One of the essential aspects of cinema is production design. With it, filmmakers are able to create immersive environments for the viewers to experience. Production designers make sure that the end product captures the atmosphere that the filmmakers want to project to the audience. We asked production designer Lars Magbanua to fill us in on her fascinating work and to share some experiences while working on Philippine cinema.
What is your background and how did you get into production design?
My major in college was Marketing and Advertising but my first job was a photographer and graphic designer for a studio in Makati. I have always been fascinated by films because it combines the different forms of art that I love. Literature, photography, music. I had this goal of becoming a writer and director but I did not have the time and money then to go to film school and so I started attending different workshops. From there, I met people from the industry and because of my background in design, I got my first full-length gig as a Production Designer for an Indie film. I gave up my dreams of becoming a director (no regrets) and realized that I want to be a Production Designer instead.
What's your typical process when you work on a film?
I collaborate with the director regarding the look that he wants for the project. From there, I do my research by watching other films, local and foreign. I break down the script by the number of locations, set-up, and props needed. And then I make the Production Design deck (If we have enough time, I layout the designs on SketchUp) present it to the director, once approved I start with the costing of the set design and props. This part of the process is the most stressful and frustrating because most of the time, with the limited budget given, you can't always achieve the look you want. But I guess that's where you get to challenge your creativity. In an ideal world, a Production Designer doesn't need to be on set during filming. He can work on designing on other sets for the project but because of budget reasons of some projects, I do my own art direction where I have to be on set to overlook the whole set up.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from other films. I wasn't into Korean films but after working on one, I realized how meticulous they are with their set designs. Every single detail matters. And I'd like to apply that kind of discipline to my other projects.
Favorite artist and directors you've worked with?
My favorite director would be Jason Paul Laxamana. Well, because I've worked with him more than any other directors and I've become comfortable doing projects with him. I also admire his writing. I love how twisted his stories could get sometimes.
My favorite actor I've worked with would be Pokwang. Great actor. So down to earth.
Could you tell us about a past or current project you're most proud of?
I guess I'm most proud of "100 Tula Para Kay Stella" not only because it was my first box-office hit project but because I really loved the story. I love how the characters developed and I had fun doing it. Trivia: Back in 2015, I was called to join the project as a Location Manager but it got shelved. In 2017, another production company wanted to make the film and I was called to do Production Design. Yey.
Most memorable experience you've had on set?
The most memorable experience I had on set would be the one where we were in a cemetery. We shot most of the film in Manila North Cemetery from morning until morning the next day. There were no lights at night except on set. I'm surprised how fast I can get comfortable sleeping over a tomb. It was an indie film so everyone was multitasking. I did art direction, hair and make-up, and wardrobe. I also get to experience crawling inside a tomb. Fun times.
What's your dream project?
I would love to do more twisted and morbid projects like "Project Feb 14".
What makes you happy?
Travelling. Especially when you get to travel during filming. And MY CATS! :)
Photos property of Lars Magbanua
Stills property of Viva Entertainment, Inc., Dreamscape Entertainment