The aim of the project is to test your ability to think creatively and to develop ideas and to produce innovative design outcomes through the inventive use of materials and media. Your challenge is to accept one of the following key roles for a new and innovative stage or screen production of your own devising.
Costume Designer – The Costume Designer will develop and construct either a full costume or a specific, perhaps elaborate single element for example a headpiece, mask or other wearable for a major character in the production.
Specialist Prop/Model Designer – The Prop Designer will develop and construct a specialist prop or model vital for the storyline of the film. This could be anything from a gadget or device, a creature or character to a set design.
Campaign Designer – The Campaign Designer will develop and produce a range of promotional ideas to market and advertise their film. The emphasis should be on the effective communication of the film’s genre / concepts / tone to its target audience.
At the beginning of Week 2, you will be asked to ‘pitch’ your production to staff and fellow students in small groups. Come well prepared with clear visual aids as necessary to sell your concept. Advice on this will be communicated to you in the studios.
Submission Details: A substantial body of work as appropriate to a project of 3 weeks duration that includes thorough development work and a complete outcome that is ambitious in concept and standard of finish.
Growing up, my father always warned me about the ‘lower classes’, I have even had the displeasure of meeting them a few times first-hand. I was once travelling through the city and one came up to me and demanded that I ‘spare some change’, disgusting, he didn’t even offer anything in return, he just expected to be handed wealth. My father had a distaste for the circus, who stole money from us by seducing us with their bright colours and surreal movements, he told me about an experience he had himself when a circus whore lured him in – I’m ashamed to say she was my mother. My father always buried this, but I’ve always had a… fascination with my heritage.
I decided to attend a performance at the nearest circus, I wanted to study how exactly these people were different from us, and how much of what my father said was true. What I saw was a hideous display, filled with inappropriate performances, half the women didn’t even care to wear a proper dress, exposing their legs like some kind of prostitute. Yet I didn’t experience what my father described, so I begrudgingly had to study further. I hate to use the term ‘run away and join the circus’ but that’s exactly what I did, I joined them.
Over the following things I learned so much about our brothers from the circus, many of them were so unusual to me when I first heard about them, but undeniably the truth. First, and most bizarrely, they didn’t care about money. As long as they had food to eat they were happy. The clothes whey wore and the structures they lived in were finely crafted, but they didn’t pay an experienced crafter to make them – they made them themselves! In fact if they charged for these talents properly they probably wouldn’t need to be in the circus, which brings me to my second point… they like being there. Bizarrely, most of them expressed preference at staying at the circus and, if given an opportunity, would not live in a palace. Not all poor people have skills needed to work at the circus however, and what little profit the circus earns is given to them, at first I thought this was a waste but there’s something heart-warming about the amount of gratitude they possess. I thought lower classes knew less than us, but I’ve learned new things, including a new word: ‘thanks’.
I feel… welcome here. Don’t get me wrong, they thought I was some kind of monster unduly just because I came from a palace, but eventually they learned to accept me and my differences. I’ve done what I can to do the same. Especially the ringleader – despite being a woman she has the leadership capabilities of a man and people look up to her, but still has her gender’s inherit sensitivity only when the time needs it. She hated me at first, but now treats me more like family, like a son, than my family ever did. These people have next to nothing but are connected by a level of love for one another that I’ve never seen before, even though most of them aren’t even related. I was always shunned for being ‘different’, but here differences are embraced, loved, and shown to the world.
I finished my thesis a few days ago, and have no reason to stay, and yet when I look at the friends I’ve made and things I experienced, I find myself longing to stay and learn more. Maybe I’ve been lured in, played and tricked like my father was, maybe I’ve just found the place I was destined to be.
I also spent some time researching apparel inspired by the circus and 18th century fashions, which were the main themes for all the characters.
We were asked to provide extensive visual aids for the pitch, so I drew out rough references of each of the characters. I started by making rough sketches and decing which character would be accociated with which colour.
This totalled 10 circus performers and 3 nobles, although I knew that most of them wouldn't be developed beyond this stage.
I also did some 'concept art' to try and present the contrast between the grey city nobles and the bright colourful circus.
I decided to primarily focus on the main characters. The Lad and The Ringleader. Their relationship is the primary backbone of the story and their designs were the most fleshed out beforehand. I drew more specific turnaround reference sheets to view their designs better. Around this point I decided not to focus on the outfits but the characters as a whole, moving from the Costume Design outcome to the Prop/Model Design.
Although The Lad was the protagonist, I saw The Ringleader as the more marketable character and recognizable character who represents the circus as a whole, so I focused on her first. Her primary outfit consists of a typical ringleader/18th century riding gear with a top had, primarily blue but with accents of gold. Her design incorporates elements from a ring-tailed lemur, but is primarily based on a gazelle - before she was the ringleader she was an acrobat, and she is still a person of precision and grace, so I wanted an outfit that wasn't too intrusive.
She has long, blue hair, which she keeps tightly in a bun throughout most of the story. I am a big fan of hair as a symbol of character development, so when she lets it down in the finale it shows how she has become more comfortable with her past and no longer feels inclined to hide things. At this point, she also stops wearing a binder and has looser, more feminine clothes. By the end of the story her hair is cut shorter, it wasn't in-character to keep her hair in the way but I didn't want to put it back in a bun.
...it was around this point where I realised that doing a 3-point turn was more time-consuming than it was worth.
‘The Lad’ is the main character in the story and the audience surrogate. He is a boy from noble heritage who wishes to join the circus so he can study the differences between the lifestyles. At the beginning of the story his appearance is typical of the other nobles, featuring saturated colours and detailed outfits. The only exception is his eyes, which are purple, hinting at his association with the circus.
After he runs away, he dons a purple jacket, which serves as strong symbolism for the rest of the story and is the only part of his outfit with a distinct colour. The jacket is coloured like the circus but detailed like the nobles, and is oversized particularly around the wrists, suggesting his struggles of fitting in in the new community and holding onto what he once knew. It is purple for several reasons, primarily because of the rarity of purple dye and it’s associations with wealth and royalty. The purple also serves as a transitional colour between red and blue, extreme warms and colds.
At the end of the story The Lad becomes The Ringleader’s protégé and is appearance changes, not only does he look older but his jacket is modified to match the rest of his outfit better.
When I initially pitched my idea, I had decided that The Lord would be the main antagonist and The Lady - The Lad's step-mother - would be a rather minor character. However, later I realised that The Lady would make a more interesting foil to The Ringleader and it would be important to include her alongisde The Lad to show the transition.
The Lady is disciplined, well-spoken and reserved, wearing elegant, rich, detailed but saturated clothes like all the other nobles. This contrasts with The Ringleader who wears thin but bright clothing, and who is very liberal in how she acts. The Lady is powerful and rich, but gets little respect because she is a woman, The Ringleader is respected although not powerful or rich and despite being a woman. The Lady only has one outfit, because she isn’t as major a character as the other two and doesn’t go through as much character development.
The brief required us to construct a physical prop, so I looked into creating a 3D model of the main characters. My initial idea was to create movable armatures that could be used in stop-motion, but I decided to focus on better-quality static images.
The first material I decided to experiment with was FIMO clay. Although this had the best results, the material was very expensive and required cooking so I could only use it at home. I made some prototypes of character’s heads and body parts, as I was cooking them, I set the oven to the wrong temperature and was seconds away from causing a toxic-plastic fiery mess. Luckily I was able to save the figures (and my flat) but was too shaken to use FIMO again.
I painted the models using standard acrylic paint. I decided to add hair using some wool roving I had too hand which, while not the exact texture I wanted, helped add variety to the design. I also used the roving to felt a head and was quite happy with the result. At the time I decided it would be too difficult to achieve the desired result, but looking back I wished I had made the models with the felting as it would have been more unique and interesting.
Next I moved onto DAS clay. I had used it before and didn’t like it. I’m not quite sure why I expected it to be any different. However, past experiences had taught me it was sturdier than air-dying clay after it dried. I found that while the clay was easy to model, getting two different parts to attach was difficult, and my first experiment around a wire armature wasn’t very successful as it cracked around the joints. However, I did like the effect of adding small bits of wire for details.
Unfortunately, time was quickly becoming of the essence, so I decided to continue using DAS clay. I soon found that creating chubbier, smaller models was a lot easier and focused on modelling the shapes rather than attaching bits of clay to each other. I did The Lad this was first, and finding that it worked very well, proceeded to make the other two. As annoying as the clay was, it had a very papery texture and could actually be rolled out and cut like paper, which worked exceptionally well for the clothes. I am particularly happy with how The Lady’s dress came out, as it was built over a wire armature to save on clay (and drying time).
I then painted the models like the FIMO, adding accents with a gold pen and acrylic pens, and then the hair using wool roving.
Overall, I am not very happy with the final result. I love the development work, particularly the digital character turnarounds, but translating it to 3D leaves a lot to be desired. If I had had more time and materials I probably could have experimented and practiced more, or found an alternative way of working that would have played to my strengths.