top of page

Articles to Inspire Your Personal Growth and Success

Hi I'm Emily Maguire

I'm a UK career coach and business coach for individuals in the creative and entertainment industries and passionate about helping people achieve their career goals. I'm also a top voice on LinkedIn for the Film Industry and a podcast producer and host.

  • Facebook
  • Linkedin
Emily Maguire UK Career Coach and Business Coach for the arts, creative and entertainment industry

From Harry Styles to James Corden: Production Designer Sally Lock

Updated: 1 day ago

In episode 5 of the Inside Entertainment Industry Careers podcast, I'm joined by Sally Lock, who discusses her career journey in the world of production design. She shares insights into the production process from concept development to design and then construction. Sally also advises our listeners to never give give up learning or give up on their dreams.

From Harry Styles to James Corden: Production Designer Sally Lock

Sally Lock discusses her journey into the world of production design, starting from her fascination with film sets as a child. She shares how she discovered her passion for art and practical design, leading her to pursue a career in set design for film and TV. Sally explains the process of communicating her vision to the director and the rest of the team, from concept development to designing and constructing the set. She emphasizes the importance of collaboration and the attention to detail required in her role. Sally also expresses her excitement and inspiration from watching movies and seeing the creativity of others in the industry.


Sally discusses the production design process and the various roles and responsibilities involved. She explains the importance of attention to detail and maintaining the continuity of sets throughout filming. Lock also highlights the flexibility and adaptability required in the industry and the importance of constantly learning and staying up-to-date with new technology and techniques. She shares her love for working on music projects and true-life documentaries and emphasizes the value of collaboration and teamwork on set. Lock encourages aspiring professionals to persevere, keep learning, and never give up on their dreams.



Childhood Fascination with Film Sets

 

Emily:

Hi, Sally. Thank you so much for joining me today. You're going to discuss the world of production design?

 

Sally Lock:

Yes, that's right, from start to finish, including how I got into it and what I'm doing right now.

 

Emily:

Lovely, and you grew up in Essex, didn't you? But you didn't just study in Essex; you also went to America. What was the inspiration for becoming a designer? Did you know that from a young age, or was there somebody in your life who influenced that career choice?

 

Sally Lock:

Well, I think there was always a big influence from watching films and the magic of the film. So I would watch something like The Goonies or Back to the Future or something like that, and the sets were amazing. They were so important in getting that excitement on screen for the actors and interacting with everything. So it was just always a wonderful fascination with it, and then, as I started to look at careers, I realized that I'm dyslexic, and a writing course kind of career was never going to be one for me. It was something I always struggled with, but art, you know, I just love doing it all the time.


I started looking, thinking maybe my career was in window dressing design. Then, I suddenly started seeing posters on the wall for film and TV set courses at the university, and I thought that was exactly what I wanted to do. That's exactly it. I saw all these pictures, and I suddenly went to the library. I started looking everything up, and that's when the passion suddenly ignited. I want to be involved in creating what I always used to love watching.


I then applied to a few universities, but there was no theatre, film, TV, or set design course back then. It was all really around spatial design or interior and architectural degrees, and the skills are very similar. So, I went down that road and found myself technically drawing construction methods. It's the same process of sketching, technical drawing, and making a model; the same skills are used in the same way, except with architecture. All these buildings have to last for 75 years, but it only has to last for six or seven months on set. So it's different in how it's handled after that process.


But after a couple of years at university, going through all those and learning all those skills, I realised that I didn't want to do the formal architectural degree. It's a seven-year-long slog, and I had started getting really inspired by talking to people. People would see my work, and you suddenly realised I was seeing the world very differently and wasn't functioning. Buildings, stairs, disabled access and air-conditioned units were all beyond me, and I didn't really find an interest. Still, they said, you're seeing things so imaginatively, creatively, we think you might need to be looking at going somewhere else, and I thought in the back of my mind, theatre and film, that's really what I wanted to do anyway.


That's when I started looking up degrees to examine those skills, a crossover of it all. That didn't really exist in the UK, so I ended up applying to different master's degrees in America because, in America, you could choose your classes week on week out. I ended up choosing classes in welding, construction, colour theory, and things like that, which were helpful in becoming a designer in film, theatre, and TV. But my week-on-week out was a lot more hands-on, whereas, in the UK, it was a lot more theory-based, and as I say, being dyslexic, I didn't want to continue going down that road because I knew I would fail at something.


The Excitement of Different Materials


When you're filming and you're coming up with a design for something like these different sets, you have to know how materials work. You have to know how far a piece of metal can bend, how it can bend, what it looks like when it bends, and the treatments you can do to it. By doing the welding classes hands-on, I've got to understand what it meant and how far you could push the materials and wood, what kind of woods are out there, how the wood comes to you in planks, or does it come in laminates? So you start to learn the materials you would later use as you create your sets, and when I talk to people, I know what I can talk to them about. When they say explain something to me, I understand why the metal can't go together as it does or what the welder requires to create what I need them to create.


So that is really a deeper understanding for me, from colour psychology to construction methods and how materials can be manipulated for you, and I think that's what I got from those university degrees, a little bit of something from each one, a lot of dismissive stuff that I won't ever use. But a lot of stuff that, you know, I now carry with me, and I can still hear the things that the professor said to me in my head about how to use colours and textures and things like that, and they still resonate with me as I'm designing. I still still remember them and use them as inspiration.

 

Emily:

From what you're saying, it's very much a manual labour job, working with those materials and knowing the feel.

 

Sally Lock:

Yeah, it's very much; I get excited by material books as they arrive. I've got a team that I use and work with a lot. We collectively keep acquiring materials as we go along. So if you have laminates that go on worktops, you have wood samples, you have painting techniques, and everything like that. So when you actually get it in front of you, you touch it. I'm forever touching things. I'm going into material shops, and you touch and feel it. Then I understand what that would look like on camera, the velvet, the silk, and how the light in the studio with a camera lens would pick up on each of those different surfaces. But you can't if it's flat and on the computer screen; I don't understand it until I get it in front of me.


I've got 50-something books. I go to different samples of materials and things like that all the time, and I sit there, squint at them, look at them, and forever mess with them. But it doesn't stop; there's a new thing out, a new concrete effect plaster, or a new high-resolution neon fabric that's come out, and you always need to keep looking at them and finding inspiration from them. Maybe it's unsuitable for that project, but it's amazingly great for the next one you will look at. You just hold it all in reserve.

I'm sure people listening who love the arts will have books of inspiration or something online where they've held their inspiration, and it will be there in four years' time; you'll get the right project to work with that. That's exactly why I kept that image or that sample and things like that. But yeah, it's very tactile, hands-on. Check it out with your hands, and feel how heavy something is for the construction side as well. I get so excited by it. I pull it into my team, and I go, look at this; how can we use it? You get really excited about it. And I think that you shouldn't be doing the job at the moment that dies away, as there's really just this innate need; you want to show it, use it, and create with it as well.

 

The Joy of Learning from Others


Emily:

I can sense and feel your passion for the role that you do so well. Do you find that when you watch movies, you suddenly go, oh, I like that. I'll have to look at that and research what I could use in a job in the future.

 

Sally Lock:

Absolutely, I think you always think that you're going to be the person who comes up with the first unique use of this or the way that this is shot. It's not always the case because one, you may not have the budgets, or you may not have a director who sees the same vision as you, and ultimately, you need to be guided by them. But when watching things, I go, oh, that's amazing; how did they make that? My partner sits there watching movies with me, and he'll hear me say something, and he goes what have you seen, and I go, I know just how they've done that or what they've just done on camera is really difficult. Then I sit for the next 10 minutes, and the movies are on pause while I explain why that was so difficult, and it goes the opposite way, too.


If I'm watching something, and I see a boom of a sound mic accidentally dropping into the corner of a shot, and I get angry about it. I go, oh, that's someone's job that is to make sure that didn't happen, you know, and that's the detail-driven part of the art department is that we spot things like that because we are looking at the set constantly what's wrong what have we left on set is you know the water bottle from the Downton Abbey drama that happened that time what you're constantly scouring the set because it represents you and your work.

 

So if there's anything that's mistakenly been left or a cup of coffee by a crew member, it's your responsibility to get in there and ensure it's not, and that comes with confidence because I used to be very shy at the very beginning. Now I'm like, I will not let that go out there like that. First, when they go into the edit, they will see that mistake and be upset with it, so it's best to do it right now, even if it puts a halt to filming. I just put my hand up and go; our department needs to be on set. Then we walk on, and I readjust it. Sometimes, it slows it down, but other times, people are really grateful that you spotted something, and I think that is why when we're watching things, you see the quality of people's work and realise what that team went through to make what they've done.


On-set Collaborative Working


I think you know there is a collaboration among all departments to respect each other's talents and creativity and help each other out. So my set makes the light look great and that combined makes the vision on the camera look great. So everybody's got their part that they play and if you feel that you're going to be solely responsible for what is filmed, I think that's actually wrong because we are on a big collaborative team and have to work together to help each other.


So when you see the beautiful work of something like the Wonka film or Poor Things or something like that, you realize what they must have gone through as a team together to create what's there. Some of it is absolutely astonishing and amazing, which still excites me; that's the world where I get paid to work. I am now part of a team where I love seeing my team create things for me. I was just the initial spark of it, and those guys carry on with their creativity and make some amazing things.


But watching TV inspires me and excites me about what others are making. It is because we fell in love with the industry. We fall in love with how people come together and create something that everybody else loves watching. I love seeing how other people can help, how far they can push the boundaries, or how a new camera lens or a new construction method can create what we are watching and enjoying.


Understanding and Communicating a Vision

 

Emily:

You also touched upon the director. How do you communicate your vision to everybody on set so they understand where you're coming from?

 

Sally Lock:

It's a very long process. A lot of it's not actually ever seen by everybody. So, I can start off by saying that I'm on a concept development scheme. It's a concept for a new show, and I'm helping them develop the concept. We're nowhere near filming. But what you've done is you've got a team together, and we're all talking. So we've got the producers, and you've got the director over cups of coffee and boxes of chocolates; we are throwing ideas at each other. What if we did this? Could we actually create it with this instead?


So you start to drive forward many ideas. If it's something that's a bit more period, a bit more in the 70s, or something like that, then I take lots of inspiration from original buildings and sets and go, this is how we could create it. You throw that back to make sure that you're all on the same page because if you've gone off in the wrong way, you could do loads more work that's not needed; you need to see the same vision. So once that's all been agreed upon, I start designing a set.


We put something down on paper, and this is the part that I would always try to explain: that the directors, cameras, and people might not see it how it's in your head, and you might put it down and go, oh, they'll understand that because they worked in film, they know what they're doing and you sit there, and you see blank expressions. They're like, how's that going to work for us? So you know, it's what's in your head you must convey to them. I can advise anybody going into this world that's your hardest task from start to finish. What's in your head onto paper, onto video, or 3D render drawing to put it in front of somebody to say, this is how we're going to work. This is how my set will help you create what you will put on top of it, and those methods are really not fixed.


When people go, what technical drawing program do you use? What software do you use? How do you do it? I used to think I was doing it wrong, but it's how you do it. So if you convey that by a Photoshop-rendered image onto a 3D format or overlay that onto a photo you've taken of a location, or you have a 3D walkthrough you've created with 3D software programs, they're all working. They all help you convey your idea.


So, if I can see if something doesn't work, I'll take that wall away because, in your head, you start thinking, if I put that wall in there, this camera can't get that wide shot that it needs. So now my design is impacted by the actual functioning reality of what a second does and needs to do. So does that wall come in temporarily but get removed for that shot? Does production have enough hours in their filming schedule to allow me to do that? Do we need to come up with a different way of creating this set? You start to put all these drawings together. Personally, I work on a 3D render drawing. It allows me to understand the actual set size and how a person and actor can move around it.


Have I given them enough angles for that? Do I have a couple of walls that should be half-walls so that the camera can shoot through a section? I start to work it out. I start to do the height; then I start to render it so I can start to feel the vibe of it. Once I feel it will click, there'll be a moment, and I will go. I think this is it. I render it up and put it into a whole presentation that allows producers, directors, and cameras to understand what's in my head and allows them to input.


Normally, it'll be about a 15-page presentation of one set, one actual setup, back to them. So, not the entire script or the entire shoot, but one area. With that, we get the feedback. So the director goes, amazing, this, this has given me an opportunity to do this top shot. I didn't think I could get it, but it was amazing. So you're bouncing off of each other in that conversation. You reach a point where everyone's like, is this how we feel? This is going to be right.


I'll go away and budget it at that point. I will draw it up maybe a little bit in further detail, or I'll get a 3D renderer to draw it up for me because those creatives are absolutely amazing at what they do. Meanwhile, I'm having conversations with art directors and prop people, so I can't actually physically do all of it myself. Once it's signed off, you must create construction drawings, which are a completely different part of the process.


Now, your director and your cameras do not need to see construction drawings. The construction drawings are for a construction manager to take from you and get the set built as needed. So, at that point, we will be talking about finishes on the wall. We've suggested some of those finishes to the director and cameras to understand kind of what the reflections on from lights and things like that, textures on walls and things like that will be, but now I need to really go, this is exactly what I need. This is how this finish should be. This edge must look smart because it will be very close to the camera.


Some of them you can call camera cheats because they're so far away that we don't have to spend much money on them. So we could, like, if it's a brick wall, we could do fake bricks painted by scenic that will never get a close-up shot. But if it's, for example, the camera is going to pan that piece of wall to focus on the actor or the musician or whoever's going to be in front of it, then that needs to be top quality. So then it takes two to three days to perfect that, whereas the rest of it could be a quick day's paint job, and that has to be given to the construction team.

 

I pop in every couple of days. I have people I trust to build long-term relationships with who know what I would expect in terms of quality. I get an art director to run and oversee the whole lot, and I have props buyers who will be on the phone, liaising with them if it's something I'm very detailed about and want to be involved in. So you have a great team you allow to head off, take what you've got in your head, and add their mark on it.


Everybody's got a little bit of something to add in, and for example, your construction manager, I can't turn around and tell them how to build it. I can tell them how I want it to look, but if they know the best way to build it, they know the best way to construct it, should the frame be actually welded because it's so heavy that wood won't take the weight of it, that I let them guide me in the construction of it. They know what's best, so it's best to leave that with the experts, keep an eye on it, and stand back and watch them as they do their work.

 

As a team, you create the vision you've agreed to sign off on, and only occasionally do I jump in and go. Actually, I really need this to look like this because there's been a huge conversation about this with the director and the cameras about how this section will be shot, and the standby team is making sure there's no light escape in a room, or something doesn't look like it still got a tape on it from travelling or things like that.


There's a bit at the end, a whole D-rig schedule that we then move on to ensure that it goes back into storage or moves on to the next location and remains in the same condition as the first day you put it in. But for six, seven weeks, whilst it's been filmed, you'll have another team that will just be looking after that whole process of keeping it looking like it did on that very first day, plumping up cushions, redoing doors, putting the props back into their places again and things like that. So that's a standby team that makes sure it looks in tip-top condition for that full day of filming as if it was as important as the very first day you went in. It's quite long and very detailed.


Scripted Versus Unscripted

 

Emily:

It sounds like there are so many moving parts, yet you work with a highly creative team and allow them to have a voice. So, it sounds like a wonderful work environment in which to work every day.

 

Sally Lock:

I think that's one of the things about my career that has been very different. I started off in scripted, and I did scripted for nearly ten years as an assistant as a graphic designer for props to an art director; then, I moved into different worlds and became a production designer and head of a department.

 

Some people stay scripted; some stay in commercials and light entertainment and things like that. But I think a designer can be very flexible around their skills. So, for example, if you're doing a scripted, but it's got to be a script about a musician who does a music video, you then also have to be able to create a music video because that is actually what you're filming within the scripted drama.


You also have to create that within that world and bring in, you know, dated items, period items, and things like that. So there's a designer can be very flexible and use their skills. I don't think anyone really needs to be one or the other. Still, some people love working in one world and the creativity around being in the scripted drama working environment for six to seven months, and other people like myself, I love moving on. So, I love working on something for two or three weeks and then moving on to the next one. I love this, you know, the creative developments of the different ones, and being able to create, move on, film it, see it on camera, and things like that.


There are many different worlds to be in, and I think that, with mine, they do change very differently. It's a game show, a music video, and a commercial, and you're talking about them all in different worlds in your head. I can flick very quickly, and that's the skill that you develop when switching from one chat to Zoom with a different production company to talk about the next one. You can do that across a couple simultaneously because they're all in different stages of development. So one's being filmed, one you're having an initial meeting about to discuss ideas, and another one is actually talking about series two that's coming back in the summer. So you kind of, your head's always flicking between the different projects that you're working on at different times.


Embracing Changeable Work Environments

 

Emily:

That's what I also like about the industry, though, that changeability and adaptability are not one day the same, and I think that's the great thing about the creative industries. It's not the typical nine-to-five. Sometimes, you don't know what you're going to walk into.

 

Sally Lock:

Yeah, absolutely. And also it's so different. Even on the same project, it can change from Monday through Friday to the project I'm currently working on with development. It started with one sort of design style. We've worked through it, and they have decided that they want to go more technologically advanced with more light and effects. The whole set has changed and moved towards something completely, and then they're unrecognizable from start to finish. But I think what I love is there is a challenge with every single set you design. So, for me, it would be a location that throws you a problem or the weather that throws you a problem, and you have to think quickly on your feet about how to get around that issue.


So you have to maybe, for example, we filmed in a castle, and suddenly they're like, we need to get this four poster bed to the room at the top of the castle because that's the best shots. Absolutely agree. But in between that room and where we're going to load in the set, there's a spiral staircase, and we can't create that, and you can't get anything through the windows. You have to almost take things up in caribou, which are carrying sizes, so you can get it up around the spiral staircase. But you also have to put it together. So it's something big in the room. Then, we break it down into sections that can carry up a spiral staircase.


Or it could be you're looking at something outside on location, and you're filming in the dead of winter, which we did on the inbetweeners and everyone's freezing, but it's supposed to look like it's the summer holidays. So all the time, you're like, this gives you that effect, making it look like it's the summer. We'll put an ice cream van over here, and you'll do things like that. For that one, I helped a production designer. That was as I was learning my trade and coming up through it. So you're helping and learning at the same time.


You always see those little challenges as you progress through those levels of working, and as you become the production designer, you suddenly have a wealth of experience handling all these little challenges. How will I do the things that get thrown at me now? I go away, talk to my team, and we come up with some solutions. We come back together again, and we present them.

 

But I think that's the exciting part. And at the end of the day, you go, God, we put that together. That was amazing. Wasn't it? We've had four days to build that because that's all we were allowed to have. However, we still managed it because we planned it and sorted out everything that we could beforehand. Then, at seven o'clock, when we had to move into the location to start putting the sets in, everything was on the truck, ready to go. We had a plan, and everyone just got on it and started putting it together. So that's the exciting part. That's the bit that thrills me as well. Sometimes you think, oh, I can't do this. And other times, you're like, this is amazing. We've done it.

 

Working on Music Videos


Emily:

You've worked on various projects, including movies, documentaries, commercials, and talk shows. What's your favourite from all the different things you've worked on so far?

 

Sally Lock:

I think I love music. There's a buzz of being in the room, being paid to be in the room where you've got some of the most amazing artists in the world standing there in front of you. You're sitting there and listening to Lady Gaga, Elton John, or someone like that, and you're thinking, I'm getting paid to do this today.


But also, the amazing thing is that the set that you help create is there, and they're using it to perform this amazing performance in front of you. Then there's the music playing in the background, and we did a shoot with Harry Styles at Abbey Road Studios. This is where you have to work with the other teams. The director had a beautiful vision, and he had Paul Dugdale, and the cameras were there ready to help with it, and then he discussed his shot. Then we realised there was a load of the set, the room that was going to be seen; then we had to make kind of it look like it wasn't what it was, then we had to hide it and things like that.


Then we stepped back and let Paul and his camera department team set up their shot. We all had to step out of the room, and then Harry Styles started playing the music, and the music was pumping in; it was fantastic. You saw this one shot, and it was just one camera spinning around the room, and it looked fantastic on screen. It was buzzing at the end of it. Everyone was like, wow, that was amazing, the sound was fantastic. The lighting, the cameras, the pool, and the performance were fantastic. Everyone gave it its all, and it just looked spectacular on screen. And I think I love the buzz of that side of it.


The Excitement of True-Life Documentaries


But I've gotten a buzz from true-life documentary films in recent years. So, getting a real story and helping to create that on screen. It could be a story that's shocking or something like that, but people don't really know the details. Then there's a team that's done all the research behind it. So, like your panorama-type things or something like that, they've done all the research, found the evidence, and you sit down at a table. How can I design the set to allow you to tell this story in the right way without manipulating the vision and what the evidence is showing? I don't want my set to take over the story. I want it to be a part of the story. I want the actors to be able to bounce off of a set if it's a little bit, period. You want them to pick up an old mobile phone and make a phone call on it rather than pick up a desktop phone.


So you then realise that you're your set isn't the focal point. It is part of helping to give everybody the ability to act within, film within, and tell the story, and that's really the important part. We click over to the interviews of the real people who've gone through these scenarios and click back to the scripted drama of it all. That's something as I'm getting older, I'm getting a little bit more excited about being a part of that team, telling that.


But there's a world for everything, I think. And it is interesting to have that different project in front of you. I think it's okay to come into our world, this industry, as one thing and then, ten years later, transition into another thing. Start writing your own script or have a vision to be able to do your own filming; you can always move back to where you originated from, but you can move around within the industry from scripted into music into documentaries and change and develop yourself. You don't have to stay in that one role in the industry all your life; you can be many things within it.

 

Working with Different Budgets


Emily:

Yeah, that's nice, isn't it? The challenges and the changes—it's like you say, there are not many careers that we can do that, but in the creative industries, it truly is your journey that is creative.

 

Sally Lock:

Yeah, absolutely. I think it's like those different challenges that you start to create; if you change yourself, you start to create new challenges for yourself. So you will start to see a door open that you didn't see before because you took on a different kind of project. Sometimes, the low budgets give you the ability to be the most creative or force you to be creative because you don't have the money.


Then you suddenly can start getting excited about it, where when you've got all the money being thrown at you in the world for a big budget, you can create what you want, and some of it is amazing. But when you've got a little budget, and I'm talking about the art department set budgets being 10,000 pounds, can you create this for me for 10,000? You go, that's really tight, but come on, let's try it, let's see, and the projects can sometimes be the most emotional and the most rewarding if you've got a tiny budget because you've created it knowing what your restrictions were.


The Benefit of Hindsight: Advice From Peers

 

Emily:

When you look back over your career and all the different challenges that you've had, did anybody give you a piece of advice that stuck with you and gave you that kind of a certain outlook as you went forward in your career?

 

Sally Lock:

As I started out, I was like, yeah, okay, I'll see what I can see. I'll experience it myself. But actually, as you're going through things, you start to hear what they say to you. Always be attentive and always be interested in what's being filmed. I think that's because you're learning when you're on set. It's a learning world, and I think they just stood there and watched what people do. So I would do my job, what I was paid for, and then I would step back and always be there watching, watching what the director said, watching what cameras were lining up their shots to be. Then, you start to realize that you have learned a bit more about it. And so the only thing you can do is actually learn that on set. You can't learn that in the classroom or watching videos.

 

You realise what's the right thing to do, when's the right moment to speak up, for example, and when you step back and let everybody else do their job because you've done yours, you've done what's needed from the art department. But I think the other part of that is you are always learning. I think if at the moment you think, oh, I've been to university, or I've been on set for five years, I know what I'm doing. That's wrong, I feel because I will learn about some new camera lenses next week. I'm attending a class to learn about how AI is being introduced into the industry. You have to keep learning.


I sat there with a director about five or six years ago, and they asked if I knew about this new camera lens. I was looking for a designer who knew how to know that I knew about that lens because I wanted to work with that lens, and that was my responsibility to keep myself up on the latest technology, the latest cameras and lights that are coming out and how that impacts my set. So you've got the new anamorphic lens. I would say new is not really new anymore, but that made the set so much wider than it ever had been in the past. You have to know that your set design now needs to extend left and right by quite a few more meters, and that comes about by knowing what that lens can do.


So I would say keep learning, keep getting onto the next filming methods, the next camera, the new way things are being done, look at the things on film, the new way that Poor Things was filmed, Oppenheimer, and things like that, then learn from that and bring it back into what you're creating.


You keep learning, and you keep getting excited, too. I look at these new lenses, and I go, God, that's amazing. I can't believe that it can make it look like that or it can focus in the way that it does with such clarity. So go to product exhibitions and see all the new camera lenses, see the new services for location companies, and learn new editing techniques; just walk around. They obviously want to sell their products, but you get to learn what's out there or what's coming simultaneously.


Learn Your Trade Working as a Runner

 

Emily:

Do you think it's also important to be a runner on set so you can learn the ins and outs of everybody's different roles?

 

Sally Lock:

100 % there's nothing that made me learn more than being a runner. So you were a runner in the art department, and you want to be in the art department, and you're closely aligned with that team. Sometimes, they didn't need you, so you moved over to help with camera running or production running, and each time, you learned a little more.


So it might not be that you'll end up in production, but what are the stresses and the expectations of production? By that, I mean, the line producers, production managers, you know, exec producers, people like that, what are their pressures that they're going through at that moment, that you can either one help facilitate, or and help them ease that up a little bit or not add to, or when they come and ask you, look, we really need this to happen you understand why because you understand the pressures that they're all under.


Sometimes it's not favourable. Like you're in the moment of filming, and then suddenly someone from production comes and says, I need all eight of your art vehicles moved, and you're like, oh my God, this is so difficult. But you know what? There's a reason for that, and that's because we've accidentally blocked in an entrance for emergency vehicles, or we are that's going to be the next shot of the day, and everyone's going to shoot our trucks, so we're going to have to move them, it's the best to move them now etc.


So you start to learn what other people's roles are, why that is, and how that impacts you, and then you end up doing what you want to do better. So you and everybody's learning, everyone's learning about you, what you're capable of, and so you'll be surprised about how you get your jobs. It will be two years later; someone will give you a call and say, oh, Sarah recommended you; she worked on the Harry Styles music video with you and said that you did this really well. We're doing something very similar. I'd love to see if you jump on board.


Learning what other people are going through and how long it takes cameras to set up their shot allows you to know how long it takes for the art department to move what they need to move for them to get their shot. If cameras are struggling and that's gonna push the art department behind for the next shoot, jump in. What do you need? What can we help you with? Yes, we've got a van. Do you want to throw your stuff in the back of our van, and we'll head off to the next location together? Let's help each other out because we can then create what we need to in the times and the budgets, and, you know, we work with each other.


We are in hotels with each other. We're eating dinner together. We're not with our families, you know, we're with each other a lot more than most working people normally are. So it's good to get on with each other. It's nice to be a team and to help each other out. If you think about things like that, you will help each other out, get the jobs, get the learning experience, and then be better at what you do and what you actually want to be doing because you know how everything is operating.


Perseverance and Learning

 

Emily:

Those networks are just so important, aren't they? As we've reached the end of the interview, is there any wisdom you've learned throughout your life experience that you'd like to share with our listeners who are perhaps just starting out or thinking about this career?

 

Sally Lock:

I think everybody has a different path to getting into the industry. I want to say that for me, it wasn't easy. I didn't get any internships. I didn't get any work experience. I was knocking on doors. I took jobs in London, working in bars. I was a cleaner. I did all this for many years. I got the odd one, two weeks working on a set; I was thrilled, and I thought that was it, and then suddenly, I didn't hear from anybody for six months, and all my CVs weren't being answered. You have to keep knocking on the doors; at some point, it will click, and at some moment, it will become your full-time career. It's such a strange moment.


So it's a really, I would say if you want to be doing it, you must keep doing it. You have to keep knocking on the doors, and if your CV is not looking like it's being accepted, recreate it again. I've got 15 different CVs. If it's a period drama, I send that one off. If it's a modern-day music video, I send this one off, you know, you start to keep on redeveloping yourself because if you love doing it, at some point, that door you're knocking on that door will get you in. But it took me five, six, seven years to make it my full-time career, and I think some people are lucky they get in within two years or six months or something like that.

 

There is no promise of that once you're starting out. So you have to keep a lot of rejection. Even now, I applied for two jobs this year, jobs I really wanted, and another designer was chosen, but that's a rejection. It's fine, I'll move on. There's another job next week that I'm gonna go for instead. So that's always knocking on a door, networking constantly, constantly learning about the new methods and redeveloping yourself every six months, a new CV, a new website, put something up on your website, put something up on your Instagram that's gonna attract interest and keep talking to people.


At some point, it clicks, and it feels like you people go, oh, I can't believe you got there. It took a lot of work to get there. You know, there was a lot of long nights. There were many designers asking me for something, and I thought, oh, I've got to stay up all night doing this. So I stayed up all night and sent them to see the design off in the morning. They were thrilled with it. You'll start doing things you're thrilled with and excited to be a part of. So, don't give up.

 

Emily:

That's a really nice note to finish on. Thank you. You've provided so much insight, and there's so much that our listeners can learn from all the different things that you've explored on this podcast. So, thank you so much for sharing them.


Short Biography:

Sally is a Production Designer specialising in Scripted and Unscripted TV, Music, and Commercial projects. With a background in Architecture, she holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from universities in England and the USA. Over the span of 20 years, Sally has advanced from entry-level runner roles to Art Director and now holds the position of Production Designer.


Her extensive portfolio includes a variety of projects, such as designing music video sets for Harry Styles' "Treat People with Kindness", the MTV European Music Awards, Ed Sheeran's "Sum of it all" and creating innovative concepts for shows like First Dates, The Dog House, The Circle, and The Big Flower Flight. In the scripted realm, Sally has contributed to productions like The Suspects, The Inbetweeners, Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon's Royal Wedding special, and The James Corden Late Late Show. Sally's work is characterised by a deep passion for crafting unique and visually captivating sets.


Listen to the full podcast episode:


Want more information about how to become a set designer?


Does this career story inspire you?

Wherever you're listening, subscribe to Inside Entertainment Industry Careers on Apple iTunes here.


The podcast is also on Spotify and all major podcast platforms.


Share on social media with the hashtag #insideentertainmentindustrycareers, or follow us on Instagram @InsideEntertainmentPodcast or Linkedin.


Want to know more about Sally Lock?

You can find out more about Sally on her website.

 

Or, view Sally's film credits on IMDB.


0 comments

Comentários


bottom of page