Before I go forward with more news about the production of "My Love Affair With Marriage", I want to take another step back in time to give some background about the studio, with specific regard to the physical space on 41st St. in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood.
When I started working for Signe in 2015, her studio was on 53rd St. in Sunset Park, in a converted space very close to the water. She'd been in that space since leaving Manhattan in 2011 and crossing the river into Brooklyn. "Rocks in My Pockets" was created in that studio space that had no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. And every time it rained, water would leak in from the windows and Signe would have to empty these buckets of water like it was a sinking ship. The best thing I can say about that space is that it had an absolutely killer view of Staten Island, and if you went up on the roof you could get a panoramic view of New York Harbor.
But in 2016 she watched her neighbors moving out one by one, and then when the landlord chose not to renew her lease, it was clear that the building was being cleared out, for what purpose nobody really knew. So Signe and Sturgis started to read the real estate listings and meet with landlords and agents to find a new studio space. They found a new space just 12 blocks away - because it turns out that Brooklyn is full of these old warehouses and factories that are being converted to either luxury condos or studio spaces. You just have to find one and be in the right place at the right time.
So they began the arduous but necessary process of packing up everything in the studio and getting ready to make the trek 12 blocks north to the new space. Signe had a ton of these paper-maché sets and characters from "Rocks in My Pockets" - they take up a lot of space, and they're relatively light, but still pretty bulky to move. The most time-consuming and labor-intensive project was probably dismantling the entire laminate floor, board by board, and loading pile after pile of floorboards into a rented truck. Then the floorboards and shelving had to be moved over in the middle of the night, when nobody else was using the freight elevators in either building
Slowly the crisis of losing one space also presented itself as an opportunity, a chance to design a new animation studio, literally from the ground up, starting with the floorboards. Once the floor was put in place, then the furniture could be brought in (Signe wants me to add a plug here for Excellent Quality Movers in Brooklyn) and shifted around to find the best possible arrangement. Smack dab in the middle of the space, though, was an old conveyor belt left behind by whatever manufacturing company had been in that building before. Since it couldn't be removed, Sturgis' solution was to build a giant box over it, which would help to separate the new studio into different room-like areas, and also provide some more storage space on top for some of the props from "Rocks".
A couple of furniture pieces helped to define a small kitchen space (refrigerator, stove, microwave) in one corner and a couple of new walls and curtains closed off another space to create a shooting area, a place where the light could be controlled once photography started on the new feature. The front area near the door became a place for my desk and another desk, and also a place to put shelves to store DVDs and supplies. The back area, furthest from the door, got divided into a set-building workshop and a place for Signe to draw.
In the middle of everything now is a little bit of common space, there's a table where everyone can eat lunch together, and also a couch and a coffee table if anyone should ever have a bit of time to relax. I know, it's not likely to happen, but it might. That may be the only couch I've ever seen that doesn't face a TV set - I often wonder how Signe gets by without a TV in her vicinity, but then I remember that she wasn't raised in the U.S., so she doesn't build her life around television like I do. I have three TV's at home so I can watch in just about every room, it's a lifestyle choice.
There's plenty of storage space in the new studio for all of Signe's artwork from her previous films, the paper-maché sets and props from "Rocks in My Pockets" and even a few plants. Maybe the view's not as good as it once was, but there are still plenty of windows to let in natural light. And there's a heating unit, so we didn't have to wear heavy sweaters and coats all day this past winter, like the year before.
So far the space has been very productive, even though the move happened very quickly, and there wasn't much time to think about things like workflow or feng shui. All we had was a floor plan and a rough idea about what should go where, and after that it was all trial and error until everything seemed to be in the right place, or at least close to it.
The biggest problem at the studio right now is the music recording studio that's in the space next door, because they don't have the proper insulation to cancel the heavy bass noise from the hip-hop and dance music that's produced there. It seems like a lot of their clients must be hard of hearing, because they apparently have to turn the volume up ALL THE WAY while they're working on this music, and it's so loud that the vibrations from the bass make the walls in Signe's studio shake. She usually has to have one computer devoted solely to playing sounds of nature, like crickets or running water, turned up really loud, just to counter-act the music seeping in from the other studio.
This is a big problem when you're engaged in a creative activity like animation - and many hours in a row listening to the THUMP-THUMP-THUMP coming from next door is enough to mess with anyone's sanity. On one level, this is all just part of living in a city and dealing with neighbors, but there's just got to be some kind of legal limit on this. Signe is now complaining to her landlord and trying to find a solution that will allow her to concentrate on her drawing work for the new film. Stay tuned for updates on this.