ComingSoon was given the opportunity to speak with production designer Kathrin Eder about her work on the new Hellraiser film from director David Bruckner. Kathrin has worked on a number of high-profile projects, including Bruckner’s The Night House and Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
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ComingSoon: What led you to become a production designer?
Kathrin Eder: Production Design chose me, I think. I knew very little about the craft while at Los Angeles City College and thought I would be a screenwriter. My friends and mentors, Marnie Weber and Jim Shaw, suggested I find a job on the film crew and linked me with a production designer. When I interned in the art department on a commercial for the first time, I fell in love with everything about it. That’s when it finally clicked for me, and it felt as though I had found a purpose I can live with and really build on. I love how collaborative my position is with so many other creatives on a project, and how yet I can keep a sense of autonomy and individualism that makes the collaborations collegial rather than hierarchal. I love how every project presents a new set of challenges and questions. You never stop learning. It’s a truly wonderful job!
Were there specific individuals in the field who influenced your style?
The beauty about production design is that everything can be an inspiration. In our field, gosh, there are so many! Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood For Love made a huge impression on me. I love how he plays with space, color and intimacy. I was fascinated with the grandeur of Giuseppe Tornatore’s films and the bold use of color and design in some of Peter Greenaway’s work. Those directors really attributed a lot of their storytelling to design, which spoke to me. Then there is all of Sofia Coppola’s work, I really appreciate for so many reasons. She has the talent to make big stories very intimate and personal and I love that. The work of production designers Sarah Greenwood and Catherine Martin has always impressed me, and I learned a ton from my mentor and first boss, the brilliant set decorator Jennifer Williams. I am so grateful to her for teaching me so much and being so patient. Reading any material by Joseph Campbell and listening to Mozart always pushes me creatively – if those still count as someone “in the field”.
How has your technique/style evolved over the years?
Naturally, as the projects became bigger, the design and project management skills became more demanding as well. I’m not certain about style, but in terms of technique, I hope I am a better communicator now than I was 10 years ago. I also hope that I ask better questions and I understand the politics in filmmaking better and how to navigate a wide array of personalities. I also aim to make the environment in the art department a creative one for the whole team. I want to say that I remind myself often that being human is as important as being a dedicated professional. And all that influences my style of working. As for my visual style, I would say I try and serve every story and project individually and let that guide me.
What was it about Hellraiser that made you want to work on it?
The world of Hellraiser is so incredibly nuanced and complex. There is a sci-fi element, the world has a fantastical nature, you get to play with themes from sexuality to the occult and I knew it would be challenging and of tremendous learning value to build some of the opulent larger-than-life sets. I also trusted that the project in David’s hand would turn out to be perceived well. I would follow David to any project. He puts great teams together.
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What was the most challenging aspect of Hellraiser, and how did you overcome it?
There were a few things that played together. Through the pandemic, production came to a bottleneck at once and it was tricky to find experienced crew and enough crew for the short time we had to prep and film this project. Filming in Serbia for NE-USA was a puzzle, but ended up working out OK since we wanted to embrace a grungy ’90s vibe for the first act. We also ended up stitching together Voight’s Mansion from several locations and set builds. I think we overcame it all by attempting to communicate precisely and addressing urgency when necessary. There was a very tight collaboration between us – the art department, the DP, and VFX so we could create a seamless world. Every project has tremendous challenges, I think that’s what filmmaking is. Looking back on any project, I tend to have very positive memories and that counts for this one as well.
Do you have any fun, behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Hellraiser that you can share?
Looking over on stage and seeing a Cenobite smoking a cigarette is a pretty funny sight.
We also rescued a tiny little cat who became Felicia the art department cat. She would fall asleep on my desk among my pens sometimes and chase my fingers when typing on the keyboard. Felicia now resides in Hungary and is a happy artistic cat.
What was your collaboration with David Bruckner like? How challenging was it to accomplish his overarching vision?
We talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. I am so grateful to David for always having an open ear and allowing us to search for our creative path. He is one of the directors who will take the time to break down the emotional beats of the script with you, so we can hone in on what will matter for the design of the project. David is very personable and, while highly intelligent, also very curious, and that makes for great conversation. He knows what is important to him and the story and he expresses it clearly, which gives me and my team a good basis to make decisions and move along swiftly. David certainly has a way of getting people to follow him everywhere. I really love working with him.
Working on a reboot of a classic horror series like Hellraiser, do you feel obligated to pay homage to Clive Barker’s original look, or did you want to start completely fresh?
It was a combination of the above. There were things about the original film we certainly wanted to honor and build on: in the physical world the box, the original depiction of the stone textured labyrinth, and the Romanesque arches in doorways are some of those elements. We also wanted to embrace themes tied to the occult and dark sides of human nature on the more philosophical level. Clive Barker is an amazing artist, and listening to his talks is hugely inspiring. He made such a lasting impact on so many people, so it came with the territory to honor the master, even while taking a fresh approach to the material.
Were there things you learned from working on Hellraiser that you’re excited to apply to future projects?
Hellraiser in regards to the learning experience is probably one of my favorite projects. I got the opportunity to do things in the design process on a scale I hadn’t been able to prior: We had a concept design phase and I got to work with 2 wonderful concept artists who assisted in visualizing ideas with beautiful illustrations. I got to work with an army of set designers and besides building spaces we designed and custom-built many of the practical lights and much of the furniture in Voight’s Mansion. Those are great memories that I will cherish and certainly try and implement on future projects. I also really loved working in Europe.
Do you have any other projects coming up that you can share with us?
There is a book adaptation with a supercool lady director I am excited about. The second season of Black Mafia Family at the Starz network will premiere soon as well and I’m at panelist in the Superwomen HOD’s Panel at the Savannah Film Festival 2022 next week.
Other than that, the sky is the limit.
This story originally appeared on Comingsoon