From the backdrop of a hit streaming show to the streets of Indianapolis, Emmy Award winning production designer Michael Bricker ’04 sees the world through the lens of production design, creating a world that looks and works like it’s supposed to.
Last week I reviewed Kaleidoscope, Netflix’s new heist show, which Bricker worked on as production designer. As production designer, Bricker puts together everything from sets to furniture in the background and organizes filming on location.
“I’m in charge of the art department and essentially the look of the show, so anything that isn’t an actor or connected to an actor kind of falls under my purview,” said Bricker.
For Kaleidoscope, Bricker oversaw the entire set’s creation, from the jewelry bust that required altering stretches of New York streets to match the elaborate design of the SLS vault. Building the set of a Netflix hit starts with the script and building out sketches and designs of numerous locales, including a jail, an impenetrable vault and a beachfront crab shack.
“On Kaleidoscope, we built the sets in virtual reality,” said Bricker. “So we were able to go into VR and walk the set at full scale, make changes and share that with the director and producers to show them what the sets would look like before we started building them.”
While he used VR on his latest work, Bricker got his start building and designing sets in the scene shop for Wabash Theatre. Bricker spent four years helping build sets for theatrical productions and got the chance to flex his design muscles on The Illusion, where he served as scenic designer.
“So through independent filmmaking and then television, each step is scaling up from what I was doing at Wabash,” said Bricker.
Bricker won an Emmy for his work as production designer on Russian Doll, a major recognition of his hard work and skill.
“That was just completely unexpected for me,” said Bricker. “I only did the first season of Russian Doll, but that was my first television show that I’d ever worked on. So going from independent film to television, and then being nominated my first time is pretty crazy.”
Aside from his work on screen, Bricker helped found People for Urban Progress, an Indianapolis based non- profit that advances good design and civic responsibility by developing products and projects in connectivity, responsible reuse, and making. After the Colts decided to move from the RCA dome to newly-built Lucas Oil Stadium, People for Urban process took large swaths of the decommissioned roof and created products out of it to ensure that material would be reused.
“It was really about thinking about how design in architecture and public space could be a little bit more diplomatic, provoking and nudging Indianapolis to be a little bit more progressive and thoughtful with the design of public spaces,” said Bricker.
Michael Bricker has worked on some of the best shows on Netflix, helping to design sets that won Emmys, but his life of creating the sets for stars began at Ball Theatre, where he first gained that eye for design that he employs every day.