Yesterday I went to a screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was actually my first time seeing it (yes I have been living under a rock for the past year). My university was screening the movie as part of their annual film festival so I had another chance to see it in the cinema... yay! After the screening, the graphic designer Annie Atkins gave a presentation on her experience working with Wes Anderson on the set of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The Grand Budapest is one of the most stylish films I have seen this year. I love the miniature model of the hotel, the unique styling of each character and the impeccably beautiful set design. I can see why The Grand Budapest won Oscars for production design, costume design and makeup. Annie Atkins worked in the art department as a graphic designer. She was responsible for the set design and the production of props - everything from the pink Mendl boxes to the interior of The Grand Budapest. In her presentation she described the process of approaching graphic design in film. The first week of production involves the breaking down of the script and the highlighting of important design elements. The graphic designer must then immerse themselves in the style of the period or in the case of The Grand Budapest, the world of Wes Anderson - a task that was made considerably easier by the fact that the art department was located on set in the abandoned department store that functioned as The Grand Budapest Hotel.
During production Annie Atkins moved between the digital design of the set and the practical making of props. In order to produce authentic looking props, Annie attended flea markets and vintage stores to become familiar with the style of old telegrams, bank notes and antiques like vintage keys and perfume bottles. In order to make objects like the Last Will and Testament of Madame D. look old, she would use techniques like distressing and soaking paper in tea. As The Grand Budapest involves a fictional world, Annie had a lot of freedom to experiment with the typography and graphic design of props like the pink Mendl boxes. Annie described Wes Anderson's interest in all aspects of stage production. He even became involved in the production of the newspapers by writing each article on the front page himself.
Annie Atkins is currently working on a new movie directed by Stephen Spielberg and written by the Coen Brothers called Bridge of Spies. Annie has previously designed for TV shows like The Tudors, Penny Dreadful and animated films like The Boxtrolls.