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"It's important to have a sense of perspective" says production designer Joseph Bennett

How I got my job: Joseph Bennett designs 3D sets for film, fashion and events at his eponymous studio. He describes his working history as a production designer for the Dezeen Jobs careers guide.


Name: Joseph Bennett
Title: production designer
Company: Joseph Bennett Production Design
Location: London

Dezeen Jobs: Can you explain what your current role involves?

Joseph Bennett: I design three-dimensional spaces for films, commercials, installations and exhibitions. This can also involve choosing locations, designing sets, conceptualising interior spaces, designing and transforming interior and exterior environments.

Dezeen Jobs: When did you realise you wanted to work in production design?

Joseph Bennett: It kind of just happened, it wasn't particularly on my radar at all, but I was working on music and art projects and needed some extra money. I realised that the film industry suited my personality, the varied nature of the work meant it was artistically rewarding and never dull.

Dezeen Jobs: Where and what did you study?

Joseph Bennett: I studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art, which was wonderful. I went to art school after studying science, realising I had to make a change. I am mentioning this as I am sure that one needs to be nimble and flexible, opportunities should be taken when they arise and it's important to follow your passions. Hard work is a must of course!

Dezeen Jobs: What was your first job?

Joseph Bennett: My first job in the film industry was finding some wardrobes for a Cure music video. I hired a van and drove around south London junk shops – we needed a matching pair as we needed to destroy them.

Dezeen Jobs: You've worked across fashion, film, installations, commercials, photography - which is your favourite medium to work in?

Joseph Bennett: I enjoy them all, so it's hard to have a favourite. What I can say is I really love the blurring of the different platforms. It's interesting to me to work with other creative people in a collaborative context, be it photographers, directors, fashion designers, artists, filmmakers.

Increasingly working across these different platforms, I recognise the similarities and connections with the different mediums, it's the interconnections I find stimulating.

Set design by Jospeh Bennett for film Event Horizon

Dezeen Jobs: What skills are most useful for working in production design?

Joseph Bennett: Drawing, knowledge of films, art history, design, management, team-working skills, budgeting and being able to problem-solve. By its nature it's a very practical occupation, with deadlines, which mean that one has to make creative decisions very fast. I am learning all the time and 3D software has been very useful in helping to bring ideas to fruition.

Dezeen Jobs: What has been your career highlight?

Joseph Bennett: It's hard to say, working with Alexander McQueen was amazing and the [Savage Beauty] exhibition was poignant for us all personally. It was a wonderful way of honouring his legacy. It was also fantastic for me to work in Rome for 18 months, building a large range of sets at the Legendary Cinecitta Studios for the HBO series 'Rome.'

Also working with a huge amount of collaborators on the Queen's Jubilee was pretty unique. I try and choose jobs that give me the biggest challenge as they tend to be the most rewarding.

Dezeen Jobs: You designed the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibitions at the Met and the V&A, both iconic museums in different parts of the world – did your approach differ in each location?

Joseph Bennett: Yes of course, they had different ground plans so the challenge on a spatial level is to figure out and feel the best use of the available space, while keeping the flow and the energy of the show and staying as close to manifesting the vision of McQueen and augmenting the narrative of the exhibition in the most exciting way.

Dezeen Jobs: How many people have you got working with you and what skills do you look for when hiring?

Joseph Bennett: I hire based on individual projects. If I am doing a large film for example, one might have many people working with you, art directors, set decorators, special effects supervisors, construction managers, scenic artists, the list goes on. On smaller projects, it may be just a few. When I travel abroad to do a job I will usually have local crew, so I'm pretty self-sufficient.

It can be quite long hours and sometimes the pressure can be quite intense, there can be all sorts of politics involved so it's important to have a sense of perspective.

Set design by Joseph Bennett for Alexander McQueen's Widow of Culloden

Dezeen Jobs: What's your advice for people starting off in the production design industry?

Joseph Bennett: There are some good courses out there but it's all about getting involved. It's a great profession, but one has to be flexible and perhaps try and figure out the path that interests you the most.

Production design for film in the UK encompasses big budget movies, where one might have to work for many years as a junior draughtsman for example.

You will do your best work if you love it and feel inspired, if it's just going through the motions then it's rather dull. The more that one can explore, the better.

Locations: Worldwide
Website: www.josephbennett.co.uk