After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Denise Pizzini began her career as an Interior Designer specializing in restaurant design in San Antonio Texas.
One of her first Production Design assignments was on the highly acclaimed film “Like Water for Chocolate”, for which she won the ARIEL award for Best Art Direction as co production designer/set decorator.
After working on several more productions as a Production Designer or Set Decorator, Denise made the move to Los Angeles where she has had the opportunity to work as a Production Designer on many independent films, along with television projects for MTV, and to serve as Set Decorator on larger studio films.
Some of her decorating credits include “The Italian Job”, “Be Cool”, and “Life as a House”. Her most recent set decoration project is “School for Scoundrels”, starring Billy Bob Thorton. She has also just completed the film “10 Items or Less” with Morgan Freeman for which she served as Production Designer.
Denise was recently invited to speak at the NEOCON West seminar “Hollywood meets the Workplace”.
Denise Pizzini is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She has curated two exhibits on set decoration for the Academy, including "The Secret Life of Sets: Set Decorators at Work."
Denise is also a member of The Art Directors Guild, and The Set Decorators Society of America.
1. What type of education did you receive before going in to the field of set decoration?
I went to Texas Tech University and studied interior design and received my BFA. After college I worked as an interior designer with my father who is an architect before going out on my own. I never intended to be in the film business. My first job in the industry was a beer commercial, I was the art director and we worked for 24 hours straight…I was hooked and quickly learned about wearing comfortable shoes.
2. Which sources would you say are the best tools for research and learning?
I am probably most inspired by travel and observation. Books are a great tool…I really enjoy European and Asian magazines. Of course a camera is a must.
3. Name three of your favorite projects and why.
My favorite was “Thirteen Days” The research on that film was fascinating. The people involved in the project were so professional and dedicated to making a good film. They really understood the role of the set decorator and appreciated it. I was very proud of the look of that film.
“The Italian Job”. I encountered new challenges on that film. It was a nice combination and variety of sets.
“A Walk in the Clouds” location, location, location. (Napa Valley)
4. What has been your biggest challenge as a set decorator?
Seeking work. Self-promotion. Trying to understand why (usually not always), the position of set decorator is not treated with the same respect as other department heads.
5. Please list any SDSA business members with whom you do business and comment on them.
I find it is hard to keep up with the business members...we have grown so much. The type of project I'm working on usually dictates where I go and who I use. I always enjoy going to Omega, House of props and RC vintage. I find the staff at these places very helpful and friendly. It is so important that I deal with people that don't add to the stress of the job. Of course there are many others that I have built a relationship with over the years and it's always nice to incorporate those people into my day.
6. What are the current contents of your car?
Usually, an empty coffee cup. A bottle of water. A Debbie’s book. I don’t eat out of my car. I always try to stop for lunch. It is a priority. In the trunk I carry an all weather jacket.
7. What advice do you have for those interested in the field of set decorating (including those new and already in the profession)?
Be flexible, professional and treat your crew with respect. Have fun and be sure to laugh. Remember it’s a job…do your best without letting it consume you.
8. Which three tools of your profession can you not be without?
A camera, a small notebook and a navigation system.
9. Biggest set decorating disaster?
I’ve been very lucky. I wouldn’t say I have had any real disasters…but I have had some unpleasant days. One of the worst days, (not the worst), was when the director didn’t want to confront an actor about the dressing he had requested and asked my crew to remove the dressing and asked me to go hide in his trailer when the actor showed up…He said I should “take a hit for the team.” I just left the set and before I could get back to base camp the dressing was back and the director was looking for me. Most of my worst days were on this particular film.
10. What advice would you give other members of the SDSA on how to get the most benefit from their membership?
I think it would depend on what they want and expect out of their membership. Over the years I have benefited most by getting to know other set decorators. Even though I’m not always involved I feel good about the contributions I have made in helping to spot light the profession. One of the most important aspects of the membership is the sense of community the SDSA has created.
11. If you were able to design a bedroom any way that you desired, what style or styles would you choose?
I’m on location right now at the Four Seasons…I want this bedroom! The bed and sheets are incredible. Sleep is the most important aspect of a bedroom. So whatever style the bedroom –it’s all about the bed.
Be Cool, Hollywood House, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
The Italian Job, Italian Villa, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
Be Cool, Pawn Shop, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
Be Cool, Record Company, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
The Italian Job, Traffic Control, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
A Walk in the Clouds, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
Thirteen Days, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
Thirteen Days, Oval Office, Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
Set Decorator, Denise Pizzini, SDSA
Denise Pizzini, dressing the set!