Designing Middle-earth: The Media Chronicles interviews Grant Major
The Shire. Rivendell. Lothlórien. Helm’s Deep. Minas Tirith. If ever you found yourself admiring the design and scope of these remarkable sets and locations – among so many others from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – then you have been well aware of the amazing work of Grant Major. Serving as Production Designer on all three films, he was responsible for the look of everything you saw on-screen.
Major recently spoke with The Media Chronicles about how he got his start designing sets, the changes that have taken place with the evolution of CGI, and
the kind of work that has gone into his world creating – including that of Middle-earth.
The starting point was the books. Tolkien himself was a very descriptive writer, so among many other things, he wrote down the geography, mood, and feeling of a place in the story really well. So that was a great start. And the enormity of the design job meant that I wasn’t able to do every single item of it by myself. I brought on illustrators who were the driving force behind much of the conceptualizing of the film; Alan Lee and John Howe had created illustrations of Tolkien’s stories for years. Having this weight of history on board was very good for the project.
Click here to read the full interview, and check out the video below to see his work on the Coca-Cola television spot “Heist”, which won an Emmy in 2009 for “Outstanding Commercial”.
There was a time at the beginning of LOTR when I was building everything, nowadays there’s less of a need to build the entire set and so there are very few moments when everything is actually made. I am often designing for a green screen studio shoot where all the backgrounds are created digitally.