Maggie Coombes on how reduced budgets have impacted on design

 First of all you’d get a script, and you’d break it down, so you’d read it, you’d work out how many different locations or sets there might be, and you’d have to think about if it was a period or contemporary and how you’d dress it and work out budgets… obviously talk to the directors about their ideas, how they wanted it to look, and do any research that you might need to do to get things built if it was a set, or redecorated, if it was a period drama that you were doing on location, all sorts of things like that….

You never had as much money as you’d like, but I think in later years it’s got very much worse, very much worse, and it’s almost to the point where you have to beg, borrow and steal – well, not steal, but beg or borrow stuff, because there simply aren’t the budgets, which is very dispiriting, and it also means that I’ve found that you have to ask teams who are working with you to work very long hours, which I think almost to the point where it’s not safe, you know, you worry about them driving home, because sometimes you’re clearing up a set after the filming’s finished, or you’re dressing very early in the morning before they arrive, and filming days are much longer now, so it means that the days are very, very long. And also we used to only work a maximum of six days a week, and usually five, and not long days, but that’s all changed – I think the norm is now six-day weeks, and very often the design department is working seven because you’re getting things ready for the first day of the next week – so it’s fairly relentless, which took a lot of the fun out of it, and with lack of budgets, it became more and more of a grind.

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