Follow YardHype as we take a look into the mind of set designer Petra Vasvari and what inspires her.
Who or what inspired you growing up?
Creativity has been always part of life in one way or another. Growing up my interest mainly revolved around garment design and styling.
As my mum use to work in a factory as a seamstress, whenever she couldn’t arrange childcare she would take me with her. So if there was a free sewing machine, I was making customized pin pads for the workers or hanging out in the construction area to see how the designs developed and of course, to pass the time.
Even though it was more along the line of manual label rather then creative design as such, but I’ve felt drawn to the idea of creating something that you can wear and that is up to you what you make of it. So I think this is where my interest in creative development originates from, if I have to run it back.
Please introduce yourself to the readers, how and when did you first get into cinematography/production work? What kind of training have you had, if any?
I’ve studied Visual Media Production at University Campus Suffolk and I was one of those kids who was constantly figuring out a path and just not being certain about the future. So on my journey, I’ve tried everything from ethnography to editing, costume design, I’ve also worked in hospitality for a while.
I think my real interest in the art department begun after my first set experience, which was a teaser for a feature film proposal. It was an ultra low budget production So there wasn’t much of a department division as such – everyone was helping out everywhere and I was more confused than ever in terms of positions and how film sets work.
One thing that I knew for certain that the most joy I’ve got out of, was when we had to set up the scenes and create a different atmosphere from very limited resources.
Since that day I was targeting art department positions across the UK and with every single project the process of set design become clearer and slowly taught me how things work in the art department world.
On my journey, I would do anything from set dressing, scenic work, props. I took any position within the art department that would allow me to learn more of the industry. One day I applied for a student project as a production designer and since then, there was no turning back.
In set design I like how we get a chance to create a space that (hopefully) tells a story on it’s own; that allows us to explore, build things and craft a visual story as a team.
I think if the set tells a story and the audience can read and understand the environment, and it feels good to watch, then I feel it’s on the right track, and perhaps we did a good job. Although; it’s always hard to feel fully satisfied with your own work. It could easily be a never-ending development. Especially because you learn with time, so you look back and think, “Oh I could have done this differently”.
Everyone is different, therefore they see and visualize things differently. And this is one of the things that makes set design or any form of art I guess, beautiful and interesting, because there is not really a right or wrong way of doing it. There are just different perspectives.
Seeing design as a form of communication and story telling
Even though there is a lot room for creativity within set design, it also requires you to be realistic when creating the space at times. So I would try to climb into the character’s skin, and imagine what she/he would have in the house/office/bathroom etc.
This is not an easy one as I’m personally crazy about patterns and ‘loud’ colors, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is or the director at least.
When I get the script through, I would purposely listen to specific styles of music, visit places or exhibitions that have a similar vibe to the story. These things help me a lot with character reading and visualizing different worlds. I also enjoy just to sit and observe people in everyday situations. Analyze their style and behavior. Besides that, there is a lot of research done on online as well, but I’m kind of a restless one so I can’t sit in front of the computer for very long.
Design development | working close with DP
Every project is different so sometimes director’s would give me a lot of freedom to bring ideas alive, but there are many occasions where they already have a pretty strong vision how certain set ups should look like.
Usually we would work very closely throughout the pre-production process. Everyone has their unique approach and way of executing things in the film industry, but I particularly enjoy when the cinematographer is also involved just as much with the design discussions and development process.
I like to study the shot list beforehand, get familiar with the planned lighting set ups and I think it definitely helps when we share and discuss ideas and get to know each other’s vision besides the director.
So we all know and are happy with the game plan by the time we get to the shoot.
What has been the biggest achievement or award you have received in your career, so far?
:Probably being part of and working with:
Companies/names: EMU Films, Blind Aura Pictures, YouTube, Logitech, Wild Frontier Production, Partizan, PSA, Dead Dog Opera, Tong Zhou productions
Directors/Clients/Actors: Pegasus Warning, Ekat Bork, Alan Badeov, Andrew Haigh, Lili Bordan, Sean Harris, Michel Barnett, Helen Stinger, Brett Fallentine, Manu Gavassi, Angelica Agurbash, Guy Myhill, Vance Burberry
What would be your ideal production/genre to work on and why?
Its hard to name a singular genre that I like the most, each of them has it’s own beauty and pros and cons. I like features because it truly allows you to become part of the story and craft a strong connection through design. Since it’s a longer process it usually transforms the crew to a well-oiled machine and besides that, it’s also a lot of fun. On the other hand, music videos would allow me to experiment more with heavy patterns, colors, projections and textures every now and then.
Personally I’m not too particular about the genres – as long as I feel fired up by the idea, whether it’s the script, the music of the artist, or simply just a concept that I feel connected to some way, that’s all I need to feel, in order to be willing to collaborate on the project.
If you could work with anybody in particular, who would it be?
I have a high appreciation towards Allan Ball’s work. He is a smart man and his way of story crafting and visual ideas are very close to my world.
What would be your best piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers?
One piece of advice that I would give to anyone who is planning to take the film industry route; is not to get caught up with free/volunteering work for too long. We all know the classic way is to gain experience and meet industry people is to work for free at the beginning. And eventually you get a paid gig and work your way up from there. I feel like there are lot of companies out there who are aiming to take advantage of young graduates and looking for cheap labor to produce their show at a lower cost.
I feel like you have to draw the line sooner rather than later and have some self-respect and say no to unreasonable offers.
I also think it’s important to try different roles within the industry to understand the process inside out and perhaps it can also help to discover the role that is the most suitable and enjoyable.