When it comes to creating movie magic, every element is important, from the actors to the direction to the cameras and lenses used. But a special mention has to be given to film sets.
Creating fictional environments for characters to inhabit is a huge part of making that fiction seem much closer to reality.
Current Artisan reached out to Sergio Sanchez Selva, a professional Set Designer who has worked on a number of television projects in Europe, including ‘The Head,’ ‘Hanna,’ and ‘Genius.’
Having studied Art Direction and Architecture, Sanchez Selva brings a unique flair to every project he works on.
Over our brief discussion, Sanchez Selva helped us gain a greater understanding of the types of set designs used in production.
By the end of the article, you’ll have a keener eye for how movies and television programs create convincing illusions, often with limited resources.
• • •
Types of sets and ideation
What are the different types of sets used for film production?
Sanchez Selva: Basically, there are two main types, real locations and sets built in the studio. Choosing one over the other depends on a few things. The budget is a huge factor. Building a set is usually more expensive than booking a location. Technical requirements are another big factor. When you build a set you can set up gaps or movable walls to place the camera and facilitate the work of the DP.
When creating concept art, what is your main priority?
Sanchez Selva: Portray what the director wants in an image that is able to sell itself by extolling the virtues of the space and decoration without significantly moving away from realism since that set has to be generated within the budget that is available and the contracted locations.
What kinds of materials do you need to create during the planning stages of set design? How do those ideas transform as the project goes into production?
Sanchez Selva: Once you have a space and a style defined in your head, you need to materialize everything in the world’s scale. Of course, many sketches, models and 3D drawings are made until we find what we are looking for.
How does your background in architecture inform your work as a set designer? Do you see it as an advantage?
Sanchez Selva: We can say that the closest discipline to art direction for films and TV is architecture or interior design, with several small differences. The sets are ephemeral, they are designed to last just the shooting time, the materials are light and removable and the finishes can be simulated with different techniques. Our painters can create any finish like dirty concrete, delicate marble, corten steel, old stone, or almost anything else on a flat surface.
About how long, on average, does it take to construct a set? Do you ever feel rushed during this process?
Sanchez Selva: Depends on the set and the team we have. Usually, we don’t have a lot of time to design, draw, and build the sets, so, sadly, it is very common to be rushed in our work.
Do you enjoy collaborating with a director and other members of the production team?
Sanchez Selva: It is necessary to be coordinated with other departments to be able to work without overlapping. Many times, this is a job in itself since the limits of each department depend on the size and type of the production and can be very different. It is also vital not to lose the thread of communication with the director.
Who are some contemporary filmmakers you feel are masters at creating compelling sets?
Sanchez Selva: It’s a difficult question, but to be honest there is a large variety of filmmakers who have a more artistic concern in terms of spaces in their movies. Some of my favorites would have to be Wes Anderson, Peter Greenaway, Terry Gilliam, Roy Andersson and Zhang Yimou.
Talking to experts will help us better understand the questions we’ve been trying to find answers to. This is because they can explain things better due to their years of experience in the industry.
Sometimes, it is difficult to set up set designs especially with very complicated concepts, but we can garner here that our creativity is required to make things possible. We may run out of ideas from time to time, so always try finding inspiration in other things and interpret it in your own way.
Let your talent shine through despite this challenge. Your keen eye will make things look easier.
This is especially important if you don’t have enough budget to go to real locations, with some requiring travel. You can transform your backyard or your room into a studio.
Many artists are doing this now, especially at this time of the pandemic. Because we are forced to stay at home to avoid acquiring the deadly virus, we tend to become creative and think of ways to remove the boredom we’ve been feeling.
Look around your home, and you will find random things that you can use to create a beautiful setting for your DIY studio. This is the beauty of being at home too much – everything, even the most random objects, will seem interesting.
• • •
For additional information on Sergio Sanchez Selva and his work, please visit the sites listed below: