Studio News from John, Part 14: Anatomy of a Set - Jonas's Room

It's time to take a look at the next set that was constructed for "My Love Affair With Marriage".  This is the set for Jonas's room.  In the film, the character of Zelma, 17 years old, will take a train to another city and visit the art gallery, where she meets Jonas, an older man (33) who discusses art with her and then offers her some wine.  Zelma goes back to Jonas' room, and this marks a turning point in her search for a soulmate. 

But let's save the story details for when you see the film, OK?  Instead, let's take a look at how Jonas' room was put together.  Signe had the idea that there should be a large set of stairs, which could be a symbol for progress, climbing toward a goal that represents personal growth, or falling down, out of grace.  The stairs were made from the leftover curved pieces that were cut out to make the arches in the art gallery!  Sturgis doesn't waste any scraps of wood in the set shop.  The curved pieces were placed on top of each other to make a unique set of steps.  

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The wooden pieces were then covered in paper-maché, and then given a base coat of black paint (though it looks blue here...) before the final pink color was added.  A little bit of the dark paint shows through the pink and this gave the stairs a different sort of texture created by the mix of colors. 

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Then the room itself was constructed, with a window on one side.  In the script, Zelma lies in the bed in the morning with her head on the pillow and watches the curtains move as air comes in through the window.  Just like the stairs, the walls got covered with paper-maché and then painted pink.  In the next photo you can see where the platform is going to go that will hold the loft for the bed, and then the stairs will be placed in front, to lead up to that loft. 

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And this piece will eventually become the bed that will be put at the top of the stairs.

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Next, since Jonas is an award winning artist, and one who is not shy about it, he has all his awards hung on the wall.  The laurels on the awards fit in with the theme of plants and flowers, and even the ones that look like crowns also resemble the spreading leaves of plants.  So the flower design runs through the whole room, and this ties in to the story, based on what happens to Zelma in this room, get it? 

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And the final element is a bridal veil, which I'm assuming will serve as the curtain for the room's window. 

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When all of the pieces are put together - the walls, the stairs, the bed and the artwork on the walls - here is what Jonas's room looks like:

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With some creative lighting, the room can take on an orange color, instead of pink, to reflect the look of a mid-day sun:

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That's how Jonas' room came together, and next time we'll take a look at how another set is being built, so stay tuned!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Celebrating Solstice in an urban environment is a bit of a challenge. First of all, with buildings so high one can barely see the sky and tracking the path of the Sun while walking on a sidewalk can cause one fall into a pothole. 

Then  there are all those distractions - deadlines, Facebook and people who want to get together.

And of course, the tragedies around the world that happen to other people caused by other people make one's sky gazing and Sun-tracking seem indulgent and selfish. Why instead one doesn't call her local politician demanding to improve the matters of the World?

But the Sun is a powerful magnet that makes seeds forget the forces of Gravity and pull away from Earth towards LIGHT to greet the Sun with blooming flowers. The thought of light wakes me before dawn, full of inspiration and hope.

Without light like without hope one cannot live.

If we all purge our inner demons with a beam of light maybe that alone can make the World a better place?

Lets celebrate the longest day!

Welcome, Light!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Merry Solstice!
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Studio News from John, Part 13: Anatomy of a Set - Art Gallery

There's a new set in front of the camera here at the studio, ready to be shot, and it's an art gallery. Here's the step-by-step process of how it was created..   

First, it began as an idea. Signe says that "in the Soviet Union religion was banned and the Soviet government solved the problem of what to do with unused churches by converting them into atheist clubs or art galleries. There was an old orthodox church in Riga that was turned into a planetarium with an adjoining café where all kinds of bohemians hung out. The café's nickname in those circles was "Dieva Auss" which means "God's Ear". In the Latvian system of metaphors Gods Ear is a heavenly place to be - it's warm, fuzzy and your wishes are instantly heard."

In "My Love Affair With Marriage" the main character, Zelma, enters a gallery where she meets an older artist and she is instantly seduced by his aura of success and importance. Signe based the visual idea of this gallery on the converted church. The space of Art is sacred to young, inexperienced Zelma and people associated with it can do no wrong.  Since this gallery used to be a cathedral, it has some high arches and niches in the walls for art, where the religious statues used to be.

Before we take a peek at the finished set, let's go back two months to look at the set being built.  Ah, March, it was a simpler time, before the President was getting indicted and before the Avengers fought the Infinity War...

 The whole set started with this sketch that Signe gave to Sturgis. From simple beginnings come very complex ideas! Sturgis used 3 kinds of saws to cut the shapes from wood found in a carpenter's trash bin.

The whole set started with this sketch that Signe gave to Sturgis. From simple beginnings come very complex ideas! Sturgis used 3 kinds of saws to cut the shapes from wood found in a carpenter's trash bin.

 The constructed set, with high arches and niches for the artworks, gets covered in paper-maché and with bricks made of cardboard.

The constructed set, with high arches and niches for the artworks, gets covered in paper-maché and with bricks made of cardboard.

 Signe places a sample piece of art to show us how the gallery might look when it's finished.

Signe places a sample piece of art to show us how the gallery might look when it's finished.

 Close-up of the right wall of the gallery with a hand sculpture in place. The paintings and sculptures exhibited in the gallery are created by the intern Joon Young Park. He did an amazing job!

Close-up of the right wall of the gallery with a hand sculpture in place. The paintings and sculptures exhibited in the gallery are created by the intern Joon Young Park. He did an amazing job!

By mid-May the whole gallery had been painted, bricks highlighted to bring out their texture, and all of the artworks were put in place.  

 The finished set, placed in front of the camera and lit for dramatic effect.

The finished set, placed in front of the camera and lit for dramatic effect.

 The left side of the gallery, with artworks placed on the walls and sculptures placed in the niches. 

The left side of the gallery, with artworks placed on the walls and sculptures placed in the niches. 

 The right side of the gallery, with artwork on the walls and the finished hand sculpture. 

The right side of the gallery, with artwork on the walls and the finished hand sculpture. 

And here's a short video, showing a pan over the entire gallery set:

Meet Our Studio Interns!

The one thing I enjoy about having interns at my studio is having lunches together. After hectic mornings of building sets, animating, writing exposure sheets or coloring in separate corners of the studio, we all come together at one table to eat, talk and laugh. These moments of getting to know my interns feel precious to me. The side effect of bonding with interns is that I feel sad when they have to move on. 

Frankelly has interned at the studio since January and today is his last day. In the video below we ask him 3 questions and his answers may give you insight on how to get an internship and what internships are all about.

Please check out Frankelly's work here:

https://vimeo.com/user48729263

Thank you!

Signe

 

Meet Our Studio Interns!

Internships are tricky, just like any other kind of human relationships. You have to find the right match to make it work. 

Our studio operations are small - we have only 2 up-to-date computers. And I am very busy working on 27565 large and small details that make the film, which makes me regard the idea of having another person in the studio as a distraction. That's why we are selective about who we let in the studio. 

The two interns who started to work at the studio in January 2018 - Joon and Frankelly - came to the studio by chance and by the strength of their interview. Their hard work, confidence and competence, as well as their sense of humor made them an excellent match to our studio. 

This is Joon and Frankelly's last week at the studio. They both are graduating from their schools and the internship and I would like to introduce them to you.

Here's a video with Joon. I ask him a few simple questions. If you are curious how he got the internship and what value he sees in it, here're his answers:

Please check out Joon's work on his website:

http://www.jooniepark.com

Thank you!

Signe

PS On Thursday I'll post the video with Frankelly

 

 

Studio News from John, Part 12: Finished props

I posted the first look at some props from "My Love Affair With Marriage" back in November, (Studio News Part 7) and since then many of them have been painted, so here's an update on how they look now.

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Here's that big cat head, which turned out to be a cat-shaped room..  

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Here's that bathtub shape, which evolved into a man with a bathtub-shaped body, and it's full of eyeballs. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for that. 

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This is that character that I said looked like he had a "split personality".  I guess I was right, and two heads are better than one. 

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And here is that figure carrying the suitcase and bag, he's got spiky hair and green skin now.  

Intriguing?  Of course!  It will be very interesting to see what roles all of these paper-maché figures play in the final film of "My Love Affair With Marriage".  

Studio News from John, Part 11: Noise complaints / Studio renovations

When you live and work in New York City, a certain amount of noise is to be expected.  After all, as Paul Simon once sang, "One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor."  I suspect Mr. Simon was using metaphor, but on a very practical level, he spoke the truth about people living together in close quarters.  (Why do they call them "apartments" if people are so close together?)  And by extension, almost every wall is someone else's wall, too - and on the other side of that wall, someone is probably learning to play a musical instrument.  

In Signe's building, her studio is right next to a recording studio, and this situation is just not conducive to a quiet, creative atmosphere.  Mostly this studio specializes in hip-hop music, which I personally don't listen to or appreciate, and this music is very focused on a driving, throbbing, shake-the-walls kind of beat.  Furthermore, it caters to a certain clientele that to fully appreciate the nuances of the music, has to engage in a certain herbal supplement.  (To me, if you have to get high to appreciate the music, there might be something wrong with the music, but hey, what do I know about it?)

So this has created a situation where the noise from next door is incessant, and the smell is often nauseating, and over the last few months has grown worse and worse, creating an interminable distraction that is simply not conducive to a creative atmosphere next door.  

There have been many conversations with the neighbor, ranging from friendly to combative, everything from the simple suggestion to use headphones to an attempt to coordinate schedules, so that the music (theoretically) wouldn't play during animating hours, or conversely so that animating hours could take place when the music isn't vibrating through the walls.  Then there were months of playing loops of forest noises:

rushing water:

and music found on YouTube that's designed to make us all smarter:

And happier:

in vain attempts to counteract, or at least overtake, the noise coming from next door.  Nothing has worked.  

The terms of the building's lease are, in my opinion, quite clear.  Every tenant in the building is responsible for controlling the noise AND odors coming from their space - and this applies to cooking odors as well as "baking" odors, legally there is no distinction between the smell of pots for cooking and pot for smoking.  Every single tenant has the right, according to the lease, to a peaceful working environment, and a responsibility to not interfere with the peaceful working environment of others.  But repeated calls to the landlord have not resulted in any punitive action, or change in the noise level.  Furthermore, it's the financial responsibility of a sound studio to employ proper sound-proofing, from a legal standpoint if not a neighborly one.  

The lease also forbids excess vibration caused by excessive noise - in the long term, this is much more potentially damaging to the building's structure than the noise itself.  

So, where does this lead?  Right now the solution seems to be to seal up all the gaps in the wall, to prevent any fumes from passing through (because apparently NOT smoking pot all day is unenforceable and therefore out of the question...) and to build another layer of wall on THIS side, with special sound-proofing panels that look terrible, but hopefully will cut down on the vibration passing over. 

The workers are here today installing them:

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This meant removing EVERYTHING from this long wall - the shelving, the pictures, the art, and moving the desks and cabinets to the middle of the room, and then after we'll have to move everything back, then look at this industrial, brown/grey paneling going forward.  It's a terrible sacrifice to give up an entire wall of the studio just for soundproofing, and we're not entirely sure if the panels will even have the desired effect, to reduce the noise from next door.

It seems like this is the last resort, in order to get back to a situation where Signe can once again focus on her animation, and not have to blare the sounds of a forest environment all day, just to cancel out the music coming from next door.  For the sake of sanity and the creative process, this is what has to happen.  It's a point of fact, nobody ever complains about having a studio next door to an animator - you never hear anyone say, "Why is my neighbor always DRAWING so loudly?"  Plus I've found over the years that animators are usually very quiet people who tend to, or are forced to, keep largely to themselves.  

Studio News from John, Part 10: Zelma's Bedroom

Time for an another update on the production of "My Love Affair With Marriage".  

A new set is in front of the camera now, and it's Zelma's bedroom set.  A couple of months ago, here is what the set looked like: 

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And now the walls have been painted, the wardrobe has been moved to the other side of the room, Zelma's bed has been added, and the room now has a window, which is great because it was getting a little stuffy in there, and the room really needed some more natural light.  Here's what the bedroom set looks like now:

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Here are some details about the room.  The walls appear to have plant-like tendrils on them, this is in sharp contrast to the straight lines of the walls, and this symbolizes the struggle between Zelma's natural, organic emotions and the rigid constructs of society.  Zelma is a teenager at this point in the story, and she's not sure what to do with emotions like love, and where those emotions are going to lead her.  Will she follow the conventions of society, and follow a straight path, or will her emotions take her on a more roundabout journey?  

If you notice here, there is moonlight coming in the window and hitting Zelma's bed.  This is more symbolism, since Zelma's body has begun following a certain monthly cycle, and what else follows a monthly cycle?  That's right, the moon.  

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And no, Signe didn't forget to clean up the set.  There are some clothes on the floor, and others in the wardrobe.  Again, a contrast between the order of society, with clothes on their hangers, and the free-spirited habit of leaving clothes on the floor.  (And here you thought your kids were just lazy - they're really just expressing their individuality!)  

Right now, Signe and Sturgis are doing some camera tests to shoot the background at several different angles and with different lighting (for different times of day).  

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Stay tuned for more production updates from the set!