Kettering native receives Emmy nomination for work on HBO Max’s ‘Flight Attendant’
Jul. 28—A Kettering native has just received the most impressive recognition for her work to date. On July 13, production designer Sara K. White received an Emmy nomination for her work on the popular HBO Max comedy-drama “The Flight Attendant.”
In 2019, White began creating fictional worlds for each of the characters in her unique role as production designer.
“My role is to oversee the visual environment that the actors are in and what the camera sees,” White said. “So, I am in charge of making sure that basically everything an actor touches or stands in front of or sits on — all of that stuff is under my purview. The locations we go to shoot in, whether real or augmented, the sets that we build, the cars they drive, the pens they hold — all of that stuff falls under my vision as well.”
While White never thought about doing this sort of work in her younger years, she did possess an interest in interior design. After graduating from Kettering Fairmont High School, she went on to study interior design and creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. Then, after moving to New York City, she befriended a group of people who worked in filmmaking and immediately became drawn to production design.
Before landing her first gig as a production designer, White spent several years (between 2010 and 2014) as the Art Director in Residence at the prestigious Sundance Directors Lab, where she honed her ability to work with storytellers in order to design spaces that help tell the stories of the characters they’ve created.
Prior to working on “The Flight Attendant,” White served as a production designer on television shows and films such as “The Wilds,” “Tallulah” and “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors.” She has also worked on commercials for fashion brand Mui Mui, Google and Kodak, as well as on music videos for artists like The Mountain Goats, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beach House.
When designing the spaces that served as the backdrop for “The Flight Attendant,” White used several techniques to showcase the complexity of the characters and story. For those unfamiliar with the show, the action follows an American flight attendant, Cassie Bowden (played by Emmy nominee Kaley Cuoco), who is a reckless alcoholic. Her life is turned upside down when she wakes up next to a dead man in Thailand.
“In the Thailand hotel where Cassie is really reckoning with the experience of that night and not having control of herself and getting blackout drunk, we tried to interpret that by giving her a variety of different ways to be seen in the space, either through reflection, refraction or obfuscation,” White said. “She’s interpreting her past and her present experiences with less than desirable information, in the same way that the audience can, by seeing her reflected and seeing the way (such) reflection could either be very clear and true or marred through some of the surface materials that we chose that week. We tried to make her apartment and her home environment from her childhood very distinct and very different in the ways that the materiality is expressed as well.”
In particular, White, along with art director Christine Foley and set decorator Jessica Petruccelli, received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Contemporary Program for the episode entitled “After Dark.” Overall, “The Flight Attendant” received nine Emmy nominations for its debut season, including Outstanding Comedy Series. The 73rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be held Sunday, Sept. 19.
“It’s a really awe-inspiring experience to be a part of this project and to be acknowledged publicly by so many of my peers,” White said.
Though White will not be returning as production designer for the second season of “The Flight Attendant,” she is working with Susanna Fogel, the show’s director, in a future project still in development.
Learn more about White and her work by visiting her website.