EXCLUSIVE: Interview WIth Iron Man 2 & THOR Set Decorator, Lauri Gaffin!
Taking us behind-the-scenes of what it means to be a set decorator and her work on Marvel Studios' Thor, Lauri Gaffin talks to CBM about bringing the world of Asgard to life on the big screen, comic book inspiration, easter eggs, and more...
Having worked as the Set Decorator on huge movies such as Mission: Impossible II, Zathura: A Space Adventure, The Pursuit of Happyness and more recently, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Lauri Gaffin was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about her work on Thor. For those of you who may not be all that familiar with the duties of a set decorator or don't understand their importance, Lauri also takes us through the responsibilities of such a job.
For anyone who might not know, what exactly is it that a set decorator does?
Set Decorators are a key member of the design team for film, television and commercials. Working closely with the Production Designer and the Director, the Set Decorator must research, resource, and acquire all the objects required to dress the sets. Typical examples of this set dressing may include furniture, drapery, lighting fixtures, art and other decorative objects. However, the Set Decorator is also charged with large scale items, which could include machinery or robots, sidewalk window dressing, street items (such as street lamps and mailboxes), even rubble and debris!
Could you take us through your process of decorating a set?
Over the course of preparation and shooting, Set Decorators are generally responsible for various managerial and creative duties, including but not limited to:
Collaboration: with the Production Designer, Director, Producers, Costume Designer, Construction Coordinator, Cinematographer regarding the design, decoration, lighting, and look of the project.
Budgeting & Negotiating: for Production approvals as well as the monitoring of the Set Dressing Purchases & Rentals Budget, and the Set Dressing Labor Budget.
Hiring: the Set Dressing Crew and support contractors, setting the tone for the work to be done, supervising the process, and being available to answer questions and creatively solve problems.
Organization: Break down the script, identify sets and practical locations, plan the objects to be acquired for each set, and schedule all deadlines for acquisition.
Research: Present period and style inspiration appropriate for each project. Prepare presentation boards with research, swatches, colors, and examples of objects.
Imagine: With the Production Designer and Art Director how characters and environments are to be portrayed and reflected within the layers of the set.
Shop: For all set dressing needed: furniture, fabrics, decorative objects, industrial items, lighting fixtures
Design: We are responsible for the design and fabrication of objects unavailable in the marketplace. This may include organizing alterations and upholstery, creating window treatments, painting and aging of set dressing, working with illustrators, set designers, scenic artists, sculptors, prop makers, metal smiths and other specialty craftspeople to achieve a finished product.
Dress: Oversee the dressing of the sets with the Set Dressers to the satisfaction and agreement of the Production Designer.
Present: Open each new set with the Director, making any adjustments needed.
What was your overall experience like on Thor?
Thor was a chance to do something different. It was a unique world in which we were able (or allowed?) to extend (or exceed?) beyond the normal boundaries of Earth.
How much interaction did you have with the director and actors? Could you tell us about that?
Film-making is always a collaborative effort. On Thor, I worked directly with the Production Designer, Bo Welch and met with the director, Kenneth Branagh, often.
Asgard has an incredibly unique look to it. Would you mind explaining what you went through to help achieve that?
The aesthetic of Asgard is a hybrid between preexisting artwork from the comic book and extensive research conducted within the film's art dept. with regards to Norse mythology, modern architectural design and future worlds imagined.
Do the characters have any sort of effect on how you dress a set?
From a conceptual standpoint, and depending on the scrip and/or arch of a story, a set should support the character(s) that will inhabit it. From a technical standpoint, if something is altered and/or destroyed physically (or digitally), a decorator MUST understand the action and how that action will effect the environment physically.
Where else did you turn for inspiration?
For inspiration on Thor I turned to the original Marvel comic book concepts and artwork, as well as the visions of the director Kenneth Branagh and the Production Designer Bo Welch.
Comic fans love looking out for nods to the books in these films. Anything we should be keeping an eye out for in Thor?
Yes, there are in fact Easter eggs to be hunted, but I cannot reveal them.
How was it working on the two Iron Man movies? What were the main differences between them and Thor?
Thor is the first Marvel comic book that delves into the cosmic scale of the Universe. Iron Man was earthbound.
Any plans to work with Marvel Studios again? Where else can we expect to see your work?
You never know. I would always welcome the opportunity.
With an all star cast which includes Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Thor is set to be released in the UK on April 29 and shortly after in the US on May 6, later this year!
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