Schuyler Telleen keeps Portland trashed.
The television version of Portland, anyway. As the go-to production designer for locally filmed projects that include Shrill, Trinkets and the late American Vandal, Telleen, 39, spends the hours before filming sprinkling the set with what he calls “aesthetic litter”—little knickknacks to convince viewers what they’re watching is a genuinely unkempt life in progress.
“I’m a left-handed dyslexic. I like things to be messy because my life is messy,” he laughs. “If you can make things so cluttered that people forget they’re watching a story, that’s my goal.”
After serving as a graphic designer for Veep and Parks and Recreation and art department coordinator on Mad Men, the Boulder, Colo., native’s career truly took off during his stint helming the latter years of Portlandia, for which he won two Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Production Design category. Though he bristles at charges that the show is to blame for our cityscape’s uglier additions—“these hideous buildings were being built when I moved here,” he says—that sense of an ever-changing environment does inform the worlds he’s shaped for each of his ongoing series.
The foursquare inhabited by Aidy Bryant’s Annie on Shrill—and precisely re-created “down to the nails” on a Clackamas soundstage—has slowly seen the surrounding furnishing and artwork spiral upward in tandem with the character’s blossoming personal and professional life. And on Trinkets, the evolving sets echo its heroine’s journey from the mundanity of Lake Oswego toward urban disarray, centered on a manufactured music venue called the Tiger Club.
“For me, Portland is and always will be a very layered environment,” says Telleen. “We are messy and we are visceral and we are wonderfully true and honest to ourselves. People are the treasure of the city, and having them available as intimate partners for creative endeavors, you really see that on the screen in every frame.”
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