Sometimes Crazy Things Just Happen: Cadence

Three weeks before spring break I found out two really great guys at my school – Austin Puckett and Nolan Anderson – were making a short film for Nolan’s senior thesis.

Three days and two weeks before spring break Nolan asked if I would do Art Department for this film called Cadence (notice he asked for Art Department, no position specified). So, I became the Production Designer for Cadence, and, oh yeah, we were shooting over spring break. 

I had about 2 weeks to do all of Art Department pre-production for a 10 minute senior thesis short film.

apparently I’m a crazy person

Cadence is about a six-person family of folk musicians on tour in their RV. They stop at a gas station, and their whole family pretty much falls apart. There were 7 characters – a 6-year-old girl, 10-year-old boy, 12-year-old-girl, 18-year-old male lead, late 40’s woman, mid-late 40’s man, and a gas station attendant with no physical description.

We had an RV we rented, and we had a defunct diner location 3 1/2 hours northeast of nowhere, and I had a couple notes from the previous Production Designer who had stepped down. We had cast locked, and we had a budget of about $1,500 for Art. I had one friend, Melissa Velazquez, who helped me with a few things and could be on set for two of the three days.

I found out in my first meeting with him (2 weeks before the shoot) that Nolan wanted the opening shot to be like that of the film Saharawhere the camera tracks around the RV and establish the family’s whole journey. He also wanted their costumes to tell the history of American Folk Music, but still look like they all belonged together. We also needed to build a aisle of shelves to turn the diner into a convenience store (and fill them) and cover up a window of unknown size 5 feet off the ground in the bathroom. Also, he wanted avoid the colors blue and green for storytelling purposes.

So, I started with research. The biggest eras for American Folk music were the 1930’s, 40’s, 60’s, early 70’s, and the 2000’s. Nolan told me that the oldest daughter (Olivia) is the actual “mom”, so I chose to dress her like the era where American folk music really began – 1930’s. The 10-year-old boy (Cliff) whose desires to not be in the band is dressed like the war-torn 1940’s, the Mom (Donna) is dressed like the era people usually associate with folk – the 1960’s, and the Dad (Greg) follows her lead with ear 1970s. The 6-year-old (Amy) is new to the family so she’s dressed like 2005. The 18-year-old lead (Jake) is the fresh new creative force behind the band’s success and is dressed like a modern folk musician.

Thanks to Jenny Oetzell for the fantastic behind-the-scenes photos!

For the interior of the RV I decided to give each person their own space. Jake creates music in the back next to his little brother, Cliff. Olivia is dead center of the RV – the heart. Amy sits at the dining area table with her, and the parents are driving up front as far away from the actual creativity as possible. So, the back has all the new creative stuff, there’s broken childhood in between, and old successes is driving in the front. To tell the viewer that Olivia is the real heart of the operation, I put more pictures in her space than anywhere else, and went around the RV with clothesline-twine hanging pictures – Olivia is tying the family together.

We got the RV at 9:00pm the day before we shot and I pulled an all-nighter getting it all set up. Some of the set decoration came from Justin Sinclair (the composer) and Melissa. I slept in the front seat of the RV as we drove it was out to location in Amboy, CA.


We shot at Roy’s Cafe, and here’s what it looked like when we got there:

Melissa was able to come and help me out on the second and third days of principle photography, and together we built shelves and made it look like this:

We got the shelves off a Craigslist add, and the guy at 88 Store Fixture let us rent them for much less than we would have paid anywhere else. Yay for sketchy ads on Craigslist!

I bought a mirror to cover the window in the bathroom because it was the fastest easiest option (my original plan was to put a piece of sheetrock over it and make it look like a repair job, but the wall was tiled and that would have drawn more attention to the spot). Melissa and I put a ton of Command strips up and they held overnight (bolstered with tape because we were not taking any chances). Sticky tack and Command strips literally held our production together.

Melissa Velazquez helps me get the mirror straight

Honestly, as crazy as it was, I’m really glad I took on this project. Not only will it beef up my reel, but it was also one of the most affirming sets I’ve ever been on. Every person on set came up to me at some point and told me how amazing everything looked, and Nolan Anderson (the Director) and Nolan Scott (the DP) were fantastic guys to work with. Both were really respectful and thoughtfully intentional with what the visuals should communicate in the story.

Also, special shout out to Brynn Mitchell, our Script Supervisor who stepped up to be an honorary Artie, and Jessica Tonti, Rebecca Jane Purdy, & Laura Semin who helped us out with both set-up and tear-down of the convenience store.

our director, Nolan Anderson, having fun with cast between takes

And having to do almost everything myself taught me something – it taught me that I can do it. It made me remember why I love Production Design so much – I get to create worlds, and that’s amazing.


Obsidian · Uncategorized

Obsidian: Origins

Last semester, right around November, a guy named Elijah Chandler asked me to be the Production Designer for his senior thesis film called Obsidian. I happily accepted because not only was working with Elijah the best part of my Biola Film class that semester, but I usually don’t get asked to do Art Department stuff for film sets. I usually get stuck on crafty because I was a little too good at cooking for people on Incoming! I’m trying to fix that. I accepted Elijah’s offer, and he did a happy dance and hugged me, and, well, here we are.

I started thinking about it/working on Obsidian over Christmas break. It’s a short film that aspires to lead into a feature about a 20-somethings guy named Ethan who is trying to process through abuse from his childhood in the fantasy world he has created in his head. Each character in the film has a counterpart in his fantasy world, so Ethan is the Prince of the Kingdom of *say it with me* Obsidian (roll credits 🙂 ).

Designing this is a challenge because I have to design essentially 2 different worlds – Ethan’s real world, and Ethan’s fantasy world. Both need to make sense so the viewer doesn’t get yanked out of the story. Both designs need to have enough room to grow into a feature, but they still have to be feasible for a little student short film.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Meetings –  meetings over dinner with Elijah the writer/director, and Anna Matz his girlfriend and co-writer,  meetings with graphic designers, potential Art Directors, other Production Designers and one big meeting with the current production team. The good news is we’ve pushed principle photography to August. The bad news is that we need funds. Here’s the result of one of my meetings with an artist named Rebecca Patton: Rebecca       Isn’t that fantastic? That’s the castle made of Obsidian that I see in my head. It’s Ethan’s castle – a mixture of Japanese and German architectural trends that underscore the different perspectives on dragons between eastern and western cultures that serve as a metaphor for Ethan’s struggle with his sexuality (isn’t this fun? i think this is fun). I don’t want to give everything away, but I do want to show off some of my thought process – I want my design to contain visual metaphors that clue the viewer in to the deeper realities of what is going on


  • Daydreaming and surfing Pinterest & Etsy (yes this does count as work)  – the better I understand what Elijah wants and what I want the better I can articulate that to the concept artists, and to Ashley Popiwichak, my current Art Director. I used all this research to populate a look book linked below (side note: none of the images in the look book are owned by me – sorry!). Obsidian Look Book


  • Making a budget – Ashley and I made a budget for Elijah to help with fundraising. We made a high, low and middle-of-the-road budget (so really 3 budgets total). Ashley got me started with the real-world stuff, and I spent like 12-15 hours finishing it off. It’s super boring, but here’s the middle-of-the-road budget just to give you an idea what we’re looking at and the funding we’re praying for: Obsidian Art Budget Mid-Range


  • Testing out my seamstress skills – I know August is pretty far out, but I want to test out a theory on how to make a princess dress. Specifically this dress, minus the stupid stapled-on sailcloth top:

Ashley's princess dress

(P.S. I found this dress on Pinterest and cannot find any attribution for it on the internet)

So here’s what I’m starting with:

I figure I can use the tiers in the silk skirt as a guide and sew layers on to it. As a bonus, the skirt has an elastic waist, so my actress could be any size and theoretically it will still fit. That’s probably not my final top (and I bought a gorgeous gold and cream obi to tie top and bottom together) but that is my new dress form. Her name is Ophelia.

Sorry this post is so long – thanks for sticking with me! There will be updates on my progress to come 😀


“Graduating Senior”

It’s a wonderfully terrible thing to be referred to as a “graduating senior”. On the one hand, never having to pull an all-nighter to finish another paper sounds wonderful. On the other, not knowing what you’ll be doing next year because up until this point the answer to that question has always been, “school, of course” is kind of terrifying. We go to school from the time we’re 5 or 6 years old (sometimes 3 or 4!). It’s been as close to a constant as anything else, and suddenly it won’t be anymore. Suddenly we have to go out and find a career somehow in an economy that still hasn’t fully recovered among a populace who uses our generation as an example of everything that’s wrong with the USA.

I’m not whining about this – just stating facts. Whining is when you loudly wallow in the negative feelings and do nothing about whatever problems brought those negative feelings in the first place.

So, here’s what I’m doing about it. I’m working on several different projects to add to my reel and to my professional skill set. I’m managing locations for Brandon Douglas’ senior thesis film, “Hexit” (also, doing crafty for it). I’m Art Directing Melissa Velazquez’s senior thesis web series pilot called, “The Locket”, working under the Production Design guidance of Shealynn Waller. I’m Production Designing Elijah Chandler’s senior thesis film, “Obsidian”, which he’s hoping to turn into a feature film. And last, but certainly not least, for my own senior thesis, I’m writing a feature-length script I’m calling, “Silence & Sound”.

I have a couple loose ends to tie up with a few other projects I have as well – photos from trips to edit (like the one here from Dover, England), short films of my own to polish up and post, and some more spoken word pieces to release to the world. We’ll see how much I can accomplish before I take a walk down a stage that will change my life.