Unit 7 – Reflective Report

I was on the team designing and making A New Brain. The show called for only 3 different scenes so we could make it as simple or complex as we wanted. It’s a show that’s basically just songs from start to finish. So we started with what we thought would be nice and then stripped it all back. I will most likely talk more about design and collaboration as the build wasn’t as hectic or informative.

The first stage was style design. It was tough to nail the show with a style as it’s very chaotic. I analyzed it and just decided that it could be anything, because nearly everything that happens is in the main character’s imagination. I used a lot of research and kind of melded Art Deco with a real-life cartoony look to present to the director. I thought this would work well with something that took place in a hospital in New York, but also not ignore that it was very camp. This idea was rejected, so I moved on to a black and white set up. I really liked the idea of the hospital being in a black space with every prop and piece of furniture being white. In the future I think I’ll always prepare more than one idea. I didn’t have trouble starting again, but it would be nice to have alternatives to present one after the other.

The design of the set was pretty straight forward. I just had to decide exactly what we needed. Laurent and I sat down, read the script and decided what was essential. This was one of my favorite moments of collaboration. By reading the script together we were automatically on the same page. I think this is probably how professional designers work. If you aren’t an actor it’s still important to do a collaborative read, even if it’s only stage directions.

The white card model really helped with getting our ideas out. Everything else was easier after we messed around with it. If you go back and look at pictures of it they even look really similar to the final result. However, I feel that this was barely a group design project. Nobody in our group was really a strong designer so they all just went with almost everything I said. In the future I’d like to have better evaluation along the way while designing; whether that’s from my peers or an employer. I’m doing a commission at the moment and they like to see updates and evidence of why I’ve designed things a particular way.

Then we had the set model to make. I liked the idea of this step, but grew quickly frustrated. My main issue was that we didn’t have the right materials to make things at such a small scale. I’ve talked to people in the industry and when model making they typically have a “kit” of often used shapes and materials. We just didn’t have the time or materials to really make things very accurate so I wasn’t very pleased with the final result. I did the best I could with what I had though. It wasn’t a total loss as it further solidified our design choices. Also the set model became very useful for the director when blocking scenes.

Before we started building we had a lot of housekeeping to do. I took care of most of this. At this point most of the group became disinterested and just wanted to build things. I created a schedule, a build schedule, decided who would lead what project and worked with Magnus on making a price up. The pricing was one of my favorite learning experiences and one I would like to get more familiar with. I know that in the work place it will be really important to have an idea about costs and what you need before you start.

We settled on building an MRI, 8 screens, an MRI monitor, 2 bookshelves, an A-board, and 2 window frames. We had other props to modify, but we really didn’t have that much to build. I did most of the work on the MRI, the monitor, and the bookshelves. I often took the most initiative when starting new projects so many were led by me. Once the build started though, collaboration with the group reduced and made things much easier. There were never many things that required multiple team members to work on at the same time. I enjoyed my time working on things privately. In the work place I think it would be my strength. Given the responsibility to work on my own, I can get a lot done.

I started the build with the bookshelves. I finished them in record time. I know that enthusiasm runs out, so I generally try to get most of the work done as early on as possible. I’ve also learned that a good way to get moving the next day is have a project you can jump right back into. The last thing I want to do first thing in the morning is think. I can work but not problem solve. So my system would be to leave a job at the end of the day at a point where I could mindlessly carry on with it in the morning. I found to this help out a lot and keep my motivation up throughout the build.

I then worked on the MRI. I didn’t run into many challenges with it. I’ve gotten a lot better at woodwork since the start of the course and the MRI was just soothing and satisfying construction. It was also easy because I had technical drawings to work from. It was an interesting situation because I was working from Magnus’ technical drawing and he was working from mine. I easily put the most work into the MRI. I worked on lots of other side projects, housekeeping and a bit of stuff on the witches, but the MRI was my one large responsibility.

In the end I found most of the building for this Unit really soothing. I found the teamwork stressful, but I think I handled it really well for what I was given. I didn’t start any fights; I still communicated when angry; and got a lot of work done along the way. One of my few complaints was that I wish I could have helped out more with the Witches of Eastwick build. They had a bit more interesting of a brief. I do however know that one of my strengths is making things look a bit cleaner so I didn’t mind working on A New Brain. I think the only problem I had was a bit of a rut in motivation about halfway through the build. I figured out what I needed to do to fix that. I’m glad that in the future I know all I need to do is pace things correctly. I’m not a fan of musicals, but I have to say, in the end it was satisfying to see the things I made being used on set.

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