Production Designer Jeremy Hindle Helps "Severance" Connect With Viewers
Jeremy Hindle
Joe Beshenkovsky sheds light on "George Carlin's American Dream," for which he earned 3 Emmy nominations

“This is my Twin Peaks,” recalled production designer Jeremy Hindle, hearkening back to what he felt after reading a script for Severance (Apple TV+) penned by series creator Dan Erickson. “The tone was so strange and the story so good, I was immediately enamored.”

Enamored enough to take on his first TV show after establishing himself in the feature arena over the years, first with director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, for which Hindle earned an Art Directors Guild (ADG) Excellence in Production Design Award nomination, extending to Detroit, another Bigelow film, and later into this season’s box office sensation, Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski.

Now Hindle is a first-time Emmy nominee for the “Good News About Hell,” the first episode of Severance. His is one of 14 nominations for Severance, which puts it on another parallel track with Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s breakthrough series which too garnered 14 Emmy nods in its first season.

In addition to production design, Severance is up for Emmys as Outstanding Drama Series and for directing (Ben Stiller), writing (Erickson), picture editing (two nods for Geoffrey Richman, ACE), original dramatic score and main title theme music (Theodore Shapiro), casting, main title design, lead actor (Adam Scott) and supporting actors (Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken).

The sci-fi thriller takes us into Lumon Industries, a corporation where employees (Scott, Turturro, Britt Lower, Zach Cherry) have their memories surgically divided between their work and personal lives. It’s a sinister emotional severance as workers are managed from afar by a boss (Arquette) who’s the epitome of creepiness.

“I loved Dan’s writing,” related Hindle. “It’s writing for a show that is so totally perfect in terms of what’s happening in the world right now--but in such a strange way.” The series sparks contemplation about life--the work-life balance which so many of us are trying to attain, observed Hindle. It’s a catalyst of sorts to look within, to learn “to be emotional again, happy and honest with yourself.”

From a production design perspective, there were many challenges, including creating a dystopian workplace that is vast yet at the same time confining.

As for creative influences that inspired him for the task, Hindle cited the John Deere building and the Coen brothers, particularly their film Fargo

The headquarters in Illinois for tractor manufacturer John Deere was designed in the 1960s by Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche.  “It is one of the most beautiful offices in the world,” assessed Hindle, noting that it was designed to be “just about the work. It goes back before the days of HR [human resources departments]. There were no personal photos, no plants at the desks. There was simply a phone, a pad, pen, a Rolodex. It was all about the work.”

Resonating from Fargo for Hindle was the scene where William H. Macy is walking through a snow-filled parking lot to his car. Severance starts with Mark Scout (portrayed by Scott) in his car in a snowy parking lot. Like Macy’s character in Fargo, Scout appears lonely and small in his environ. “The outside world always make him feel he was small,” observed Hindle whose lookbook for Severance contained that Fargo image of Macy’s tiny character in a parking lot.

Hindle’s Emmy nomination is shared with his team, production designer Nick Francone, art director Angelica Borrero and set decorator Andrew Baseman. Francone was originally one of Hindle’s art directors on Severance. But when the COVID pandemic hit, production shut down. Hindle, who laid the foundation for the production design on Severance, lives in L.A. and wasn’t able to go to New York when production resumed--at a juncture when there was still not yet a vaccine. Francone then stepped in to serve as a production designer.

Hindle is gratified over the Emmy nomination relative to what it means for the series. “I’m happy for Dan [Erickson] and the show, which took a risk--and people wound up loving it.”

In addition to the writing, Hindle marveled over the efforts and talent of director/executive producer Ben Stiller. “He’s an amazing director, one of the best,” affirmed Hindle, noting his work with the actors and his visual sensibilities yielded a spectacular looking, thought-provoking, emotional story.

At press time, Hindle was embarking on season 2 of Severance.

Joe Beshenkovsky, ACE
Joe Beshenkovsky, ACE last month picked up three Emmy nominations for George Carlin’s American Dream (HBO)--Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special as a co-executive producer; Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) as a sound effects editor; and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program as it sole editor. George Carlin’s American Dream garnered a total of five Emmy nods--the other two being for Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program (Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio), and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera).

The two-part Carlin documentary series added to Beshenkovsky’s awards lineage which includes two Emmy wins--picture editing for nonfiction programming on the strength of an episode of This American Life in 2009, and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special in 2018 for The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, which also teamed him with Apatow and Bonfiglio. Beshenkovsky additionally has picture editing Emmy nods for This American Life in 2008, Cobain: Montage of Heck in 2015, and The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling and Jane, both in 2017.

Beshenkovsky first worked with exec producer Apatow on a TV special, Hannibal Buress: Hannibal Takes Edinburgh. Beshenkovsky didn’t interact all that much with Apatow on that editing gig but the two came together, along with Bonfiglio, to more deeply collaborate on The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. “That’s where we built our trust,” said Beshenkovsky, recalling that he cut a 15-minute section of that project early on and Apatow liked what he saw. “If I hadn’t done a good pass on that, the relationship might not have evolved,” conjectured Beshenkovsky. “Now we have a trust. He trusts me and I trust him.”

That trust carried over to George Carlin’s American Dream. From a picture editing perspective, Beshenkovsky said one of the major challenges he faced was a wealth of choices in that Carlin was prolific, having developed volumes of comedy material. Plus the comedian did numerous interviews. Beshenkovsky said he was surprised by what he described as “the sheer tonnage of material,” which included access to the Carlin estate archives.

There was also a challenge inherent during the initial part of American Dream where Carlin is a young performer, his comedy not yet as cutting as what he became known for. Building something from those performances was important, assessed Beshenkovsky, because from them we see Carlin’s awakening and political growth. This lesser known material from Carlin’s early career, observed Beshenkovsky, “reveals something about him as an artist, his arc as a performer.” 

As he delved deeper into Carlin’s life, Beshenkovsky found himself relating more to the late, great comedian. “I didn’t know much about George Carlin at all. When he was doing his HBO specials in the 1980s and ‘90s, I was too young....From the experience of mining his life, I learned a lot. He was from New York. I’m from New York. I know the neighborhood he grew up in. I felt a connection strangely through that--and I appreciated his growth as an artist. When he decided to go for the bearded George, he was making $11,500 a week. Back in 1961, that was a ton of money. He forfeited $250,000 a year to start all over again. He felt he was living a lie and needed to be more true to himself as an artist.

“It was not so much his prescience,” said Beshenkovsky. “He was talking about things that have always been here. He understood at the core that it’s all bullshit, that the very foundation of the nation was built on a lie. He felt that until we come to terms with that, we will always have a problem. It drove him insane to some extent.”

Prominent comedians in their own right were interviewed for American Dream. They spanned different generations yet all were influenced by Carlin as a thinker, writer and performer. “I wanted to be just like him,” said Jerry Seinfeld.

And Carlin’s observations continue to carry weight and relevance. His routine about abortion from a 1996 HBO special has recently been widely shared virally. He remains insightful and more thought provoking than ever.

This is the 15th installment of a 16-part weekly The Road To Emmy Series of feature stories which will explore the field of Emmy contenders and then nominees spanning such disciplines as directing, writing, producing, showrunning, cinematography, editing, production design, costume design, music, sound and visual effects. The Road To Emmy Series will then be followed by coverage of the Creative Arts Emmy winners on September 3 (Saturday) and 4 (Sunday), and then the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on Monday, September 12.

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