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Old Settler
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John Iacovelli: The Production Designer In-Depth


The Design Process

Creating the Initial Drawings

"What we use as designers is a series of tools. It's like a language. We start with thumbnail sketches, asking 'How big could this set be? How much of the stage do we want to use for the Savoy Ballroom? Do we want to put on the exterior?' From that point, I'll think about hard scenery.

That's when I kind of become an architect for a few days. I'll sit down with the amount of room that we have onstage, move things, and create the ideal ground plan."


Detail of set plans

EnlargeA detail from John Iacovelli's plans for the set of The Old Settler


Finding the Look and the Mood

"I used my digital camera a lot to actually take pictures of the places before we did the sketches. We did them the old-fashioned way, with watercolor, to give a sense of mood, color, texture, and form."


Drawing by Sid BinghamDrawing by Sid BinghamDrawing by Sid BinghamDrawing by Sid Bingham

EnlargeA selection of watercolor drawings by John Iacovelli's sketch artist, Sid Bingham, created to convey the look of The Old Settler


Researching the Period

"I'll make up first production boards, which are just Xeroxes out of books. They give us a sense of what was there.

What was the Savoy Ballroom like? What were apartments in New York like? Just different elements: streetlights, signs on the street, vendors on the street. Wonderful scenes of life in New York."


Jitterbugging in Harlem, 1936
Jitterbugging in Harlem, 1936
by Sid Grossman
Museum of the City of New York, The Federal Arts Project


Building Models of the Set

"After that, I'll make a white model which shows in real physical terms what the set is going to be -- exactly where the walls are, the ceilings, the floors. The first thing Debbie and I did is start cutting up the model, moving walls around, saying, 'How about this? What if this kitchen is over here?' Then I rebuilt exactly what we talked about. It was the set we ended up with for the apartment."


Model of the set
EnlargeJohn Iacovelli's model of the diner set (left) and model of the set for Elizabeth & Quilly's apartment (right)
Model of the set


Introduction   |   The Design Process   |   Building the Sets



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