Tag Archives: Art Director

VFX Producer Julia Kerguelen Nails it Big Time on Madonna’s new “Dark Ballet” Music Video

Julia Kerguelen
Art Director Julia Kerguelen shot by Lenoir Studio

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Madonna’s new music video for “Dark Ballet,” which dropped on June 6, then you are definitely missing out. The video for the song “Dark Ballet,” a single off her upcoming album, “Madame X,” pulls inspiration from French Catholic saint Joan of Arc, who’s played by African American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco in the video.

Madonna, the fourth best selling music artist in the world, is known for her ability to push the envelope and continually shock viewers with her music videos; and she does not disappoint with “Dark Ballet.” Set in a monastery, the video is symbolic of the cruel persecution of minorities at the hands of the patriarchy, with Mykki, as Joan of Arc, being jailed and burned at the stake. Madonna, who only works with the best in the industry, has a solid reputation for delivering strikingly powerful and highly cinematic music videos, and it was no different for “Dark Ballet.”

Internationally known art director and post-production supervisor Julia Kerguelen, who hails from France, is one of the key figures behind some of the video’s striking visual effects. Coming on board the music video as the post-producer in charge of VFX production, Julia, who was surrounded by an amazing team of VFX artists, oversaw the creation of many of the video’s key visual effects, such as the smoke, flying particles and flames that envelope Mykki’s body while he’s bound to the stake.

For the video, which already has upwards of 2 million views on YouTube, Julia worked through Mathematic Studio, a Paris-based animation, VFX and motion design studio that is known for other high-profile projects such as the music videos for Snoop Dog’s “So Many Pros” and Brodinski’s “Can’t Help Myself,” as well as projects for Cartier, Nike, Hennessey, Dom Perignon, Peugeot and more.

Julia, who was also the post-production supervisor on upcoming commercials for Armani and Van Cleef & Arpels, brings a pretty impressive skill set to the table so it makes perfect sense that Mathematic Studio chose her as the post-producer in charge of VFX on “Dark Ballet.”

“I think I have a good creative eye and I understand quickly where the creatives and the client want to go. Also I know exactly what we need in order to do something and I can anticipate and give advice on how to avoid tricky situations… I can check every media we receive, I can review what’s wrong in our work, etc. I know how to make tough decisions and work in a fast-paced environment and keep the pressure on myself so my team can work in good conditions and have great artistic results.”

Though Julia has undoubtedly proven herself to be an exemplary leader and skillful creator in her work as a VFX producer and post-production supervisor, she is first and foremost, an art director. Over the years she has been sought out as an art director on a slew of illustrious projects, such as Renault’s 2012 International convention of Renault business owners at the Geneva Car Show, the Airbus Pavillion at the 2015 and 2017 Paris Air Show, Valeo’s immersive exhibition at the 2016 GreenBox eXperience in Berlin, Michelin’s exhibition at the 2010 BIB Worldwide Exhibition, L’oréal’s exhibit at the 2007 International Hair Fair and many more.

Julia Kerguelen
Julia Kerguelen’s designs for Michelin

The connecting theme in much of Julia’s collective body of work is that many of the project she leads as an art director exist in the sphere of events and live shows; and there’s a reason she’s continually tapped for such high pressure projects.

She says “I used to work and prefer events because of the stage and the ‘one shot’ thing. You can’t fail, everything should be perfect ‘cause you don’t have a second chance.”

Julia’s finesse and affinity for art directing massive events stems from her early years on stage. At the age of 14 Julia began performing as a comedian on stage in a small town in the Brittany region of France where she grew up.

She recalls, “It was like a revelation to me! I felt that I had a lot to express, on stage as a dancer and a comedian. When I am on stage I cannot hide myself and I don’t need to… I can share my emotions, my stories, my colours, my way of seeing the world… I guess arts became obvious to me when I started being on stage.”

It didn’t take long before Julia relocated to the metropolitan city of Paris where she continued performing on stage as a comedian, actress and dancer; however, while in search of a more stable career, she discovered her passion for graphic design. Creating a strong foundation and reputation for herself as a graphic designer, Julia quickly moved up the ranks and was soon being called in as an art director.

“I start by analyzing the needs of the client, what is the brand, what they have to say, why they want to communicate this way or not, what are their products and what is the purpose, etc. Then when I have all this information and can see the big picture, I will write a story,” explains Julia. “Something to inject meaning, to give birth to the product as something with a soul and a purpose, to give emotions to the audience. I like to think I’m like a storyteller but with images.”

Considering Julia’s background on stage combined with her unparalleled vision when it comes to branding, she was the perfect art director to lead projects for well-known theatre company, Broadway in Paris, led by director Michael Pereira.

Michael says, “I have had the pleasure of working with Julia on a few things. She is the creator of my brand logo Broadway in Paris™. She and I collaborated on the idea and she made it come to life. I am so happy with the outcome. Later when I was searching for a project manager for my next big project, the French version of Pippin, she was the only person I wanted.”

Julia Kerguelen
Julia Kerguelen’s designs for Broadway in Paris

Knowing her history of top-notch work, Michael hired Julia to serve as the supervisor on set, art director and editor on the promo video for Broadway in Paris’s productions of  “Pippin” which use vaudevillian numbers to tell the story of a man in search of fulfillment.

“As I am very familiar with dance and I know post-production, [Michael Pereira] asked me to help him with the editing,” explains Julia. “I reached out to the cameraman, sent him some examples of framing I imagined for the edit and I tried to supervise the shooting on set to have enough material as dance is complicated to film. As I know some of the choreography it was easier for me to tell him what he should record. After that, I did the transcodes, watched all the footage and did the editing in a very short period of time.”

Julia’s personal history on stage combined with her extensive skill set as an art director, which requires her to have a comprehensive grasp over editing, graphic design, motion graphics, film editing and more, was exactly what Michael needed to create a powerful visual story on film for the company.

Michael says, “What Julia brings is an amazing global idea to this project.  I have never directed live singing and dancing for the camera before and Julia put me at ease and helped me envision angles, cuts and ideas for the camera. Also, her knowledge of movement was priceless to me.  Furthermore, when we went into the editing room her vast knowledge aided us tremendously and the result is a completely wonderful sizzle reel.”

Whether she is working as an art director or in the film and commercial world as VFX producer and post-production supervisor, Julia Kerguelen is a rare creative force who always nails her mark with innovative and seamless designs.

Julia says, “I think that because I am a dreamer I can bring some magic! I mean, there are plenty of artistic directors out there and probably better than I am but I think what makes my vision unique is the ‘vision.’ I am not here just to do some technical stuff or a beautiful image I want to create joy, hope, light, and dreams in the heart and eyes of the audience. I am a multidisciplinary artist and I’ve learned so much about the technical side that I can create everything I want. I am able to find creative solutions even with tight deadlines, short budget and high technical constraints. It’s like a giant playground to me, I know the rules, I just have to enjoy the game and make it count! ”

 

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Art Director Youjia Qian envisions visual spectacle for viral Roy Woods music video

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Youjia Qian

China’s Youjia Qian sees herself as a very perceptual person. She has always been extremely immersed in music and words. As an art director and stylist, she has the ability to take those things and create a visual for them. Through her work, she combines her original style with the needs and wants of those she collaborates with, turning out masterpieces over and over again.

Qian is best known for her work on a number of acclaimed music videos. These include “Devil in California” by Burna Boy, “Death Wish” by DeathbyRomy, and several hits for Gab3, including “Talking to Me” and “Hollywood Angel” featuring BEXEY. She is one of the leaders in her industry in both her home country and abroad and has no plans on slowing down.

“I think being an art director enables me to effectively communicate what I want to express in my heart and show the more profound feelings in the form of a visual. I want to present what I have seen and what I have learned and experienced through my work,” she said.

Just last year, Qian collaborated with hip hop artist Roy Woods on one of her most renowned projects to date. The music video for the artist’s hit “Say Less” has amassed over four million views on YouTube alone since its debut in November. It was issued WMG (Warner Bros Label); UBEM, Sony ATV Publishing and CAMERA and four other brands.

“Roy Woods is an artist that I truly admire. I started hearing more about him in the music industry after he signed a contract with Drake. There are so many personal emotions in his music and I also feel that I could feel something that he wants to express in his music. Many of my young friends like his music,” said Qian.

Qian was brought onto the project thanks to her good professional relationship with Gab3, who directed the video. Qian has worked on several of Gab3’s music videos, and he knew she was just the right person to help make Roy Woods’ video a hit. The teamwork between the three artists led the video to enormous success.

“It is so exciting that everybody likes our work and I also hope to collaborate with all kinds of artists again in the future. I hope to continue to reach a wide range of audiences and have my work impact many people.,” said Qian.

As the song “Say Less” is filled with emotion, Qian used that to set the tone for the entire music video. To prepare for the shoot, she spent most of her time listening to the song and all of Roy Woods’ music, to understand just what type of artist he is and what he wanted to express in the song. She decided after her research on a color tone of red. The actors in the music video are filtered by this, and it creates a specific mood that fits right in with the song. Gab3 supported her decision and worked closely with Qian during the shoot.

“We had really good communication as a team. I understood what Roy Woods wanted to express in his music, so I could create what he wanted visually, including the color and the switching of lens,” Qian described. “I like his music, which helped me to have a better understanding of his direction in the project. The people that I worked with on this project were great and I felt very comfortable with, which made the work that much more enjoyable.”

Check out the video for “Say Less” and admire Qian’s outstanding work.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Art Director Cman Wong works with award-winning film composer on captivating video

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Cman Wong

Always interested in all things art and design, Cman Wong was, in a way, destined to be an art director. Although she did not always expect to express her passions in the form of advertising, she found it a way to explore her creativity in a way she never thought possible. When creating dynamic visuals for the world’s largest brands, she feels a thrill.

“It’s a fancy job title with the responsibility beyond the job title. As an Art Director, you’re basically responsible for all visual elements of a product or campaign, from the presentation deck to the overall look and feel. You have to provide a visual direction that not only is eye catching, but also relates to your target audience and divert the message through it,” said Cman.

As an in-demand Art Director, Cman is consistently impressive. She has worked on projects for Marvel, Ferrari, and Undercover to name a few. She is always stimulated by her work and finds that although it may seem like she simply works in marketing, she is truly an artist.

Cman has also had the opportunity to work with acclaimed artists and filmmakers throughout her career. In December of 2016, the Art Director collaborated with Tan Dun, an Academy Award and BAFTA Award winning film composer and conductor. This experience was one of Cman’s highlights of her career.

“It was such a great honor to collaborate with such a prestigious composer like Tan Dun. It is one of my favorite experiences in my career and my life as a whole. Cross discipline collaboration has expanded the possibility and audiences of my work. It was another example to prove the boundless and flexible art I could make,” said Cman.

The project in question was that of the Modern Media National Spirit Achievers Awards 2016. The National Spirit Achievers Awards was first issued in 2007. It is a pioneering work of the Modern Communication Group to carry out “Everything Monthly” sincerity for the eternal moments of the times. It aims to recognize Chinese leaders who have achieved excellence in various fields and created an era. Eighty-one creators, including IM Pei, Fan Jin-shi, Xu Bing, Tan Dun, Ye Jintian, Zhang Yimou, Mao Yuchen, Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi, Ding Lei, Jia Zhangke, Chen Qigang, Huang Yongsong, and Lang Lang, were honored with awards in fields such as art, music, film, architecture, business, education and more. Nowadays, the National Spirit Achievers Awards has become an award with outstanding influence. Each awards ceremony has also become a glorious moment for elite leaders from all walks of life to meet.

For the ceremony, Cman provided the art direction on the video content for the main performance, setting the overall artistic style and visual image. In doing so, she developed key frame content that transformed the audience’s experience, adding another level of entertainment and layer of enjoyment to the performance. Rather than simply listening to the music, they had a visual spectacle created by an artist like Cman.

The video visualized the rhythm of the music in a poetic way. It was inspired by the music and culture of Tibet and Chinese traditional performance. In the breathtaking opening scene, dust begins moving, followed by a cinematic Chinese opera theme form in the 13th century during the Song Dynasty and digital ink Chinese painting scene. It reformed the best image of traditional Chinese Art in a modern way.

The response for the video was tremendous, and Cman personally received not only great feedback from the client, but also the audience who were completely immersed in her creation.

“I like it most because it’s a live performance to see the actual reaction and feedback from the audiences. It’s such a great lesson and inspiration to work at such a high level of international standard performance,” she concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Art Director Phenix Miao helps raise thousands for Itron Battery Crowdfunding

Not many children can grasp the understanding of color and architecture the way China’s Phenix Miao could. At a young age, he was quickly able to spot the small details in furniture and props in daily life. It was a hobby and skill that he quickly realized could transition into a career. Working as a successful Production Designer and Art Director, Miao is now a leader of the industry in China.

Throughout his career, Miao has shown what a dynamic Art Director he is. With his work on films such as Shanghai Sojourner and Lottery, Miao’s attention to detail and vast talent is evident. He also lends his skills to commercial work, recently creating a series of promotional videos for Lepow and another for Itron Battery to promote their crowdfunding. With an outstanding number of viewers online, the Itron Battery commercial is one of his greatest successes in his esteemed career.

“Phenix is a very rare talent with both marketing and artistic sense. We worked closely on the Itron commercial, talking a lot about budget and production. Phenix was vital for the success of the commercial, and even found the location at a very affordable price, which helped the feeling of the film. He helped me to balance the art and budget so well. He is an expert when controlling the costs of everything. Phenix understands the difference between marketing value and artistic value, and he understands people. From his angle and visual aspect, he did a great job making the crowdfunding video look appealing. A crowdfunding commercial should be tangible and amiable, not chasing perfect as a normal TV commercial would. Phenix told me that crowdfunding is not charity, you need to let people feel this is a hopeful product and company. This outlook inspired the team. His outstanding communication skills allowed everyone to clearly understand what we were doing. He is a great leader and creator,” said Alice Fan, Producer.

The Itron Battery commercial advertises the company’s portable battery bank, the world’s fastest portable charger. It completely charges in 18 minutes, and within three minutes, one phone can be charged. The commercial showcases the product while still being comical and informative. It features two leading characters, one explaining the charger, and another looking to purchase one. They run through many different scenarios in which one may need a charger, leaving viewers both entertained and in need of the product.

“All the people that worked on this commercial were so professional. We did our work really fast, because we were so familiar with each other. From scene to scene, people just did everything very naturally. There was such chemistry, everything was as natural as breathing,” said Miao.

This commercial was not Miao’s first experience with a crowdfunding style video. He previously helped to raise $217,501 USD for Pivot Turingsense crowdfunding, achieving 274% of their goal, and for HiSmart crowdfunding, they reached 531% funded after raising $297,106, with the videos being the main source of awareness. That being said, the Itron commercial was by far the most successful, with hundreds of thousands of views online and reaching 706% of their goal by raising $289,472. It was also an Official Selection at the 2016 International Peace & Film Festival in Orlando, Florida.

“I still feel really excited about this commercial. When I hear so many people talk about it, I almost want to run up and interrupt them to let them know that I worked on it. That’s how proud of it I am. It is a big success in three aspects: art, commercial and crowdfunding,” he said.

Miao and the Director of the shoot, Peter “Zhen” Pan, had known each other for ten years when the opportunity to work on the commercial arrived. Miao is the director’s go-to art director and was the first person he reached out to. After reading the script, Miao accepted right away.

“Peter and I are golden partners. He knows I am a great Art Director that is full of ideas and the perfect match for what he wants. He just called me and told me the details about this project and we started working on it that same night. He always gives me enough space and time to design and develop my ideas. He fully respects me,” said Miao.

As the Art Director, Miao was in charge of the overall look for the commercial, selecting the best and most suitable artistic elements while leading the creative team. He designed a concise, natural, and clean aesthetic while controlling the style. He understands the difference between market value and artistic value, setting him apart from his colleagues. For this Itron commercial, he designed the color tone with Pan and knew to keep in mind the difference between a regular commercial and a crowdfunding commercial. He made sure to meet the requirements while planning the artistic elements around the brand, creating a higher brand value for the video. This allowed the product to stick in customers’ minds.

What was perhaps Miao’s most considerable contribution to the commercial, however, was finding the location of Elliston Winery. Miao enjoys working in historical settings, and the winery is no different. When decorating a historical set, Miao plays with the flavor that they bring to the table and plans everything around the atmosphere they possess. His passion for the location was passed onto the entire cast and crew. They treated it like their homes, making sure to respect every piece of furniture and brick in the building. Such respect for his setting and its parts is a main reason Miao is such a formidable artist and leader.

“I have been Phenix’s Assistant for years, but I also see him as my guide in my film career. He is not only in charge of the art department but is also a tremendous team leader. He understands style and perfectly controls the appearance of every image. Phenix is a great mentor and teaches me all of his techniques and knowledge. He is a talent but also very easy going. Phenix always knows how to take a director’s idea and turn it into something special. He knows how to make the effects suitable and always has new, practical ideas that come from his plethora of experience. I think the fact that he has also worked as a director and writer allow him to understand the role of the art director even better, and it sets him apart from the rest,” said Qin Zheng.

Watch the Itron Crowdfunding commercial here.

 

Photo taken by Peak City International Film Festival, Phenix Miao and John Whitaker

By Sean Desouza

Art Director Hanna Petersson brings unique touch to packaging

Hanna Petersson is not like other art directors. She is constantly adapting, looking for a new challenge with each new day. Her style is influenced by her Swedish heritage. Scandinavian design is very scaled back, simplistic and focuses on form and function together rather than just putting things into a design solely as decoration. For Petersson, each part of a design must have a purpose, and if it does not, she knows exactly how to give it one. That is what makes her such an outstanding talent, and why she is known internationally for what she does.

At just 23, Petersson has put her artistic touch on some of the world’s largest brands. She has collaborated with many teams, creating imagery and customer engagement for Samsung, Swedish Match, and more. Her artwork captivates, and her individual exhibition at the House of Culture in central Stockholm garnered a lot of attention and earned her quite the fan base. She uses illustrations to tell a story, and uses her talent to help many brands increase sales.

“As an art director, it is incredibly important to research the client and the target audience and to create content based off of this that is rooted in facts and human truths. A design can look amazing, but unless that design is perfectly suited to the client and target audience the design is useless. What I need to make sure is that I always do my homework on whatever project I may work on, that I am passionate about it, and that I make sure that every detail is perfect before going into the physical production of the idea. The art director comes up with an idea and is in charge of directing it all the way from idea to finalized product. It is a great responsibility and a big challenge, but also incredibly rewarding and interesting to work on,” Petersson described.

Having worked with reputable retail agencies like WorkShop and Grey, Petersson also recently worked with AdPlant. With the company, she worked on a variety of projects to create visual development and branding for big companies, which will be released next year.  Although the official projects can’t be mentioned for this reason, Petersson’s work with the company astounded all she worked with.

“Hanna is an excellent creative talent. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Hanna as both an illustrator and a communication creative for AdPlant network. She is a quick, smart person who pays attention to details in her handicraft. She is a warm and kind person who will ‘run that extra mile’ to deliver pitch perfect creative work,” said Marcus Enström, Founder of AdPlant and Lead Creative.

Petersson’s work greatly impressed AdPlant’s client. Despite not yet being released, the project she worked on has already had a lot of success, and the client is looking to have similar projects follow this one. They know it will be a hit, and they want to work with Petersson and AdPlant again after such a successful collaboration. The product category is one of the most sold in Sweden, and the designs Petersson has produced are one of a kind. They will undoubtedly increase sales and attract new customers to try the product. Petersson knew exactly how to please the company and potential customers at the same time, which is quite the challenge for many art directors.

To do this, she first had to identify exactly what was needed. In this case, it was a series of packaging designs with a unique set of illustrations that she would produce. She then needed to create a new set of color combinations to be used that would not only communicate the right feeling, but also easily convey what the product is and what it stands for. According to Petersson, designing a series of new products within the same category means that they must all be similar to each other and feel like a series, but they need to stand out from each other and be the most unique at the same time. Finding that balance takes some time and a lot of work goes into just coming up with an extraordinary amount of different variations and suggestions that then will be used to decide exactly what the finished product should look like. The process took Petersson quite a long time, because the client wanted to make sure that they were a part of the process every step of the way and got their say in the final product. As Petersson is known for her excellent communication skills, this was not a problem, and she knew exactly what they wanted before they even had to say it.

“This was a blast to work on because I really got to improve a design style I had dipped my toes in not too long before. What was also great was that I knew that these designs would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people in their everyday lives and that my work would be one of the main reasons for the success of the products,” said Petersson.

After seeing Petersson’s previous designs, Enström approached the art director knowing she would be a necessity for the success of his upcoming project. Petersson had previously done a project where she designed and sold apparel through her own shop. These designs were unique, and the founder of AdPlant later found the project in an online shop and asked her if she was interested in working on a project using a similar style of design. Despite working on other projects at the time, Petersson said yes to AdPlant. She was immediately interested in working on the project when she heard about it, and wanted to work on a packaging design project that would be a vital part in the sales of a company. She knew she would be able to influence what the design of the product category could look like and innovate the category from what it was at the time.

“It was very nice to hear that a company was interested in my designs and talents and therefore I was very happy to work on the project from the start since I knew that they wanted me specifically and therefore trusted my opinions, which let me have more freedom in my work and to really push the designs further,” said Petersson. “That I got this responsibility was a great honor and it really allowed me to trust more in myself and my skills. Not only was this a great project from an art perspective, but also from a work experience perspective as I got to communicate with a very large, international company and that they got to see my work directly,” she concluded.

Petersson’s advertising experience and her natural artistic talents make her the perfect art director. She will undoubtedly continue bringing success to anything she works on, and is definitely one to watch.

Art Director Ji Young is vital to success of new film ‘The Sacred Mushroom Edition’

“There are few films that show how much the art department pays attention to details. In the film Room, the art department team studied the sun’s movement and bleached the part of the wall where the sunlight comes through the shed’s skylight and hits. They believed most of the objects inside the room should have some sort of stories because the five-year-old main character personifies every object. In Danish Girl, the set starts with the gloomy grey bedroom in Copenhagen where the main character couldn’t find his real identity, and then it shifts to a colorful room with beautiful floral pattern wall and Art Nouveau style architecture in Paris where he finds his real identity as a woman and starts blooming. I love art directors who are storytellers, who transfer the words into imagery by conceptualizing, using imagination, and creating the mood with emotion, style, and feeling,” said Young.

When Ji Young Lee talks about what it is to be an art director, one immediately understands that this is someone who not only loves what they do, but someone who appreciates every intricacy of their craft so fully that their passion and commitment are unrivaled. Young wanted to be an art director because she wanted to create a world that affects people who are watching the film; she thought it was fascinating that she could make the background world that helps people believe the story, whether it is real or fantasy. This is exactly what she does, and this vision is evident on every film that features her name in its credits. Director Ryan Betshart says without Young, he would not have the success he does today.

“Ji was my art director for two projects, the first being Paper Chase, a music video that has played Ann Arbor Film festival, which was a highlight of my career. Ji did so well and was so exciting and thoughtful to work with that I hired her for my next short film The Sacred Mushroom Edition,” said Betshart. “Working with Ji helped my career so much so that I intend on hiring her again on all my future projects. Her attention to detail is second to none – no one has an eye for set design like her – meticulous yet on budget and fast, a true professional. Her communication with the other departments, as well as with her own crew is clear and effective in ways I have rarely seen on set. Things get done, and so quickly and quietly one would think magic was being used to make everything perfect. Does this make Ji a magician? Does she have magical powers like a sorcerer? I’d say yes. Everyone on set respects her. The actors love her. She is the first to show up and the last to leave. I wish I had met her sooner, my previous films would all have done much better!”

Such accolades, although flattering, are not what keeps Young going. For her, it is all about her work. The Sacred Mushroom Edition is at the beginning of its festival route, and has already seen tremendous success. It premiered at Portland Underground Film Festival on April 9, followed by the prestigious Mammoth Lakes Film Festival on May 25, the Moviate Underground Film Festival in Pennsylvania on May 28, and internationally at Winnipeg Underground Film Festival in Canada on June 1. None of this could have been possible without Young’s artistic eye, and yet, she remains humble.

“It feels very surreal and exciting to have the film be doing so well. I don’t know much about experimental films, so I had no idea what kind of films our film was going to get chosen with for the festival. I’m just very glad that now I got some experiences in experimental film, which was the world that I never got to explore before and got these great festival opportunities by working with my great friends,” said Young.

The Sacred Mushroom Edition is an ode to the 1978 version of Kenneth Anger’s film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and its peculiar use of Electric Light Orchestra’s album ‘El Dorado’ over images of a ritual orgy between gods. The Sacred Mushroom Edition finds two fallen angels arguing over ELO and their lead singer Jeff Lynne’s affiliated super group The Traveling Wilburys – and his connection to the dark side.

“I watched the original film and loved how stylized the set design was. It was visually stunning and very artistic. Most of the films I’ve worked on wanted the art department team to stick to what’s exactly written in the script in terms of creating the set, but Ryan loved to hear about team members’ interpretation on the script and discuss with them which sometimes led to something unexpected. This film helped me to use more imagination and understand sometimes the filmmaking is less about form or content than it is about context,” said Young.

Although Paper Chase was a music video that focused on more digital manipulation of the video with a minimum set, The Sacred Mushroom Edition was the exact opposite. The film required two different sets, with strong contrasts between the two. The film starts in a backyard, and then it transitions into a darkroom. For the backyard, Young made some colorful choices for the set dressing, because she wanted to create brightness and lightness. For the dark room, she wanted to create some intimate, gruesome and cluttered environment, and therefore put different materials and furniture that had great textures for the set dressing.

“As this film is an experimental film, what it says is very abstract and poetic. The good part is it’s very artistic and unique film, but it could be difficult to understand for the audiences who used to watch the traditional narrative films. Therefore, my job was to provide some sort of device that would allow the audience to connect themselves with the film, so they don’t feel total alienation,” said Young.

There is little doubt as to why Young is considered one of Korea’s best recent art directors, and even less doubt that we will continue to see her name attached to many high-profile l films for years to come.

Ingenious Production Designer Yihong Ding Wraps Production on “Mira”

Yihong Ding
Production Designer Yihong Ding

The striking talent of Yihong Ding as a production designer and art director is literally visible in every project she has touched. She moves seamlessly through the worlds of film, television and advertising; not an easy feat when one considers that the approach a person must take when designing the ambiance of a feature film to match a director’s vision is vastly different from their approach to creating the backdrop of a commercial meant to persuade an audience of consumers.

Originally from Shanghai, Ding studied in London and eventually got her master’s in production design at the world-renowned American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Since then, she has been hard at work on an ever-growing list of projects. To ensure each film, show or commercial conveys the right mood and feeling, she works closely with the director of the production to capture and physically recreate their vision. From color schemes to lighting, props to set design, she is responsible for turning the conceptual into the living, breathing worlds we see on film.

Ding has worked on projects ranging from The Birthday Boys starring Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show) to Mandala, the winner of the 2015 Los Angeles International Film Festival award for Best Foreign Film. She’s done several commercials for Diomany high-end lingerie and served as art director of an advertisement for the Microsoft Outlook app. It’s her work on films like Mira however that really showcases her incredible talent for production design and her awe-inspiring ability to create a self-contained world on the screen.

Working on director Amanda Tasse’s Mira, currently in post-production, Ding was given a dual-challenge. First was creating a marine biology research laboratory complete with the appropriate scientific equipment and actual jellyfish tanks. Second, she had to design an intricate “memory wall” which the title character uses to keep a log of her life.

“I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project,” said Ding, who studies every project’s background meticulously to ensure the environment seen on camera is authentic and accurate. “We ended up filming at an empty lab on Catalina Island, and dressing the lab into the jellyfish lab for the story.”

Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in "Mira"
Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in “Mira”

Filming on an island presented its own challenges. Ding had to personally pack all of the glass tubes and prop equipment by hand, and shipping all of the fragile items to Catalina was expensive and required her to closely observe weight restrictions and eliminate any waste in the budget while maintaining the realistic integrity of the set.

“Finding the jellyfish tank was another challenge. They were all costume-made and very expensive,” she said. “I almost had to build them myself, but luckily we found a person that was willing to rent three to us for a really great deal.”

The experience tested and proved Ding’s invaluable ability to balance the creative and financial sides of production design with aplomb. The laboratory she created is so authentic and convincing it’s absolutely indistinguishable from a research facility one might see at a university. While the lab provides the backdrop, the “memory wall” Ding created gives the viewer a personal connection to Mira’s title character.

The character of Mira suffers from a form of epilepsy that causes intense seizures and short-term memory loss of the hours preceding each attack. Mira dedicates herself to studying a species of jellyfish which may hold a cure for her disease, but her condition poses a huge challenge and she has to find a way to overcome the amnesia. So Ding helped design a “memory wall,” which becomes Mira’s method of constantly reminding herself of what’s happened before each seizure.

“She would take a picture right before she knew she was going to have a seizure… and then she would map out all the pictures on her bedroom wall,” Ding described. “It was a very complicated visual graphic to create, and I wanted to make sure that it looked real… and for the very first time I sat down and considered myself as Mira… I started to think like Mira, which was really amazing, because I found myself digging deeper into the design than I normally do.”

Yihong Ding has what many specialists lack: a multifaceted skillset combined with extensive experience in every level of design and the ability to work within any range of budget without ever compromising the quality of the project. From envisioning the conceptual to building the practical, from dressing sets to arranging the details and minutia for the perfect shot, she is a one-woman creative army.