From Hundreds of Commercials to Hit Films, Production Designer Hank Mann Sets the Tone

Established production designer Hank Mann has seen, and created it all. From designing over 200 commercials, including his famous Go Daddy ad with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mann has also created the setting and tone for Sarah McLachlan’s Ordinary Miracle and Nickleback’s How Your Remind Me music videos, constructed sets from scratch while collaborating with the art department, as well as managed film crews and budgets on feature films, all simply to create the director’s vision.

“Every job has its own unique structure that is revealed as soon as I read the treatment and script,” says Mann on his beginning stages of design.

His passion to work in film started at age 5, when Mann impressively created Super 8 stop-motion movies. The urge to work in film and design never left him, as he studied Film Theory and Sociology/ Communications at Queens University.

Mann worked various other crew jobs before landing his first major production design job on a global Ford Mondeo commercial starring David Duchovny (The X- Files, Californication), which carries a Twin Peaks / X-Files like surrounding and tone.

After designing commercials for McDonald’s, Burger King, Nike, Best Buy, Audi, Subaru, Toyota, Advil, TBS, Nickelodeon, Fisher Price, just to name a few, Mann decided to go back to working on films.

Mann prefers working in the realm of film and television because “in the process of production designing I really get into the characters – their history, their successes, their faults, their stories. Film and TV allow for a complete submersion into a character’s life.”

And by doing so, the audience can visually comprehend the depth, and perspective, of a particular character and their setting.

In 2008’s Kill Kill Faster Faster, Mann’s first feature film as a production designer, spectators can clearly establish the film’s gritty, suspenseful tone and enticing nature of each character and their drive in the narrative.

Produced and directed by Gareth Maxwell Roberts (The Mortician, Writer’s Retreat), Kill Kill Faster Faster focuses on an incarcerated man named Joey One-Way, played by Gil Bellows (Alley McBeal, The Shawshank Redemption). Joey is paroled from prison after receiving an offer from a producer named Markie, played by Esai Morales (La Bamba, NYPD Blue), for a script Joey wrote behind bars. However, Markie is in over his head when Joey has an affair with Markie’s girlfriend.

For this particular film, Mann established a color scheme for the characters, not only to support the storyline of the script but to work within the budget of the film. “I chose to put a lot of initial resources into establishing a colour hue for each character so that regardless of how little money we had, at minimum there was a common tone the creatives could all work towards.”

The film garnered two wins in 2008 for Best International Feature at London Independent Film Festival (LIFF), as well as Best Editing at the HD Film Festival.

In 2010, Mann worked on the action-drama film Repeaters. The film starred Amanda Crew (Silicon Valley, Charlie St. Cloud), and Dustin Milligan (90210, Silicon Valley). Directed by Carl Bessai (Sisters and Brothers, Emile), Repeaters follows three friends who are trapped in a time maze, similar to the film Groundhog Day.

At the 2011 Leo Awards, Repeaters was nominated for 10 awards and won for Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Feature.

Mann continued to work on films in 2011 on the set of Reinout Oerlemans’ Nova Zembla, a historical Dutch drama which centers on a team of explorers who travel from the North East Passage to the Indies, while encountering rough weather conditions.

The film was shot on location in Iceland, Belgium and Canada, where Mann created a slew of captivating sets.

“My initial approach was to research as much as possible, visiting real locations and reviewing online sources and then extracting the most interesting and iconic bits to then combine into our stage set builds,” says Mann.

Like his other two films, Nova Zembla received recognition and was nominated for two Rembrandt Awards and received a Golden and Platin Film Award.

This past year, Mann recently wrapped up commercials for Nissan and PetCo, as well as a six screen art installation he worked on and collaborated with Oscar winning director Denys Arcand (Barbarian Invasions), and installation artist Adad Hannah. The piece is entitled The Burghers of Vancouver, and was inspired by Rodin’s The Burgher’s of Calis.

The installation premiered in Paris earlier this year and ran from February to May at the Montreal Museum of Art.

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