Hidden away in a cosy corner of Dublin lies a little studio that offers glimpses into life working with Wes Anderson. It is the working studio of Annie Atkins and feels truly magical the moment you step inside. You are greeted with beautiful lettering adorning the walls, a smattering of fictitious chocolate posters, newspapers and stamps from past films are pinned above the desks with humble relics occupying the remaining quiet corners. For those of you that have not heard of Annie Atkins before, you will most certainly recognise her work.
She has worked on the graphic props for films by the likes of Steven Spielberg and Wes Anderson – to name a few. The way I discovered Annie was actually through her work for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Annie spoke to us passionately about the level of detail and work that went into crafting that renowned pink, red and purple aesthetic we now know and love today. Even items that we often overlook such as carpets, keychains and signage would have all been thoughtfully crafted in an effort to build this beautiful world.
Although her work comes across as somewhat whimsical it is important to remember that it is often rooted in reality. By striving to create something that is authentic this gives the audience an instant sense of familiarity. The props are also used as working tools that enable actors to get into the spirit of their character and portray their role in the best way possible. And what’s interesting is it doesn’t matter how little screen time each graphic prop receives, the process that goes into creating each remains the same. They are always designed with the utmost thought and care down to the last exquisite detail to deliver the most compelling film experience possible. During the workshop, we created everything from passports to telegrams, we even tried our hand lettering an envelope addressed from Zero to Agatha. The Grand Budapest Hotel is undoubtedly one of my favourite films, and it’s a culmination of many things that make it so.
The cinematography is just unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. So, as you can imagine, it was an absolute pleasure just listening to Annie’s recollections about what it was like to be a part of such a huge production.
What I also really loved about this workshop was that we were able to create tactile items and learn about how certain pieces would have been made the past. It was also a joy to work with other like minded creatives who were just as mesmerised by this whole other world of graphic design. Our small group comprised mostly working designers or new graduates wondering which creative route to explore next. So I think it was refreshing for all of us to take time away from the screen and really think about the details of the pieces in front of us.
I don’t want to go into every last detail about the workshop because I really think it’s something you should dip your toes in to and enjoy in person. I’ve definitely emerged from this workshop with a new found appreciation for graphic design for film and beautiful ephemera from the past. I also feel as though just hearing Annie’s story has been so inspiring. It’s a story about never giving up because you never know where something might lead you. In Annie’s case, she just continued working hard on smaller productions and little did she know a call from Wes Anderson was just around the corner.
They are usually held in Dublin on weekends but she has also hosted a few in Los Angeles in the past. These sell out pretty quickly and aren’t always held all year around as Annie has to split her time between the workshops and working on films. So I’d advise booking straight away if you know you definitely want to go. At least that way you can sort your flight and accommodation well in advance too!
Please feel free to message me if you need any recommendations on where to stay etc. I actually found a place that was a 10 minute walk from the workshop and I’d be happy to pass on the details if needed.