A location scout’s most important job is to find locations that will fit the tone of a movie. To find an appropriate film location for Tom Ford’s film Nocturnal Animals, released in November 2016, production designer Shane Valentino worked with Ford on scouting Los Angeles flats and stretches of Texas desert. The themes of alienation and isolation inspired Valentino as he explored the large rooms that would represent the art gallery of character Susan Morrow, portrayed by Amy Adams.
For the home belonging to Morrow and her husband Hutton (played by Armie Hammer), a location scout found a house in Malibu designed by architect Scott Mitchell. Valentino describes the filming location as feeling “cold” and “hard,” offering psychological insight into the characters. Materials that showed up in the film, including concrete and glass, contribute the viewer’s impression.
To give the home an added feeling of darkness, Valentino replaced the filming location’s furnishings with set decorations in darker colors. He favored high-end design pieces like the midcentury furnishings he found at J.F. Chen, Valentino said, to remain true to Tom Ford’s aesthetic goals.
Valentino also paid special attention to the art in the home of the Susan Morrow character. He used a Robert Motherwell painting as a centerpiece in the film location’s living room, then mixed contemporary and modern art throughout the set. Each piece used in the home represents some aspect of Morrow’s character.
Among these artworks was a photograph by Richard Misrach from Ford’s personal art collection. The photo, which belongs to the artist’s Desert Cantos series, gives viewers the impression of a desert and makes a statement about the tone of the film, according to Valentino.
Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller that imitates the style and aesthetics of Old Hollywood film noir productions. It was based on Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan. Nocturnal Animals was only the second film to be directed by Ford, known more for his fashion designs than his film career, after 2005’s A Single Man starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore and based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood.