Monday, November 04, 2013

Behind the Scenes of Before the Dark: Set Design

While everyone is excited about the new Christine Feehan web series Before the Dark because it answers a lot of questions from the book, gives insight to the first Prince of Carpathians and has its own mystery, there's a story behind the story that went on weeks before the shoot.  

What it looked like in the show and what it looked like prior. 

The time period is late 1400's to early 1500's so we got a little flexibility between medieval and Renaissance and we took into account things like the village would be lived in by nocturnal people who could access cultures around the world. There was some ambiguity as well. Did they have dignitaries from other races or places come to meet with the Prince or did they all stay to themselves for the most part? Since they are vampire hunters and vampires looked for human victims we decided that the Carpathians would have to travel sometimes.

We started construction first on Vladimir and Sarantha's home. They lived humbly for the most part, but they are being who love the sensual things of life. So we had pelts and furs everywhere. There was the main receiving area where Vladimir could meet with visitors or discuss strategies and then there was a room that led to their private chambers and was not open to visitors.

Vlad had a man cave. Yes, we gave Vlad his own personal room where he could contemplate the things that matter to him in private. He had his personal items, both sentimental and practical in here as well as him most favorite chair, a dark wood and dark leather chair that he spent a lot of time in. Primarily we see these two rooms when we see Vladimir and Sarantha.

Once the Vlad and Sarantha scenes were shot our team went to work using that same space but redecorating for Lycans. The Lycan seer, Catalina, and her husband Hemming were very different from the Carpathians. They had a traditional bedroom and in many of the scenes with them you can see a white bassinet just inside and if you really look for it you can see the side of a headboard near that.

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The room was decorated for people who live primarily in the day. You'll see antlers and other items you might associate with a werewolf couple. What people may not catch are the things you don't see there. Most Lycans are part of a pack. They travel and work together. And where you get a sense that Vlad and Sarantha are in a village surrounded by their people, Catalina and Hemming are set apart from everyone. That is a clue.

The final set and the only one not shot in the same space that of Yana the human empath. She is human and has human needs. She lost her mother not too long ago and lives alone. So, we gave her a cat. If you look real hard you'll see the cat sometimes. We felt that she would want companionship. She loves interacting with people and was very close to her mother, so we thought she would be lonely and gave her a feline companion. We wondered how many people would think the cat is a familiar, but truly it's a companion. Yana loves animals. Yana loves people. Yana is probably the most beloved person in the history of humans because the Lycans, Carpathians and the Mages all adore her.

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Since Yana is a midwife and herbalist she makes her living selling medicines and herbs. She provides much needed remedies for all races. She's like Florence Nightingale of the paranormal world. She has a beautiful heart and always wants to help people. She is trusted by all just as her mother before her.
Part of her bedside manner has to do with being an empath. She knows how people are feeling and puts them at ease. So, we wanted plants, dried flowers and herbs and lots of candles for Yana. She has an "open door" policy and her home is always at the ready for any unexpected guests. The chair Yana sits in is an antique rocking chair owned by director Sheila English and it was transported to the set each day of shooting.

The two biggest problems with Yana's set design had to do with the fact that the physical space was so small and we still had to fit a camera crew in it as well as actors, and that there was a large electric fence meter that we could not move. So we overcame the ugly device by putting up a patrician and running flowers through the cracks in it.

The location we used is a huge barn. We wanted to have a village look to it on the inside and this was perfect. The barn also had electrical outlets and that was perfect for lighting and plugging in cameras.
It took 6 people to design the set.

Some of the props inside the homes also have interesting stories. The hourglass in Vladimir's home was a gift Christine Feehan gave to all of the readers who attended her FAN event. The map on Vlad's table was hand drawn by Renee Fecher using a historical map of the area around the time the story is set.

The walls were dressed with different kinds of fabric or with table place mats made of wood, stapled across the wall in the barn.

They may call it "movie magic" but the only thing magical about the hard work that went into setting up the rooms was the final product; a room that transported back in time.