Author & Interviewer: Nethra Rammohan
I recently had the chance to chat with Annie Atkins — an artist and prop designer, whose work has brought the films of Wes Anderson and Steven Spielberg to life. In our exchange (documented below), she reflected on her artistry, influences, and first book:
NR: When did you cultivate an interest in art and design, and what prompted you to pursue it as a profession?
AA: I was very lucky in that both my parents were artists, so pursuing a career in design was always something I wanted to do, and I had plenty of support. I know that that's not the case for lots of people though, and I try to encourage every young person I meet at design conferences to go for work in film design if they want it, because it really is a very fulfilling career.
NR: You have a sparkling portfolio under your belt, having designed artifacts and sets for films like Bridge of Spies, Joker, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Which pieces or props are you most proud of creating?
AA: Grand Budapest will always hold the most special place in my heart. It was the first big feature film I worked on and Wes Anderson's graphic sensibility meant that the pieces I got to make were really interesting.
NR: Which artists have had the biggest influence on your creative process and style?
AA: I don't know the names of any of the artists that influence me: it's all the old sign-painters and letterpress printers from Victorian times whose work I pore over from old street photography. We really try to use references for every prop we design and most of the creators of these pieces are long gone.
NR: What advice would you give to students and aspiring designers on breaking into/finding their feet in the industry?
AA: Don't wait to get started on your portfolio! You can set your own briefs. My workshop students make graphic props from characters that they love from books or plays.
NR: Your first book — Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking was published earlier this year. What inspired you to write it, and what do you hope it will impart to its readers?
AA: It seems strange to me that there hasn't been a book on the subject until now. I wanted to give people a look behind the scenes at the craft of graphic design for film, and also share some personal stories from sets.
To learn more about Annie Atkins and her work, visit her website.
This story was written by third year LMC major, Nethra Rammohan and the visual PDF was designed by fourth year CM major, Selena Do for Jillann Hertel’s special topics course, Media for Community Building.
For further inquiries, please contact Senior Academic Professional Jillann Hertel.