Sets / Lighting / Photography
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The hallway of Zelma's school. One of our bigger sets, it serves as the background for 7 scenes.

We have 145 scenes in My Love Affair With Marriage and anywhere from 1 to 25 shots within each scene. We build and photograph sets for most of them, creating 3-D environments into which Signe animates her 2-D characters. 

 

Some sets are used for several scenes, but many only once. This adds up to a lot of sets. The studio is filling up with sets! Maybe we'll have a sale once the film is completed, but we've grown attached to many them, so we'll have to see.

Surprisingly, Signe doesn't work with storyboards. This breaks rank with most other animated feature films, which are meticulously storyboarded before production begins. Signe's guides are the script and vocal track. Eventually, she will storyboard a scene, but only once she begins working on it. She prefers to discover the visual essence of each scene as she goes along. 

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Soviet Classroom

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View from the stairs

With no storyboards, Signe has to find other ways to communicate her needs for a particular set. Sometimes it's with a sketch, such as the school hallway. Sometimes it's with photos, such as the Soviet classroom, circa 1970, two students to a desk.

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Signe's hallway sketch

Either way, most of the sets begin their physical life in the carpentry shop as pieces of

Wood.

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Carpentry Department

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School Hallway

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Soviet School Desks

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Toronto Apartment

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Love Nest

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Morgue

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Sakhalin House

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Party

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The Final Set - with Sturgis

The sets are scaled approximately 1 inch to the foot. We try to make them somewhat realistic, yet leave room for the surreal. Enter:

Paper-mâché 

 

We cover all the sets with paper-mâché. Some lightly just to hide the grain of the wood.

Others more heavily to create texture. A few set pieces are 100% paper-mâché.

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Rocking Horse in process

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Couch

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Lutheran Church

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Toronto Apartment

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Sofiya making paper-mâché trees

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Rocking Horse complete

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Yasemin

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The White Set before it's white

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The Final Set

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Paper-mâché forest

Add Paint

Usually 4 or 5 coats, the first an undercoat of black.

We use Rosco Off-Broadway Non-Reflective Paint. Under the lights there's no glare.

Sometimes when we lit and photographed the sets of Rocks In My Pockets they were too shiny.

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Yasemin's palettes

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Yasemin with The Final Set

Connor

Sofiya, Yasemin, Karyna

Yasemin - fancy food 

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Sofiya

Paper-mâché trees for the Park Scene

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Yasemin

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Yasemin and the Love Nest - wood stain on 

tissue paper glued over the wood

Yasemin - wood stain on wood

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The paper-mâché trees of Bastejkalns

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Final coat of paint on The Final Set - with Signe animating

Add Lights. Add Camera...

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The White Set turns Pink

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Lobby 

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Sturgis lights Bastejkalns

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Signe shoots the Gallery

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Party!

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Artist bedroom

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Marriage Apartment

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Bathroom

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Stairwell

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The Bus

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Love Nest

Specialty Sets

Sometimes our sets require something other than the Wood - Paper-mâché - Paint combination

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Artist Sandra Osip lent us four of her cement sculptures for this scene

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Later we added houses to the sculptures

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Rigging up descending coffins for stop motion animation was particularly challenging

But the biggest challenge was how to create a village built on

Mud

for the opening scenes of the film

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The island of Sakhalin, the Eastern edge of the former Soviet Union

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It took forever to find the right formula for the mud:

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Mortar mix and vegetable oil with oil paint for color

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The Mud Formula gave us a week to shoot before drying up

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The Sakhalin Team:

Sturgis, Sofiya, Signe, Yasemin, Yupu