One of the most touching moments at this year’s Baftas was when Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton accepted the award for best production design for The Favourite.
They dedicated it to “every woman and working mother who keeps it together and makes it happen”.
The best friends met on the 2015 film Macbeth and have continued working together ever since.
Crombie said of the relationship: “It’s just so great to have that connection with people like Alice, we have children the same age.”
Felton, who thanked her three children in her speech, tells BBC News that different expectations are placed on men and women in the workplace.
“Women are often going to work whilst they’ve got a sick mum or a sick child and they’re care-giving throughout the day, even while they are at work,” she said.
“Whereas men can be just more singular, they shut that door, which isn’t our husbands – we’ve got amazing husbands who are doing the same as us”, she added.
“But historically, you were the top man out there doing your job, and you’d just come home for your dinner.”
Crombie, who has two children, says she never wants people working on her sets to “apologise about their personal life”.
“If there’s a crisis with a child, the worst thing is when I feel like someone can’t tell me that”, she says.
“Something I think is really important to say is that families are not baggage.
“I feel completely elevated by my family – the reason I’m doing what I’m doing is because of my family, and the way they have changed my life.”
She adds that if she’s travelling, “there’ll be flights put in for my family and additional accommodation. They totally respect that [family is important] and those things make me work better, knowing that my family is coming and they’re a part of it”.
Australian-born Crombie has just finished work on The King, a film adaptation of some of Shakespeare’s history plays. She says there are a lot of factors to take into account when production designing a film, so having Felton with her is important.
“When you’re making films, there’s a degree of going into battle, because you are constantly up against it with money, with time, weather and with difficult people.
“Plus you’re fighting for your vision all the time, and so to have her [Felton] on my side is great. She works harder than anyone I know.”
Crombie added that experience in the field has also allowed her to have “increasing confidence” in herself and her ability to prioritise.
“I remember the day that my daughter was starting primary school for the first time, it also happened to be a tech recce for a project,” she said.
“This was really early on in my career and the tech recces are really important days for designers and I was beating myself up over what to do because I was going to let somebody down.
“Anyway, I chose to take my daughter to school and of course, you know, what that film was made, and it was fine and everything carried on.”
Felton and Crombie were part of a team that took home seven awards at last week’s Baftas – including best British film and best original screenplay.
They are hoping to replicate the success at next week’s Oscars, where they are again up for the prize for production design, with the film nominated for a further nine awards.
Supporting the stars
The pair said they were glad that their attention to detail on the film had been recognised, and that they got a lot of pleasure from creating an 18th-Century paradise for actresses Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.
Felton said: “Olivia, Rachel and Emma had a long rehearsal period of like three weeks, where a lot of that awkwardness came out and they got to be really good friends, which comes out on the screen.
“They have this beautiful love affair, especially between Rachel and Olivia, so they were always having fun on the set, which drove us to create more for them – you could see that there was this amazing energy between them.
“We kept making playgrounds and things for them to do because they were revisiting the same sets. We wanted to keep it fresh every time.”
Felton said they paid a lot of attention to detail, particularly when it came to the small white rabbits that were pets of Colman’s Queen Anne in the film.
“We found all these great period games, like billiards, to play with and also with the rabbits, you could cut the grass and brush them with little brushes.
“We just wanted to support their work and give them enough so they felt like they were in a royal palace and that Olivia felt like the queen.”
‘We spent a lot of money’
Felton added that they wanted the cast to have props that were “delicate” and “beautiful” but they did come at a price.
“We were low budget but we spent a lot of money!” she said.
“We bought really beautiful fabrics, like the bed covers and linen and even though you wouldn’t see what would be touching Olivia [on screen] she was in the bed a lot.
“We invested a lot into that bed and we wanted her to get in there and have layers and layers of beautiful things touching her.
“It was a case of supporting their work and giving them the best space possible.”
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