top of page

Ernestine Hipper - Set Decorator - "All Quiet on the Western Front", "Tar", Oscars

Oscar Winner Talk about "All Quiet on the Western Front" ...interview a week before her win.

On this episode, I speak with set decorator Ernestine Hipper, who is nominated this year for best Production Design for her workon the film All Quiet on the Western Front. She has been nominated this award season for the ADG and the BAFTA and nominated for an ADGand on the SDSA Award for her decoration of Tar. So she's really hitting it out of there. Ballpark the dramatic differences in her work in thesetwo films in one year show the scope of her enormous talent, but it also shows how versatile a set decorator's career can be. I think that's reallyimportant, too. And we talk a little bit about that. She was so kind to speak with me. She's in Thailand. She's being eaten by mosquitoes whilewe're talking. And she's genuinely just humble and grateful and the recognition of her peers. She was super excited about the awards. So it washumbling for me to get a chance to speak with her, especially with the schedule that she has.

Podcast Timestamps...

[00:14:39] Filming of war movie had budget constraints and weather limitations. Research started before Christmas and shooting began 10 weeks later.

[00:18:59] They bought trucks, dismantled them for safety reasons and used rubber spikes for a movie in 2016.

[00:21:16] Movie scenes were meticulously planned with every department, including costumes and props. The warfield scenes had to be shot in six weeks due to time constraints, resulting in careful cataloguing of every angle and operator.

[00:25:34] Actress struggles emotionally with role in a historical movie about the Holocaust.

[00:27:15] Approach the war like a well-made documentary to avoid emotional attachment while filming, but this technique backfired.

[00:32:52] A prop house was rented to obtain costumes and props for a film set in World War I, where the colors had to match historically accurate color codes for various countries' military items. Some items from 1917 were also obtained, and horse props were used.

[00:35:56] Had to build prop cannons out of plastic tubes for a film scene.

[00:48:10] The character's heightened sense of hearing was meant to be a result of her parents' hearing impairments, but this detail was not emphasized in the story. The podcast editor created a "psychogram" of the character's family history and background, including their Hungarian roots, in order to design the character's apartment and create a working-class feel for the story's setting on Staten Island.

[00:55:52] The text talks about efforts to obtain rights to use the name and artwork of a bankrupt arts management company called Kami for a movie, which included finding the rights owners of the artworks.

[01:04:13] Actress learned how to conduct, led orchestra with support, detected out-of-tune playing.


"When you're on the warfield and somebody tries to move something, they have nails sticking out. I don't want to be in charge for having somebody being hurt."— Ernestine Hipper

"Every single scene was choreographed through with every department."— Ernestine Hipper

How to Distance Yourself from Emotional Content: "You have to see it as a documentary, a really well made documentary, because a war like this will never, ever happen again. When a trenches under those circumstances will never happen again."— Ernestine Hippe


Kim Wannop [00:00:07]:

Decorating Pages is a podcast dedicated to taking you behind the scenes of the designs of your favorite TV shows and films. Each episode, I'll be sharing design stories from some of Hollywood's most famous sets, interviews from set decorators, production designers, directors and actors about creating the lookup, TV and film about their design inspirations and stories that take sets from page to screen. Hello, and welcome to Decorating Pages. I'm your host, Kim Wanup. How's you doing? It is cold and rainy in La. Lately, and it's been nice to sleep in. Not gonna lie. Well, not that much because I got the puppy and I got the kids. But, like, pretending to sleep in or pretending to take naps is nice. Yeah. And then I got the boys into, like, let's have a movie night, or let's they don't like to take nap on mommy days. So then I said, like, oh, let's watch a movie. We watch Superman two, Superman three, which probably wasn't probably good for their age. And I did actually fall asleep in that. So I forget. With Richard Pryor. What happened? I hope they're not scarred by that. I think they'll be all right. But all day long, constantly just humming that Superman song now. So I've really done it to myself. But we are knee deep in award season. It's almost coming to an end with this Sunday being Oscars. And one of the awards that happened in the past week were the costume awards, which I always find fantastic because of the costume designers on that red carpet. They are just given it and they love it, and they're out and about. And there was a lot of naked without us going on their campaign to be paid more. Go, girls, go, boys, go. Everyone get paid. Do it. I hope you get it. So some of their winners period film was Elvis. Period television was the crown. Contemporary film was glass onion. Contemporary TV was Wednesday. Excellent short form design.

Kim Wannop [00:02:36]:


Kim Wannop [00:02:37]:

Yeah, lizzo one fantasy film everything, everywhere, all at once. Fantasy was House of Dragon. So, yeah, beautiful. I love House of Dragon costumes, man. The details in those costumes are unreal. Which brings me to what I'm watching this week. This is crazy to me because the Chris Rock special came out on Netflix called selective Outrage. And after watching it, I can't believe that there's not more hype around it because he really talks about what happened at the Oscars with Will Smith hitting him. And I thought there would be more like, oh, he's finally talking about it type articles out there, but I couldn't really find anything. He's always poignant, always makes you think. And he's clever, and I've always loved his comedy and he's very honest of like, yeah, I loved Will Smith, and now I got summertime ringing in my ear, like things like that. It's fantastic. His humor is so well crafted. I just really enjoyed it and was super happy that he acknowledged it and was adult about it. So that's on Netflix. I recommend that to everyone because he's always hilarious. Did a little throwback. Did daw day afternoon. I don't know why I love that. Was it Jim? John Kezebel. God, I know. You know the guy. He was in deer hunter. And Fredo, basically. I'm talking about Fredo. He poor thing. He died of cancer. I think he was engaged to Meryl Streep at the time, I believe, and or they had broken up. But yeah, I think lung cancer or something. What a phenomenal actor in the had so many great roles. And then Dollar Day Afternoon, I can I was really focusing on how much they're sweating because, remember, they turned the air off in the bank trying to suss them out. And like, man, Al Pacino was just sweating in the whole film. And I didn't remember before how great Chris Sarandon is in that movie. His transsexual lover. He's really good and really subtle. I just found his performance really good this time around when I watched it. Production designed by Charles Bailey and set decorated by Robert Drumheller. It's such a great movie. I don't know. And it's I forgot to look up if the guy got out because at the end they said he got 20 years, which means he would have been out in, like, late 90s or something. So it's crazy. I am watching, of course, The Last of US production designed by John Peno and set decorated by Paul Healey. And I'm watching the mandalorian. And I have two really poignant points to make. First of all, Pedro Pascal is basically the same person in both shows. He's caring after a little child. He's caring after little Yoda or Gregor, whatever his name is. And then he's taking care of Ellie in The Last of US. So he's kind of playing the same role in it. He's great. He's great. I love him. Love him. The other thing is, in Mandalorian, I don't really think it's him. Are you telling me he's standing around in a mask for every scene? He doesn't have, like, a double that stands in for him and then they just throw his voice in there's no way. He's standing there the whole time. I don't believe that it's him. Especially the fight scenes and all that shit. I don't know. I tried to look if it was, like, his walk, but couldn't really tell. But, yeah, that occurred to me last night. I was watching the first episode of The Mandalorian season three, which the little summary of it in the beginning is the Mandalorian sets out on an important adventure. Well, no shit. Wasn't that like season one? Why is that the tagline for season three?

Kim Wannop [00:07:04]:

It didn't make sense to me.

Kim Wannop [00:07:06]:

But, yeah, he's the same character in both shows, basically. And I don't think it's him. That's all I'm saying. I still like it. I still like the show. I still think it's fantastically done. I was trying to look it up. I think the production designer this season is Doug Chang. And then set decorator Amanda Moss Serino. I'm not sure. I might be saying that wrong, but I looked it up and I think they only had season two credits in there. But yeah, that's what I came up with. Now, in other news, to put another thing on my plate, me and some friends I have some friends, we're going to have a film club. And isn't that fun? It's like we're in the 60s or something. It's like we're in college film school. But a couple of friends of mine were thinking about, oh, that's a great movie. Oh, I hadn't seen that. Oh, I really love this. Oh, this makes me think of that and blah, blah, blah. So me and some friends are going to do like two movies a month and then probably just drink and have some discussion about it.

Kim Wannop [00:08:10]:

I don't know how it's going to.

Kim Wannop [00:08:10]:

Go and how long it's going to last. We're kind of getting really into it because none of them are working. So I'm sure once we're all working, we'll be like, what? I don't have time for that.

Kim Wannop [00:08:24]:

But yeah, because.

Kim Wannop [00:08:29]:

I miss the excitement of films and everything. And I haven't seen everything. And there's so many things that resonate with other people. And you want to know why? Like, why did you love that? Why did you watch that 17 times? So speaking of for this interview, I had to again watch All Quiet on the Western Front. And it's a rough watch, man. I don't know. It's like just every second, I think I'll never let my kids go to war. But I do have a fantastic little interview here for you with Ernestine Hipper, who is really on a streak. All quiet on the Western Front and tar. I mean, it's fantastic. So on this episode, I speak with set decorator Ernestine Hipper, who is nominated this year for best Production Design for her work on the film All Quiet on the Western Front. She has been nominated this award season for the ADG and the BAFTA and nominated for an ADG and on the SDSA Award for her decoration of Tar. So she's really hitting it out of there. Ballpark the dramatic differences in her work in these two films in one year show the scope of her enormous talent, but it also shows how versatile a set decorator's career can be. I think that's really important, too. And we talk a little bit about that. She was so kind to speak with me. She's in Thailand. She's being eaten by mosquitoes while we're talking. And she's genuinely just humble and grateful and the recognition of her peers. She was super excited about the awards. So it was humbling for me to get a chance to speak with her, especially with the schedule that she has. And yeah, so I hope you enjoyed.

Kim Wannop [00:10:43]:

Which is always for the Oscars, I believe. I believe.

Ernestine Hipper [00:10:47]:

I think also production designers vote for us.

Kim Wannop [00:10:51]:

Yeah, I think it's just your peer group votes for that category.

Ernestine Hipper [00:10:57]:

Oh, my God. Yeah, but see, all of my fellow nominees are like my idols. I mean, Jesus, Rick, all of the people. It's like, oh my God, I've been watching the movies for 20 years. They're my heroes. I know my name even on the same page with them. So I'm really just very honored and grateful. More than grateful, to be honest, this way. And I don't need to win it because it is enough to be honest. It is truly enough to get this much attention and to get this. For me, we never, ever thought we would get anything really Netflix. Now, regret, do I have a making off team or they didn't have a set photographer, didn't have any of this because I thought this is just going to go on streaming. And that's it.

Kim Wannop [00:11:55]:

Well, I talk about that a lot, about the let down. That's kind of a let down. When you work for streaming and it's released and you're like poof.

Ernestine Hipper [00:12:07]:

It's kind of like Netflix saw the rushes and saw what this movie is going to be. They said, oh my God, we better get this thing on cinemas so maybe we get some attention because it's worth it. But this all happened behind our backs. We just figured it's for streaming. It's for straight. For Netflix. It'll go straight on the streaming. How do you say this? Dentist.

Kim Wannop [00:12:35]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:12:38]:

And that's why we were only eight Germans in the art department who made this movie.

Kim Wannop [00:12:46]:

That's insane. That's insane to me. Because one of my questions is you must have had an army. I can't even believe how much you guys produced for set for this.

Ernestine Hipper [00:12:58]:

Had 380 Czech people working for us. But it was eight. You know, I had my assistance, but the production designer had an art director that he brought along, the prop master brought his assistance. And we had one arty problem coordinator, German, who took over the German parts and the rest. I mean, we were like all together, maybe including costume and makeup, maybe 20 people.

Kim Wannop [00:13:26]:

Oh, wow. That is crazy.

Ernestine Hipper [00:13:30]:

Yes. And it is a language barrier because you cannot learn Czech. There's no way you're ever going to learn this language. You have to live there. It's a very hard language to learn. So you live in your seven people bubble. The younger ones, of course, speak English now, but the older ones don't. So you were translators. And, you know, Lost in Translation is always that kind of cause problems. But it had a really incredible art department coordinator, Katka Front Gemund, and my leadman, Petra MAROUCHE was incredible. He really had to direct 65 people once in a while. And we were in the middle of the pandemic. So Prague was closed down. Prague was locked in a lockdown.

Kim Wannop [00:14:29]:

I know. I was wondering when you did this, because I didn't know if you'd started it right after Pandemic, but you did it during oh, my gosh.

Ernestine Hipper [00:14:39]:

For how much time we had Deck had for this movie. You won't believe it. I started three weeks before Christmas doing research and calculations. At point, they still were negotiating with Netflix production. How they're going to know it's all about budget and money. And to make the deal because of the weather, they had to start filming by the middle of February. Otherwise the ground would have melted and the you have greens everywhere and flowers. And you don't want this on a warfield. So we had limitations towards the time of the year when the warfield had to be shot. So they started digging the trenches in November, not really knowing if the contract would be done. And we did research and we did calculations, and we spent Christmas not really knowing do we do this now or not? Then we had a call, you start on the 4 January. We started shooting on the 15 February. We had ten weeks.

Kim Wannop [00:15:48]:

You only had ten weeks?

Ernestine Hipper [00:15:50]:

Ten weeks. And it was brexit. Prague was in a complete lockdown. I couldn't leave the country because I didn't know whether I can come back in the country because of Pandemic. And so all of these locations you wrote that we shot in three different countries. We didn't. We only shot in Czech Republic. I can send you photos too, so you understand. We shot at a Russian airfield called Milovitz.

Kim Wannop [00:16:30]:

I saw that because I watched a thing with the DP and he had a ton of pictures and aerials that shot down. And I saw it was like, they said, ten football fields long or something like it was incredible.

Ernestine Hipper [00:16:43]:

Yeah. When I walked on this for the first time, I said, Christian, what? In ten weeks? You must be out of your mind. And he went like, you're going to do it? And I went like, you must be out of your mind. Are we going to do this? He said, we're going to do it. Let's do it. And then because of the Pandemic, I guess I went straight into work.

Kim Wannop [00:17:15]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:17:15]:

My sister with an early bird starts at 536 in the morning. I start at eight. He stops at six. I go until 809:00. So we got this many hours out of the day. Actually, Ingo had to be on the work list for four weeks. And I would be sending him every day four trucks of material. We had 400 of these X checks or Spanish writers.

Kim Wannop [00:17:44]:

Did you have them made or you found them?

Ernestine Hipper [00:17:48]:

Everything was made except for some ammunition boxes were made.

Kim Wannop [00:17:54]:

That's what I was saying. I mean, the quantity that you needed for that whole set and the with the period and the aging and everything, I was just assuming you have to make all this I don't even know how you would make all that within ten weeks. Make it and dress it in and then age it in place. That's not enough time.

Ernestine Hipper [00:18:19]:

There was a lot of pressure. But you know what? It's harder to decorator a period piece where you have to order lamps and they have twelve weeks delivery time where you order fabrics. It was debris. I only had two buyers, by the way. Two buyers?

Kim Wannop [00:18:40]:

Wow. Did any of them speak the language.

Ernestine Hipper [00:18:45]:

Or they both spoke German well, a little bit English. Well, they were Czech.

Kim Wannop [00:18:56]:

Oh, they were Czech. Oh, I see.

Ernestine Hipper [00:18:59]:

She ran around with trucks going to farms and just buying things. And then we would take them apart in our workshop and burn them and paint them and take all the nails out so nobody would get hurt when they touch it. Because when you're on the warfield and somebody tries to move something, the have nails sticking out. I don't want to be in charge for having somebody being hurt. So this was my biggest, to be honest, safety amongst this monster of having all the barriered wire, barbed wire. The pikes were rubber. Yeah, there's a funny story behind it. In 2016, I was working for a movie called Euphoria. I went to London and I was at the Trading Post and I saw these guys gluing this spikes, these tips on wire, endless amounts of wire with a hot Cuban. And I went like, oh, my God. What is this? Yeah, this is we're working for 1917, and this is the wire. And I went like, of course, you cannot have real barbed wire because it all and it has to be of course, you're right on of the little spikes as a memory to have a piece of 1917 with me. And when I started this movie, I've looked in my work bag and I found it and I went like, oh my God.

Kim Wannop [00:20:29]:

It was meant to be. That wasn't meant to be.

Ernestine Hipper [00:20:32]:

That was Angela. He was a decorator. I have a piece of your decoration.

Kim Wannop [00:20:41]:

Thank you.

Ernestine Hipper [00:20:46]:

It took twelve weeks. So this is one thing I told them before Christmas whatever happens, if you don't order the wire now, we won't be having it to be able to shoot. So you have to have to order it immediately.

Kim Wannop [00:21:01]:

And that's the other thing I want to know. Did you have to redress some of the tunnels while they were shooting to make it look like no. Once it was dressed, at least you had like everything.

Ernestine Hipper [00:21:16]:

Edward and James, everybody except for me, prop master and wood and costume. They sat together for weeks talking every single scene through. So every single scene was scripted in terms of what? Costume grading. Beginning of the movie a year later. Because Felix had 25 different costumes in different kind of stages at the beginning of the movie. Back down, and his helmet had a hole. Remember, at the beginning. He didn't have that, and he almost got shot. So every single scene was choreographed through with every department. So every angle of the warfield was also catalogized. Catalogized so we knew exactly where this will take place, which operator, which crane, which stunt would happen there. And that's the way they shot it, because they had to shoot it in six weeks. They had to shoot all the warfield scenes in six weeks. And they were so under pressure because you start in the morning at four or 05:00, and it was winter, so you don't have many hours. The sun around five. Ish.

Kim Wannop [00:22:44]:

That's really mind blowing to me that they had that much pressure on themselves? And then that other thing I read, he only shot one camera. He didn't do, like, simultaneous cameras at the same time.

Ernestine Hipper [00:23:00]:

You have four cameras now.

Kim Wannop [00:23:03]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:23:04]:

This wasn't a big question movie. It looks like one.

Kim Wannop [00:23:06]:

It looks like one. I mean, the production value that you have given in the designer and lighting, this looks like a 1970, like, huge film. I'm not joking. I'm saying I'm blown away that you had that much prep blown away. I would have walked out. I would have been like, bye. I can't do that.

Ernestine Hipper [00:23:33]:

Honestly, I didn't even want to do it. I didn't want to do this movie because it's out of my comfort zone. I love children movies. I love comedies. I love fairy tales. I love what type decorators. Love fiddly, fiddly, fiddly biographs. No action, please. No cars.

Kim Wannop [00:23:52]:

Stunt montages. No action. Montages is, like, my nightmare.

Ernestine Hipper [00:23:58]:

But because of the pandemic, you had to sort of take what's coming. None of us can afford to be not working for a whole year. Plus, Christian said, you're the only one I can imagine who can pull it off in that short of a time.

Kim Wannop [00:24:19]:

Well, he was right. That's a compliment, but he was right. I mean, it's fantastic.

Ernestine Hipper [00:24:24]:

I struggled very much, though, because when I read the script to answer your question, germans have to read the script. This book in school, it's like, first of all, our generation, what our grandfathers or grandparents did, it's still heavy weight on our shoulders, because it's part of our history, just like you Americans have the history, too, which we cannot erase. So to bring this into our consciousness, every kid in school has to read this book.

Kim Wannop [00:25:06]:

How old are you when you have to read it? Because I don't know what I was reading at 1012, but it wasn't that heavy. But I watched heavy movies. But I mean, like, I don't know. Reading something is deeper in your in your brain than watching something, I think, because your mind is doing it instead.

Ernestine Hipper [00:25:34]:

Of a German lecture, we have to read this book. And of course, I watched a movie when I was younger, later on, because you just watch. And so when I read the script, I was crying. I went like, I can't do this. I don't want to have this in my system for six months or something. Once you're in a movie, you dig in. You dive in. You dive in the history. You dive into details. You try to become an emotional sponge so you can later put this emotion back into your sense. That's how I feel when I work. I suck it all up, and then my brain starts doing something, and then I pick things and have ideas for me. That's how I do my own set of decorator. And I said to Christian, I can't do it emotionally. I won't be able to pull it through because I'm too soft for this. I don't want to have six months in my system. This evilness and the darkness and the pain and the crucial side of well, anywhere is crucial anyway. But after a while, he pulled me in, showed me all the photos. Seeing the real photos was even worse. I mean, seeing these poor kids being slaughtered, being cannon food. I mean, when you see these images.

Kim Wannop [00:27:12]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:27:15]:

So I thought about it for a while, and the my family came up with, come on, just treat it as a documentary. You have to see it as a documentary, a really well made documentary, because a war like this will never, ever happen again. When a trenches under those circumstances will never happen again. That was actually my trick, to trick me away from the emotions. And I thought, okay, documentary. I try to do as good as possible. I try to make it look as real as possible. Yes, it is. So I was able to get the distance from all the but where when I saw the rushes and when I saw Felix, I remember the first part of the rushes. I wasn't in the cinema, and I wept in the movie. And I think to cry, oh, my God, this kid is amazing. This actor is amazing. We were like, oh, my God. Whatever. I tried to trick myself. It backlashed me.

Kim Wannop [00:28:18]:

War movies are so hard and so important because people who have never experienced war need to know what people are fighting for and what they're doing. And I always think war movies are history and showing people what this was and why they were doing it. And this story about him being so naive and his friends and thinking, I know that's how so many I mean, not I mean, they were so into it, so, like so they wanted to be there. But the reality that hits him and seeing his friends one by one die is just so heartbreaking. It's such an amazing story back then.

Ernestine Hipper [00:29:05]:

Around the century changed. It how it was. You had to fight for your country. I mean, Korea, all places. You fight for your country. America, fight for your country. But back then, it was our propaganda, because whatever came to those cities, the newspapers didn't really show or tell the the true stories. They're always, you know, victory and victory and victory and the great nation and we so those kids didn't really know what nobody knew what war was except for the ones who came back with a missing face, half of the face, legs and arms missing. When they told the stories, nobody would believe the they went like, this was the first anti war book ever in history. And that's why it's such an important book. And hipper Bandit the burned all of his books.

Kim Wannop [00:30:12]:

I think, too, when they show those credits and then you're reading and 17 million people died in the.

Ernestine Hipper [00:30:19]:

War, you can't fathom 26 million grenades have been built. 26 million grenades filled with metal parts, splinter grenades. I mean, can you imagine what they do to humans when the hit?

Kim Wannop [00:30:37]:

No, there's such incredible wars ever, really.

Ernestine Hipper [00:30:42]:

It was horrible. 10 didn't go far.

Kim Wannop [00:30:47]:

I know. They didn't even go far. They didn't even make much progress.

Ernestine Hipper [00:30:51]:

8 km.

Kim Wannop [00:30:52]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:30:53]:


Kim Wannop [00:30:54]:

No, it's the sin. There are such poignant scenes in this, too, of his view of what's happened. Like when when that tank rolls over the trench is incredible. Or that lasting when the war is about to end and they're still called into war.

Ernestine Hipper [00:31:17]:

This is true. It really happened.

Kim Wannop [00:31:19]:

I know. It's mind blowing. It's mind blowing because I was like, whoa, I would have stayed back. I would have run really slow and then tripped and tried to play dead or something. My uncle was in the Korean War and he actually pulled a body over his friend's body over him and played dead. And they came around and stabbed all the bodies and missed him. And I mean, that I think about that every time I watch a war movie of like, I can't believe I know someone who survives something like this. It's crazy. It's awful. And then to have to build that into your dressing of how many, how long they have been here, like that layer that you've given it of he's not the first soldier there like this has been there. And just the lived in value of that trench and everything I thought was really great in telling the story of them living in this mud.

Ernestine Hipper [00:32:29]:

But there are incredible images out there, so you can really copy as much as possible and make it was more the challenge of where do I get the stuff from? How do I get the item? You know what you need, so how do I get it budget wise?

Kim Wannop [00:32:50]:

So frustrating.

Ernestine Hipper [00:32:52]:

My budget you're going to laugh. Americans that would first think how? But I was lucky. I rented out a whole prop house because they were short of money because of the pandemic. They didn't have much business. So I said, come on, flat deal. Take all of your costumes. It was a military problem. All of your things, even if they are Second World War, because first World War things are really hard to get. Everything is in the miss, the original things are you finding museums? We had to cheat, so we had 500 ammunition boxes that were actually Russian, but we painted them in this First World War color because the French had their own green. The Germans had a certain bluish green. Second World War had a different color. I mean, they really had color codes. I didn't know this. I had to find out had a specific color for the vehicles to be painted, for the ammunition to be painted. So I used that kind of color to help myself to cheat around that. I didn't have many original things, and plus, I was able to get on truck out of London with items that were on 1917. Again. Thank you, Lisandalids. You don't see them, but they're addressed in. But at least I was able to get some things back here. And we had a couple of how do you call it? Horses that are half shells. Dead horses.

Kim Wannop [00:34:44]:

Oh, yeah, I was wondering about that, if that was, like, fiberglass.

Ernestine Hipper [00:34:52]:

Yeah, they will have bloody them in, and they look really real, though it's.

Kim Wannop [00:35:01]:

Funny to me when you're describing this, because there's things that you do that I don't. In Los Angeles, I don't think horses would be me. I think that would be Props, because they handle, like, animals and dead animals and stuff, and then like, car painting Oscars and stuff. I don't do that either.

Ernestine Hipper [00:35:22]:

In Europe, props is actually only doing props for the actors. Anything an actor or an extra touches is props. Anything around is set decorator. Even ammunition laying around, standing around is set lamps, lights. I mean, if there's a dead horse laying there, it's set decoration. If a dead horse is being shot and an actor is leaning against it, the it's props.

Kim Wannop [00:35:51]:

Oh, yeah, I guess you're right. I guess I've never done dead horses.

Ernestine Hipper [00:35:56]:

Just assumed. They tricked me with the big cannon in one scene. It was the last battle when the soldiers would go back on the battlefield, right. You see four huge cannons. There World War on cannons, and they're not firing. The were just empty. Singer and I was told, well, these cannons must be vehicles, you know, because there's in between, sometimes it's also vehicle. Yeah, they have to move. And I said, no, they're just standing around their props. And then props said, no, they said decoration, because we're not touching them. So they ended back on my table. And of course, there are a couple in Poland in the museum. There are a couple in Germany in the museum. And just to get them there, plus you're not able to touch them and muddy them up and whatever there's a scratch on them, you fired, or worse. So I had to have them built. Had to build out of plastic tubes. And I sent you photos I had to build and then set on. Set.

Kim Wannop [00:37:08]:

And when did you get that note? Hopefully not the two days before. I hope you had some time.

Ernestine Hipper [00:37:19]:

It wasn't a long period, it was two, three weeks. But construction guys love to build toys like this. They were really into it.

Kim Wannop [00:37:31]:

Well, I'm sure they built so many ladders and X's.

Ernestine Hipper [00:37:39]:

Quiet. We had I don't know, 400 X. We had seven or 9000 sandbags, at least 7000 sandbags we had made.

Kim Wannop [00:37:49]:

I was thinking of the sandbags. I was thinking of all those sewing machines in the very beginning.

Ernestine Hipper [00:37:55]:

Yeah, 50 sewing machines. Those were all from collectors. And the ladies had to learn how to how to pedal.

Kim Wannop [00:38:03]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:38:04]:

We didn't have any thread in them, otherwise it would have been a big mess. Let's just pretend it.

Kim Wannop [00:38:09]:

I was thinking of the sound guy must have hated that, I think, too. I was the coffin scene in the beginning, I was like, oh, it's a lot of coffins, too. I was wondering if you I'm sure you had those built because they're easy to build.

Ernestine Hipper [00:38:33]:

And I had an idea. Well, in the real war, they would just throw the corpses in a hole. We can't do that, it's too much at the beginning. So let's take coffins. At that time, they wouldn't have had coffins, plus I wanted some markings on them with numbers or which grade of soldier he would have been with chalk written on to have a bit of a feel for the coffin. So each coffin also had to be a person to personalize the a bit. And this huge pile of wardrobe you saw there, I had it built and it was just chicken wire and it was just on top. But again, all the blooding and all the mudding these two little hands made.

Kim Wannop [00:39:35]:

You got to get in there, got to get dirty sometimes.

Ernestine Hipper [00:39:39]:

But that's all fake blood. I didn't care seven or eight, I had to go through a wound lecture. Which wound causes which kind of blood?

Kim Wannop [00:39:56]:

Oh, wow. I say it the time of EC decorators. We're so lucky, because look, every project you're on, you just dive in and we research so much and we learn things we never would have known. I'm not sitting here having off one day and think, like, where I'm going to take a bone, I'm going to take a wound survey or something. You never would have done it. And I think that's one of the best parts of our little world is the education that we get of all these different subjects and periods, and you really got to love to learn and research for us.

Ernestine Hipper [00:40:37]:

Yeah, but I was never able to get a husband and kids, because how can you do it when you work?

Kim Wannop [00:40:44]:

Well, I'll tell you what, I asked a lot of people, I asked a lot of decorators, and they always told me, the ones who had kids, you just figure it out. You just figure it out. And I was blessed and found a man and got pregnant. I don't know how. And the I had twins, and I work, and I have twins, and I'm exhausted, so I don't know how to do it either. The balancing of it is really hard, but you do. You make it work, but it is hard because I know what type of personality we have to be, and you don't want to let anything slip through the cracks in either world. So it is really hard. I never traveled with work, and even now, I'm never going to be able to travel. Like, look at you're in Thailand. Like, that's amazing, you mean?

Ernestine Hipper [00:41:41]:

No, I constantly travel. Just see, when the pandemic started, I was four months in Spain doing a movie, went straight to Berlin, where I live. I live in munich. I live down south, and the from that, I went to Czech republic for five months. I think we shot this movie in five months.

Kim Wannop [00:42:02]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:42:03]:

And I had ten days off in Spain, just sitting on the beach. I was like, numbed. I was really numb. I was like, this movie really was to my physical limits, and I got a all. A movie is up with todd field and kate blanchett. And I went like, I cannot turn this down. You cannot turn down a movie with todd field and kate blanchett. It just simply comes.

Kim Wannop [00:42:31]:

You can't. I have fear of turning anything down. I get really scared to turn things down. I get fear of missing out syndrome. But that you can't turn that down. Todd fields.

Ernestine Hipper [00:42:46]:

He'S a legend, and Kate blanchett is one of my most favorite actresses on the planet. I mean, she is superstar. She is my and I went like, okay, pack your suitcase. Bye bye on, bye bye, beach. Going back to Berlin. And then I was in Berlin for another five months. So this year, I actually worked the six months I worked through with a ten day break. And luckily, those two movies are now hitting every word. I'm like, what is going on here?

Kim Wannop [00:43:23]:

Hell of a streak. You hit a hell of a streak here. I got to say, it's pretty good.

Ernestine Hipper [00:43:28]:

22 years, none of this ever happened to me. So what is going on?

Kim Wannop [00:43:31]:

But you're the only one that ties them together. Yes.

Ernestine Hipper [00:43:40]:

Americans go crazy because they think, oh, my god, how can you do a period 1970 movie and a slick?

Kim Wannop [00:43:50]:

Because you're talented. That's why.

Ernestine Hipper [00:43:53]:

In Germany, you have to do everything. You cannot specialize. You don't have a chance to specialize. In Europe. You have to do what comes up. And then so over the years, also, I was in the commercial business for ten years. In a commercial business, you have to decorate a set in one day. You don't have and so after all these years, I had to do everything. So I sort of well, the war thing was missing.

Kim Wannop [00:44:24]:

Yeah, that's what I love about it. I love being able to work on a drama and a comedy in the same year, or I love that I can't even imagine doing because I mostly do TV. I can't imagine doing 22 episodes of a season. Like, I'm so thankful that they're only, like, ten episodes or something because I got to get out of it because it's such a deep dive and I want to do something else. I want to keep moving on. But for you to deep dive so hard into a war and then do this modern piece is pretty fantastic. The opportunity and everything is fantastic.

Ernestine Hipper [00:45:07]:

Very special. Director is a very special person.

Kim Wannop [00:45:13]:

Yeah. He hasn't been around for a while either. He's taken a long break.

Ernestine Hipper [00:45:26]:

I don't know what happened, why he was gone for so long. Because he's so brilliant. His mind I've never, ever imagined a director is like he's very I love to work for him. For me, it was great joy.

Kim Wannop [00:45:49]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:45:49]:

Everybody else was sort of not understanding him. I think they were like, what does he want? Because the script was very hard to read. If you read the script, you don't get the story.

Kim Wannop [00:46:02]:

Well, I read an article that he wrote it over COVID and then came up.

Kim Wannop [00:46:09]:


Kim Wannop [00:46:09]:

And then was like, all right, I want to make this movie. And they only had a certain time to do it. And then they rushed it in or something. Did they rushed it to get it done? Because of her schedule, I believe.

Ernestine Hipper [00:46:22]:

Yeah, I think she was in 80% or 90% of the movie. She was in it. Sorry. Mosquito hitting me.

Kim Wannop [00:46:32]:

Oh, no.

Ernestine Hipper [00:46:33]:

Everywhere. Yeah.

Kim Wannop [00:46:38]:

I wouldn't do well there. You're making me itchy.

Ernestine Hipper [00:46:46]:

They don't make sound. They're friendly, polite mosquitoes. But they eat you. Cake came on set. And she's extremely intelligent. To me, it's mind blowing. She would walk on set, do the take two, three times, completely together with Todd, and she'd do that for 8 hours straight through with a tiny break.

Kim Wannop [00:47:15]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:47:16]:

Not stop every day. So I normally superstars like her. Come for three, four, five days shooting, then they go back home. And so she was away from her children and her husband quite a lot. And I suffered very much staying away from her family. She loves her family.

Kim Wannop [00:47:44]:

Did they have any influence or recommendations or wants for her, especially her childhood home or, like, her apartments?

Ernestine Hipper [00:47:57]:

Well, in her childhood home, it was actually scripted. That upbringing was in Staten Island, that she smelled the garbage, the smurf.

Kim Wannop [00:48:09]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:48:10]:

And actually, her parents were supposed to be hearing impaired. That's why her hearing was supposed to be so sensible. But it all sort of then got lost because there was no way to show it. And so I started nubbed taught. Come on, give me more food. Tell me, what are her grandparents? Were the Russians? Were the Hungarians. How did they come to Staten Island because Staten Island originated again, I had to dig into the history of Staten Island to make a story. You have to find create people's past and a psychogram, I would call it. Where does it come from? How many relatives? What are the relatives? What is this? Are the parents still alive? How was the father? Was he a nice guy? Was he a violent guy? Was he an abusive guy? You have to make this kind of psychogram to start thinking how the apartment could look like. And so Todd came up with all these information, like Hungarian background and making up this and hearing impairing and this and that. And so I started getting mood boards made with trying to find some Hungarian influences and textiles and little knickknacks and things that could have inherited and photos on the wall. And that's how states in island actually happened. Plus it had to show the sort of basic standard of living working class. It's a bad word, but you know what I mean?

Kim Wannop [00:49:59]:

No. Yeah. And that's a lot of that.

Ernestine Hipper [00:50:05]:

Upscale people. That's to show her background of where her biggest, how do you call this, lack of confidence actually came. That's why she started tricking herself into the world to become more so that it all happened. That's where it originated. And that she was also always she had to fight for everything. She was a hockey player. There's a lot of scenes that are actually cut out. But I think Todd said he is going to make a director's cut where he's going to put everything back in that was shot because he shot so much more. Which actually would have really helped the story also to tell a bit more about the fall. But it must have been a reason because of the timing of the movie that they couldn't because it would have been more than 3 hours anyways.

Kim Wannop [00:50:58]:

Yeah, I do think that she has a great performance. I think everyone in the movie has a great performance. I kept waiting for something more to happen because we keep going back and forth and then you're like, Is this a dream?

Ernestine Hipper [00:51:17]:

It was there. It was all there. We shot it all.

Kim Wannop [00:51:22]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:51:24]:

I don't know why it wasn't shown. There might be studio reasons. You never know.

Kim Wannop [00:51:31]:

Too many cooks in the kitchen, that's what it is.

Ernestine Hipper [00:51:36]:

Kate also, she's a producer on there. You never know. Yeah, so he's going to make a director's cut and then you're going to see it all.

Kim Wannop [00:51:44]:

But I would watch it. I would see it again because looking at your work and I read an article with him and he described a ton as you are, and I was like, well, I would have liked that movie much better.

Ernestine Hipper [00:51:59]:

Because when you see the first trailer, the first trailer, that's how the movie was. And I don't know, when I watched it, I went like, this is not what the script is and what happened, but I waited for the director's cut. I think, in a way, I think you never know. He's probably struggling. Should I have done it? Should I not, you know, should have left it this way? Nobody ever even thought that Tar would go like this either.

Kim Wannop [00:52:34]:

I do think, though, in watching, I saw the movies and then I watched them again this week, ready to talk to you. That cinematically. The frames and the work and your sets, they really kept wide in a lot of scenes, like her apartment and on the battlefield, like, just these wides. Or that dinner, that dining table scene in quiet of just that room and that dining table of two people on the ends. Like cinematically, your work really shows. And they really showed a lot of it. It's so fantastic to not get smaller and smaller every third frame or something. And it was beautiful to watch. I mean, that's the dream, to work with good DPS for me, that's my dream.

Ernestine Hipper [00:53:26]:

James friend is so lovely. And also Florian Hofmeister Florin is also nominated for an Oscars. And James is well.

Kim Wannop [00:53:37]:

It is that's a tough category, that one.

Ernestine Hipper [00:53:41]:

Yeah. And there's a lot of ego involved. And these people don't have they're wonderful. They're lovely. We love you. Also towards us. You can sort of go to Florida and say, how do you want your lighting? Should we dress more? Shall we help you there? And he would be just absolutely together. Some DPS are very.

Kim Wannop [00:54:10]:

Yeah, they can.

Ernestine Hipper [00:54:14]:

The complaining kind. No, these two are not the complaining kind. They're just the most loveliest people I've ever met.

Kim Wannop [00:54:20]:

Really? That's fantastic. And I think, too, when the decorator and the DP have such a good relationship, too, it makes each other's job easier. But it's also when you really know what they want, you can tune into that because you want it to be what they want, to make it better and to light it and everything. I think that's such an important relationship when you work with them to produce such great lit scenes. Because it's all us now. It's all practicals. It's all practicals.

Ernestine Hipper [00:54:57]:

And now it's practicals and colors and structures and textures. And the more they tell us what atmosphere they want to create, we can jump into it and help them with what we can find on the market. But now it was extreme from one movie to the other. And the biggest challenge of Tower was clearance.

Kim Wannop [00:55:23]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:55:24]:

Clearance. Of all the books. Clearance. Our clearance rights in Europe, I guess, are not as strict as the ones you have in the state.

Kim Wannop [00:55:37]:

We're so afraid of a lawsuit here, you can't even play a board game in the background without it being blacked out. It's ridiculous.

Ernestine Hipper [00:55:52]:

Just imagining a place like Kami, columbia Arts Management, blah, blah, blah. Todd wanted the real Kami, and we were like, okay, we're trying to contact them, but they're bankrupt. So how do you get the person, because of COVID that went into bankruptcy, who will give right to use the original name? And our Clearance had one lady working in Germany, Nicole, and we had one lady working for Focus Features in California, Ashley. They tried, and they finally did manage to get the rights to use Kami. But then every post on the wall, they have a huge range of artists. So Todd, again, wanted the real Kami items. So to get the rights for each poster on the wall from Kami, which doesn't exist anymore, finding the owner of the posters and the rights. I can show you a wide shot of the Kami conference room in the movie. You only see 3434 Pussies in the background of the concert. But we had everything cleared. I mean, it was in Sebastian's room when the fired Sebastian, right? The capel, master. This old orchestra guy.

Kim Wannop [00:57:33]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:57:35]:

Every single piece of photo has been cleared in this place. Has been either Scouted on Ice stock or I can send you the board of Tar, which was an ADG. We had a whole the magazine stand. When she runs to the set, her.

Kim Wannop [00:57:56]:

Magazine magazine stands are so expensive.

Ernestine Hipper [00:58:00]:

She was supposed to run by actually behind a wall with her being famous and then a wall of her being down, down. Just to make these two big walls of her with real magazines, people magazine and International and German ones, we had to get the right front, all the magazines to use the name the we had to create the covers. There was one person for five weeks only doing that. All he did was on graphic designer, doing those magazines. And then at the end, it didn't even show.

Kim Wannop [00:58:43]:


Ernestine Hipper [00:58:44]:

And clearance was the biggest, biggest challenge on time. The rest was just getting furniture together, which kind of fit to her character. Try to hide what she really wanted or show what she wanted to be like a pretending stage. Her office is like a pretender kind of stage. You don't feel her. It's just decorated. You don't feel a person there.

Kim Wannop [00:59:20]:

Those two pieces of art are very interesting, though, to me, of what if she's trying to be so perfect and everything. I couldn't tell what they were. It's a little boy playing violin, actually playing violin.

Ernestine Hipper [00:59:36]:

But, you know, her wife is no, she tried to start an affair with the cellist. She's not playing the violin in the cello. That's why I chose those pictures. I chose this to show a little her intriguing connection to her how do you call it? Vanity.

Kim Wannop [01:00:01]:

Yeah. And so many books. Both of her apartments, her child's room and then her young room. She had a ton of books. I kept thinking, like, oh, my God, so many books here. I can't.

Ernestine Hipper [01:00:22]:

I was lucky. Those books were in the shelves already.

Kim Wannop [01:00:25]:

Well, look, it's a good thing you didn't have to clear them all at least they were all facing the seam.

Ernestine Hipper [01:00:31]:

Because it would have not against them. Todd said, we're going to do it visually in a visual effect showing. Because I told the I cannot clear all the books. There's no way, and I can't redress them all because these people who live there have a certain, in a way, how they're displayed. I didn't even want to touch them.

Kim Wannop [01:00:59]:

Yeah. I've undressed a lot of people's bookshelves, and we have to put them back. Exactly. So and if not, they all locations, and they know if one book is out of place, and that's fine, but you don't need to call and tell on us. Just put the book back. I don't know, but yes, I was wondering about that, because it's so many books, and it also is such a character thing. There's no way you could read that many books for her. I just felt like it was like a facade.

Ernestine Hipper [01:01:34]:

If you see the director's cut the missing link, why they live in a place like this is missing because it shows, really how wealthy she is. There's something missing.

Kim Wannop [01:01:48]:

Yeah, it's missing.

Ernestine Hipper [01:01:54]:

And you don't know whether it's her wife's apartment, but did you know that conductors make about 20 million per year?

Kim Wannop [01:02:06]:

I didn't know that, no. I just kept thinking, oh, is she making a lot of money because she works in all the different countries and she's not just one place. I was trying to figure out, too, how she's on all of the covers or how is she because in our society I don't know. I don't know if any conductor would really be that big, like, on People and Architectural Digest and, like, all of them at one time, you got to be a superstar.

Ernestine Hipper [01:02:45]:

This was a bit over there.

Kim Wannop [01:02:47]:

Yeah, but it's storytelling. It's just a matter of storytelling. But no, in reality, I had no idea that conductors made that much.

Ernestine Hipper [01:02:56]:

I didn't either, until I read about it, until I found out that they make at least 2025 mil. Bernstein made.

Kim Wannop [01:03:05]:


Ernestine Hipper [01:03:05]:

And it's all out of record deals they make. Plus, on top. They really make a lot of money. But how many famous conductors do you have? Where five or six in the world that we all know?

Kim Wannop [01:03:20]:

Maybe I'll push one of these little ones into that. They're obsessed with Beethoven five right now, so go ahead. They walk around the house all day. I'm like, oh, my God, this is like a nightmare. So maybe they'll get into it.

Ernestine Hipper [01:03:39]:

You can be a conductor without going to music school. I mean, I didn't know that either. You don't have to study music and become a violinist. You can learn being a conductor at the juilliard, to be honest.

Kim Wannop [01:03:56]:

Well, there you go. Get going, boys. Go make some money so I can retire.

Ernestine Hipper [01:04:06]:

Every evening in a concert hall. Saturday, Sundays, new Eve, Christmas, evenings. You spend somewhere.

Kim Wannop [01:04:12]:


Ernestine Hipper [01:04:13]:

Well, Eight really learned how to conduct with a professional conductor. She wanted to learn really how this works. So for months she worked and she worked and she worked. And when she walked on stage with dressed in philharmonic, those musicians, of course, that's the way she is. She walked up there and she said, well, I'm here the actor and you have to support me. So if I do something wrong, please help me. I need you. Without you, I'm not going to be able to perform. Here we are, team. And of course the musicians went boom for her. Then she started connecting and she went like and those guys haven't been playing for a while because of the pandemic. And she went like boom, boom, boom. And then she went like stop, you're not on. And they were laughing because she was right. She heard it. That they are not on tune spectacular.

Kim Wannop [01:05:20]:

Well, you really have to have an ear for that. Yeah, she really has to be.

Ernestine Hipper [01:05:27]:

Believe me, she is really super intellectual. She is one of a kind.

Kim Wannop [01:05:35]:

I do love everything she does.

Kim Wannop [01:05:37]:

Everything. I mean, I'm a huge fan of hers is why.

Kim Wannop [01:05:44]:

Did you hear the mosquitoes? Poor thing that's getting, like, eaten live. But I'm so thankful that she had time to give me and talk about this because I just can't believe the amount of time of prep that she didn't have. And also, I didn't get to talk to her about that blue train car. I really wanted to talk about the train car and all the fixtures they had in there and the color of the blue. And it must have been all custom made and it's such a contrast from the rest of the film. But I think I dropped the ball on that one, guys. Sorry. And the rest said there was like a big conference table and the etching on the glass of the windows and everything was just so beautiful in there. I do want to say there was a couple of great articles that I read in prep for this interview. One about the visual effects of the film and where the visual effect starts and the set ends. There's a great little movie on All Quiet on the Western Front breakdown by Netflix It's a great little couple of minute video of the green screens and how the set worked with VFX the other one I did was and cinematographer cinematographer eric Measureschmidt interviewed the I got to find his name james friend the cinematographer on all quiet and they talked for over an hour on this. It's on their website and he has great pictures that they interrogate of just his set and them shooting. So that was super helpful in preparing for this and for Tar, I read I think it was on. Condi nest with the director about the film. And I know I lend to that that after reading the article, I really felt like, oh, that was a good movie. But that's not what I watched. If you want to, like Tar, maybe read that article. I don't know. But yeah. But again, thank you to her. Good luck.

Kim Wannop [01:08:19]:

Good luck.

Kim Wannop [01:08:19]:

Good luck. That's my vote. I know Babylon is probably going to swoop in, which is great.

Kim Wannop [01:08:27]:

It's all great.

Kim Wannop [01:08:28]:

The work is fantastic. There's nothing nominated that you're like. What? It's all great. And that's how you always feel. Like, God, it's so much work. Look at what they're accomplishing in the time frames and think about budgets and everything. So, yeah, bravo. Bravo to her and everyone else. And good luck at the Oscars this week. How exciting. So exciting. Also trying to get I can't believe how busy I am. And I'm not working. Trying to get a couple of videos out. I'm going to try to do one of her work I'll put up on TikTok, and we always have the postings on IG just to keep you current. And so follow, like, please review. Please review. It's so much bullshit with these reviews, but you got to ask for them. So please review on whatever listening platform you are listening to. I would greatly appreciate it. So I hope you got an earful. I'm Kim Wan, up for decorating pages.


bottom of page