Archive for the ‘Suzuki Ingerslev’ Category
Two weeks ago, at Comic Con, I met with True Blood’s incredible set designer, Suzuki Ingerslev and Art Director, Cat Smith, who was with Suzuki, to discuss some of the sets on True Blood.
I first met Suzuki and Cat at their colleague Audrey Fisher’s Costume Design Panel on Friday night at Comic Con. I went up to her in the audience before the panel began and we agreed to meet that night for an interview in her hotel room. I found both ladies incredibly interesting and just like all the other True Blood people, extremely generous and friendly.
Below is my interview:
What do you think of Comic Con? Have you ever been here before?
Suzuki: Actually, this is my second time here; we came when True Blood wasn’t even out yet. We knew there was going to be a panel, so Cat (Catharine Smith) dragged me down saying “It’s going to be amazing.”
Were you working on True Blood then?
Suzuki: We were, but nobody had seen it yet, it hadn’t aired. We thought, let’s go to the panel, but when we got there the line was around the ballroom and we thought, there’s no way we are going to get into this panel and so Cat panicked and went to the security and said, this is the production designer of the show, you have to let her in. And, with that, they let us in.
It was an interesting experience and we loved seeing all the costumes. And like today, when we stood in line for the Costume Designer’s panel (colleague Audrey Fisher was in it) and there was a woman wearing a Sookie Stackhouse outfit.
But you have tickets for tomorrow’s True Blood Panel, right?
Cat: No. Suzuki does, but not me. I’ll try to get in. [Update: I saw Cat on Sunday morning and she did get into the panel. So for those of you who had trouble getting into panels, know that it's no easier for members of the crew].
The Authority headquarters – what kind of instructions did you get to make that set?
Suzuki: Over the summer, I heard that we were building vampire headquarters. At the time, I was told that we would be building something with ancient walls and it was supposed to have a big conference room and jails and there was also to be some sort of a shrine to Lilith. Alan Ball was on vacation at that time, so Greg Feinberg and I were trying to muddle through it and figure out what to do. Eight years ago, I was in Turkey and Istanbul and there was a cistern across from Haggai Sophia that I thought was amazing. There’s this underground space that is all water and columns and I thought I’d really like to film something like this, that would be really cool.
Do you have a thing with water in your designs because I remember at Queen Sophie Anne’s house in Season 2 when Bill walked across that walkway with water under it; a similar use?
Suzuki: That was already at that house and was just a fluke, so that was nothing I designed.
However in the last episode we see Salome walk across the same sort of walkway?
Suzuki: It’s a nice tie in for sure. What I know is that the water table is really high in Louisiana and New Orleans, so I thought, why not have water in the set, because there really would be a natural run-off somewhere. So, in order to shoot it that way, I had to to get permission from the producers to let me have water on the stage, which I thought was never going to fly, but when Greg saw it he got really excited and said, that’s really cool. And then, we pitched it to Alan and Alan was on board to make this sort of “homage” to vampires. I felt like the scale of the structure had to be huge because you wanted them to feel powerful, but at the same time I wanted to give Alan his ancient walls.
It’s underground, too, right?
Suzuki: Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to be like, cavernous, underground, the cells and the jails are all underground. And, you get the reflective qualities of it [the water effect]. And the furniture, I felt needed to be very powerful and modern and it broke it up so it didn’t feel like a period piece or a dungeon. So by adding the modern furniture and the pops of color I feel it just sort of warmed it up and actually gave them some kind of sophistication.
What difficulties did you encounter?
Suzuki: The water was the hardest part, we really had to figure that out. I wanted the lighting to be spectacular so we worked with the lighting department closely and built in a lot of our own lighting by just finding certain kinds of lights that looked good and would up-light the columns that we could afford to build and buy so many of them and the same with the water elements. Our lighting department designed a certain light that actually goes into that water that can be taken in and out but looks built in. Money is an issue on the show still, even with a big set like that.
Has the budget gotten higher as the years have gone by?
Suzuki: This past season they gave us a decent amount of money for sure, but i dont’ think it’s based on whether the shows a hit, I think it’s based on what we’re building. I think they believed in those two spaces, the faery club and also the vampire headquarters, so that was why we were given the money, they really liked the designs.
Speaking of the Faery Club, what was your inspiration and what were you told to do with that?
Suzuki: That was a more complicated set because lots of people had various different opinions on what it would look like. We had to come to an opinion on, first of all, what the faeries were doing in there, so we worked with Alan with that. Originally, we went with a more modern direction for sort of like a restaurant feel and then we heard it was going to be more like a cabaret show and so we did some research on several cabaret shows in town like “Cirque de Freak,” and “Cirque to Berserk.” So, I thought it would be kind of fun to create an atmosphere that is like a circus and also Moroccan as opposed to one or the other. And, the big faces you see on the set are supposed to be the faeries when they turn ugly. So, you have these beautiful faeries dancing on stage and then, in the background are those faces of what they can turn into, which we saw in the fourth season.
photo source: fangnation.tumblr.com
Today in the Costume panel, the illustrator talked about how they had a hard time coming up with the costumes for the faeries?
Suzuki: They had a tough time with that. They were trying to decide what they looked like and there were so many that it’s expensive so they were trying to figure out how to do the faery club and what they were wearing, more like lingerie vs. no lingerie.
Were you involved with the location from last year for the flashback scene to London 1980’s with Bill Compton and Nan Flanagan?
Suzuki: Yes. On the outside of the club we did a little bit, but not much, but on the inside of the club, we pretty much gutted what was there and brought in sort of an 80’s sensibility with some punk rock stuff. It had those great walls and everything to begin with including that great bar. We put up wallpaper and the mirrors to hide things to make it kind of dated. Our painter, that I’ve worked with for years, he has a band, and they were actually performing in the background and he wrote a song that is playing during the scene.
The one when Bill walks into the bar?
Suzuki: Yes, that’s him on the stage there and he wrote the song. But it is hard efinitely, finding historic things, like the Viking house when we did that, we had to build that because there’s not going to be a big Viking house here in California.
I know that the exterior of the Compton house is a house in Louisiana, right?
Suzuki: Yes, but the interior has nothing to do with the exterior and the exterior facade is now built in Malibu. [They no longer use the house in Louisiana].
This year you had San Francisco sets to do with Pam. I imagine that historic sets are more difficult to do, is that true?
Suzuki: They are tough, there’s not many areas that look like old San Francisco here in LA, so we were lucky to find an historic district near Alvera Street by Union Station. The exterior is always harder than the interior. The interior was filmed at Castle Green in Pasadena. You can always find rooms that feel dated, or you can make them feel dated, but finding an entire street that could pass as San Francisco is hard. For the exterior scenes we had to make due here in LA by putting dirt down to cover a lot of the concrete and asphalt, hide signs, and emergency escape signals.
Was it difficult to find the right places and ambiance for the brothel scenes in Season 5?
Suzuki: No, that one wasn’t, the interior wasn’t so bad. Castle Green was a great choice because it’s one of these structures where they haven’t modernized it, so you don’t have the recessed lights and we just had to cover a couple of smoke detectors, etc. The wallpaper was already there, the colors and then, our decorator brought in some furniture.
Audrey Fisher said today that she uses a lot of black, and doesn’t use red on the humans because she uses so much red on other things, and also there’s the blood. Do you have the same kind of restrictions?
Suzuki: No, I don’t, but I try to mix up the colors and make it interesting because it is easy to fall to using red in this kind of a show.
Well, some of the sets are just so amazing with the attention to detail, like in Lafayette’s House, and Jason’s house, etc. I loved the touch of seeing one TV on top of another, for example. Do you enjoy these sets, too?
Suzuki: Yes, those are fun, I like those character driven sets. The vampire authority is a great set but you look at Gran’s house and all the details that we put into that; it makes it somebody’s home and it shows you who that character is.
True Blood is finished filming for the year and yet there is another season to come. Are you working on anything else now?
Suzuki: I think i’m going to try to take some time off; I’ve been busy the last two years and haven’t had a vacation.
Do you have the 80 hours work weeks that the costume designers have?
Suzuki: No, they have it tougher than we do. We come in early in the morning, but we leave around 6 or 7pm.
Russell Edgington’s house was in Mississippi, but did you build the interiors on set?
Suzuki: Yes. We couldn’t believe that we got to shoot in Mississippi. Cat and I found that on a little boondoggle that we went on. We like going and visiting the places. We couldn’t believe that we were able to film in Mississippi because it was never slated, but that building was so gorgeous that when we showed it to the producers and we said this is where the King has to live and it’s never been shown on another television or feature. It was the first time Longwood was ever on anything.
Special reporter for The Vault Lisafemmeacadienne drove up to Natchez, MS to the Longwood House and did a full report on the set location in Mississippi. To read her story about Longwood, click here.
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It can’t be said to often: the True Blood set designs by Suzuki Ingerslev are exquisite. Ingerslev and set decorator Ron V. Franco created several new sets this season for the Authority headquarters. To the LA Times they explained their decoration choices for the various sets.
Question: How did you come up with the look of the Authority HQ?
Ingerslev: The structure acts as an office building and prison, as well as a residence for some of the more powerful vampire officials, and I thought it should be austere and ancient. The exterior is an existing power station in Glendale. For the main chamber interior, I based the brick walls on a cistern in Turkey and intended for them to have been directly excavated and brought over to New Orleans when Authority vampires were originally establishing their headquarters. The floor plan of the main chamber pays tribute to the layout of a cathedral, conveying a sense of power and history.
Who is supposed to have decorated the spaces?
Ingerslev: The idea is that a professional vampire decorator was hired to ensure secrecy. In reality, our decorator, Ron Franco, chose the furniture, combining a modern sensibility with historic architecture.
Franco: The architecture in the Authority provides such an organic feel that it was necessary to create contrast, decorating with furnishings that were more linear, vampire-like and inviting.
Ingerslev: The set is designed in the same vein as the old Hollywood sets, very stylized and with minimal décor. The whole room revolves around the raised platform bed, placed front and center.
Elevating the bed is a great way to make it a focal point. Shall I presume Salome is going to use it for more than just sleeping?
Ingerslev: We were for a set that would be intimate and highly sexual. The purpose of the bedchamber was to visually portray her historical role as the supreme femme-fatale. I wanted the audience to feel her magnetism and power through the stylized combination of sophisticated colors.
Franco: The opium bed from Tara Design was complemented by a bold colored silk patterned bedspread and shams from Deco Home and a red rug from the Rug Warehouse as well as gold glass lamps and a turquoise glass embellished chandelier from Grace Home.
Ingerslev: Considering who Salome is, I didn’t want the space to be overt, so I quickly discarded the more obvious idea of doing the room in a harem style. I turned instead to a mixture of chinoiserie and Art Deco, two of my favorite influences. The combination turned out to be exotic, historical and commanding. The addition of the gold embroidered organza drapery from American Home Design around her bed was a nod to Salome’s famous Dance of the Seven Veils.
What was the starting point for Salome’s room?
Ingerslev: Finding an inspirational wallpaper can help set the tone of a room and create a relatively inexpensive focal point that can help you choose colors and the style of furniture. We used Schumacher Silk Road Sojourn in the Chiang Mai Dragon pattern, which we featured as mural panels set in Art Deco frames. It is used sparingly but informed all our color choices and makes a huge impact. The rest of the walls are covered in a subdued gold pattern from Astek that doesn’t compete but actually ties the room together.
You have a lot of color and pattern going on. Was it hard to handle?
Ingerslev: I admit the bold choice of colors did make me nervous at first. I found it quite tricky balancing the mix of strong colors and was concerned it would end up looking like a cartoon, but my instinct was that it would illustrate the complex nature of the character and separate her from the corporate atmosphere of the Authority. The furniture was carefully chosen by Ron and deliberately kept simple. We didn’t want to clutter the room with furnishings that would compete with the intricate walls or make the audience dizzy. Also, I figured vampires wouldn’t be sentimental or keep mementos from their long pasts.
Franco: I am hoping that our viewers will observe the use of traditional and contemporary elements. It is important to decorate with elements they may already have and be bold enough to mix with more contemporary decor to achieve a more current look. In this set, for instance, we used a traditional rug to anchor the room but also brought in two very modern rugs, one of which (above) is an old rug that had been bleached and overdyed. The lighting elements are modern versions of very traditional designs.
The authority boardroom is strikingly contemporary despite the seemingly ancient setting. What design lessons can viewers pick up from that?
Ingerslev: Find beauty in simplicity and keep things streamlined, as we did with the light fixtures. Using architecture as a dominating influence, it’s important to keep lines clean and colors monochromatic, but you can have a pop of color like we do with the electric blue upholstery, which is Kvadrat Divina No. 782 from Maharam.
Franco: The lines and textures of the furniture provide a very simple and minimalist framework and do not compete with the antiquated building. We used Yves Behar’s Sayl chair for Herman Miller around the conference table, and lacquer and chrome tables and leather chairs from H.D. Buttercup. Leather, chrome and glass were also chosen to assist with cleaning of the remnants of human and vampire carnage, which makes life much easier for the Authority cleaning crew.
Production designer Suzuki Ingerslev wanted to create a look of old Hollywood glamour for Salome’s bedroom. The Art Deco frieze above the mantle is based on a famous plaque at the entrance to the Folles Bergere building in Paris; it depicts the Russian dancer Nikolska. “It had the right screen-siren style, ” says Ingerslev.
Photo credits: John P. Johnson / HBO
Source: LA Times, HBO Go
True Blood’s Production designer Suzuki Ingerslev and costume designer Audrey Fisher will give live commentary on HBO Connect
Production designer Suzuki Ingerslev and costume designer Audrey Fisher will each give their live commentary on a True Blood season 4 episode to be viewed on HBO Connect.
Suzuki Ingerslev, a native Californian, has enjoyed a 20-year career as an Art Director and Production Designer. Her design credits include Six Feet Under, Shark and all 5 seasons of True Blood. Suzuki’s lists of accomplishments include 3 ADG nominations and 10 Emmy nominations. Although she has had many successes throughout her career she obtains the greatest satisfaction from the relationships she has built with Alan Ball and all the other various creators, writers, producers and craftsmen.
Follow Suzuki’s live commentary of True Blood Season 4, Episode 8 “Spellbound” on Sunday, June 10 at 3pm ET. CONNECT: http://itsh.bo/KYipDB
After graduating from NYU, Audrey Fisher began designing costumes for off-Broadway shows, before returning to her hometown of Los Angeles. Fisher’s was previously on the design teams for That 70s Show, That 80s Show, Twenty Good Years and the football film, We Are Marshall. Audrey is now the Costume Designer for True Blood, enjoying all the joys and challenges of the sexy, bloody, vampy show.
Follow Audrey’s live commentary of True Blood Season 4, Episode 11 “Soul of Fire” on Sunday, June 10 at 6pm ET. CONNECT: http://itsh.bo/KPNhbO
New York Magazine cleverly solicited a series of outrageous dress designs meant to outshine (or outstink) Lady Gaga’s now infamous meat-dress and True Blood’s production designer Suzuki Ingerslev was one of them. She created the design below for Lady Gaga in anticipation of Born This Way, the new album from the pop star.
Suzuki says: “I was influenced by the Chinese opera, where the performers wear elaborate costumes and paint their faces white. I also loved the idea of blood tears that are made out of rhinestones. The vampires on True Blood cry blood tears, and it felt dramatic and appropriate for this look.”
In addition to Suzuki, other fashion designers and cartoonists contributed new Lady Gaga looks. Among them were Jim Lee, arguably mainstream comics’ most successful artist and the Co-Publisher of DC Comics. Also turning in memorably bizarre designs were Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mike Keefe, Eisner-nominated autobiocomics author Ariel Schrag and Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School founder Molly Crabapple.