Rick Pickett (Graphic Designer)
MI.net: That's pretty cool to be able to say, "Hey, that's mine. That's mine."
Rick: Yeah, it's fun. I mean, at times, I kind of wish I had a group of people working with me. Because there is just so much stuff to do. And it depends on the script, it depends on the writer. Some writers are very dialogue-driven, and action-driven in terms of how the actors behave. Others are very prop-driven. I mean, I can't complain and say, "Gosh, there's too many props," because then I wouldn't have a job. But it gets to a point where it's like, "You guys need another prop? You need another one? What?"
MI.net: You need an assistant.
Rick: Yeah, I do. My problem is, you have to be really well versed in almost everything. Or at least enough to produce a viable product. Sometimes I have to Photoshop in a person in a picture or a face on a person because we couldn't get that actor down here for the set that time, or a variety of logistical snafus. It gets a little hectic, but, I mean, it'd be nice. You'd have to be a very capable person, in my opinion.
Rick wants an assistant: Check.
Willing to relocate to San Diego: Check.
"A very capable person": D'oh!]
MI.net: What mediums do you work in? You said Photoshop and sketching.
Rick: I've done pen, pencil, Illustrator, Photoshop, Macromedia Flash, Dreamweaver. I've used Apple's operating system for a variety of effects. iPhoto, iTunes I've done stuff with. I've done photography. And then the printing of everything. I've done X-Acto knife cutouts for things. That's about it. I did one audio recording that never got used. That was a waste of time. That's pretty much it. I've done some video too. Video editing. And that's why I say if I had an assistant, I really hope that they were at least willing to learn those things, or already knew them. Because I can't go, "Hey can you do this for me?" And they go, "I don't know how." Then I basically end up doing it myself.
MI.net: Have there been incidents where they've asked you to do stuff, and you go, "I don't know how to do that"?
Rick: Yeah, there've been times where I'll turn down someone's requesting a product because I either can't do it because I don't have time, I don't have the resources to do it, or I'm unable to produce that effect. Last year for the gamelord scene where they're at the video game place, I couldn't create the little logos for the people when Veronica's playing so that it shows the player's name on the screen. So we hired an outside group that actually does 3-D animation and all that stuff. So there are times, but I like to try to pride myself in doing everything. It's more fun that way, and it's a good challenge. But there are times when I have to step back and say, "All right, you're not invincible and you can't take on everything." You've got to pass the buck and say, "Hey, can you do this again?" It depends. Some things are really tedious too.
MI.net: Such as?
Rick: Such as I have to create a whole yellow book page. Not even a yellow book page, a phone book page for one of our characters. So their name has to be in there. And I have to fill in two whole pages with all these other names. And that's just time-consuming beyond belief.
MI.net: I never thought about that.
Rick: And I just did a classified ad page. And what I did to save myself time was I just did the upper-right hand corner of a full newspaper. And then I ripped it as if Veronica would have ripped it out. Gave it to the prop master. Prop master showed it to Nick. Nick goes, "No, I want the full page." I go, "Okay. Full page spread." And I whipped it out. And it did look a lot better once I was done. I'm glad he pushed it. But time is of the essence. You think you have sixty hours, but something goes wrong. Someone forgets a prop that they really needed, so I'm taking two steps backwards, and I'm trying to move forward. It gets stressful.
MI.net: For the most part, is it fun?
Rick: It's fun because it is a job that a) fits me to a t. I've used pretty much every skill I have at least once. That's wonderful. I also ride motorcycles, and they used my motorcycle for some parking lot scenes.
MI.net: Which one? We can point it out.
Rick: It would have been a yellow...towards the end of last season. I can't remember exactly when. I feel it was a PCHer scene in the parking lot. It's yellow. If you find it, let me know. I always forget to double check all the little things that have put in. [I-just-remembered voice] "Oh, yeah, that's mine."
But it's cool because it's extremely creative. I work with very talented people. I love being able to communicate with these directors who are talented and experienced in their field. And I've learned so much. I don't feel like a professional by any means in the industry, but I can start holding my own. I know what works for film, what doesn't work for film. I know, "Can you see that? Are you going to see that? How perfectionist do I really need to be with this? Can I just whip it together and it'll still look good because it's going to be blurred out?"
MI.net: The high school sets are amazing with all the flyers and stuff to make it look real. What do you do with all that stuff when you're done with that episode?
Rick: I'll produce the flyers, and I'll give it to Boyd Lung, who is our swing gang lead man. And swing gang basically sets up the sets and breaks down the sets. And I think they just throw the flyers away when they're done. I think some of them, if they're N.D., nondescript and generic enough, they will probably keep them and pile them away so that we can regurgitate them later. That's another tedious thing. I've got so many other hero shots that spending my time on N.D. stuff becomes just a waste.
But it's fun too. I mean, I enjoy having it look real. Because I've seen so many productions of things, both student and professional, where if people would have paid that extra bit of attention to detail, the viewer would have been able to really sink themselves into the storyline. Like become one with the TV, and the action happening. And forget that all this stuff is dealt with and nitpicked in production meetings, and re-written, and re-designed, and re-shot, and take 55, and not chronological. It boggles my mind how we forget all that stuff and let ourselves sink into this fantasy world and, like, totally believe it.
MI.net: I think one of the high points of that high school set is all that background stuff. And even though you can't read it, and it's kind of blurry, you know that it's there.
Rick: [chuckles] That's good, because if you could read some of it, I'll probably get into trouble.
MI.net: [chuckles] Why? What did you put?
Rick: Oh, just different jokes. I'll make fun of some of my coworkers. It's just goofy stuff. It's like, "Boyd Lung likes to wear dresses. Ha, ha, ha." You know, inside jokes. Because I know that these guys are busting their buns moving this stuff all day long, so if I can give them a little laugh when they see their name next to something, they can get a chuckle out of it. It's good stuff.
I'm trying to figure out which fine line I need to be careful about exposing what we have going on. But keep an eye out this season, you'll have fun, finding things, I think.
MI.net: What's the typical budget?
Rick: Well, I'm never kept in the loop on anything budget-wise. I just make the stuff, and if we can't use it, we can't use it. I've heard roughly a million per episode. It's a lot. That's another thing that just blew me away getting into this industry. There's so much money, being constantly spent. I understand now why cities really vie for having the film industry come in. Because...like my set dec, my set decorator Chris Marsteller and his wife Aimee, she's his shopper, and they're constantly doing P.C. orders....I don't know what that stands for actually. Petty cash, I think. P.C. orders of $4,000 a day sometimes just because they have to decorate these sets. And it's Neptune so it's a ritzy, glitzy place. You can't just go to Wal-Mart or Target to buy stuff. I mean, sometimes you can, but....It gets up there, and it's nuts.
Some of my prints that we do will cost upwards of $800. So I need to ensure that I don't screw something up so that we have to be forced to reprint it. Like Lilly's memorial last year was my first real big project. That was hell beyond belief. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
MI.net: What was wrong with it?
Rick: Well, there's a little saying, a little poem on top of it. That was all laser cut out of plexi. And the place I went to, to get it first laser cut, it looked like crap when they were done with it. I was just looking at the piece and going, "You've got to be kidding me. You guys are going to charge me for this?" They're like, "Yeah, pretty much." So I did that. I actually had to find someone who could actually do it properly. Then that needed to be mounted to stainless steel, which is a process in itself. And there's a nice little frosted vinyl border of these fleurs and spirals all around it. I first had to design it and build a border in Illustrator. And then I had to cut it. And frosted vinyl doesn't cut very well when you plot it out. So weaning it was a pain. And then the file wasn't opening properly on my printer's vinyl cut machine. So it was only printing and cutting one part, and double cutting, and....[chuckles] It was not fun, at all, as my first experience to really get involved in stuff.
MI.net: But it looks nice.
Rick: Thank you, thank you very much. It was tough. [sigh]
MI.net: What was that poem on the memorial?
Rick: Oh, geez. If I was at my desk at work, which I have to go into work in about an hour because I have to prepare stuff for the episode because we got slammed so hard.
Rick's email a few days later:
"Is the end, the end...
or merely a new beginnning?
Can that which once started
suddenly be stopped?
Or is this a cosmic circle,
that makes us think we are over
just before we begin again?"
MI.net: You have to work on Saturdays?
Rick: Yeah, sometimes. It's pretty stressful.
The poem was from a book. I remember we changed like one word out of the original poem that someone wrote. There were a couple of words because it was sounding a little weird. That was fun.
I've gotten to write...actually I forgot, one of the other things I've been able to do is writing. For some of the articles in the Neptune Register, the home paper, I've gotten to write articles that were hero shots and were really zoomed in on.
MI.net: You write those too?
Rick: I do it just because asking the writers to throw another thing on their plate is sometimes just too tedious, so I usually would just write it up and get it out there. [panic voice] Ohhhhh...okay, phew, that just reminded me, I'm like, "Did I finish that prop? Uh?" And yes I did. Good. Phew.
MI.net: We noticed in the newspaper articles that they actually write stuff. A lot of times on other shows, they just write gibberish. "Wow, they actually took time to write out a whole thing."
Rick: Well, luckily I'm a fast typer and things can flow out of my head fairly quickly, so I can have fun with it, but it depends. And that's where the experience comes down. "All right, is the cameraman, and the director, and everyone going to really zoom in on this?" If they're not, "Well, gibberish. There you go." I would love to be able to write every little itty-bitty detail and make it super-realistic, but time, I don't have it. I'd love to do it for you guys so you can get a kick out of it and get those little nuggets.
MI.net: Yeah, the fans do hit the pause button and go, "Wait, let's see: what does that screen say?"
Rick: I must be very careful, must be very careful.
[Editor's note: If you build it, we will pause.]
MI.net: So we know if it's gibberish, it's your fault.
Rick: Yes, it is pretty much my fault. Unless if it doesn't look very graphical, I probably didn't have a hand in it. It was just some N.D. stuff that we use. Because I try to pass off stuff that is very simple.
MI.net: Did you do the opening credit sketches?
Rick: No, I didn't. Actually, I don't know who did that. They're really cool though. I really dig them. All the notebook paper and stuff.