Award-winning Set Decorator Julie Kaye Fanton By Jamie O’Quinn
She certainly makes a scene and her mother is quite proud of it. That’s because Oxford native and University of Mississippi graduate Julie Kaye Fanton is an award-winning set decorator whose skills have given personality to the filming sets of movies such as “The Mighty Ducks,” “Darkman,” “Feds,” “Rags to Riches,” and numerous television series including “Reba” and “My Name is Earl.” In fact, Fanton won a 1998 Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for the television movie, “Cinderella,” and a 2003 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for a Multi-Camera Series for “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”.
After graduating with a Theatre Arts degree from the University of Mississippi in 1979, Fanton packed up her Datsun station wagon and headed to Hollywood where she landed her first movie job the following year. Twenty-seven years later, she is still creating scenes, this time on a weekly basis for the NBC series “My Name is Earl”.
I caught up with Fanton as she was working on the set with her husband, Bud, preparing for an upcoming shoot.
Q: What exactly does a Set Decorator do?
A: A Set Decorator is the person who fills in the frame that gives the room or scene character such as furniture, carpet, lamps, pictures, telephone, muffler men and all the little accessories.
Q: What was one of your more memorable projects?
A: Production Designer Randy Ser and I have worked together for years and when he called me about doing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” I immediately agreed. With it being a musical and all fantasy, we could just let our imaginations go. That was the most fun we ever had and we just giggled the whole time.
Q: Your connection to the South has influenced some of your decorating concepts and choices, hasn’t it?
A: Absolutely. While setting up the pilot for the series “Reba,” my concept for the kitchen was the same as my sister-in-law’s who has Gail Pittman china which is made in Mississippi. I contacted Pittman’s company and they graciously furnished the items for the kitchen scene. In fact, Gail even came out and went to the show one night. The set for “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” also had a lot of Gail Pittman items.
For the show of “Eve,” I also commissioned Louisiana artist Dr. Bob.
Q: Your current job on “My Name is Earl” proves somewhat a challenge at times, too doesn’t it?
A: Everything happens really fast. There are a lot of tiny scenes and every scene usually requires a whole set. We shoot inside of five days for one show.
Some people think that Earl’s home in Camden is in the South but it’s not. We never say where it is and there are rednecks everywhere.
One of the scenes I worked on the other day was a junk yard where two car thieves live. I spent two days putting out rusted furniture, cars on ramps, fenders, car parts, engine hoist and building a muffler man. One of the big challenges was finding Moon Pies and Yoo-hoos out here in Hollywood. I found some Little Debbie Moon Pies but kept searching until I found some real ones. Sadly, the Yoo-hoos only came in a box.
Hollywood South is a syndicated column.
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