GENIE AWARDS: The Production Design Nomination Process with Jasna Stefanovic

Jasna Stefanovic has been a Production Designer for 20 years and has designed under some of the best directors of our time including Sofia Coppola on The Virgin Suicides and Terry Gilliam on Tideland. Constantly taking risks and unafraid to take on smaller projects she is a shining light in our Canadian film industry and in my opinion rightly chosen to participate in the Nomination Committee this year for the 31st Genie Awards in the Production Design craft category. The 31st Genie Awards will be announced and aired live tonight in Ottawa at 8pm at the National Arts Centre. For a full list of the nominees click here.

I asked Jasna about the process of nominating in an often misunderstood category and her feelings on the roster of Canadian films in 2010 among other things. Here’s what Jasna had to say:

Jasna Stefanovic

Rose: Have you been nominated for a Genie Award for Best Production Design in the past?

Jasna: Yes.  I was nominated twice.  Once for Vincenzo Natali’s ‘Cube’ in 1998, and the other for Terry Gilliam’s ‘Tideland’ in 2006.

How did you become a member of the 2010 Nominee Committee for the 31st Genie Awards?

They contacted me in late November 2010 and asked me if I wanted to participate.

Were you given a strict set of nomination criteria in order to make a decision on the nominations for Best Production Design?

Definitely. I received the ‘Committee Handbook’.  I also spoke with Guy Lavallee, the Craft Committee Chairman.  He assisted me in understanding the process and the criteria.

The first thing was the most obvious, to watch all the films submitted in their entirety.  There were numerous points that were recommended for me to look out for.  The breakdown was in two sections.  The first was the ‘creativity and concept’.  It had things like ‘did the design concept reinforce, sustain and develop the film?’  The other was the ‘execution and finish’ which dealt with the professional quality and consistency of the design.

How did you reach your decision in the end and on what basis?

The first thing I did was to skip the credits of the film so that I would not know who was involved in the film. I wanted to make sure my objectivity was intact.

I was looking for design that reinforced and contributed to the film’s mood and message.  I was also looking for consistency throughout the film and some element of originality.  Then there was the execution of technical elements, like construction and set painting.  Even though I had a checklist for what made good design, a lot of it was based on my instinct that came from years of experience.

If you could single-handedly award the winner for Best Production Design at the Genies which film would you choose?

I had no problem narrowing it down to five best Production Designs, but I found it almost impossible to choose the best one.  One film did surprise me was “Incendies“. At first I was sure it was just great locations in another county, but then I found out a lot of it was built and manufactured with the guidance of the Production Designer Andre Line Beauparlant.  So that would have been one of my favourite ones.

How much do you believe politics factor into the nomination process for the Nomination Committee?

I was quite naive in understanding what ‘politics’ actually meant in the judging process.  I did encounter a few ‘bumps’  but overall it was very honest and fair.

What was your favourite Canadian film of the year?


Were you particularly surprised by any of the films this year?

Yes.  I was absolutely charmed by “Les Amours Imaginaires” (Heartbeats).  It was such a simple film, but so joyous, so fresh, I was hypnotized by it. Then I found that Xavier Dolan not only directed it, he was also the main actor, the editor, the costume designer and the production designer. I’m now a fan of his.

Many people say that the French have the upper hand on filmmaking in Canada. Have you found that fair to say?

Absolutely.  They have a unique self sustaining audience that is passionate about their films.

So of course they keep making them.  It was great to get pulled into that world.

In your opinion are Canadian films visual enough? Should we be going further despite our extensive budget limitations?

We could all learn a thing or two from “Les Amours Imaginaires” (Heartbeats).  It was a small low budget film that had a lush visual flair to reach a broad audience.

What makes for extraordinary production design?

It starts with a director that knows how to take advantage of all the things a good Production Designer can bring to the project.  And a good Director of Photography that can capture and enhance the design.  Film is a collaborative effort where all the pieces have to fit.

Has the nomination process changed the way you analyze filmmaking and/or production design?

I think so. It reminded me how deliberate you must be in designing a film.  How you must develop and follow through with a theme, the idea.   You can’t be sloppy.  You have to take the bull by the horns and be bold.  Whether you are directing, writing or designing, you have to firmly follow through … and know your craft.  Because if you don’t, a good film just won’t happen by accident.

Thoughts? Will you watch the Genie Awards tonight?

Rose Lagace | @artdepartmental

You can learn more about Jasna Stefanovic and her work on her website:

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

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