Tracy Dishman - Would a Teamster do it?

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

On this episode I speak with Production Designer / Set Decorator Tracy DIshman. I met Tracy on the NBC show Animal Practice, and unfortunately haven't been able to work with her again. Tracy is able to balance a career Production Designing independent films and still Set Decorating inbetween. Her recent credits include the Sundance film “Black Bear”, “Inherit the Viper”, James Franco’s “Zeroville” and the upcoming “Music” directed by Sia. We chat about budgeting the design of a project, salaries of Set Decorators, independent film making and more.

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"Black Bear" - Production Designer - Tracy Dishman

Here is the full transcript of the Podcast:

Tracy Dishman - Would a Teamster do it?

00:00:18 - 00:05:01

Decorating pages is podcast dedicated to taking you behind the scenes of the designs of your favorite TV shows and films. Each episode sharing design stories some of Hollywood's most famous saps. Interviews from set decorators, production, designers, directors, and actors about creating the look of TV. About their design, inspirations and stories that take up from page to screen. Hello and welcome to the decorating pages I'm your host Kim Wannop. I continue to hope that everyone is being safe and healthy, and I know that this past week has been an emotional one. And I hope that we're all paying attention and I hope we're getting. Getting through this. As far as work concerned, I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with this quarantine. Feels like I'm GONNA be back to work in July I have no definite answers nothing like that, but it feels like the industry starting to get it together. I think it's going to be like that. Call like Hey, can you start next week, but Yeah. Which? Also means. We gotta get it together. People no more carbs. There's no more carbs. Maybe maybe scaled down to like one drink a week. Her one drinking night per week. Maybe go for a run, but yeah gotta get it together. We're going to be back in public. We gotTA grooming people. I think I think that's our main cold. Now gotTA. Start getting it together. So so what one up watching this week Ticked! Off Base Force pretty quickly. I gotta say the I that production designer. Suzy messy did a great job with that. I really enjoyed the sets the show. I think the order was raped. Because I've worked with that costume designer on beep. Kathleen, Felix and I. I think twice so yeah, and I love Steve Carell. Feel super disappointed by it so. We've finished the wire which I think on that last episode I said we had finished season three, but really what season four and now we're done to five and I'm breaking up a little like. A special about the wire and the production design of the wire, because it is phenomenal, just phenomenal. Series if you haven't watched the wire like I, said I don't know why you're into this podcast Anna. We watched the film the Lighthouse, which is a black and white period. Peace with Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe. Who I think was just made for this movie like an old. Seaman with like an axe like a Boston accent. He was really good. The story was like route two guys. It's like a play. It's good. I don't think I have to I. See it again and go. Gladys saw. The cinematography is fantastic. basically basically using like one one light, and every shot, which I looked up and. They had such high wattage is on these. Light Bulbs in the rooms when they were shooting. to give them the light and also the production design. They built all be sets. They built whole lighthouse in everything so really pretty. To look at. But yeah, I mean I. Check it out if you haven't. another thing. I'm in the middle of its afterlife on Net flicks an love Ricky Julius, and this is the second season. I think super funny very dark. It's about death and very dark I love dark humor, so I'm in and the productions on at this quaint little English town I. Really like I just think it's cute. wondering if you're like me, you know we always watch you know you flip on that HDTV and see what's on heavy, ever checked out bargain mansions because there's this chick on there, who has I think really good tissues in like Kansas City? She's buying up these huge houses. Like really great as she would say gorgeous. remodels loves the Word Gorgeous.

00:05:01 - 00:10:00

She uses it like twenty times. A show should be a drinking game within the show. but she has really good taste. I think in her remodels a really good. If you haven't checked out bargain mansions, MOE's up for that. Also wondering. has anyone checked out my youtube clips that I put up? I've been I. I, like doing them. A bit of work. But I think it gives nice visuals to specific details at command some these interviews, so any bill I could get on. That would be great because if you don't like anything, they suck. Let me know. They are on the decorating pages Youtube Channel. They're also on the decorating pages podcast website under watch. On, this episode I speak with production designer set decorator Tracy dishman. I met Tracy couple of years ago on the show animal practice I had done the pilot, but then went back to a parks BRAC, and so she was doing the series they had to do some re-shoots of the pilot before it, so I jumped in to help out with that, and so we met there, and then I've run into a couple of times in prop houses, but I heard You're a couple years ago that she was production. Designing which I think is super impressive. So I reached out to interview her because I think it's fascinating that she is jumping back and forth from production designing and set decorating. and how she's able to do that A. Really WanNa to to learn how she's. She's doing that. she's also super cool dresses cool. She's got cool eyeglass frame. She's she's. we talk a lot about independent films. How some of her films have turned to union and how you know, she works with the crew like Bat. A how we met, we talk about that talk about how decorators get paid and salaries and very real conversation about budgeting, especially an independent film. She's worked in a ton of. Locations for her work and we get into. The Film Zero Ville which James Franco wrote. I think he wrote it. He's the director any stars in and she sat decorated, so that's Fanatical about James Franco and then her upcoming film, which is called me. Is directed by SIA. And you get to hear how a CEO actually shared her pinterest page with her. Fascinating. So I hope you enjoy. Prairie. I mean. Forget about it own. Young! We all WanNa word. I didn't know how much I need head a reprieve. Until I was forced to take one and I was like. Oh because usually we have downtime all the time, but when I'm down, I'm usually hustling in one way or another like. This, trying to make something happen the complete off of it gives you option to like you that hustle or like worry really I that's been a lot of time worrying even if I have a job I'm going to start just worrying about. The right decision and something else came up in our I didn't add and. So. It kind takes that variable out of it. It's nice. Were you working when this happened I was. I had been on like five weeks of prep for American crime story the next one so and we were two weeks away from shooting, so we weren't shooting and I hadn't addressed anything yet. But are. Mostly because our first three weeks have been location work so. But we hadn't scouted or anything. Designers scouted locations in shift that I. Think all that's gone I think they had said they are going to work like the first like. Two months on stage. And then figure out locations. But, I I think I. Mean It's a ten episode thing I think I'm gonNA. Be on it for the next year. I. Think I'll have my wrap party next. May that's my. Because by the time they figure it out. We have to work still now.

00:10:00 - 00:15:02

We have to rush and build on these sets that they can yeah, and then some. Shooting. What were you doing? I was in Savannah on season to Florida girls. Yeah so. Georgia opened at the beginning of this month and I was. Half expecting a call by it's like where it's happening, but instead I got a call saying Yes Georgia's opening bat. Florida girls is not up yet. We'll keep you posted so. A lot of the crew is they're all the talent is here. And, we kind of had like a little secluded enclave that we were pretty well protected, but a lot of the above the line was commuting from New York Vanna on the weekends, and when we started to get more information, it was like Oh we might be. You bring your. Things, yeah so. you know and it was the. It's going to be two weeks right will. It'll be two weeks and now as Aspen three months I think playing almost yeah, well, yeah yeah. Yeah. It was for us. It was like the a morning meeting of Hey, guys. We just don't know what's going on. We'll keep you posted and the afternoon. They brought like everyone in construction. Everybody in. Hey, listen. We're just GONNA. Take it down to just essential people, and maybe if you can work from home work from home next week and then the end of the day they were like. Shutting down. It was one day of such rollercoaster that Friday, and then it was like that next week of trying to work at home, but like shit started closing I go to kick out a prop houses they. Will. There's nothing for us to do. And then that following week. They were like art. We're done. So. We'll we'll keep in touch, but yeah I haven't heard really I mean. At first it was like. Oh, they wanNA start shooting mid. June, they're going to bring us back mid May. And then now it's sort of like well. They'd like to shoot you. Know or or you know they'd like to shoot it. August, so maybe we'll come back in July. So I don't know I have no idea either I. Don't yeah. I was trying to remember how in new you because it's like I. Feel Like I've known you for years, but I was like I don't actually remember how I met you so I did a little like you know research on us and I think it's because. Did you do the pilot? For animal practice, Jahn I did the season, and that's I met and we had to overlap on that because of re-shoots or something from the pilot. That's right. Yeah, we overlapped on that and then I would see you at like the NBC center because I was on. I guess good place in you were I think and you know what was on. Maybe I was on still parks, but I would see you at the NBC warehouse. I think when you were doing animal Chaffetz. Exactly. And then I feel like we talked like a year or so later. Think you designing? And then I haven't talked to you. Fortunately. Many of My. Guys say the things that makes me so interested in you is that you go back and forth from designing and decorating? And you do it so well. It seems you do it so seamlessly. Again now that you're probably focusing more on designing, and but that probably takes up a lot more of your of your time and everything, but it seemed like for a while at least that you were going back and forth, and and that to me is like Whoa. I. Don't know how you do that. Well How do I do it? So one thing is when I 'cause. I started in a as a prop master. Right in when I jumped from Prime Minister to set decorator in forty four. You can't hold a dual status so I had to relinquish my property status in order to get my decorator position. but when I got in as a designer. Because, it's eight hundred, I was able to keep both my decorator and designer cards, and it's kind of never say never. Lost me of like. Hey, you know yes. I heard. Here knows right. I work on a lot of stuff. I do a lot of I just some TV series, but I also.

00:15:02 - 00:20:00

I just loved the indie world. We're. so much of the heavy lifting is done by the decorator. Anyway a lot of the times like it's a lot. You know we're not doing crazy. Builds on three million dollar feature generally So I I yeah I, don't know I. I love both craft and I feel really lucky to have been able to. Participate in both when you when you're designing a indie film and Do you feel like you overset with the decorator like it's I would feel like it would be hard not to tell the decorated. Hey, listen. I got this jared Omega just go down I know it's there like I feel like that would be me because I do it now. My buyers so I know so i. I would be a ballet. Probably. I will say I. Mean like we try to stay early lane for sure and I only want to help, and the other thing about these is that were usually under crude and worked, and we don't have the time or the resources so it depends on the decorator, and like my relationship with them. If it's helpful, I'm not a like jumping in and you know. Yeah, here's twenty seven craigslist. Let me less like you know. Exactly. And if it's not, you know I just I. Try to be like if you need help, let me know. Yeah, that's that's how I tried to approach it and then just give people like you know the dignity of their own experience I also think in creative job like. There's a point where the help turns into. like creative vampirism. Right where like if you're messing, too, if you're putting too much too many ideas out there, I think it makes it hard for creative person to. Wrap their head around it and like cookies vibe going so. I agree I agree that there can be too much research. There can be too many. Can Be too much sometimes that it's so foggy that you're like. What am I doing here? And then you have to. I feel like and then i. just go back and read the scene. And I really read like what the fuck! What's going on here because I'm in love with this chair, and they want this, and but then I'm like, but what's really going on here and. I just try to go back to the scripts. Were voted as a defense mechanism. Most of like am I doing this? Oh Shit I was in love with that chair and they need like six seats and I'm GonNa. have six of them. Like what am I doing, so it's it's you know it it helps me to. That's right. That's right because you lose it time you leave, you get so in love with a chair and you're like. Oh! Man, that would have been so good. The no one ever knows that you. That's what I always think to like. No one ever knew how great that could have been, but you and I and and. There's always another job. There's always another chance for that share, or you just bring it home. Let's be honest, yeah! I was. A I was talking with someone. 'cause I'm in my bedroom because it's quieter So I was talking to someone they go. Where did you get that head Ford? Was that was an elevator dorm bones. On Weld! Iron knows like I. Just had someone welded and painted sober and Bala like. Then you're like I love it. Look around. You're like Elian that's from. I saved that piece. It was going to go in. The dumpsters, received it from yeah. But there's also quarters out there a bit I've. I've seen some who order people to which you can't let go stuff and. That's hard to. Yeah! I have gotten as I've gotten older. I've gotten better about. I don't bring my come with me. For the most part I think to when when we are younger in this, and you see the waste, and you see like that is just gonNa Literally GonNa go in the trash like. I know. Like. That's a good lamp. It needs a home lake, but now it's like I. Don't have time to be lamp matching people. So exactly exactly. Yeah, if anything like whatever the equivalent of a theater is, but for stuff, I might be a little bit of the like no here he.

00:20:00 - 00:25:03

You have to take this. Definitely need this like I might do that a little bit Yeah, but I just find that I. get over. Won't you know? Do you think that 'cause I'm thinking now? People who who do that and a lot of it is prop masters. They're always like Oh i. haven't I'm just gonNA bring it from home I have that I think that happens a lot more but that's smaller stuff. That's not like a big. Fan headboard Shit. That's like. A protester mentality to. Hear for sure I mean that was one of the turning points in in when I was when I was a prop master I like. Was I going to continue to do that or was I was I going to make the change to decorating, and I didn't have a truck yet, and that was the next thing was I was going to have to get a truck and I was like yeah. Yeah not not for me for someone else. Yeah, you gotta pay to get it like. Get it in story and Park it and. It's a lot talk about about chain. It's a lot of responsibility you know so. So! Let me back up a little bit. How did you start headed? You get into this. Did you always want to be in the in this creative? Prop world or Now I didn't even know it existed. Watch movies and TV. I didn't I sure I didn't know it was like a Joe I i. don't know what I thought I never considered it. I guess I finished school in Olympia Washington. A liberal arts school and just basically got sick of the rain and was like what's the sunniest place I can think of that I can drive to, and it was Los Angeles like I just took the five south and hero was, and I had some friends here from the Pacific northwest. You were in the industry. And so this would be like two thousand four. You doesn't five and They were like. My friends making a short. Just go show up and do whatever they tell you to do. Yeah. And that's that's literally how that was the beginning of my career? Working on a short. Year, but that's like you. Like yeah. Yes. I mean I feel like. When I was looking for my first job like and going I think it was called I. Think it's still around. Mandy or like craigslist and like Yakking. Shooting this pilot and they need by production assistant. So know pay sweet. Perfect yeah I'll be there, yeah? I am sure yeah, yeah, yeah, if you WANNA, do it, you do it. And then so on that. What did you see in in that day or week? Whatever that make you be like okay? I mean I think I was just so overwhelmed like the whole thing seems so crazy. That a really didn't I just did what people asked me to do and There was a prop master there who had recently they're assistant had taken another job, and while we were on short, the prop master booked a non union feature. was like. Do you WanNa? Come be my assistant and I said yes, and then that feature flipped union. I know it's so stupid I'm so. I know. I now I hate. Him. So yeah, that that's so. That's how I wound up doing props, and what was good about that was that was onset I mean it was like baptism by fire in terms of set culture and life I mean like starting with. How do you turn our walkie to like Now I'm getting my. You know my weapons license, and I am responsible for like firearms and. Drugs and money and feeding actors, and like a you know all of it. It's a very intimate in hands on. experience so while the maybe my first five years, I, was as assisting and mastering and I started to get stressed out with like the tech and the weapons in particular right because they're just both so. Fussy and there's precision to it that is, it was very micro was very micro Approach to a creative outlet and I saw the decorators running around with like you know. Throw pillows and floor in Iras Lake Iona do that. I WANNA do the job.

00:25:03 - 00:30:03

She's got a starbucks in her and. She'd been up since five. She helped unload the truck. She's got a meeting right after this. She's not getting. Like little, did we know? That's right. Glad, you wear it well. We all do I. Mean Look we have to. It's also that sort of double standard that still around where. I don't know like. Mariam, biddle was a emailing, or said something on facebook a couple of weeks ago. About like you know it's only been. Fifteen years or twenty years that I we still have to wear pantyhose or like. You still had to really get dressed up for me. It's like A. It's not that long ago. But Yeah I, the my first job I've is so insecure at the time in thinking like. I need to dress her up and up and I was wearing heels like almost every day like a nutjob. It is a thing of like. What was he doing, but we do it. I'm impressed. Cover me press for sure. But I think it's also yeah, it's It is sort of the thing of like I. Want I want to? I want people to feel empowered to give me money and give me responsibility and to trust my decision making and yeah, it absolutely is antiquated, but I think it's totally still alive and well, Blake! I can't show up with yeah I. Mean I do occasionally? Do show up rarely in athletic wear leisurewear whatever? But, but those are the mornings of like Oh. A were doing a circus outside not gonNA be here. Three legged. I'm cold. Yeah well, you know. But yeah. I've always. I've always gotten that sort of thing of like dress for the job. You want not the job. You have type mentality. and. He gets lost along the way, but it is. It is a reminder of like. Yeah, you gotTa, but I also think. and. You've worked on comedies, too. I think comedy brings down. There's a lot of COMEDIANS writers out there coming to work in their pajamas and I'm not joking. A hundred percent hundred percent. I remember getting departs. And thinking I'm overdressed. Actually reduced and I had a producer, stated we. Do you have an interview today? Like they were like wow! Aren't. Going to get my Hoodie on I got. So, I think your sneaker collection. Manager fighters. Election maybe to your environment. You really read the room to yeah. So, but yeah. But that was a sidebar you were doing prop master, assistant and imprompt Master, and then you saw back. Then you got you got. Yeah said then I did I was I was of force higher onto a job onto the tracey ullman show. A producer brought me on because the designer was still finishing job on the east coast, and so she brought me in before he got there. which those can always go, you know? One way or another, and luckily in this instant it, it turned out really well a good relationship and his decorator left on that job, and he always did the like you know. The Academy Awards the sex. The pretext segments before the beginning. Or for the MTV awards like the he always did those at the time as were non union, so he. Gave me a chance to decorate those. When we finished Tracy Oilman, and then after that he booked Eagle Heart, which the pilot was nonunion, and then the show went union, and because I did the pilot I got grandfathered in for. The show, so that's how I got me decorator car. Yeah, wow, that was good. What was it? I mean on just dumb luck, I, know I know, and so then I decorated for about five years which I loved Love I'm trying to look as we talk just to go along with like I, saw I just interviewed In Caveat, pro, who did the runaway? Interaction, you had or whatever but I love that movie. I love that man now that I've talked to him, but I thought that movie was really fun the runaways.

00:30:04 - 00:35:05

It was super fund so. That I did all the prep in like maybe the first week of shooting. That was a really good. Okay, so this is really what happened. Is that when I was still doing crops designer that my prop master I was assisting in my prop master worked with this designer on Deborah, Herbert and She had booked the rich. The show called the riches, and I told her that I was really trying to get into decorating and buying in. She said if you come to the series, I'll make sure that you can shadow my decorator who was special? Fontaine, which was an amazing so I, would get on my assistant work done, and then periodically like just. It was almost like a right along. It was almost lake. You know I would go to a few houses or I would go open set with her or I would see how she did her budgets, or whatever, so when beauchamp booked the runaways. I already had I was doing Sarah Silverman show every year as a prop master, and had that booked so it conflicted if I could prep it, and I could do the beginning of the job, so I got to do all the shopping and all the research and one of my favorite things about the runaways. Is that because they were huge in Japan at the time? That's like one of their stories, points and their history for higher. One of the salesman was in Japan in his teens at the time, and was a total music nerd, and he knew exactly like what fabric was on their vendors speaker. He knew everything was yeah. It was they are. Source I mean they themselves are like why you go there. They know all of history. They know like this the periods like the back of their hand. Right like the that resource to us is like unbelievable I'm always a fan of there, so that's incredible. Good luck. Yeah so unfortunately I didn't get to shoot it, but I did get to shop it and It's still got. Yes so fun so fun! I would love to do another something another something comparable. Yes, so that was the runaways. So then you're into decorating, and then at some point you're like L. Way. What am I doing? Why do all this work when I you? No actually. I mean I should have thought that, but I I was to better. Clear. Exactly. Adamant. I think. Why why did I ever because ice? On. The roads of big wanted to design and was like got into eight hundred and everything, and then I was like. I want to decorate and I had to start over and go back and then I think to myself like who that was dumb. I could be sitting over there being an art director making three four hundred more week like Yup. It's live. On a lot of MAR but. Essentially I think about it all the time. Or not I mean it does legitimate and you know. I think it's also something that that the the money of it all really needs to be discussed yeah, and we don't have to discuss it now, but lake well. It's the lowest department head. Crafty makes more than set decorators. It's no, it's no joke. It's no secret we're all know. Reject right new craft as a teamster. So of course you know, and then that's what I try and tell like 'cause because I do a lot of news I work with like a lot of Like newer people and they have actually had the opportunity to get a lot of people into the union on either nation contracts, or on shows that has flipped or whatever and but that's my thing is if the teamster won't do it, we won't do it so like if they're asking us to forfeit our turnaround if they're asking Mr, forfeit meal penalties. If they're asking us to do, an impossible job with the impossible amount of time and people like. Where did teamster do it? Now and if the answer is no then. Along the line. I mean exactly when they do do it. It's awesome and they do get the job done great. Yeah, mostly it's like. This is the reality of what's IT GONNA take. You're right. It doesn't seem to be at argument. Will. Let that it's going GonNa take, and that's what we have to pay. And this is what it's going to be. But when it comes to creative, it's like well. Can't you guys just? This could shoot tomorrow, right? That's right I mean.

00:35:06 - 00:40:14

At? What cost, of my sanity! Or safety you know or or The sacrifice to the the you know what you're. What product you're delivering now. That's a real thing to do i. want name on this. If we put it together with bubble gum twenty minutes before yeah, rolled into shoot. Any soon take my name off of it. Take my Dave. You can have it. I mean. And so here's the thing there's no. It's no secret that every craft as they become dominated by women. Participants, their rates stagnate or. Decline even and for us as you know in eight hundred. We have our. You know our union negotiated. Minimum Rates Right whic