420 • Art Direction

“420” has yet to be completed. Mismanagement lead to continuous problems for both the film itself, as well as the crew. This is not uncommon in the film industry, and regardless, it gave me an opportunity to try and make the most of next to nothing, creating 4 sets (two without any furnishings to begin with), on a budget of $90, including paint. What doesn’t kill you gives you character (well, Nietzsche said, “makes us stronger”, and it certainly did that, but overtime the character build has seemingly outweighed the slight addition of muscle mass gained creating sets for this film).

The location was a slightly furnished home in a Detroit neighborhood, with two unfurnished bedrooms, one of which needed to be a nursery and the other the room of a young, at poverty level couple. The kitchen and living room contained a few pre-existing furnishings, which were altered or “cheated” and added to, as well as the of painting a few choice walls. To acquire items for the sets I largely drove around Detroit seeking the needed pieces off the side of the street. Ha. True. You’d be surprised what people throw out, key props came into existence via this venue.

Other elements I either bought to knowingly return, borrowed from the crew’s rental home in which all the out-of-towners, such as myself, were residing in, or from other crew members. The sets read believable as the home of Alonzo and Tess, a young, struggling couple who are unexpectedly expecting while still trying to learn each other and themselves.

This I feel I accomplished while staying true to my palette statement for the film:

The core ‘roy g biv’ color palette is our pull, with Alonzo and Tess in Red, Amira’s happenings in Blue, Foyd’s debacles in Green, Latino scenarios in Orange and Singh’s loft, love and life relating to his work of a clean/sterile feel through a powdery ‘surgical’ desaturated blue. All of these colors are set to yellow, translated in a sometimes warm, sometimes stale eggshell, off-white.

Ultimately, in color theory vocabulary, we are working from one of three primaries in order to distinguish each individual unique story. Yellow, our core color, intrinsic throughout, and Red and Blue for the most featured/character intrusive stories of Amira’s run-in’s and detached but all to aware family life and Red for Alonso and Tess’s stressed, anguished arrangement. Warm and Cool to fit the intensity of character more within; as well as without. Secondary hues (made from two primarys) for less in-depth stories, with still the intention of warm/cool, reiterating the severity of the character’s relationships. Off of these primary and secondary hue’s are incorporated its complimentary (color opposite in spectrum (i.e. ‘color wheel’)) in a subordinate, desaturated value, set slightly against a muted tertiary (a combination of a primary and secondary colors and also the hues in between the p&s on either side of the color wheel). 

Here is a small collection of select scenes from this unfinished feature. I was only responsible for the Art Direction on the scenes involving the young expecting couple, unfortunately this clip does not include all scenes regarding these characters.

Erika was an absolute pleasure to work with. Right from our initial contact email she was full of energy and creativity. During pre-production she was full of constant ideas and thoughts that were great to bounce back and forth. During principal photography that constant energy and creative thought came to fruition during the all too common problem solving required in feature film production. It was a grand experience that I look forward to having again.
Jesse Lee Cairnie – Director of Photography

Erika worked as hard or harder than anybody on set creating sets from scratch with almost no money. She would be an invaluable asset to any production.
Oliver Tompson, 1st AD

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The Lost and Found Shop • Art Direction

This short film is entered in the Doorpost Film Project where it was one of 20 Finalists. I was also nominated for “Best Art Direction” in the Detroit Independent Film Festival for this piece.

We shot over a weekend with myself (being Art Director) and two PA’s creating the sets the night before shooting. Art Department: first to arrive on set, last to leave.

My intention was to bring a muted, almost faded palette to the film, invoke a feeling of time ambiguousness, and creatively define the “Lost and Found” shop’s inventory, i.e. lost religion, childhood, love, etc.

“Working with Erika in pre-pro and on set was delightful. She utilized every available second to give us the best film possible, and offered creative ideas sparked by her attention to the story. Very resourceful, attentive to detail and a “yes” person to the last breath. A wonderful experience!

– Caleb Slain Director & Editor


Trade Show Booth

The result of a design done satellite in Google SketchUp, with the graphics created and installed by outside sources.


Detroit Opera House Installation

Set: Heaven as a Strip Club – Harold & Kumar 3D

Budget: $600

Task: Hire photographer, models, direct shoot, use result to create “topless angels”, print 40×20, get enlargements to set.