Jim Gloster, Production Designer and Art Director: Charlotte Film Industry Insider

An interview series highlighting local experts in the business with insight for the Charlotte community and those aspiring to break into the film industry.

Jim Gloster, Production Designer

"There are a lot of people who want to work in the industry and those who succeed all have a great work ethic. They show up early and leave late. They look ahead in any given project and move on to the next steps without being asked. They are great observers in that if they don’t know what to do next, they watch more experienced co-workers and learn from their actions. They realize that a superior end product is the goal. They need to be great collaborators because the film industry is all about a huge group of people working together to tell a story.

The best advice I ever received came when I was stepping up from the position of Art Director to Production Designer. I had been an Art Director for many years. For those who don’t know, an Art Director serves as the Project Manager for the Art Dept. They schedule, budget and coordinate the work of various departments that work together to provide the sets for a production.

The Production Designer is the creative head of the Art Department. He or she is responsible for the physical look of the show. I stepped up to the position of Production Designer on the 2nd season of the television series VEEP. To put it mildly, I was very nervous to be taking on the responsibility of creating the look for a hit series for HBO.

The set of VEEP- Jim Gloster, Production Designer

I expressed my reservations to a Decorator friend of mine. She replied in her succinct manor, “What are you worried about? All you have to do is dream it up. You’ll have an army of people making it happen.”

The main point I took from her statement was that I’m no better than the crew I have working for me. And I have been very fortunate to have some of the very best Artists and Craftsmen in the industry collaborating with me on creating looks for various television shows.

I first got started in the film industry with a television commercial for “Good and Plenty” candy. Since the fourth grade I had been involved in the Theatre. I majored in Theatre at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC. I was involved with the original Charlotte Shakespeare Company. I went on to work as the Designer/Tech Director at Theatre Charlotte. That candy commercial opened the door for me into a whole new avenue of the entertainment industry. I worked in many departments as a Set Dresser, Assistant Prop Master, Painter, Carpenter, Graphic Designer, Art Director. My “big break” came when “Talladega Nights” came to Charlotte and I worked with the wonderful Production Designer, Clayton Hartley. I soon became Clayton’s main Art Director and traveled the country working on various feature films.

On Talladega Nights I was sent down to Talladega Superspeedway with the second unit shooting crew. We were charged with shooting the race sequences for the film. I was in charge of revamping the speedway graphics to suit our story line and to oversee the graphic design and wrapping of the race cars.

In one sequence we were filming a massive pileup stunt for one of the races. The camera was mounted to a device called the “Russian Arm”. The Russian Arm is a crane arm mounted to the top of a souped-up SUV. The camera is mounted to the end of the arm.

For safety, the vehicle was on one side of the pit wall and the twenty-some stunt racecars were on the other side.

As the stunt unfolded the stuntmen rounded the track and at the designated time willfully smashed their cars into one another. Unfortunately, one of the cars also smashed into the camera on the end of the Russian Arm. I still remember, as the smoke cleared and the wind picked up, seeing wisps of the camera’s film drifting down the track.

Needless to say production stopped. Thankfully no one was injured. But in the next twenty four hours we had to re-skin all of the cars and have them ready to re-shoot the stunt the next afternoon."