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JAVIERA VARAS, Production Designer, IATSE Local 829 & 800

Location: New York

Instagram: @javieravaras

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Santiago, Chile, where my family is still. I studied Design in Chile and did some advertising and assisting in local films until I got a scholarship to do a Master's in Production Design at the American Film Institute, which was the beginning of my life in the US. I started in LA, then moved for work to Louisiana, and pretty much by chance, ended up setting up my life in New York, where I've been for the last 9 years. What are your responsibilities or roles in your department? As a Production Designer, I’m the visual translator of the narrative of a story into space. I design spaces that can best tell the stories of the characters we’re living with and best support the action of the script. I work closely with the Director and Director of Photography in the initial decision process of finding locations and setting up the tone/mood of the show. Within my department, I work with a Decorator in charge of all the dressing and the Art Director overseeing all the construction and graphics of the show. The Prop Master is also an essential collaborator as they deal so much with the essence of the characters.

The preparation of a film changes based on the needs of the script. Much research goes into understanding certain characters, lifestyles, or places we’re establishing. Once we’ve got a deep understanding of character and place, it’s a good time to start expanding into the conversation of what visual references can get us there. The prep of a show is an amazing time of exploration and education, where we’re taking in as much as we can of the specific world we’re showing.

Coming from a visual background, Production Design is a truly marvelous role where you get to translate narrative into visual terms. It’s storytelling through space and design.

Are there any films that inspired you to start working in film and television? Almodovar’s films inspired me at my earliest stage. I loved how the spaces could also act as a painting within the frame. How did you begin working in the industry? I first started out as a Production Designer's assistant on a film set in southern Chile. Since it was very hard to get an interview, I self-taped an interview on a VHS (yep, back then!), placed it in a manila envelope, and left it for the Designer in the Production company. I thought no one could resist seeing the content of a VHS, and that’s how I got my first job. What has been your favorite project to work on? I enjoyed the creative freedom and bold style choices while Production Designing Harlem S1 on Amazon Prime. Exploring different scales and styles was also a highlight while working on Saint-X for Hulu.

What advice would you give someone starting out in this industry

Keep persisting and make connections - I still say that to myself!


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