By now I really hope you’ve seen the epsides of “Divine: The Series” that are online. If you haven’t, go there now and take a wild ride.
This cutting edge web series continues to delight fans – a.k.a. Divinites – and a new installment in the series will be available online soon. Production Designer, Robert Leader took some time to answer some of my questions about the signature “look” of “Divine: The Series.” Robert also handed over some great behind-the-scenes shots for enthusiasts. Throughout the interview you can see shots of the Mission and of Divine’s room.
AM: Where was Divine: The Series filmed?
Robert: Divine was filmed on what used to known as the street set for the film Watchman located here in Vancouver BC. (It’s actually located in Burnaby; one of the adjacent municipalities of Vancouver) It’s one of the few standing exterior sets solely used for filming in the greater Vancouver area. Many productions, both film and TV have used this location over the last few years. It gave us the opportunity to film the entire series in one location so as not to incur additional expenses moving the entire crew and equipment all over town. The wet west coast weather has done much to help give this a well used look that really helped in creating the kind of mood that we were looking for.
AM: Were sets created for the production or just altered?
Robert: We used, for the most part, the existing sets on the lot and added what we needed as the scene or action required. It’s amazing what a little paint and set dressing will accomplish. Things such as the stained glass windows, altar and church confessionals were added to the Mission set, lamp posts, signage and street dressings for the street scenes and a lot of cosmetic coverups for the cabin and the Deacon’s office. We were very fortunate to have a location that gave us so much as a jumping off point.
AM: What are some of the tricks used when creating a world as “dark” and “mystical” as the one Divine is set in?
Robert: The great thing about garbage is that it’s cheap and plentiful. The fact that Divine is set in the seedier parts of the ‘city’ gave us a great opportunity to create a dark, and gritty environment. Poorly lit streets, dodgy alleyways and unscrupulous storefronts really helped to create that feeling that we were looking for. By contrast the interiors are, for the most part quite warm and inviting despite the strange, supernatural things that go on inside. I wanted the Mission, the cabin and the Deacon’s office to feel welcoming and inviting albeit in a skid-row kind of way; sanctuaries from the crime and filth. It’s because these bloody and disturbing events go on within these refuges is what helps give Divine that creepy edge.
AM: How did you “look” of Divine come about?
Robert: Oddly enough when we [Ivan and the creative team] began talks about the general look of the world of Divine, what eventually became the Mission was originally meant to be your typical gothic stone church. Gradually through discussions and budgetary concerns that idea had to be scaled back. Even though much of the church could have been created with CG (computer generated graphics) the basics set still had to be built. Due to many factors creating a convincing stone church set is difficult at the best of times and nothing looks worse that a poorly executed set no matter how may bells and whistles you throw at it. Because we were using HD format to film the episodes everything had to look good. It became a very creative process to figure out how to tell the story with the elements we had to work with. It was through this process that we came to the idea that the series would be located in a ‘lower east side’ or skid-row of any big city where people on the margins can fall prey to demons.
AM: Visually, Divine is stunning- can you talk a bit about your process? Ie. do you focus on small things, large things, how do you manage to view the set as a whole.
Robert: First of all; Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The process began with many talks and meetings with Ivan and the creative team just to come around to a cohesive look of this world. Reading the script is the obvious first step. A lot can come from that first reading, gut feelings and initial set concepts. Obviously looking at the big picture is a great way to start but small details always work their way into the discussion. I’m a big proponent for having as many details in a set as is humanly possible, despite the fact that many of them will never be seen on screen. Small things like alarms, fire extinguishers (note the one by the baptismal font in the episode “Divine”), light switches etc, these all add to convincing the viewer that this environment exists and that this all could be happening down the street from you.
I want to take the opportunity to thanks all the volunteers from the Art, Set Decorating, Paint and Construction departments for all their hard work and input. Without them this would never have looked as good as it did. This kind of work is so much a team effort and without one of these departments putting in 100% it just wouldn’t have happened.
AM: Your past work is varied – do you have a preference for the type of project you work on?
Robert: As long as it’s creative, I’m in.
I’ve worked in theatre set & costume design, museum work, music videos, film, TV, parades, graphic design… I really don’t have a preference; I love doing it all as long as it tweaks that part in my lizard brain that lets me create something and that I can learn from. If other people enjoy it too… that’s icing on the bundt.
originally posted at affairsmagazine.com