The positive and enthusiastic reactions to Dunes, by Denis Villeneuve, are possibly what makes Patrice Vermette the proudest, visual designer of this adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “so-called unfilmable” novel, and for which he is nominated for an Oscar in the category “designer production“.
A wave of love no doubt also received with some relief, as the 1965 science fiction novel has its unconditional supporters and others, including filmmaker David Lynch, have broken their teeth there.
“The best thing is that people seemed to like it. A film, you don’t do that for your little navel. We do this job because we want to make people tripper”, testifies Patrice Vermette, joined in Budapest, where he will stay until Christmas to work on the continuation of Dunes.
A direct appreciation of his work which also manifested itself in the actors when they joined the sets, and which, for no scene, were “planted” in front of green screens.
“We don’t do our job for that, but it’s always very nice, that pat on the back. It is a beautiful gift of life.”
-Patrice Vermette, about awards and nominations
A novel and a vision
Patrice Vermette’s work was to build the visual of the film. He designed all the sets, both physical and those in post-production, but also imagined many elements of the story, such as the ships.
“What does the city look like? What is the “setting of the story”?” This is the question answered by his illustrations, summarizes the designer.
Which also had to correspond to the clear vision that Denis Villeneuve had of this world which subjugated him, since he read the novel as a teenager.
“This novel was formative for Denis. As a teenager, he identified with Paul Atreide. I knew how important it was to him, and I wanted to be in sync with him.”
A “symbiosis” facilitated among other things by several years of collaboration – Patrice Vermette worked on five films by Denis Villeneuve. “In the end, we talk to each other less and less!”, he explains.
“Denis [Villeneuve] is a hyper-perfectionist. It pushes us to dream and not be satisfied with ease, design for design.”
The scale of this production has also created certain challenges: building the ships in London, building sets in Budapest, in addition to sites in Norway, the West Bank and Abu Dhabi.
“This management side, on different time zones, I had never touched on that. I loved!” launches the visual designer.
Patrice Vermette’s work also continued on the filming locations, to plan the days to come and collaborate with the director of photography and the director in particular.
Get away from Star Wars
Despite the budget of 165 million US, Patrice Vermette still names “staying within the envelope” among the many challenges posed by this big production. “It’s not Star Wars“, he evokes.
A comparison that does not only apply to the financial aspect of production.
“It was a challenge, to stay as far away as possible from Star Wars… which could be an adaptation of Dunes. Georges Lucas changed a few things – two suns, instead of two moons – but there are so many similar elements!”
He cites as an example the sandworm which appears in return of the jedi, the spice mine in Solo or kinship in the feudal system… and swords.
Patrice Vermette will leave Budapest for Los Angeles to attend the Oscar ceremony on March 27.
This is his third nomination for the golden statuette, after those for his work on The arrival (Denis Villeneuve) and Victoria: The Young Years of a Queen (Jean-Marc Vallee).
For the first time, he received a BAFTA (British Academy Film and Television Arts) nomination this year.
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The Southern Courier | Patrice Vermette at the Oscars: putting the “unfilmable” Dune into images