'Into The Dark': Production designer Cecil Gentry reveals how he keeps the essence of horror and social satire intact in an anthology series
Gentry shares how the concepts and ideas from writers, directors, and the actors too come together to enlist what goes on in the background of each and every scene
As refreshing as a new episode of an anthology series might feel to a viewer, there are certain underlying elements of the show the needs to be a common ground binding all the episodes together. One such element, without doubt, would be designing the set for every individual episode, keeping certain signature tones and props in mind, that would help the series in becoming a compact whole, and 'Into the Dark's production designer Cecil Gentry has excelled at that.
As a Hulu show coming from Blumhouse Productions, 'Into the Dark' is primarily a horror, spinning a signature satirical twist into each of its monthly episodes that focus on one festival signifying the month of its release.
While combining festivities and horror might seem like an impossible feat to achieve, Gentry's work has not only aced at striking the perfect balance between the two but also managed to bring out a subtle layer of contrast through nuanced dark tones throughout the collection of stories, sprinkled with annoyingly festive props.
Speaking to MEAWW, Gentry shares how the concepts and ideas from writers, directors, and the actors too come together to enlist what goes on in the background of each and every scene. Here are some excerpts of his conversation with us:
What goes on into the idea-building process for an anthology horror like 'Into the Dark'? How do you combine everybody's idea and visualize it to a set outcome?
Well, I must say, the idea-building process is a direct result of what’s on the page in the script. Typically, as I’m reading the script I get a flood of ideas consisting of visual images such as art references, geography references, architectural references and always color references.
Considering how each episode is vastly different from the other, does it pose to be challenging in any form?
The fact that each episode is different doesn’t really pose any specific challenges. In fact, it’s extremely refreshing and inspirational to be able to start fresh and begin anew. The only challenging aspect of the process is the time constraint in that I’m prepping the next movie while shooting. That being said, efficiency is of the utmost importance.
The show runs on the underlying common theme of horror and social satire in each episode; how do you keep that essence intact? Any particular shades/props you incorporate to do that?
Yes, the genre is horror. This is something that allows me to investigate certain set pieces that lend itself to that particular storytelling. This is something that the director(s) and I unscramble during prep. We decide what story we’re telling and implement the perfect visuals (shades/props).
If you had to pick one episode that was the most interesting to design, which one would it be? What makes it so unique?
POOKA for sure. It was the most challenging and at the same time the most rewarding. Our director, Nacho Vigalondo was a ball of creativity and we explored and played in every twist and turn. Also, I’d never been involved in designing a toy prior to this. It was a huge learning experience for me.
What has been the most riveting design experience in your career?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess I’d have to say that this project — INTO THE DARK — for BlumHouse/Hulu is the most interesting. It’s my first anthology series and I have to say I love the process. I’m looking forward to designing the rest of the series, and who knows, perhaps Hulu will order another season. It’s a blast and I’m enjoying every minute of it immensely.