We had the good fortune of connecting with Ana Novacic and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ana, what do you attribute your success to?
As a Production Designer, the most important factor behind my success is being able to see the bigger picture. There are many hidden aspects of this job – from graphic design, budgeting, managing large teams, and drafting – to name but a few. This means wearing a lot of hats, and learning lots of skills and softwares. However, to truly be successful and focused in my work, I must look at a film like an ecosystem, acknowledging that my needs and workflow will impact that of my entire team of collaborators. I prioritize my efforts in respect to the overall objective of a project, remembering we are not doctors performing life-saving surgery, and that we must remember to take adequate breaths, to pat ourselves on the back, and to lift each other’s spirits. I believe that the quality of my design depends on the environment it lives in, both creatively and culturally speaking. Therefore, I think it’s important to contribute to a positive workplace, where true collaboration becomes the heartbeat of a project. This means being a proactive individual who is a problem-solver – and that can be hard. I still find I have to push myself beyond my comfort zone when it comes to traditionally male-dominated aspects of this work, like drafting and carpentry. However, that has helped me to re-center and focus on learning concrete, unshakeable skills as opposed to hiding away in the comfort of complaining about ‘how hard it still is to be a woman in this field’. Instead, I look at the bigger picture and my responsibility in bettering opportunities for others. I have to believe in myself on a daily basis, and that can be hard when working in such a subjective field, since everyone has a different idea of what is beautiful. I grew up as an immigrant in Cyprus, Ireland and Serbia, I completed my undergraduate education in Italy as an immigrant, and I am an immigrant designer in the US. I have had to grow thick skin and make an active decision to celebrate the unique design perspective I have gained over the years, as opposed to second guessing my taste and opinions. I have developed a desire to work on challenging projects and tell wide ranges of stories where human beings are treated with respect and dignity on and off the pages of the script. To me, that’s the whole point of working in film, and what helps me to take a step back, breathe, and get back to work in a positive mindset.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I work mainly as a Production Designer. In short, I design sets for film, but this is a multi-faceted job and differs quite a lot from project to project, depending on the size of the production. I am responsible for materializing a character’s interior world. On an independent film, this can mean decorating or tweaking an existing location, or building sets on a soundstage on larger budgets. To me, this work is primarily research-based, and the aesthetic choices are secondary. This is what differentiates production design from interior design, for example. There are overlapping skills, but the priority in scenic design is the story, and the character’s experience and state of mind.

I have lived in many countries due to the fact I was born when the civil war started in ex-Yugoslavia. Growing up as an immigrant, my family always had to be scrappy and smart about how to navigate new cultures, languages, and situations. I could have decided not to pursue a creative career, and focus on consistent and straightforward financial stability – but then my family’s efforts to carve out better opportunities for my sister and I would have been for nothing. No matter how difficult it was to eventually get to my Production Design MFA in New York, I always recognized the overwhelmingly positive chances I had to succeed, thanks to learning English as a child in Cyprus, and finishing high school in Ireland. Basically, I quickly understood that anything was possible in life if you remember to invest effort into practical things. I think that’s why Production Design suits me so well – you can’t create a beautiful set without honoring meticulous drafting or Excel sheets.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The first thing that comes to mind is dancing at Miss Favela due to the number of fun memories I have there – but I would also recommend bike rides and picnics at Prospect Park, hitting the beach, any and all rooftop parties in Brooklyn, walking Brooklyn Bridge, thrifting all around the city, and of course coming to one of my tiny (themed) porch parties.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate this shout out to my grandparents, Radovan and Radojla Lazić. My grandmother showed me how powerful women can be, without compromising softness – she blazed trails with love, not destructive fires (although sometimes her quick wit and no-nonsense attitude would scorch your ears a bit). My grandfather Radovan introduced me to working with tools, and I used to crack nuts and play in the modest workshop he built in the basement of the building they lived in. To me, it is still the most beautiful place on this Earth. He was extremely meticulous, quiet, and built much of our furniture growing up. My grandparents fixed things and mended broken hearts. Nothing and no one deserved to be thrown away or forgotten. Some people take extreme pride in the countries or cultures they come from. I feel the same, fiery pride in being their granddaughter, and being bestowed the enormous responsibility of carrying on their legacy.

Website: www.ananovacicdesign.com

Instagram: @ana_novacic_

Image Credits
1&2) The World’s Greatest Spaghetti Directed by Blaine Fuller DoP Rachel Sonnenberg
3) One Sweet Night Century Partners Directed by Daniel Pfeffer DoP Jeremy Brockman
4) Sitrus Sisyphus Choreographed by Dasol Kim, Fallon Johnson and Grace Stingle Lighting Designer Rachel Fae Szymanski Costume Designer Wang Ying Tu Photographer Ella Bromblin
5) Fiola Directed by Marilinda Rivera DoP Bjorn Olin
6) The River Directed and designed by Ana Novacic DoP Samuel Mulcahy 

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