Production Designer Alex Craig’s Vision Electrifies British Viewers

While English production designer Alex Craig may not be a household name, millions of UK television viewers are intimately familiar with his work. Production design is one of the most significant and impactful aspects of film and television — it sets the tone, creates the atmosphere and context by which any production succeeds or fails. It’s a pursuit which requires a comprehensive grasp of not only dramatic arts and entertainment but also lighting, graphics, visual texture — the full spectrum of human perception — and Craig relishes every aspect of the profession.

“I like anything that provides me with a creative design challenge,” Craig said. “I design the main sets and oversee all the extra scenery and props required on set, week by week, throughout the season, and I love collaborating with a good team of producers, director and specialized creatives. As long as the project is interesting and the resources are there to realize an idea, then the sky’s the limit.”

With a solid resume and impressive roster of professional achievements — from designing the original UK iteration of The Office’s iconic Christmas specials to almost ten years with BBC1’s loyally watched UK National Lottery Live — Craig’s impeccable design sensibilities have established him as a leader in the field. Most recently, with ITV’s smash hit reality show This Time Next Year, his work has electrified audiences and helped elevate the series to one of the network’s biggest contemporary successes. Moreover, due to the uncommon nature of TTNY’s premise, his set is really one of the programs star attractions and key focal points.

TTNY is a show where participants pledge to make a dramatic change to their life by ‘this time next year,’” Craig said. “It’s always a milestone goal, such as drastic weight loss, finding love, having a baby, or learning to walk again after an accident or illness. Any new show is challenging because the set design needs to evolve as the format is fine-tuned by producers, but in the case of This Time Next Year, the unknown element was how to stage the ‘before’ and ‘after’ reveal moments for maximum impact.”

“The process starts with my sketches, worked up into more formal visuals, and then a scale model is built,” Craig said. “When all elements of the design have been signed off by producers, set construction can begin. And finally, the install in studio, where the set is lit, ready for the presenters and performers.”

Craig brought all of his formidable creative prowess to bear on the project, and out did himself, creating a dramatic, altogether dazzling set piece.

“I designed several drafts for TTNY. A previous version had the contributors walking into and out of a central ‘time tunnel’ style revolving door. In the end we opted for two separate pairs of doors with LED products embedded in both, so that we could change the colors and graphic content at crucial moments. The show’s format also required the ‘reveals’ to take place an exact year after the initial ‘before’ recordings, with complete set continuity, for the show to make sense. It’s unusual for an entertainment TV production to take so long in the making, but that’s what makes the show so unique.”

The show has received lavish praise from trade organizations, enthusiastically characterized as ‘Best Factual Entertainment Format’ (C21 International Format Awards), ‘Best New Format’ ( Realscreen Awards) and ‘The Defining Show Of The Year’ (TBI Review Of The Year) and has inspired, among many other worldwide duplicates, an in-the-works US version at Lifetime network. And, with Craig’s impressive design as TTNY’s visual anchor, his already significant professional profile has reached a significant new professional altitude.

“I first met Alex at the BBC almost twenty years ago,” TTNY director Richard Valentine said. “Since then we have collaborated on many of the UK’s most well-known entertainment, comedy and music shows. The set that he designed for This Time Next Year was very complex due to the unique format, as the reveals were filmed an entire year after the ‘befores’ were recorded. I was very impressed with his designs for this show, which complimented the format perfectly. I’m delighted that the success of the show has resulted in it becoming the fastest selling format of 2016, with so many international versions now being made.”

Craig’s innate design sense and acute flair for creating appealing, subject-enhancing presentations have established him as one of the best production designers currently working — and he is in his prime, poised to make even greater contributions to film and television. Ultimately, it’s Craig’s almost intuitive approach that’s key to his resume of sterling professional accomplishments.

“The idea should always remain paramount,” Craig said. “There’s a lot of great technology out there which can add amazing things, but without a strong initial idea, it’s lost. Simplicity can often be more effective than too much complication. I do my best to design something fresh for each production I am working on, so hopefully you won’t recognize my designs by a generic ‘house style.’”

As Valentine said, “Alex always brings great creative ideas to each production he works on, and it’s always exciting to see his designs for a new show taking shape.”

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