/ SET DESIGN
period pieces With her intricate eye for detail and painstaking recreation of the era, set decorator, BEAUCHAMP FONTAINE, has created a memorable ambiance for many TV shows and movies. INTERVIEW BY JENNA ATCHISON
Tell us about your background and how you got started in the movies. How did you go from studying Anthropology to becoming a set decorator? After I received my M.A. in Cultural Anthropology I taught at a university in Memphis, TN and I tutored French to make ends meet. A friend who was already in the film industry called and suggested I interview for an art department position on the film The Client. By the time I drove home from the interview there was a message on my answering machine with a job offer. I assisted the set decorator, and the rest is history. Interestingly, I think my degree in anthropology has been an asset to this field as one has to be observant without passing judgment. I have to meld with the character and detach from my opinions or personal tastes as much as one can. What does your typical day entail? I get up really early so I can make it to Pilates, and then I often work from home for a couple of hours. I send out emails and do research from the quiet of my home office, which also allows LA traffic to die down! Then, if I do not have meetings, I am out and about in prop houses and shops to search for those pieces that I need to decorate a set and tell the story of the characters through those selections. I have a wonderful team which, under my direction, helps with the shopping. The logistics of getting the items to the set and dressing them in to my floor plans is under the purview of the rest of my stellar team. Long days and weekend work are par for the course, so it is not for the faint of heart.
Beauchamp Fontaine Set Decorator Beauchamp Fontaine is a Los Angeles based feature ﬁlm and television set decorator and a commercial designer. The sets she has created are as diverse as a back alley in Tokyo, a burnt out apartment in Aleppo, and the control room interior of the treasure ship for Independence Day: Resurgence. With Jack Fisk, she helped to create an 1812 Pawnee Indian Village on the U.S. portion of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant. Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, allowed Fontaine to reveal a quiet glimpse inside the lives of a midwest family. Prior to that she decorated Louis Leterrier’s blockbuster Now You See Me, and Jeff Nichols’ wonderful ﬁlm Mud. Her decorating style ranges from a tasteful marriage of masculine metropolitan chic with an understated traditional sensibility, to a natural approachability. Ms. Fontaine is well-respected for her accurate period detailing, notably showcasing the 1960’s in The Playboy Club, the 70’s in Swingtown and the exquisite ﬂashback sequences of the 1920’s in Skeleton Key.
What kinds of movies have you worked on – and which was your favorite/most challenging? I have worked on all sorts of movies and feel lucky to have had so many opportunities. From thrillers, such as Skeleton Key to period television programs like The Playboy Club to the riparian “realness” of Mud, I have covered a lot of ground. I think any film where I am challenged to really learn something new would count as a favorite. For example, I was fortunate to have just worked on a small portion of Stephen Gaghan’s film, Gold starring Matthew McConaughey. The offices I was tasked to create were set in the Sunkist Building on Riverside and Hazeltine, but were supposed to be in Reno, NV in 1981. McConaughey’s character, Wells, works at Washoe Mining Corporation, which has been in his family for a couple of generations. To deliver what the director needed, I had to delve deep into research of the mining industry in Reno, Nevada in 1981. Our graphic designer, Marissa, found this amazing guy, Garrett Barmore, who runs the W. M Keck Earth Science And Mineral Engineering Museum. I flew to Reno and he shepherded me about campus for an entire day. Barmore was a fount of knowledge and I eagerly soaked it all up. When I came home I created an environment that was appropriate to the time period and channeled a little bit of Reno and a lot of the mining industry. It was quite edifying. Our brain can atrophy just like any other muscle, so I love it when I am faced with any type of challenge. Who or what are your inspirations? What drives you? Hmmm… Well, my first inspiration came from my paternal grandparents. My grandmother was a skilled and prolific needleworker. Our house was full of her beautiful creations, from pillows to bargello dining room seat covers, to the petit point rugs in my dollhouse. My father and brothers also wore her needlepoint cummerbunds! My grandfather, who had been a Chesapeake Bay pilot, was a finish carpenter. I do not remember a time when he was not creating something special. He could build anything, and his skill level was astounding. Plus, he had a work ethic that humbles me to this day. Both of my grandparents had exquisite taste and I know I was greatly influenced by their love of good furniture. Interestingly, my grandfather’s work
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