Red Stewart chats with Richard Hoover about Twin Peaks and Second Act….
Richard Hoover is an American production designer who has been working in the television and film industries since the early-80s. He is best known for his designs for projects like Twin Peaks, The Newsroom, and Top Five.
Flickering Myth had the privilege to interview him, and I in turn had the honor to conduct it:
Mr. Hoover, thank you so much for speaking with me sir. Twin Peaks and The Newsroom are two of my favorite shows of all time, and the aesthetics and sets of them were instrumental in the formation of that love. So thank you again.
Good, we should start a tribe or something!
Now I know we’re here to talk about Second Act, but I want to ask a couple of Twin Peaks questions if you don’t mind me doing so?
The first is, a while back I talked to the creator of this French television show called Zone Blanche or Black Spot that had a similar vibe to Twin Peaks. And because of this, I asked him upfront if Twin Peaks was an influence on the look of his show, and he literally told me that it was impossible to escape the influence of Twin Peaks. I’m just wondering, did you ever expect your work to have this international legacy all these years later?
No. I did not do the pilot to be clear, but when we did the series we didn’t know, we just did it. It wasn’t like we were that aware of the potential legacy. [David] Lynch was manipulating time and pace and humor and mystery in a unique way that was a new for television at that point, and I hadn’t done anything TV-wise before that. So we just went headlong into it and realized more about the production design as we were doing it. It wasn’t discussed: it was work to get done and we did it and then, as we observed it, we said “oh goodness, now we’re learning.”
Regarding the international thing, no I didn’t know. We didn’t think it would have a great impact.
I’m glad to hear that it was a process that came naturally.
Yeah again, it wasn’t talked about much. It was organic, and the scenery also grew that way because we had two warehouse spaces near the Van Nuys Airport, and basically we were jamming and kind of ripping on scenes as we went as we were under a lot of pressure. We scattered around the L.A. area for any place with pine trees that looked like the northwest.
I always love learning new things about my favorite shows, so thank you for telling me about that. Obviously, as you said, you all were creating something new, and it ended up being this amazing thing.
The impact of it is is basically through people like you and other people observing it. To me, that amazes me. Not to say that there’s less there than meets the eye, but it was just that we dealt with it and that was it. None of the people who were working on it had done traditional television. So we had no interest in that and we weren’t locked in a technical process that is TV. It was more like feature shooting and wide angles. The scenery became real environments.
Now you’ve been in the industry for some time, so I’m wondering, compared to when you were doing Twin Peaks to now, have you, as a production designer, seen a transition to a reliance green screen and digital shots?
Yeah, I have. Because you’re living in an era where technology is leaping forward faster than ever before. And it’s the same situation in filmmaking in the sense of the digital camera revolution. Also the visual effects were, at that time that we were doing Twin Peaks, not something they could do extensively given budgetary constraints. And it wasn’t a language that we knew very much about at that point, so definitely designers have learnt that language and we work on that all the time. It’s the nature of it right now.
It’s a part of the tool box that you discuss when you’re trying to do films and things like that. So it has really become a part of my own language. It’s become more affordable now, within reach of smaller films, with less gigantic green screens needed. So it is in the world right now and it is something designers have to know about.
And I take it, based on how well you talked about it, that the transition was easy for you over the years?
Well, I’ve learned from the experience of it. When I went into 42, for example, we were lucky to work with a great group of VFX artists and they spoke a lot. We had to build things for them, and then I was able to sit in a post-production stage with them and help do research for the technicians who were sitting in the dark room behind their screens, because that’s where it ends up. And that was fascinating because I was like “oh my god, it’s a whole room of people,” not to mention the people in Korea working on it, doing different aspects of compositing. And that was a heavily-composited film, because they had to create stadiums and clouds where they didn’t exist.
So that was a good learning experience for me. The art department did the drafting of stadiums from research prior to all that, and added what we had to the post-production. The VFX team would then go in and do the paintings and the final renderings and the animation.
No for sure, I imagine you have to rely more on digital for period pieces. That architecture isn’t available.
For sure, it doesn’t exist. I’m working with a producer on a pitch for a film set in 1941 near a navy yard. And you go down there and it’s not like that anymore, so you’re going to have to recreate it.
I’m definitely looking forward to it.
It’s a hard industry. I’m struggling with it, but it’s okay, I enjoy the work. I also do theater work when I’m trying to get my head wrapped around the future.
Click below to continue on to the second page…