HBO’s ‘Barry’ creates more than 1 prison for its characters

Production designer Eric Schoonover talks about creating sets that reflect Barry’s current situation.

If nothing else, “Barry” Season 4 cemented director Bill Hader’s status as the heir apparent to Otto Preminger and Jacques Tati. Like some unholy combination of “Playtime” and “Murder’s Anatomy,” Hader and cinematographer Carl Herse’s camerawork constantly embraces patient, wide shots in which horror and comedy unfold one after the other, as long as it takes. to catch the characters.

The length of a moment and the slow arc of the camera alone can justify a change of location or transition, as Barry flashes back to his past and the world he desires in episode 2, “the best place on earth.” But just as the show’s camerawork adapted to Hader’s preference for giving the characters enough rope, so did every other aspect of “Barry.”

In Season 4, this set production designer Eric Schoonover with a challenge: to create a prison set that would put enough pressure on inmates Barry Berkman (Hader) and Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root), but also physically give Hader and Herse the opportunity to use the wide for photography. angular lenses and the expansive point of view the series takes on the stories.

“We’re trying to (create) a little more space than you would otherwise give to a living room or any other room,” Schoonover told IndieWire. “We might be thinking about the fourth wall, but we really have to dial in 360 degrees because you never know how wide these shots are going to be.”

Stephen Root on a prison floor "Barry"


Merrick Morton/HBO

Schoonover did a lot of research to create sets and costumes where the fourth wall can be found anywhere and everywhere. From scouting actual prisons to explaining prison structures to YouTubers like Wes Watson, Schoonover got a feel for the demands placed on penitentiary spaces and how to make them strict enough to relieve Barry himself.

“You would see a lot of new paint, but not everywhere. So (my job) was to find the sweet spot where the zones are naturally worn and where it’s pristine. (The key to accuracy was having a set that looked pristine in one corner and at the same time had water damage in the ceiling,” Schoonover said. “Things that look authentic to me are always extremely important. So it’s about taking that detail into account, that the room should be truly authentic in 360 degrees.”

It’s not just the layering, it’s the color choices that make dungeon spaces visually interesting for a camera that takes a wide, sweeping view of the space. The main play areas are more bare (although the screen showing “Yellowstone” can’t really be called bare), but a kind of bruised gray, a wonderful contrast to the grape juice lighting of Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and Cristobal (Michael). Irby) Dave and Buster’s Crime Summit Ted Talk – and the lighting of Gene (Henry Winkler) in his one-man show with the reporter (Patrick Fischler).

Meanwhile, the outside parts of the yard have the same overexposed and barren quality as the dirt yard Barry plays in as a boy; the small room in which he offers to speak to the FBI is as black as the imagination he sees himself and Sally (Sarah Goldberg) dancing; and the red window-frames of the drawing-room cast a tint upon Sally and Barry’s conversation which suggested the anger which they both still denied within themselves.

Sarah Goldberg as Sally in Season 4, Episode 2 "Barry"


Merrick Morton/HBO

The core guidelines for Schoonover’s sets were storytelling authenticity and logistical flexibility. “We definitely have to think in terms of the camera position, (be it) camera ports or (away) walls. Sometimes every design can only be rotated one way, and then suddenly it’s like, “No, we actually have to pull this wall out. That’s part of the excitement, just knowing that whatever they come up with, we’re going to be able to do it,” Schoonover said. “We always have such a great team that we can really make anything happen.”

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