Neither Barbie manufacturing designer Sarah Greenwood nor set decorator Katie Spencer had Barbie dolls rising up. “Or a DreamHouse, or something,” recollects Greenwood, who joined Filmmaker on Zoom alongside Spencer following the record-breaking opening of Greta Gerwig’s feminist smash hit. “I used to be most likely a bit judgmental about Barbie till this movie — I fell into that camp. However I form of readdressed my ideas after assembly this Barbie, and [its creator] Ruth Handler.” Spencer provides, “And [after] assembly Greta. We had been part of the backlash technology. Even when we wished a Barbie, I don’t know that our mother and father would have allow us to have one.”
So the long-time collaborators and six-time Academy Award nominees (Anna Karenina, Atonement) ordered their very first Barbie DreamHouse from Amazon after they got here on board Barbie, a purchase order and expertise Spencer calls “a revelation,” thematically and in any other case.
Beneath is our dialog on what went into creating the fuchsia-soaked world of Barbie, how this movie pertains to among the duo’s earlier collaborations and why the duo had been so adamant about avoiding CGI.
Filmmaker: Because you talked about your buy of a Barbie DreamHouse, I solely now understand that it was good to think about eventualities as a younger lady the place you can personal a home and a automobile and issues like that whereas taking part in with dolls.
Greenwood: Yeah, and that is what Katie was saying: [Barbie] was revelatory. I feel this movie is a really unbelievable investigation of all issues Barbie. Love her or hate her, that is the reality of it: what she means, what she might have meant, what we did to her.
Filmmaker: One of many issues that I’ve heard you handle elsewhere was the off proportions you’ve seen in Barbie Land. I recall this from my childhood. I used to personal an attractive Barbie bathtub set, and he or she didn’t fairly match within the tub. How did you transpose that unusual scale to the true world?
Greenwood: That every one got here out of us shopping for this primary DreamHouse. We had been actually taking part in with it with the Barbie dolls we had within the workplace. You form of go, “She’s massive on this home.” You place her arm up and she will be able to contact the ceiling; she doesn’t match within the automobile, and as you say, she doesn’t match within the bathtub. Someone arbitrarily labored it out and mentioned, “Effectively, the entire home [and everything] is 23% smaller [than they should be].” In order that was a rule that we caught to. In filmmaking phrases, that made every thing come into shot. The ceilings had been small, so all our framing [had to be] totally different. And it made Margot and Ryan and everyone look a lot larger. After they had been within the DreamHouses, they had been massive, which gave you a subliminal impact of understanding that they had been toys.
Spencer: Sure, it completely got here out of [playing with the DreamHouse]: making some issues larger, some issues smaller, using decals… That was a little bit of a break: she goes to the fridge and does mad issues like placing the fridge within the chimney breast, as a result of there are not any partitions, for a begin. It’s hidden, and due to this fact that’s interesting to kids as effectively.
Filmmaker: I need to discuss a bit bit about your use of the colour pink to maximalist impact. How did you be certain that all that pink and all of the maximalism was heat, inviting and completely satisfied versus off-putting?
Greenwood: I feel what’s attention-grabbing is that it was maximalist, however in a method, dare I say, fairly minimalist too. We took so much away. Within the script, Greta describes homes with no partitions. Homes with no partitions wouldn’t get up. So we ended up with that chimney breast that runs by way of the center, the chimney with all this pink stone work that’s painted. That was a really structural factor that we needed to get in there to maintain [the house standing] up. But it surely’s about what’s not there as a lot as what’s there.
Spencer: Which was a brand new factor for us, the absence of issues being so necessary. It’s the area, it’s what you don’t have, what you don’t put in that makes it really feel like a toy. There may be nowhere for something to cover. The whole lot makes a press release and is taken into account. However the massive studying curve was the absence and the area, as a result of there are not any partitions. Your perimeter may be very totally different from what it will usually be. Your wallpaper isn’t just behind you. It’s all of the three-dimensional issues which might be behind that, that are the timber, the mountains of homes, different actors, in order that was fairly tough.
Greenwood: It’s additionally the amount of coloration and lightweight. If the colours had been off-putting — and I feel that’s phrase to make use of — it will’ve been horrendous. However the colours and that pink had been so pure. And Rodrigo Prieto’s lighting was so pure: like, a thousand sky pans within the roof and large gentle suns. The wattage was improbable. Usually while you go on a movie set, it’s all centered into this little darkish nook and every thing else is black. It was the alternative with us. The whole lot was colourful from wall to wall. It was simply brilliance and lightweight and coloration. You stroll onto these phases out of the grey Watford [UK] winter, and it was similar to being bathed in one thing. Higher than occurring vacation. It was an incredible coloration remedy.
Spencer: We had been speaking about this to anyone final week, about Baker[-Miller] pink [as it was called in] the States within the ’50s. It was used to deal with folks with despair. [There’s] one thing uplifting about that coloration.
Greenwood: However, it’s important to be very cautious with pink, as a result of there are nasty pinks on the market as effectively.
Spencer: I feel we sampled 100 pinks that possibly got here all the way down to 12 key ones.
Filmmaker: I’m so glad you reclaimed the colour pink. It made me understand that each one these years, I’ve been made to reject it. I’m a bit embarrassed about that.
Greenwood: Yeah, that’s true. [Barbie] offers you license to the belongings you need to like, and I feel that’s superb. And don’t be embarrassed, it’s completely the identical for us. I truthfully can say that I don’t suppose there’s any pink in any movie we’ve ever achieved earlier than, till Barbie. Now, [Katie is] carrying a pink shirt, and I’ve painted my bed room pink. So, embrace your pink.
Filmmaker: I need to carry up Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina among the many different movies you’ve collaborated on. I discovered myself serious about it in relation to Barbie: that movie can also be set in a stylized and synthetic world; like puppets dwelling in heightened theatrical units. It feels surprisingly near Barbie in that sense.
Spencer: They’re like sisters in a method. They couldn’t be extra totally different and opposing, however I feel they’re like sisters.
Greenwood: It’s as a result of Anna Karenina is in a world of its personal, which is the theater. And Barbie is in a world hermetically sealed with no water, no mild. The whole lot is imagined. The identical with Anna Karenina. The actors needed to consider they had been in Vronsky’s home in Moscow. They had been in a prop room in a theater, and it’s this sort of suspension of disbelief that you simply go into in Anna Karenina and in Barbie. Additionally, one of many attention-grabbing issues we’ve had in loads of our movies is that this sense of taking part in with scale. We made a lot of miniatures for the set extensions in Barbie Land. We made miniatures that they photographed and put in in submit. Then you definitely get miniatures inside miniatures. We like this layering, of not fairly understanding the place it’s and what you’re looking at.
Spencer: Do you bear in mind in Anna Karenina, Keira [Knightley] and Kitty [Alicia Vikander] had been sitting in an enormous doll’s home? That was Moscow. Yeah, so that they’re not as distant.
Greenwood: When Greta got here to us about doing Barbie, we had been like, “Why us?” She mentioned, “Since you construct worlds, you construct full worlds.” That’s true. That’s what we do.
Filmmaker: What was maybe probably the most difficult factor you needed to construct for Barbie?
Greenwood: I feel it’s the entire world. I feel it’s that factor of discovering the keys, and when you perceive what it’s you’re doing, be it the size or the colour, you apply that precept to every thing. It’s making it appear to be a toy. And it’s making it a baby on Christmas day, when he opens the field. And as an alternative of being dissatisfied (like all of us usually are with what’s within the field), making what’s within the field higher than you can ever think about — completely joyous. For us, that was constructing the primary set of Barbie Land on a stage with painted backdrops and painted mountains and timber.
Spencer: The very first thing we shot had been the DreamHouses, and the way in which they needed to be. Very often on movie, you get dictated by availability and all kinds of issues. However we had been fortunate sufficient, this was the very first thing we shot, and in a method, it needed to be. Earlier than we go to the true world or we do anything.
Greenwood: Additionally what was attention-grabbing is to not overlook the true world, as a result of Los Angeles and Venice Seaside are simply large. I imply, you reside there, however for us, it’s like, “Oh, it’s so thrilling coming right here.”
Filmmaker: I’m in New York. However I do love LA, the land of flicks and make-believe.
Spencer: It will’ve been very totally different if Barbie had gone to New York [laughs]. It will’ve been one other movie, however it will’ve been so good.
Greenwood: Barbie obtained mugged! [Laughs]. However I bear in mind one of many references that Greta [brought up] was Midnight Cowboy, the place Jon Voight is in mattress together with his cowboy hat, and everyone else is shorter and in grey. He walks by way of and he’s like this supreme being, and that’s the identical as what she mentioned about Barbie and Ken arriving in the true world. They’re aliens, and so they’re simply gliding by way of this world, and it’s similar to New York.
Filmmaker: You introduced up your collaboration with Rodrigo Prieto. I need to carry up one other collaborator, costume designer Jacqueline Durran (who additionally did Anna Karenina). How did you collaborate together with her to ensure the designs and colours had been in sync in the best method?
Spencer: We’ve labored with Jacqueline fairly just a few instances now. She’s a fully distinctive costume designer. From the start, it was speaking about the entire world. It’s not only a query of what would this material do with this pink? It’s extra conceptual conversations. However then after all, Barbie is what she wears, what she does. If she’s a Barbie physician, she wears a physician’s outfit and due to this fact she lives in a physician’s home. Thank God that Jacqueline and we all know one another and that we now have this shorthand, as a result of there was a lot to do. Margot modifications her costume each time you see her, principally. Even when it’s on the identical day.
Greenwood: There’s no physics in Barbie Land, so there’s no time in Barbie Land, no logic. She would possibly stroll off carrying this, and he or she’ll stroll again carrying one thing utterly totally different. It’s as a result of that’s what kids do, they alter the costumes.
Spencer: Precisely. We had literal conversations together with her about what would pinks do, what’s she going to be carrying, what’s she going to be sitting on, what’s she going to be backed in opposition to pink? You see a lot of overlaps between the set and costume in the true world. It’s loads of enjoyable, and he or she’s a genius, and Rodrigo is one other one. He made a superb job, however we didn’t make it simple for him, that’s for positive.
Greenwood: No, we didn’t. However then once more, what we do isn’t simple. The shadow, the pink with out shadows and issues, it’s similar to, wow.
Filmmaker: What was your course of in getting each Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling acquainted with the units?
Spencer: It was attention-grabbing as a result of clearly Margot is a producer as effectively, and he or she’s not only a title or something. She’s very arms on. I bear in mind within the early days, when Ryan arrived, we had this large prop room. We actually divided the room, [turned] this large area into Kendom. A pink carpet and a brown carpet and issues like that. It was following an idea we did of the 2 [worlds]. They had been each there, and it was so humorous. So sure, we had been concerned. It’s important to take them on the journey. Ryan is extremely proficient, and a stunning man as effectively. He improvised with it.
Filmmaker: I perceive that that authenticity was necessary to you, having every thing constructed and painted and designed in actuality, and avoiding a pc generated world.
Greenwood: Effectively, that’s a giant debate that’s developing in the meanwhile, isn’t it? I feel CGI is an incredible instrument, and it has its place. However on this occasion, it was one thing that Greta mentioned very early on that [was a deciding factor]. [Imagine] a baby or a child. No matter a child will get [the baby] places in its mouth to really feel it. And no matter youngsters do, they play with issues, they contact issues. So, you see the start of the sequence with [Kubrick’s] 2001: A House Odyssey with the legs. These legs had been actual, as had been the all of the rocks. The one factor that was [done] in submit was the sky. For every thing else, it’s the tangibility. You’re making a toy, and if you happen to don’t, if it’s not actual and it’s not there, it’s form of irrelevant.
Spencer: And, you form of really feel like they’ll discover you out.
Greenwood: With the purity of the colour, the form, texture, lighting and every thing, there was nowhere to cover, so all of it needed to be actual. There may be one sequence that was put in in submit—and I don’t suppose it’s the very best sequence. It’s when she’s strolling as much as Bizarre Barbie’s home. It’s too far, too cartoon, and form of fallacious. It ought to have been achieved in a different way — I wasn’t round when it was achieved. However anyway, every thing in digital camera [is] tangible, on account of the truth that we made all of the set extensions. If you drive previous the cinema and also you’ve obtained all of the retailers and also you’ve obtained the beachfront, and all of the little homes when she’s standing on the roof and searching past… We made all of them as 1:18 scale miniatures. They’re all made in the identical method we make all of the units, after which they’re put in submit. In that method, it’s a form of a top quality management. Even younger kids now know if one thing is actual. “Genuine artificiality” is what Greta known as it. All of the skies had been painted. In the primary set, the 800 foot long-50 foot excessive mountains had been all painted. It’s all in digital camera. And it additionally signifies that when the actors stroll in, they’re on the earth, it’s a totally immersive expertise. On this occasion, it actually helped.