IAWTV AWARDS, THE PICKS: "Best Design"
We're back with another blog about the episodes we chose to submit to the IAWTV awards!
Today we take a look at the "Best Design" category (The IAWTV, like many other awards, combine Art Direction, Production Design and Set Decoration into one category). We have an amazing design team on C&E led by Production Designer Vicky Chan and her partner in the war against lame sets, Art Director Emily Adams.
After the jump, find out what episode we picked, what sorts of ridiculous things Avi asked Vicky to do with a pea sized budget, and how a fake baby kept everyone from ever getting too stressed on set.
The Category: Best Production Design
Episode 6, “Dueling and Diapers”
Watch it Here: cupidaneros.com
I have to say we have a wonderful Production Designer, Vicky Chan and Art Director, Emily Adams. They were given the arduous task of creating mortal and godly worlds on a micro budget and succeeded beyond my expectations for every episode. As a viewer, I know I can take for granted what goes into the production design, but even if the setting is an apartment, this team has selected every item that you see on the screen, working very closely with the director of course. So even today, when I look at any of the episodes, I can take for granted that the wall hangings in Cupid’s apartment were meticulously positioned and selected to convey a feeling or impression of the world that Cupid and Eros live in (I’m talking about episode 1 where Eros arrives at Cupid’s apartment to take him out on the town and [hopefully] out of his funk).
But for me the biggest challenge that Vicky and Emily were given involved creating a godly Inter-Pantheon mixer. Avi and I wanted a grand space for this to play out in and we were very fortunate to get what worked out to be an excellent space for the production where all the scenes for the Olympus mixer could play and there’d be enough room for cast, crew and equipment without us having to move some things outside – we ran into that situation at the Valentine’s Day bar but that story is a complete blog within itself. I can only imagine what was going on inside Vicky's head the first time she saw the space – “you’ve got to be kidding, on this budget?” I’m only kidding --Vicky never showed signs of the pressure and happily stepped up to the challenge.
The mixer scenes occurred over episodes 5 and 6. And in both of these, Vicky and Emily overcame some challenges with great solutions. Take the lights hanging behind the bar. A big concern from our DP, Jefferson Loftfield, was a huge mirror that runs the entire length of that bar. That was going to be a big challenge in positioning the camera and equipment, so that it would not be seen in the frame. Their solution: drape the mirror with dangling lights. The lights act as a screen even if camera and equipment was in the shot while providing some great production value to the scene. Brilliant!
Another challenge in the ballroom was in creating the lettering for the band that sits at the front of the stage, while not taking away from the band itself. As you can see, the gray lettering is contrast enough to be easily readable while not diverting your eye from the action in the foreground or background. There was also a need to create different components of the mixer – a check-in table, beverage station, the bar, making it look like people had eaten and gone. As you can see from the wide shots, the overall effect created a realistic mixer, especially in the shot near the end of episode 6 when we see Cupid and Eros leave the party. The crane shot gives a great view of the entire ballroom space so Vicky and Emily had to make sure all walls, tables and bar were dressed.
So even though episode 5 is great, I had to select episode 6 because we have all the production design from episode 5 AND you also get to see that wide, crane shot at the end. Also, episode 6 showcases two additional setups – the billiards room and the bathroom, which I think illustrates that there were several distinct location sets that Vicky and Emily had to design.
Actually, I hope you enjoyed the production design for the whole series because we are very pleased with all of them. That is what makes it so hard to select just one episode for each of these categories. But then again, it does make me think very carefully about how much work the entire team put into bringing Season 1 to you, our fans.
Almost without exception, every time I come come up with an idea for a new project it starts with one or two images. In the case of C&E, 2 images popped into my brain almost simultaneously: The rooftop scene from episode one with black-clad Cupid and Eros operating like snipers in the modern world, and the Inter-Pantheon Mixer from episodes 5 and 6.
When Vicky and I first met about her coming on board, we were only prepping to shoot our first story arc, but it was actually the Inter-Pantheon mixer that we discussed first. I remember sitting in a Starbucks in Glendale showing her the panels from Neil Gaiman's “SANDMAN: SEASONS OF MIST” that had served as part of the inspiration for C&E. In that story the title character, Morpheus, holds a grand banquet to welcome gods and beings from different religions and folklores to his realm. I loved the interplay of all these different traditions and beings, and as the idea formed for C&E I thought, “I'll do that... only it'll be in a gym... like lame high-school reunion for gods” That image, a bunch of divine beings hanging around a punch bowl and awkwardly dancing to a local band was one of the things that cemented what C&E was going to be in my mind. And talking about it with Vicky, she got it instantly. The balance between the mundane and the mythic, the ways in which all these little nods to mythology could find their way into the frame and create a universe.
Of course talking about all the things we'd do at the mixer was easy. Actually doing it... that was tough. We shot at the Glendale Moose Lodge and Vicky and her Art Director Emily Adams were a two person team. Every banner, streamer, balloon, raffle sign, name tag station... all of that was dressed by them. And of course, on our budget we could never dress the entire space (that auditorium is huge) so they had to strike and re-dress areas of the room as the camera moved. And yet, when I look at episode 6, I feel like I'm looking at exactly what Vicky and I discussed at that Starbucks. Add to that the props that they designed from scratch- The Bragi and The Ragna Rock sign, the name tag and raffle stations, the sign for the mixer itself (Did you notice the roman numerals?)-- Vicky and Emily just hit it out of the park on this one.
One last thing... that thing about the fake baby we mentioned in the intro? Well If you've seen the episode you know that Eros spends most of it dealing with the offspring of her immortal frenemy Aveta. The prop fake baby fell under Vicky and Emily's Dept and they took it upon themselves to give it a smiley face, even though that face would never be seen on camera. Things were pretty stressful on those days of shooting, in fact, one of the only days we went severely over-schedule was during the shooting of this episode. But every time one of us saw that goofy smiley face on our fake baby (Vicky and Emily named him Fabey) it made us smile. You might not think that qualifies as design that shows up on screen, but trust me. It does.
That's it for this round. Be sure to let us know what you think of our picks in the comments below. Next week it'sthe "Best Editing" category
Xie xie – Avi and Andy