Connect with us

Film & Television

Exclusive: ‘Luke Cage’s Production Designer Toni Barton Talks Creating Alternate Reality Through Set Design

by Betti Halsell

When dissecting a cinematic body of work, one would cut into formations of people who create an alternate reality. The script works as the spine, keeping the structure of a project together, and the production designer heads the impetus of the written reality.  

Production designer Toni Barton constructed environments that pull the audience into the story. Her transformative abilities have been featured on television, film, and theatre sets. Barton has curated the atmosphere for Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Dare Devil, and Netflix’s Luke Cage series, to name a few.  

We conducted an exclusive interview with the scenic visionary, discussing her journey, passion, and the mindset needed to pursue this career path.

“Everything starts with the written word; there would be no need for design if there was no script,” Barton said, reflecting on the significance of a written outline of a scene. She elaborated on different aspects of filmmaking, calling it a “collaborative effort.”

A production designer absorbs the idea of where a story occurs, takes the proposed setting, and interprets it into physical placement. The painting in one’s mind formulates into the physical world. The seamless performance of a film or play is held together by the set, which the production designer cultivates. Barton developed an eye for what sits in the background and provided a window into what she sees.

Breaking down the process of taking the narrative and breathing life into it, Barton starts with absorbing the scene from reading the script and then diving into the research. After gathering the bones of the project, the architecture can begin. Barton oversees the role of art, sets the direction to build out these worlds, and shares creative synergy with the production’s buyers, graphic designers, illustrators, and many more to tell the given story.

Barton’s introduction to her future career path started on the University of Southern California (USC) campus, where she pursued her degree in architecture. While in school, her friends would call on her to capture scenes of their plays and short films.

 After earning her degree at USC, she looked for specialized theatre training at New York University (NYU), entering a graduate program in set design and art direction. Barton honed her skills to create sceneries for stage and film production.

By her third union film as an assistant art director, Barton’s skills and confidence matured. She worked with veterans of the business, and they took Barton under their tutelage. With real-time hands-on experience, they shaped the rising creative to become the profound designer she is today.

According to Barton, a production designer’s role calls for interest in fashion, art history, and architecture, “Understanding history and helping to tell that story helps us build character, so anybody interested in any aspect of history, sociology, architecture, art, fashion and […] how to tell a story, would potentially be interested in this and more importantly have that skill set to then tell that story.”   

Barton reflected on a moment in her early career development when a friend told her, “when you become a production designer—that’s when you will really make it.” Barton responded with the reassurance that she was exactly where she needed to be at that time – an assistant art director. She owned her current placement, taking the first steps into her journey. Eventually, Barton went from being an assistant art director to becoming an art director while simultaneously teaching at NYU. Later, through her accumulated experience, she became a production designer.  

Getting to that final point takes time, and not everyone understands or is prepared for it, “People think when you get out of school, you have to instantaneously have this title, or you’re not making it.” On the contrary, Barton said, the beginning stages of one’s career are rich with people who are experts, willing to garnish a young mind with wisdom to build a force around their talent.

Passing the torch, in conjunction with being an art director, Barton taught theatre design at NYU for 18 years. “By far, that has been the most rewarding thing I could ever say and do,” she said. The production designer continued to explain the passion of being an art designer while taking it to an academic setting. Her hope is for younger students to identify this as a viable career and be drawn to the scenic route, especially students of color. “I desire more people to know about it younger, in essence, to know every single aspect of design,” she concluded.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Film & Television

‘Black Panther’ Fans Petition To Recast Chadwick Boseman’s Role For The Sequel

Last year, Marvel Studios announced they would not recast the role of King T’Challa out of respect for Chadwick Boseman’s memory. The award-winning actor passed away in August after a private cancer battle at the age of 43.

Now, thousands of Black Panther fans are asking the studio to do the opposite to “honor” the late actor’s legacy. 

A video petition, posted by film reviewer Emmanuel “E-Man” Noisette, calls Marvel’s executives to reconsider their decision. “If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him,” it states. “That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well. By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend is to stop telling their story.”

Black Panther 2 is scheduled for release on July 8, 2022. So far, the #RecastTChalla petition has earned over 22,000 signatures.

Continue Reading

Film & Television

“Concrete Cowboy” Movie Review: Taking the Scenic Route Through Netflix’s Newest Addition

written by Betti Halsell

Ricky Staub’s Concrete Cowboy unearths multiple traumas,  both in the broadening range of African-American culture and the complex circumstances of Black men and their perspective within a household setting. 

The film opens up with Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), a 15-year old boy sitting outside the principal’s office. His face bruised and bleeding from a fight he had with another kid – a moment that keeps repeating itself. His mother arrives, looking more discouraged as if she’s been called to the principal’s office one too many times herself.

Cole is a kid unable to see the consequences of his personal choices. He is full of anger and entitlement. Being a child from a broken home, he leads his life with the “right” to act out. His mother, unable to come up with another excuse for her son’s behavior, sees that Cole stays with his father for the summer in Philadelphia. This might sound like a familiar pivot to a teen-angst-driven film, but here is where things get interesting – the 15-year-old finds himself staring at the truth of his reality, coming straight from the horse’s mouth.

His father (played by Idris Elba) takes him in, and the two of them seem to forge an understanding through hardships and repeated history, a not-so-far-off truth between Black fathers and their sons that are looking to become men, Cole comes from a line of Black horse riders that live in the city.

The cinematography captures breathtaking landscapes and frameworks that seem almost otherworldly. Although the movie captivates the audience with its raw truth of reality, many people may know nothing about. Some questions that needed further explanation were left unanswered, for example, how old was Cole when his parents separated and he moved away from Philidelphia? Or when did Cole develop his summer fling when he returned to the city ranch?

Survival is the common denominator in the movie and its message, which spells out how lack of resources affects the living conditions and the quality of a person’s life and their community. 

In Concrete Cowboy, Stranger Things‘ Mclaughlin introduces the viewers to a wider acting range while playing Cole. British chameleon Elba plays Harp, Cole’s father. He also produced the film. Other cast includes Jharrel Jerome as Cole’s childhood best friend Smush, Lorraine Toussaint as the community’s ‘mother,’ Nessie, and rapper Method Man as town sheriff Leroy.

Staub highlights the Black cowboy community through this project. Reports say the director stumbled upon the culture after seeing a man on a horse in Philadelphia. He then researched the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, which led him to Greg Neri’s book, Ghetto Cowboy

The truth behind this movie leaves the audience enamored, and the images of beauty found in the concrete prairie of Philadelphia are masterpieces. The sunsets and the grading of color are painted effortlessly as if the setting was no longer the city but rather the natural breeding ground for a cowboy to lay his hat.

Concrete Cowboy is now available for streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

Continue Reading

Film & Television

Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua Are Pulling ‘Emancipation’ Production From Georgia Due To Voting Restrictions

The production of Apple’s new drama is being pulled out of Georgia due to its new controversial voting rights law.

Director/producer Antoine Fuqua and actor/producer Will Smith, who the film to Apple Studios for $120 million, have announced – they will no longer be filming in the Peach State. Scheduled to begin production in June, the drama I based on a true story of Smith’s character “Whipped Peter,” an enslaved person who emancipated himself from a southern plantation and joined the Union Army. Fuqua will direct with the script by William N. Collage.

Smith and Fuqua released an official statement early Monday, which reads:

“At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice. We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

With this decision, Emancipation becomes the first major production to exit Georgia after Governor Brian Kemp signed the controversial bill on March 26, which was deemed racist and undemocratic. The law includes new ID requirements for voters, prohibits the distribution of water at voting sights, and restricts ballot drop boxes, among other provisions. 

At this time, it is unclear where Fuqua and Smith will move their film production work.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2020 Hollywood Melanin