Sets / Lighting / Photography
The hallway of Zelma's school. One of our bigger sets, it serves as the background for 7 scenes.
There are 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.
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.
Signe's hallway sketch
Either way, most of the sets begin their physical life in the carpentry shop as pieces of
Soviet School Desks
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:
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.
Rocking Horse in process
Sofiya making paper-mâché trees
Rocking Horse complete
The White Set before it's white
The Final Set
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.
Yasemin with The Final Set
Sofiya, Yasemin, Karyna
Yasemin - fancy food
Paper-mâché trees for the Park Scene
Yasemin and the Love Nest - wood stain on
tissue paper glued over the wood
Yasemin - wood stain on wood
The paper-mâché trees of Bastejkalns
Final coat of paint on The Final Set - with Signe animating
Lights & Camera
The White Set turns Pink
Sturgis lights Bastejkalns
Signe shoots the Gallery
Sometimes sets require something other than the Wood - Paper-mâché - Paint combination
Artist Sandra Osip lent us four of her cement sculptures for this scene
Later we added houses to the sculptures
Rigging up descending coffins for stop motion animation
But the biggest challenge was how to create a village built on
for the opening scenes of the film
The island of Sakhalin, the Eastern edge of the former Soviet Union
It took forever to find the right formula for the mud:
Mortar mix and vegetable oil with oil paint for color
The Mud Formula gave us a week to shoot before drying up
The Sakhalin Team:
Sturgis, Sofiya, Signe, Yasemin, Yupu