Working 9-5

Matt Gant

Matt Gant, is the Production Designer for the new ITV 1960s inspired drama Breathless.

How much of a character’s personality do you put into their homes?

The scripts are really important and these read really well - you could instantly get a snapshot of these characters and the world they live in. Paul Unwin (Co-Creator, Writer, Director & Executive Producer) was very keen to find a way in which we could show the characters through their environments. It was really nice trying to create distinctive characters in their domestic locations.


It’s about how our characters influence the world they live in. For Otto and Elizabeth it’s how they show control over their environment and how they show off their taste to their peers and contemporaries. Their home is a lot more traditional and grand. Everything has its place; it’s very prim and ordered.


Meanwhile, Jean and Richard’s younger, brasher, trendier take on the world is reflected through their choice of furniture and their fixtures and fittings.


Monty’s environment is a very run-down, tired world. He has the early stages of dementia and is easily confused. His house and world reflect that. He lives in a beautiful derelict house with peeling wallpaper and cracking paint.


What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Getting everything to look new enough. Because of the nature of hiring props and buying period furniture, making sure things look only a year or two old, rather than 50 years old, is probably the biggest challenge.


How much research is required to ensure historical authenticity?

You have to think about modern audiences and their perception of the show. Again, Paul was very keen that Breathless had a style rather than being an historical document. We’re making a drama, not a factual documentary so you have to balance style and accuracy with cost.


In a way, the further back in history something is set, the less people question its accuracy, as they weren’t around to know for themselves. The closer you get to modern day, the more people will have an opinion on it. But it works both ways, as you also get a lot of people saying “that’s great, that’s exactly how it was”, which is really rewarding.


Where have you sourced your props and furniture?

We’ve sourced a lot of props from far afield – we’ve scoured the country. There’s a fantastic desk in the gynaecology unit, which we managed to source from Germany. They built their furniture so well, that it’s in great condition and very collectable now. That’s one of my favourite pieces.


What is your favourite set?

I like Charlie and Lily’s house. It’s got a really unique look about it. I like the ward lobby too and the way that matches the exterior location and the way it all ties together. It has a sense of scale, airiness and shine, which looks great.


What is the most rewarding part of the job?

I really love it when we’ve done all of our hard work getting the sets ready. They really come to life when they’re lit and the actors walk on in costume. I find that exhilarating because suddenly it’s a real place and there are people in it.


I also really like speaking to the actors when they’ve seen a set for the first time. If they’re really into it and it’s helping them with their performance and to believe they’re in that place and time, I get a real buzz from that.


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