Jacqueline Smith, Production Designer

Jacqueline Smith, Production Designer

What was your path into film and TV?

I studied Architecture and Design Studies at the RCA where I was lucky enough to be taught by the production designer Anton Furst.  The combination of his inspirational teaching and visiting Pinewood’s backlot to see his sets for the first Batman film resulted in a swerve off the path towards becoming a practicing architect and resulted in me applying for work in film and television. I was lucky enough to be offered a job in the design department at BBC Scotland where I learnt my craft under the guidance of some seasoned and talented designers. After 3 years there, the design department was disbanded and we all went freelance. I began to work as a production designer starting on the short film circuit and using this work to build a portfolio which resulted in more substantial projects coming my way.

It really is the most rewarding and challenging job.  We are so lucky to be a part of this unique creative process.

Can you tell us more about your role within the industry?

The production designer heads up the Art department and oversees props, construction and vehicles.  The art department often also oversee animals and s/fx. They work closely with all other departments. The production designer is responsible for the visual and creative interpretation of the script on the screen and they work very closely with the director and producer to realise this vision. Everything on screen, with the exception of the actors, comes under the production designer and art departments remit.

What are some recent projects that you've worked on in Yorkshire?

I was recently lucky enough to be offered the role of production designer on the new 7 part series of All Creatures Great and Small for Playground Productions and loved every minute.  The production used locations across the Dales with a large composite build of the main interiors built in an old mill building near Pateley Bridge.  We also used locations in Keighley to double as Glasgow and filmed in the fabulous Broughton Hall, a stately home treasure.

Until the Covid lockdown, I was working on the new series of  Vera for ITV, which occasionally nudges south into Yorkshire during its filming.

Tell us about any particular highlights and any notable challenges that you have overcome during your career in the industry?

There have been many highlights, working with such talented crew and artists. I love the orchestral machinery of filming; that everyone has their role, their specialism and it is the combination of these skills and talents that result in what we see on our screens.

I am especially proud that I managed to produce good work whilst being a mum. This balance has always been the greatest challenge. My kids are all amazing people so I must have done something right.  The film and TV industry is all consuming so it is tricky to save energy for those you love but so important. I did end up having to leave the industry for several years to focus on my kids, during which I taught Art in a Yorkshire secondary school. This was a wonderful experience and taught me so much.  A particular highlight though, was receiving a message from a producer I had worked with in the past asking me if I would like to design the new series of All Creatures Great and Small. I was thrilled to accept. It was nerve racking initially as I worried I would have forgotten how to do the job, but it seems the bike riding analogy is right. It was a joy!

Is it bad to also say a highlight was Ewan McGregor giving me a birthday kiss? Probably.

 

All Creatures Great and Small @ Playground Television for Channel 5 / Screen Yorkshire

What do you love about working in Yorkshire? What makes it different to filming in other regions?

Yorkshire is my home so I guess I am bias but having lived in London and Scotland I have made the decision to roost here because of what it offers. It is a wonderful place to live and work.

The incredibly diverse range of landscapes, from the majestic beauty of the Dales to the wild coastlines and kitsch seaside towns of the east coast, all provide rich pickings for location scouts.  Yorkshire’s rich literary history is evident at every turn. The architecture of its gritty urban textile towns contrast with the grandeur of its stately homes and mansions.  Yorkshire is distinct from other regions because of the diversity it offers. It really does have it all.

Do you have any advice for people starting out in the industry?

Develop a thick skin. Working long hours under stringent time pressures can lead to stress and self-doubt. Let it wash off you and don’t take things to heart. Get enough sleep and believe in yourself. Grasp any opportunity you can to shine, this can often be by being thoughtful and quiet, working efficiently and accurately. Always try to be your sunniest, friendliest self.

Ask questions, be interested. Learn from everything which goes on around you. Everyone else’s job is important and you need to know and understand what it is and how it affects your own.

Don’t give up if you get knocked back. Stay true to your passion and believe in yourself. Resilience is everything!

How do you think the production landscape has changed in the region over the past 5 years?

The move into the regions for major productions has shifted the landscape. Working in and around London, with its logistical difficulties is becoming less attractive.  Yorkshire provides a phenomenal range of locations and is becoming increasingly attractive as its infrastructure builds. Increasing the provision of large scale sound stages will help to facilitate this further in the future.

 

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    Olivia Thomas, Film Office Co-ordinator

    Olivia is the first point of call for Screen Yorkshire's Film Office. She advises on filming enquiries, including locations, crew, facilities and permitting and also maintains our film locations and crew and facilities databases.