Nick Ellis Production Designer 1962 – 2020
It is with great sadness we share news of the passing of wonderful, talented and very funny Designer Nick Ellis. After a valiant fight with a short illness he died peacefully at home last Sunday evening surrounded by his family.
Here is his profile from a couple of years ago which he remained true to till the end, a perfectionist at work his last film Gurinder Chadha’s latest success Blinded By The Light was a critics favourite internationally – though taken too soon his priorities remained his family, his friends, his work, his dogs, a party and Morrissey….heaven knows we’re miserable now!
Nick Ellis is a Production Designer who has worked on a wide variety of commercials that has taken him all over the world to many locations including for Landrover in France, Namibia, and South Africa, BP on an Aberdeen oil rig, the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan and the Iceland Glaciers, and Colgate in Los Angeles, Alaska, Papua New Guinea and Singapore.
Nick working regularly with Rocky Morton of MJZ has seen him recently design a Kellogg’s commercial, as part of the current campaign in South Africa and a Bear Grylls project for Australia more locally in Wales.
A long standing relationship with director Gurinder Chadha has given him the opportunity to design feature films including award winning Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Predjudice, Angus Thongs, Full Frontal Snogging and It’s a Wonderful Afterlife.
He has just completed commercials for SonnyLondon’’s Dawn Shadforth for the current Boots and Rimmel campaign, Hooch and 02 directed by James De Frond at Nice Shirt and Titus watches for Hong Kong based director David Tsui.
As he’s here at the moment we managed to track him down and ask him a few questions about his career.
When did you decide you wanted to work in Film and Television?
I decided I wanted to work in TV when I delivered some props to a shoot that was happening at a studio near Wembley one evening, up until then I had seen it as a way to earn money but there was something about the atmosphere that made me want to be an integral part of it.
What if any study path did you take?
I did all my training on site, working my way through all the various stages of the art department from props transport assisting various buyers and stylists, Art Directors and Production Designers and stepped up to each grade when I felt confident and the opportunities presented themselves. Through previous jobs (things were different back then) I had gained experience in construction, logistics, soft furnishings, fashion, buying, planning, display and sales, all of which are incorporated into what I now do.
Who has been the greatest influence on your working life to date?
I will get the cheese out of the way first, my father for his ridiculous enthusiasm and energy, then the many talents that I have been fortunate to have supported encountered and witnessed. I can’t say there has been one person as I was able to glean different nuances from many varied talents in animation, post production, construction, people in control of the camera and the framing of the elements, Directors with true and committed vision and the Production teams that enable them to achieve that…oh and Mark Scruton!
What is the best project you have worked on in terms of creative reward?
I have been very lucky with the projects I have been able to work on and to be honest I can get as much pleasure from a perfect dinner plate with all the complimentary elements on a surface as I do from building something complex on the side of a mountain in New Zealand. If one project has to be mentioned it is Bride and Prejudice, it included great set builds in Ealing Studios, fabulous exotic location builds/dressing and a great bunch of people from three continents, you will have to decide if it was a creative success or not…oh and Mark Scruton!
How do you handle the pressure and stress of the film-making process?
I don’t…but I do my best to hide it, nothing comes from nothing…oh and I talk to my therapist, her name is Deborah.
Which director, dead or alive, would you like the opportunity to work with?
Who Directed GREASE? Hitchcock, The Cohens, Gurinder, Stephen Frears, Tony Richardson, Clooney, the Scott’s.. there are more but I would hate to appear desperate.
Studio or location, what’s your preference?
I prefer a mixture of both that work seamlessly together to achieve the best effect the budget will allow, a mixture of well chosen exteriors and structured interiors is a hard combo to beat.
It’s not all about work – how would you describe your perfect day?
My perfect day would include some or all of these elements…my family, my dogs, a long walk, a pub, friends, a sofa, laughing, water (sea or river), the tv remote, a real fire, Morrissey…oh and Mark Scruton!
John Brambles Experian series for Outsider has us fishing for compliments…
Ben Smith takes us to the movies with McDonalds new idents…
Designer Ben Smith working with directing duo Samuel & Gunnar at Tantrum has designed eight ‘genre’ ident films for McDonalds. Inspired by Horror, Space, Fantasy, Western, Kung Fu, 80s Rom Com, Period Drama and Action genres, these idents are part of their ITV2 movie night sponsorship all shot in studios and on location in Sofia.
Ben tells us “To deliver eight different sets convenient for the logistics of our shoot we chose NU Boyana Film Studios in Sofia. I built the space ship airlock and fantasy cave as new sets and adapted the existing Western, New Hampshire and Asian back lot sets to become our Saloon, 80s American house and Kung Fu dojo. The challenge was to feature the classic elements of each genre in the designs and to source specific key props to make each genre instantly recognisable. We had a lot of fun researching and collaborating on the set details and I had a great local team to support me.”