AMCtv.com continues its series of on-set interviews with The Walking Dead‘s talented creative team by chatting with Art Director Doug Fick about how he enhances the scare-factor of his sets and why zombies are scarier than vampires.
Q: You designed sets for The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2. How is Season 3 comparing?
A: Season 1 was pretty chaotic. We were working on a really large scale… Last year we were really just on the farm and in the forest, so we weren’t building a whole lot… And then this year it’s been a huge build basically. It’s a different show all together… I think this year has been the most challenging so far.
Q: What’s been the most fun?
A: This season has been the most fun. It’s been a great year that way. The process has occurred under two production designers. Greg Melton, who was our production designer for the first half of the first season and all of last year, began the process before we finished last year really. He started scouting and starting doing some conceptual work…And then Graham “Grace” Walker came in, and we began work in the end of January, beginning of February and began building almost immediately. So we were designing just barely ahead of the building process.
Q: You guys are building one of your main sets on a studio lot. What are the challenges to that?
A: A lot of the process was driven by sort of the realities of the site we have here at the studio, which has really banal, boxy metal buildings that are not much to look at and don’t look particularly intimidating. So we had to adjust to that reality. We couldn’t cover them completely and kind of the way to deal with that was to treat the [set] as something that had evolved over time, so that it has a part that’s really old, maybe something from the beginning of the twentieth century, and newer parts that have been built up over the years, maybe up into the ’70s and ’80s.
Q: How important is trying to enhance the scare-factor of the sets?
A: That was sort of a priority… So we’ve magnified the decrepitude of things. Psychologically it makes more sense since there’s a zombie apocalypse. We kind of fast-forward the decay is what it amounts to…We’ve also created sort of connective spaces like a hallway and a boiler room in particular is probably our best set in some ways that are scary in that they have a lot of stuff in them and a lot of corners to creep around. There are just a lot of ways that camera angle and lighting can really accentuate that scariness.
Q: You guys are shooting 45 days in a small town in Georgia. That’s a lot…
A: It is and people have been very amenable to it. And we’ve been a good thing in general for the town. We’ve brought a lot of business and we’ve been good neighbors and we try to be honest with people about what the process is going to involve.
Q: You worked on The Vampire Diaries, so say honestly: Which are scarier? Vampires or zombies?
A: [Laughs] I think zombies are inherently [scarier] because the notion is that everyone becomes one. That you can’t escape that fate. I think the idea of losing your consciousness that way to me is a really scary thing…And I think there’s a degree of sexiness to vampires that doesn’t exist with zombies.
Q: So you guys aren’t going to try to sex up the zombies on The Walking Dead?
A: I think that’s where we might jump the shark.
Q: As a set designer, what would you look for to create the ultimate anti-zombie fort?
A: See, I’d put it on an island. That’d be the first thing I’d do. I think that would be the best kind of protection, although I guess they could float across.