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Regan Leonard / Film and TV 1C: Introduction to a Film Set

Regan Leonard's digital journal recording her experiences and work on a film set in semester 2!

Conclusion of Working on Set

In week 11, my job concluded as the crew who wrapped up the last day of filming was able to break down the set and clean up. I wasn’t on the call sheet that day, so my role effectively was finished.

Overall, I am incredibly grateful for my experience on Felicity’s set, and super excited to see where the film goes! Not only did I learn more about work ethic, and gained experience on set, I really was able to grasp how to execute a director’s artistic vision and how to take constructive criticism when it comes to bringing a mental image to life. The connections I made on set were extremely enriching, and working closely with Roisin and Jalila was truly a pleasure and we had great teamwork.

While working on Hope’s set never came to fruition, I am super excited to see the final product of her film! Overall, this worked out in my favor because my jobs would’ve overlapped schedule wise, and I would not have been able to commit 100% to either. By having a heavier job in terms of responsibilities on a singular set, I was able to devote my time and energy to Felicity’s project, and deliver a better final product of work.

This year, and especially this semester, has been super educational and eye opening to my opportunities and future as a creative and I could not be more grateful.

Week 10

Week 10 is filming week.

While Darcy’s room was in use filming, we worked on the exterior walls in the green room.

The exterior walls surrounding the window were supposed to be brick, so we had to made the large cardboard flats we had resemble brick as much as we could. To do this, we laid down masking tape in a brick pattern, and measured the distance between each “layer” of bricks so we could line up the different boards when we attached them together. Then, we took the cardboard outside and spray painted them with red and orange spray paint, and used sponges to add texture. After the spray paint dried, we removed the masking tape.

Next, we cut the boards to align with the top and bottom portion of the wooden board with the window, and cut 3 strips to border the two windows. After lining them up with the 2 other cardboard brick walls, we stapled the cardboard to the wooden board with the window.

Additionally, we reset the set into June’s room, and put up the exterior wall and window, as the shots captured were through a window as it is Darcy’s perspective seeing June. We held up the walls to June’s room as Roisin drilled them together, and set up the brick exterior by propping the walls up with wooden posts. To make June’s wall more cohesive, we also painted over masking tape to look like the wooden boards were connected.

Here is a view of the window shot, as well as the painting we did:

This spanned most of shooting week, and I also helped out as an extra with June’s party scene.

In the final week 11, I will be deconstructing the set and doing cleanup.

Week 9

Building Week!

This week I spent at the ECA in the TV Studio with Jalila, my fellow set design assistant, and Roisin, Head of Set Design on A Silent Dance. We built Darcy’s Room and constructed the walls for June’s room, as well as decorating Darcy’s room and other miscellaneous jobs.

The first day, Jalila and I painted the wooden boards that would be used for Darcy’s Room. This seems easy, but was actually so much harder than expected, as the paint was hard to spread around and it dried unevenly so we had to do multiple coats.

(In the 3rd photo, you can see the difference between 1 coat of paint and 2 – the board on the left only had 1 coat, whiile the right board had 2 and was much smoother)

Painting was the bulk of the job during construction week. Due to an obligation, I missed when the boards were put up together to create Darcy’s room. But, after they were put up, we measured and layed down flooring that resembled wood in Darcy’s room, as well as wall decor, a rug, a bed, the clock, and other items. We also hung up many paintings, film negatives, photos, and other decor on Darcy’s walls.

We also painted 3 blue boards for June’s room, and measured and glued wooden frames to the walls as a design aspect. There was a lot of moving the boards involved, within the TV Studio and around the ECA, as due to incorrect measurements, we had to take one of the boards to the woodshop to get it cut smaller.

Additionally, every day after working on the set, we would clean up and organize the TV Studio, which meant moving the props and painting equipment to a corner of the room, stacking the wooden boards, and scrubbing the floors in case we got any paint on them.

We were not able to paint the exterior walls, so we will be painting these during filming.

Week 8

In Week 8, Jalila and I went to charity shops to find things on the prop list.

Here is the prop list that was sent to us:

prop list 3

Our budget for props was 120, but Roisin recommended we aim for 100 first.

Jalila and I met in Stockbridge, and began at The Bethany Shop. There, we bought a toy doll, 3 glass bottles, and spoons.

Charity Shops:

While I did not record the names of the other shops we went into, we managed to also buy CDs and 2 posters. While we were instructed to purchase as many mirrors as possible, we found this quite a challenge, as most mirrors we found in the charity shops were 20 pounds and up, even the small ones. This did not fit into our budget whatsoever, so we were not able to purchase any mirrors. In total, for the sourcing we did that day, 15 pounds were spent.

Attached below is a picture of the props we picked up:

Building begins next week, and I know that Roisin and Felicity have also picked up some props, so I will update them with our findings and figure out what else needs to be done pre-build.

Week 7

As my job on set gets closer, I am reviewing what is expected of me and helpful things I should know about the film. This week, I reread the film treatment and went over the prop list that was sent to me while in communication with the director, Felicity, and the Head of Set design, Roisin. I’ll attach the treatment for crew below:

Treatment for potential crew

While most of the aesthetic information in the treatment I discussed in my previous blog post, the treatment also defines what my job entails on set. This includes building a bedroom set in the ECA TV studio, and then resetting it into another bedroom set. Darcy’s room is cluttered with many things- photos, art, film negatives, etc.- but the main facet is the large clock on her wall. June’s room is less cluttered, but there is still artwork and many mirrors.

Roisin has informed me and Jalila (who is also a set design assistant) that building the set is from the 18th-24th of March, and that filming is from the 25th of March-1st of April, in which takedown of the set is the 1st of April. I am expected to be on set for all the building days, and most likely will be on set for most of the shooting days to reset the rooms as well as do additional work on the set if it carries over from the week of the 18th-24th.

I have been communicating with Jalila about the prop list and what we should be looking for, and we have planned to go charity shopping for items next week.

Week 6

This week I want to delve into the inspirations that our director has in mind in order to curate the set within her vision.

Last week, I mentioned some inspirations that were included in the script. These were: James Webb Telescope 2023 photos:


Rita Ackerman:

and Mary Abbott:

Additionally, these other moodboards and inspirations were provided to me:

(From the Moodboard on the A Silent Dance Milanote)

(Moodboard for Darcy’s Room from the Set Design Powerpoint)

(Moodboard for June’s Room from the Set Design Powerpoint)

The telescope photos are the more experimental aspect of this film, as in the script, the cosmic images are non-diegetic and not part of the actual set design. In terms of the expressionist artwork, this inspiration is a bit more direct when it comes to my job, as these are what the director is aiming the posters to look like. I am assuming due to copyright that I will not be using these artist’s actual work, but seeing their artwork helps me narrow down the aesthetic of the film. Additionally, the expressionist artwork exemplifies the disorganized aspect of Darcy’s room and mind.

While the images of the moodboards I added are a bit blurry, the general ideas I gained from them are the prominence of certain things throughout the collection of photos. The vibe of the Director’s moodboard is dark and moody, featuring the colors orange, blue and red alot contrasted with black and dark lighting. Additionally, there is a focus on eyes and reflections, both through mirrors and another’s eyes. There a multiple blurred, moving images, distorted camera perceptions, and odd lighting. These highlight the chaos and obsession we are aiming to curate within the set design.

As for the set design powerpoint, we are shown the stark contrast between Darcy and June’s rooms. While Darcy’s room is predominantly orange, harsh, with mismatched patterns and unsettling items and paintings, June’s room is light, airy, and ethereal, and features pastel colors. These moodboards cement that Darcy and June’s original rooms should be in direct contrast to each other, as in the beginning of the script they are very different.

These inspirations and moodboards definitely aided me in my imaginations of Darcy and June, and how they would design their rooms, as well as the overall vibe of the film and how that should be reflected on the set.

Week 5

This week, I received the script for Felicity’s film A Silent Dance. Below, I will attach a script treatment based on what I noticed for set design. I made highlights based on props/decoration, the inspiration/aesthetics, the location/set aspects, and where/what a prop or decor is doing. Here is the script treatment:

Script Treatment (Art Dep. 4 Fliss’ film)

Through reading the script, I learned that the plot is largely motivated by the setting, as Darcy’s and June’s rooms are a reflection of their minds, and largely indicate the titular theme, of a “dance” between them copying each other.

While I was also provided a prop list, the script shows me which props/aspects of the set design are most important to the story. The pieces I noticed were of significance to Darcy were the clock, the photos, the soup cans and spoon, and the camera. For June, the mirrors are an essential part of her room and character.

I will list the inspirations that were mentioned below:

  • James Webb Telescope 2023 photo
  • Expressionist paintings, artists such as Rothko, Rita Ackerman, and Mary Abbott
  • The aesthetic of Darcy’s room was largely cluttered, messy, and chaotic

Next week I will delve into these inspirations further, as well as additional inspirations provided outside the script by the director, Felicity.

The locations were scarce, and only included two rooms: Darcy’s and June’s. This reflects the focus on these characters and their relationship with not only eachother but these specific settings.

The script emphasizes how vital the set and set design is to the core of the film, and I am excited to continue to work on the set design and see the final product at the end.

Week 4

To recap, in Week 4, we had the masterclass with Clea Tammes. While it was on publicity within the industry, which doesn’t directly relate to my work on the film sets, I found the class very interesting. I think publicity is an intriguing way to work in the industry, and one of the most important. I found myself wanting to learn more, and I would definitely look into pursuing a career in publicity. Publicity is really the backbone of reaching people through film, even for grassroots/indie projects. Clea provided insight on a large scale of filmmaking, on publicity of not only TV shows and movies, but actors as well, which can be applied in some ways to my future pursuits, whether big or small. She recommended that for social media presence, which in today’s age is necessary for promoting and distributing creative work, to establish a following and connection prior to pushing out content, to pull in a larger audience. This can be very useful in smaller, personally funded projects.

Moving on to the work I am doing on the 4th year sets, my real hands-on work does not begin until about week 6 or 7 I believe, when the films that I am working on get closer to production. So, I have continued to delve into my research and keep up to date with my directors. While I have been informed I will get the scripts closer to filming, I’m going to detail my research into gaffing and set design.

This week I will focus on gaffing.

What is a Gaffer? A gaffer is the onset electrician for the equipment, specifically lighting equipment.

Why are gaffers essential to a film set? Lighting is vital to not only provide a visual, well-seen shot, but to curate the mood of a shot. Gaffers work closely with DOP’s to execute a director’s creative vision, as lighting conveys many plot elements and is not solely a device that allows the audience to see.

How can I be prepared for my potential role as a gaffer? I will meet with the producers and director of the project to understand what they want from the lighting (for example, should the lighting be harsh? natural? etc.). I will also conduct a script breakdown pre-production to note anything that involves lighting/lighting changes.

Extra info: On set, gaffers should be prepared to deal with electrical issues, adjust the lighting, set up and take down the lighting equipment, and of course, be collaborative with the directors.

Articles I read:


Week 3

In week 3, I was focused on research, attending classes, and securing another role. In the beginning of week 3, I was asked to help on the set of Tides directed by Hope Jones, as a gaffer/general helper. I accepted the offer and my work for the two film sets will be at the end of March, which is comparatively later than some of my other peers, which gives me time to work on my own film project.

Also, in week 3, I attended the masterclass with editor Lindsay Watson. I found her work very impactful and moving, and it gave me some inspiration for my upcoming short film I have to write and direct. Through her story, it was really prominent how trying many different things and even being in many different creative industries enabled and prepared her to be an editor, which she is passionate about today. This resonated with me because my jobs on 4th year sets are not usually things I would think of, but will teach me important skills and maybe help me discover new passions/talents.

In terms of my research, I have been finding youtube videos really helpful in outlining what my job is/how to be prepared for my upcoming roles. I will link these videos below, as well as key points I took away from them:

What a Gaffer Does on Set: A Crew Breakdown

  • As a general job descriptor, gaffers work on lighting on a film set
  • work closely with the DoP to execute their vision for a shot

  • While this is a video aimed towards directors for their own projects, it did explain the impact of set design/art departments on a film very well
  • It emphasized how the impacts of colors, props, costume design, and much more all add to the ambience and emotion of a scene, which can definitely help me when I am aiding the director help their vision come to life

In week 4, I again plan to further my research, maybe attend one of the set building workshops at ECA if I have the time, and develop my personal film idea, as well as keep in touch with the directors I am working with.

Progress in Weeks 1 & 2

My goals for weeks 1 and 2 of class were to find and secure a role on the 4th year film sets. Due to a familial obligation, I missed the first and second week of class, and was out of the country. Naturally, my work was conducted online, emailing different directors my interests in working on their sets, as well as research into general set etiquette. I haven’t been doing much research into specific roles, as in these weeks I had not been assigned a role. I also reviewed the masterclasses given during the first week by Stuart Cadenhead, and watched the films of Louis Paxton, who gave the second week’s masterclass.

The masterclasses, as well as some of my own research into articles, helped guide me through vital traits to bring to my interactions and experiences upcoming this semester, especially in finding a role:

  • Communication is key; I sent many follow up emails to the ones I sent initially to 4th year directors, as persistence is important to getting a response
  • Research is important in every step along the way from securing a job to completing it. I made sure to do effective research into the films I was interested in, as well as the roles I was interested in, just to have a breadth of knowledge before me. Without proper research, there is no way you can be prepared to work on set (or off!)
  • Patience and compromise is a necessary quality. Of course, I am not expecting to receive the most stand out roles in a crew, or roles that I particularly want. I understand that coveted roles come with hard work and time, and I am happy to work on anywhere that I am needed on the 4th years sets.

At the end of this week, I secured a role in the art department on Roisin and Jude’s film Hypervigilance. I am looking forward to the weeks coming ahead and learning more about my role on set.


Articles that I read this week as mentioned above:

Skills needed for filmmaking

How to Behave on a Film Set: Learning Film Set Etiquette

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