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BA (Hons) Film Production students L Hancock and E Mainard adjusting a prop on the set of "Mourning Glories".

Luke Hancock and Ella Mainard – Working as a Production Design duo


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We’ve just finished our time at AUB studying BA (Hons) Film Production, both specialising in Production Design, in which we oversee the design of everything in front of the camera. Designing and building sets, making real locations fit our fictional worlds and filling them with props and furnishings that we both make and find.

For our final year, we have to make a graduation film, working in a team of 30-odd people across two years and every specialism, to create a high-level, professional 15-minute film. The aim is to showcase our skills and develop good professional practice and etiquette ready to enter the industry. Normally, each film has one production designer leading the art department. However, over the grad unit we decided to build a creative partnership and work as co-designers on two films – Eyes, Front and Mourning Glories. Through this, we have been able to work on two very different films – one was shot on location; the other required the construction of a set.

We both want to go into set construction, having been granted access to amazing studio and facilities throughout our time at AUB, and we have been allowed to get very hands-on. The University owns what is close to a "mini-studio complex" – five well-equipped studios with professional-level lighting rigs, green screens, stock scenery to build sets with, and access to a large prop store. The studios have been home to a jazz bar, a Parisian street, an apocalyptic bunker, many a prison cell, a whimsical greenhouse, and a school classroom.

For Mourning Glories, we crowdfunded to build a stylised mortuary. Using the course's staff of industry professionals and resident technicians, we designed and constructed a set that was as close to a professional standard as was possible within our budget of £2,700. We decorated the space with ornate, hand-painted wall and floor tiling, custom-built cabinet units, large open windows, a practical staircase and even hired in some professional medical props. This was a brilliant chance for us to showcase the skills we had developed over our three years – scenic painting, carpentry, prop building, set decoration and visual storytelling.

The mortuary was designed for a very particular character, Debbie. Debbie is a female mortician in a masculine-dominated environment, which is the motivation behind the pink in the space. She is reclaiming the sterile, blue and "masculine" mortuary space with outrageous femininity and authenticity, as represented in the colour pink and the way it is used in the space. This gave us an opportunity to really stylise the set and go in a more theatrical direction. We drew inspiration from films like Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, for their recognisably real, but delightfully obviously designed sets, using colour, layout, shape and texture not to replicate reality, but to build the world of the story.

The ability to have this creative approach to our work is part of what we have enjoyed so much about our time as production designers on the BA (Hons) Film Production course. Having an idea, proving its feasibility, and bringing it to life. The process of being a designer allows us to watch as our work comes from imagination into the real world, constructed piece by piece, and seeing it progress physically, which we both find incredibly rewarding as our efforts are matched quite literally by the results.

This reflects our whole time at AUB. We have both found that to reap the most reward from our course, it has required hard work and dedication. But the reward you get from that hard work is incomparable. We are both walking away after our three years, incredibly proud of the work we have produced on Mourning Glories; Eyes, Front; and beyond. It is reassuring to think that we are stepping into the industry with so much pride in our work behind us already.

The creative partnership we built this year has been incredibly fruitful for us and is already branching out into more projects than we could have ever imagined those months ago. We are currently working on several other projects, a photography shoot, and a children's TV series, as well as working with other soon-to-be graduates on a set build project in partnership with the BFI.

Something to think about

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