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'The Blackening' Production Designer Cecil Gentry On His Journey to Hollywood

It was one decision in Cecil Gentry’s life that made him become the overseer of all things production designing in one of the more underrated movies of the summer of 2023, The Blackening.

The Blackening hit theaters on June 16, and Black Twitter is already savoring how well put together and how funny the movie is.

And it was one decision that Gentry made that led to him being a part of the artistic side of the movie, which was revealed in an interview with The Quintessential Gentleman.

Cecil Gentry
Cecil Gentry

Born and raised in Washington D.C., Gentry attended NYU and Long Island University where he studied business. He ended up becoming a media buyer before moving to Los Angeles and assuming the same role.

One day he opened up a film dictionary and discovered the term art director. And that’s the job he pursued, connecting with folks in Hollywood, which led to designing productions for the likes of TLC, among other famous groups and shows. Gentry, who didn’t even go to film school, got the opportunity because of his unwavering persistence in his film passion.

“I knew a few people in the business," Gentry said. "A friend of mine was at Sony TriStar at the time, and he was in publicity, and knew a lot of directors because they are doing all sorts of things. And he introduced me to a woman who was a video commissioner, and I started. And I got calls and I worked for free, and got my name out there and created a buzz.”

Blessingly, Gentry worked a gig in which one of the crew members didn’t want to have anything to do with the narrative format, so that job was passed on to him. His first project was a film called Swimming with the Sharks, which features Kevin Spacey. Gentry said this film is on the syllabus of mostly every film school in the country.

The Blackening

This film sparked Gentry’s career, and he is now in this space of psychological thriller/horror. He also worked the film production company Blumhouse, which Get Out came from. Other projects include All Boys Aren't Blue, Nocturne, Into the Dark, Shatterbox, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, Seasons of Love, among many other projects. Gentry today is a well-regarded production designer in the industry because of these opportunities.

As a production designer, Gentry is in charge of the overall production design scope, working with the costume director and cinematographer. He’s essentially designing the interior and the exteriors, including all props, focusing on the visual storytelling of the project.

He got the opportunity to design The Blackening thanks to knowing a producer that knows a producer.

The Blackening

Once he started the project, the first order of business was to design a forest gameboard -- the centerpiece of how the movie develops.

As the movie developed, Gentry said one of the challenges of designing was based on how big the house was. He said the house wasn’t that big.

“It was great in that it had this beautiful flagstone sort of brick wall stone wall, and that was great. And wood, the dark wood -- all that was great,” Gentry said. “But I had to build the hallway, so that it felt like there was this hallway connected, and they went in the door that’s why you never got to see all the way in. … It would have been ideal to find a house that was big enough, all the rooms, and a hallway and a crawlspace. … It would have been great to have found a house big enough that had everything, but that house had the overall. And then we just pieced it together, and the editor did a masterful job at stitching all the elements together.”

In our exclusive interview, Gentry talks more about his journey to Hollywood, the role of production designer and advice to people interested in following in his footsteps.


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