There is no doubt that if you are a fan of television, Mark Worthington has created the world of a show that you have enjoyed. From Watchmen to American horror story to Lost, this veteran production designer has been working behind the scenes to bring a wide variety of worlds to life, so it’s no surprise that he’s worked on every episode of WandaVision, creating both Wanda’s ever-evolving sitcom fantasy universe and the reality of SWORD agents outside of Westview, trying to figure out what’s going on.
I could have talked to Worthington for hours about how to make WandaVisionbut in the interview below, we managed to explore what it’s like to work alone on the pilot of a show, which it did WandaVision Such a riveting experience, the process of going from a multi-camera style episode to a single camera episode, and working with Marvel to create the less comical elements of the series.
Collider: To begin with, for you, what is the difference between going on a show and doing just the pilot, versus doing something like this where you’re there for the full run?
MARK WORTHINGTON: They’re both really cool, and I’ve done a lot of both, because if you’ve seen my work or my resume, you probably know. Two very different ideas. In a pilot, you’re stepping in and you’re trying to establish a template for the show, an overall look, and hopefully that DNA is solid and going. Umbrella academy That’s right: I did the pilot and then moved on due to personal problems, I didn’t want to be in Toronto all year. But there are these great permanent sets that we build, a lot of sets built for that, and then those, obviously that’s the visual template. That’s great.
When you’re dealing with this, and WandaVision is really cool that way, because you’re trying … We didn’t always have the script completely finished, but we were almost done when we got into it. And there was rewriting and stuff, but we knew the arc, and it was a director, Matt Shakman, and he’s an old friend, and he’s amazing. So now you can think about the whole thing, which is really wonderful, because now what happens in Episode 9 is inflicted in part by what you’re doing in episode one, and you can be part of that process from the beginning. beginning. Let’s go.
And it’s different than episode streaming, for example, where you don’t really know what the scripts are doing and you’re doing unique episodes. It’s like making a novel, essentially, and being able to tie it all together into a unified creative vision that is really satisfying. It’s huge, much bigger than a feature film in a way, because you’re dealing with all this time, but that’s really fun.
So let’s talk about the Episode 1 transition, which was traditionally shot in front of a multi-camera set, multi-camera audience, live studio audience, and then moved to a much more familiar single-camera format. How was that process?
WORTHINGTON: Well, we spent a lot of time researching the different sitcoms of the time and we landed on a version of all of them, an amalgamation of what our story was. So you have to watch, we spent a lot of time, I spent a lot of time with Matt, Jess Hall the cinematographer, Mayes C. Rubeo the costume designer and my own people, watching sitcoms, watching them, looking at stills of them, watching even behind the scenes stuff, to understand what that is, and really looking obviously at the decorative style, what the sets were at that time, but also the shooting style.
A live audience environment with three cameras is a very different idea than a half hour with a single camera. I hadn’t done three cameras before and I walked in thinking: “It’s a sitcom, this will be a piece of cake.” No, it is a technical challenge. That experience rebuked me, and I like that, when I go in assuming one thing and then another happens. You learn something that I am always looking for. So it was really amazing, to see what that world was really about, to go into it and really have to come to terms with it and understand it, respect it and try to manifest it. I have so much respect for that shape now. I had it before, for many reasons, but now I have many more. It’s a beautiful shape, I think, and really powerful given the amount of reps out there right now.
So you built the original set. Was Episode 1 filmed first?
WORTHINGTON: Yes. We shot more or less in order. Parts of it we couldn’t, because we had to be in backlots – there were sections of episodes that were shot in outside backlots that we did much later, so it split. But we try to shoot as smoothly as possible. I think for obvious reasons that helps with the actors and the performances and the character progression.
One of the details that I really enjoy is the fact that the house, in the first few episodes, feels fundamentally the same, it’s only evolving slightly with each jump in time. Was it the same set that you were updating on the fly?
WORTHINGTON: Yes and no. Some sets were unique because of the footprint and the way they were, and others reused elements. If what you are asking is if we are working with essentially the same plane and the same layout, then yes. That was conscious. In other words, we wanted it to have the same design in a recognizable way, so when you jump through ages, you say, “That’s the front door, that’s where the fireplace is, that’s where the path through the kitchen is. Yes. Okay. I’m in the same environment, but now in a new comedy-age context. ”
And then every now and then having to update things so you can do things like throw a character through a wall.
WORTHINGTON: Precisely, and I added the nursery in that episode. In episode 1 there are no stairs, in episode 2 there is a stair. So the story also drives part of the need for the plan itself and the elements, but we always wanted, and Matt was very emphatic about it, to know that the basic arrangement was the same. The general details and everything were changing, but the basic design was the same.
So in Episode 4, of course, we got out of this format and we’re in a whole new world, more or less. So what was different about making these pieces much more MCU-like?
WORTHINGTON: Well, it was a relief in a way. We had been in the world of sitcoms forever. It’s not that we weren’t doing it at the same time, we were doing it, so that’s a cheeky answer. But you are using two parts of your brain, right? But that’s really energizing because you’re not doing the same thing over and over again. We’re doing these very well-considered and curated sitcom ideas on stage, and then we’re in a field, building a mobile base for SWORD in a literal field.
So you’re in your boots, and it’s cold, and … You were experiencing the same thing that the audience feels and the characters, because when you’re on stage, it’s warm, lovely, 75 degrees and sunny in the Westview world, and well isn’t it cool? And then I’ll go out to check the progress in the field, and it’s 35 degrees in sleet. So I’m having the same visceral physical experience that the audience is watching.
For the SWORD sequences, were you working with Marvel to keep that in continuity with what we’ve seen before in the movies?
WORTHINGTON: Yes. There’s no Bible that you put yourselves in and say, “Here it is” and “Do it this way.” Marvel is like a big indie film company that makes $ 200 million movies and other content – creative executives Kevin, Lou, and Victoria sit in a room, we watch them once every two weeks and sometimes even more often, we present things. and it is a conversation. They’re curating on the fly, based on their knowledge, their very deep understanding of what the MCU is, but they’re listening to the director, me, the costume designer, and the cinematographer, and we’re having a conversation about what it is. that, and create it specific to the program. We have the railings in place, because they will say, “That’s not quite right, let’s go in this direction.” But it’s not a mandate, no, which is really cool. There is a real openness to that, at the same time.
New episodes of WandaVision they are broadcasting on Fridays on Disney +. To learn more, here’s our recent interview with Kat Dennings, as well as a detailed look at how the show plays with tropes from the world of sitcoms.
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