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 them! We will have a set-sale once the film is completed in 2021. Anyone wanna buy a set?

There is no storyboard for My Love Affair With Marriage. The grand visual plan remains inside Signe's head. This breaks rank with most other animated feature films, which are meticulously storyboarded before production begins. Signe's guidelines are the script and vocal track. She does storyboard, but one scene at a time, completing the backgrounds and animation before moving onto the next scene. Signe prefers to discover the visual essence of each scene as she goes along. This way she can keep incorporating new ideas and inspirations.

Soviet Classroom, 2 to a desk

View from the stairs

And so, each set begins with the location indicated in the script. What this might look like is just a notion in Signe's head. Sometimes she finds a photo to share with Sturgis, such as a Soviet classroom, circa 1970, with two students to a desk.

Sometimes it's just a quick

sketch like the one of the school hallway pictured above.

Signe's sketch of the hallway

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


Soviet School Desk

Many Desks


School Hallway

Bus with Coffin

Love Nest



Sturgis constructs the Truck

Making food with the help of Dentistry tools

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

Rocking Horse is human height on the set

Lutheran Church


The White Set before it's white

Yupu makes paper-mâché fish

Signe with Carousel. It turns, too.

Add Paint

Lots of paint! Most sets and set pieces get 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. Our too-shiny sets for Rocks In My Pockets were at times a problem.

Yasemin paints the food

Anguished Man - paper-mâché sculpture for Denmark Art Gallery set. Notice the texture of the walls - created with paper-mâché

Sofiya is our tree expert

Paper-mâché trees for the Park Scene

Yasemin through the window

Soviet Funeral Hall. Yasemin made the flags - paper-mâché.

Add Lights. Add Camera...

The White Set turns Pink

Lobby of the Hostel in Denmark

Sturgis lights the Park

Signe shoots Zelma's Riga apartment

Party! Yasemin made both the wallpaper and the vomit

Jonas' bedroom

Zelma and Sergei's Apartment



The Bus

Bo and Zelma's Love Nest

Specialty Sets

Sometimes our 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 combined the sculptures with cardboard houses and a base of sand

Rigging up descending coffins was a major challenge

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

Our Mud Formula gave us about a week to shoot

The Sakhalin Team:

Sturgis, Sofiya, Signe, Yasemin, Yupu