SET DECORATor & Designer
THE MAN & LE MANS
Directed by GABRIEL CLARKE, JOHN MCKENNA
Produced by THE MAN & LE MAN LTD
Director of photography MATT SMITH
STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN and LE MANS is the story of obsession, betrayal and ultimate vindication. It is the story of how one of the most volatile, charismatic stars of his generation, who seemingly lost so much he held dear in the pursuit of his dream, nevertheless followed it to the end.
Based on previously unseen footage, the documentary interweaves newly discovered material and McQueen's private recordings with interviews with many of the surviving production team to reveal the true story of how the 1970's film was made. The directors and the producers travelled the world to interview people such as Derek Bell, David Piper, Louise Edling and use the backdrop as the unifying element among them all.
The main reference was Irving Penn's photography, especially his black and white portraits. His backdrops had irregular, exposed edges and often the background became the foreground in a soft, organic way. We also wanted to take the texture and feel of the asphalt to remind us of the roads where the race took place. Our aim was to take these two elements and transform them in a space the interviewees could engage with.
The main challenge of the backdrop was the size and the transport of it. Measuring 6m in width and 4m in height, it had to fit in a luggage.
I had to experiment a lot with the technique and the materials and produce few samples.
Simply scenic painting a piece of canvas wouldn't work as it would result in a rigid backdrop that could only be rolled up for transport.
In the end, we used a filled cloth 8 point, a particular type of fabric that is very lightweight yet durable.
I developed a technique that involved lots and lots of layers of very watered down paint. I mixed many different shades of grey and applied to the material with a spritzer. By doing so, the paint stained the fibres but didn't fill the gaps between the threads, the cloth then remained light and weighted only 2 kg!
The process was long and required patience. Because of the very little presence of pigments in the mixed paint, the layers dried into very faded greys and I had to repeat the process over few days in order to obtain the desired tones.