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Taika Waititi & ‘Our Flag Means Death’ Production Designer Ra Vincent On Building Pirate Ships, Navigating Covid-Related “Rope Shortage” & How Pirate Comedy “Rekindled” Waititi’s Love For “The Idea Of Hollywood” – The Process

Taika Waititi and 'Our Flag Means Death' production designer Ra Vincent on The Process

On HBO Max’s comedy Our Flag Means Death, production designer Ra Vincent took a deep dive into the Golden Age of Piracy—falling in love with sailing ships, as he built a full-size one sitting on gimbals in “a concrete box” in Burbank, with a VFX Volume in the background.

“There wasn’t a lot of high seas activity for us there,” Vincent notes. “But the smell of the salt and the sound of the ocean was with us the whole time, I think because everybody believed that they were in the story—indeed, on a sailing ship set in front of a giant television screen, with the background of the tropics.”

The show from creator-showrunner David Jenkins is loosely based on the true story of 19th century pirate Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), who becomes captain of the pirate ship Revenge, after trading in the seemingly charmed life of a gentleman for one of a swashbuckling buccaneer. Struggling to earn the respect of his potentially mutinous crew, Stede’s fortunes change after a fateful run-in with the infamous Captain Blackbeard (Taika Waititi). Stede and his crew then attempt to get their ship together and survive life on the high seas.

When Vincent was first approached for the project, he wondered “how on earth” he could execute the vision at hand, given the series’ 10-episode first season order and the short amount of prep time he was offered. Helping the production designer to deliver on the tall order was Waititi—his collaborator of 10-plus years, who exec produced the series and established its world as the director of the pilot, all while taking on one of its principal roles.

New Zealand filmmaker Waititi first collaborated with Vincent on the 2014 vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, which served as the basis for FX’s Emmy-nominated series of the same name—later reteaming with him on the pilot of the Shadows series, as well as Thor: Ragnarok, the New Zealand mockumentary series Wellington Paranormal, and the acclaimed Fox Searchlight film Jojo Rabbit. In a recent appearance alongside Vincent on Deadline’s video series The Process, Waititi said he’s found with the designer the kind of partnership “people spend a long time in their careers looking for”—one “based on trust and not having to beat around the bush and talk bullsh*t.”

Waititi feels that while Our Flag has resonated because it’s “funny and romantic and emotional,” a major key to its success is what Vincent pulled off, with regard to “the look and feel” of the show. “Because usually, these things look so cheap and sh*tty, but this has got a real cinematic scope to it,” he says. “The scale of just having the boats and everything, it’s a really special thing to be able to have made a show like that.”

Waititi and Vincent have also gone on recently to collaborate on the anticipated Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder and the American Samoa soccer dramedy, Next Goal Wins.

In conversation with Waititi, Vincent speaks to his first experiences on set alongside his scenic backdrop painter father, a breakthrough moment on What We Do in the Shadows, the research that informed his work on Our Flag, getting creative input on ship construction from ship rigger Courtney Anderson, his pride in the show’s pilot episode, his discovery on the series that “making television is a skill set” and more.

Waititi speaks for his part to what wowed him about Vincent’s work on Shadows and how the film made him “hate vampires,” his desire with Our Flag to transcend the realm of “bullsh*t shows about people dressing up in f**king Victorian clothes,” being hit on Flag with a Covid-related “rope shortage” while in need of “approximately 12 miles” of it, his favorite sets from the series, and how it “rekindled” his love “for the idea of Hollywood and what it could be.”

Our Flag Means Death also stars Joel Fry, Samson Kayo, Nathan Foad, Matthew Maher, Kristian Naim, Samba Schutte, Ewen Bremner, Con O’Neill, Vico Ortiz, Nat Faxon, Rory Kinnear and more. The series is exec produced by Waititi, Jenkins, Garrett Basch and Dan Halsted. Check out Waititi’s entire conversation with Vincent by clicking above.




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