Oral Histories

Interview of Norman Newberry

Production designer, art director, set designer. Work on War of the Worlds, The Polar Express, Beowulf. Work in “motion capture” and in theme parks. Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.
The Crafts in Hollywood: Production Design
Film and Television
Collings, Jane
Newberry, Norman
Persons Present:
Newberry and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Newberry's home in Burbank, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, principal editor and interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., Critical Studies in Film and Television, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. The interviewee was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the contents. Newberry made a few additions, which were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
4.25 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series of interviews was undertaken in collaboration with the Art Directors Guild. Its aim is to document the lives and work of Guild members and staff who have made a significant contribution to film and television history. Interviews capture the work of title artists, set designers, art directors, production designers, and many other categories. The contribution of labor unions in shaping the conditions of the work is also addressed.
Early life--Father’s work as an art director and architectural training--Begins work at Universal Studios in the drafting room-- Advantages of studio system--Works for Universal Recreation on set design for theme parks in Hollywood and Florida--The difference between work in film versus TV-- Works with and learns from Robert Boyle-- Titles for the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas--Importance of communication on the set--A complicated shot for Winter Kills.
The culture of art direction in the studio era-- The dividing line between working on film and working on TV--Father’s participation in 1949 labor strike--Advantages of union rules--Travelling mattes--Digital painting--Shift to digital pre-visualization--Performance capture work--The directorial abilities of Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron--Some painting and drawing still done by hand--Drawbacks of digital imaging techniques.