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Production Designer Andrea Leigh Expounds on the Human Importance in Today’s Industry

The devil’s in the details. While this is most certainly appropriate in regards to the complexity hidden in many things, it’s derived from a German proverb which actually translates to “God is in the detail.” Benevolent and malevolent, these forces coexist in many great things. Production designer Andrea Leigh has built an extremely successful career on taking care of the details which makes the extraordinary seem natural, even intuitive. Manifesting this is often extremely demanding and requires someone of great talent, creativity, and problem solving skills…all while keeping a cool head in the face of stressful situations and deadlines. It’s almost impossible to categorize the wide spectrum of productions Andrea has worked on; the most appropriate would be “acclaimed.” An MMVA (Much Music Video Awards) nominated music video for Thugli, a Vimeo Staff Pick winning commercial for Birkenstock, Samsung’s highly stylized commercial with legendary footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović, Reebok’s latest ad featuring Cardi B (with write-ups in Rolling Stone and Complex about this commercial), and dozens of others, Andrea is called upon by leading producers and directors in the industry to transfer ideas into reality. Though her work sometimes involves post-production tweaking, more often than not her approach is based on her ingenuity and discerning eye. Her work on a recent magazine cover shoot for Alternative Press featuring Atlantic Records artist Melanie Martinez who first received fame on The Voice, is an ideal look into how Leigh is willing to undertake any method to receive the perfect outcome.

As producer Carling French of French Productions puts it, “Andrea knows how to make any production design dream happen. She’s a miracle worker in terms of budget, crews love her, and talent trusts her to have an artistic opinion; even outside her main focus of production design. What more could you ask for?” This statement clarifies why French enlisted Andrea as PD to work with Director Melanie Martinez in manifesting the Alternative Press cover photo featuring Martinez in a giant bowl of cereal. Could it be achieved with software? Yes, but there’s something intangibly beautiful and whimsical about an old school approach, confirmed by the results of the work of Leigh and her team on this project. As the production schedule didn’t allow for custom fabricating, Andrea turned obstacle into ingenuity. She reveals, “I had three days to source, pick up, and customize the set pieces. After hitting a dead end on the fabrication route, I spent a day calling and driving around to different plastic fabricators, farm feed stores, and Tractor Supply places. The job was super hands on and the turnaround time was extremely quick so I needed to act fast. I found a livestock watering container in the right size at a supplier in Canyon Country, California. From driving the truck out and picking it up to painting the foam letters and the mint green bowl while experimenting to find the perfect milk consistency for the camera, I was 100% hands on. I even managed to find a giant spoon at Warner Brothers Props and give it a coat of silver paint. There’s something particularly gratifying about being forced to find an answer rather than just making things look like they’re real in post. I’m a solutions oriented person at my core.”

While she hails from Canada, Andrea Leigh espouses the benefits of being in the Hollywood community for her production design career. She declares, “The calibre of jobs here is so different than anywhere else in the world; most people understand that but there are other aspects which are just as important. The Union in the US is exceptional. I had the opportunity to join the Art Directors Guild of America and IATSE 800 shortly after I began working here and its changed everything for me. Having rules and a union to enforce them is so important for everyone’s safety and well-being while working in this industry. Commercials and music videos are so fast paced that people will often find themselves working on very little sleep, while also being shorthanded. That combination can be extremely dangerous when working in the types of environments we often find ourselves in, e.g.: in the middle of a desert on the hottest day of the year or on the edge of a roof of a skyscraper at night. The union is there to ensure that on every type of job, whether it be a music video or commercial or feature film, that the crew is working in safe conditions, working within their category, and is being compensated appropriately for their hours.”

Written by Patrick Wilson
Production Designer Andrea Leigh Expounds on the Human Importance in Today’s Industry Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:33:00 PM Rating: 5
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