career has spannedthe two cities ever since and wherever else film takes her.
Although she has primarily worked as production designer within the Canadian Independent Feature Film Industry, she has also worked in ad world, and TV, most recently completing the TV series The Disappearance that wrapped production in February 2017 for CTV/ NBCU and Productions Casablanca. The series airs Oct. 1 at 9.pm EST on CTV.