By Abigail Yue Wang
In Los Angeles, production designer Adi Goodrich makes real great endeavours to channel real good vibes. Regardless of commercial or independent, her studio sets are always dashingly adorned in blissful energy, the kind that takes a lot of laugh and a lot of sweat.
What was the first project that empowered your decision to become a production designer?
My first project was a movie called Red Moon. My friends and I started a film collective and made movies at night after a day of our full time jobs. I was doing window displays at the time for Barneys New York and Anthropologie, so it was a mix of the two projects that made me think I could manage the freelance life. But the push really came when I asked my friends, Kelly Moore and Jimmy Marble, “Hey, should I quit my job and design full time?” Without a beat, both of them said, “Duh”. We laughed, and I told my shitty boss I was out.
A lot of projects you worked on have made great use of paper or flat materials. The cutout dimension gives a very charming, downplayed tone to the visuals. Is cutting and building them as fun as it looks?
There’s more paint and wood than paper in my sets, but I’m happy you notice the paper-like quality because it’s there from the beginning of design. Often I cut my designs out of coloured paper to get that cut out feel. You can’t make something look cutout, you have to cut it out! From there, we cut out the large size from wood. And, is it fun? Oof! I’d like to say that. We do have a lot of fun in the studio. I work with really awesome people but I can’t call it fun, it’s work. Work is work, fun is fun.
Geometric shapes and patterns are a playful eye catcher in your design, they transmit real “good vibes” as you would describe. Where do you think the influence for that came from?
I think it came from the comic/zine scene in Chicago. I was always looking at works in Lumpen (a monthly paper I worked on) and geeking out at Quimby’s (a bookstore filled to the gills with weird shit). With artists like Chad Kouri and Cody Hudson in Chicago making super flat and graphic stuff, it seemed to be the only way my mind worked too. It might be because growing up on a farm, there was nothing but rows and rows of corn in every direction. The horizon line split the corn and the sky perfectly in half out there. It’s basically sheets of paper laid on one another.
“THE HUSTLE IS OFTEN HARD, YOU GET STRESSED OUT, YOU’RE BROKE WHEN YOU START OUT AND YOU LOSE LOVE AND FRIENDSHIPS SOMETIMES.”
Your video project PSA’s by JIMMYnADI is heart-warmingly delightful, the graphics are literal and metaphorical the same time, yet implicit to articulate. How did this project take shape?
Jimmy Marble and I thought, “Hey, we’ve got to make some work about all these anxieties we have being young and creative.” I feel like the creative world is portrayed on Instagram and social media as a free and breezy life. People show the happy times, which is not completely true. We wanted to show that it’s scary, and that should be expected, and it’s okay to be scared. The hustle is often hard, you get stressed out, you’re broke when you start out and you lose love and friendships sometimes. We aimed to make those videos to bro-down with this imaginary college student who lived in Indiana, someone we totally made up. (We always refer to this boy/girl who’s feeling helpless in Indiana, I DON’T KNOW WHY!) With the vast and wonderful WORLD WIDE WEB and Vimeo, these messages could be given to anyone, anywhere and that’s cool. The root of the project is, being honest and trying to do your best as hard as it may be. And, lastly, me and Jimmy making things together; it’s always beautiful, so that was the easy part.
Do most set designs turn out as on your sketchbook or do you also experiment on set?
Yes. They generally do. I’m not going to deny that there are 75 sketches to get to the final design, but most of it is figured out before we build and it’s always pretty cool to see it come to life from a flat drawing.
Would you say this is also a physically demanding job to tackle?
It is! I have scratches, bruises and cuts on me forever. I’m pretty self-conscious about my hands, they’re always dirty, cut and bleeding.
Regardless of budget or scale, does everyone always turn up cosy and friendly on set?
Ha! I wish. It’s tough, everyone works hard and cares a lot. Sometimes you look back and say “God, we got so mad about the placement of those plants!” or “Why did we get so stressed about finding that white rope?!” When you work on set, you get into a zone, your whole life is about the project at hand and nothing else matters sometimes. It’s like being in a tornado, you can’t see out but only see all the shit spinning around you. Sometimes it’s a total bummer, but other times we dance and laugh and come up with the funniest games and jokes. I guess it’s a real manic situation, one second you’re all laughing together and the next you’re pissed about something being cut out funny.
How does a designer usually collaborate with the rest of the team?
We rely on trusting each other and doing the best we can. I’m not a boss who yells, ever, and I try to not make people feel bad. There is money and a brand’s identity at hand, so it’s important for me to keep it light hearted and hard working at the same time. My team and I are pretty tight. I guess if there were a couple rules I keep to myself, they would be:
1. Everyone who works for you has another personal project in his or her life that is more important. This is just their day job.
2. All your team is smart, lean on them for suggestions.
3. Pay attention when people are stressed, overworked or bumming out.
4. Play some hip-hop during workday and booty dance on your friend’s hip while he cuts something.
5. Ask for the team’s opinion when you’re stuck on a design, they probably know you more than you know you.
Does your workflow differ between still photography and video?
Not really. It all starts with a conversation, either with the director or the photographer, after that I like to take as much time as I’m afforded to write and draw. You need time to think about the obvious stuff to get it out of the way so you can dig deeper into your head and get to the non-obvious. After initial drawings are finished, more and more drawings will be made and I’ll hand over the sketches to my team and we build everything in my studio.
What would be a satisfactory day of work for you?
I don’t know. They’re all varied. And, I’m always pretty pleased with the day. I guess I feel best when I’m tackling multiple jobs at a time and my crew has everything on lock down, I can take a break to eat and listen to some music very loudly while doing it all. If I can end the day with a phone call to my sister or a hug from my brother, that’ll do it!
A Public Service Announcement Series by JIMMYnADI: