Oral Histories

Interview of John Moffitt

Lead scenic artist for Warner Bros., with credits including The Perfect Storm, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Served as Art Directors Guild associate executive director.
The Crafts in Hollywood: Production Design
Film and Television
Collings, Jane
Moffitt, John
Persons Present:
Moffitt and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Moffitt's home in Santa Clarita, 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. Moffitt was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
4 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 interest in art--Begins work for Garth Bennett--Begins work at the NBC scenic shop--Begins doing some scenic work in film at Warner Bros.--Works on the hand-painted billboards at Warner’s--The crew at Warner’s, led by Ron Strang--Moffitt’s approach to scenic art--Paints numerous backdrops for J. Michael Riva--Designed and painted backdrops single-handedly for The Perfect Storm--Develops a mathematical process for calculating perspective for the backings for Hulk.
Competition for the backing business between Warner Bros. and J.C. Backings--The tools and equipment in the Warner’s scenic shop--The purchase of a digital printer for producing backings in the mid-90s at Warner’s--Most of the Warner’s crew were pictorial artists--Discovers a plexiglass material for scenic work on Jurassic Park--The Warner Bros. murals for the International Market for Content Development and Distribution (MIPCOM)--Warner Bros. scenic shop work for studio stores, restaurants and theaters globally--The impact of digital technologies on workflows, expectations, and timetables--Among the last film backdrops painted in Hollywood were Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ironman, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events--The work for Lemony Snicket--Pirates of the Caribbean at World’s End presents interesting design challenges--Tom Walsh’s work to archive and preserve scenic art--The merger of locals 816 and 876 into local 800--Takes a position as assistant executive director at local 800--Difficulties in locating skilled crafts people in the incentive areas as runaway production ramps up--A contested merger of locals 790 and 847 into local 800--Moffitt and Scott Roth survey the new production landscape as incentives take hold and production leaves the state--The emergence of Atlanta, Georgia as a production hub--Found work on behalf of the union to be deeply meaningful.