On the HBO Max comedy Our flag means deathproduction designer Ra Vincent dove deep into the golden age of piracy – falling in love with sailing ships, as he built a life-size one sitting on gimbals in “a concrete box” in Burbank, with a volume VFX in the background.
“There wasn’t a lot of open sea activity for us there,” Vincent notes. “But the smell of salt and the sound of the ocean was with us the whole time, I think because everyone believed they were in history – actually, on a sailboat in front of a giant TV screen , with the background of the tropics.
Creator-showrunner David Jenkins’ show 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 the seemingly charmed life of a gentleman for that of a cloak and dagger. buccaneer. Struggling to earn the respect of his potentially mischievous crew, Stede’s fortunes change after a fateful encounter with the infamous Captain Blackbeard (Taika Waititi). Stede and his crew then attempt to reassemble their ship and survive on the high seas.
When Vincent was first approached for the project, he wondered “how the hell” he could execute the vision at hand, given the series’ 10-episode first season order and how little of preparation time given to him. Waititi, his collaborator of more than 10 years, who produced the series and established his world as the director of the pilot, while taking on one of his starring roles, helped the production designer deliver the order.
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 starring him on the Shadows series pilot. such as Thor: Ragnarok, the New Zealand mockumentary series Wellington Paranormal and the acclaimed Fox Searchlight film Jojo Rabbit. During a recent appearance alongside Vincent in Deadline’s The Process video series, Waititi said he found the type of partnership in the designer that “people spend a lot of time in their careers looking for” – one “based on confidence and not having to beat around the bush”. and talk bullshit.
Waititi believes that while Our Flag resonated because it’s “funny, romantic and emotional”, one of the main keys to its success is what Vincent pulled off, in terms of the show’s “appearance”. “Because usually these things look so cheap and shitty, but it has real cinematic significance,” he says. “The magnitude of just having the boats and everything, it’s a really special thing to be able to have done a show like that.”
Waititi and Vincent also recently collaborated on the anticipated Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder and the American Samoan soccer comedy-drama, Next Goal Wins.
In conversation with Waititi, Vincent talks about his early experiences on set alongside his set painter father, a defining moment on What We Do in the Shadows, the research that informed his work on Our Flag, securing creative input about building ships from ship rigger Courtney Anderson, her pride in her pilot episode, her discovery on the show that “doing TV is a skill set” and more.
Waititi for his part talks about what appealed to 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 “bullshit*t shows people dressing in f**king Victorian clothes”, being hit on Flag with a Covid-related “rope shortage” when he needed it “about 12 miles”, his favorite settings on the show and how it “reignited” his love “for the idea of Hollywood and what it could be”.
Our Flag Means Death also features 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 produced by Waititi, Jenkins, Garrett Basch and Dan Halsted. Check out Waititi’s entire conversation with Vincent by clicking above.