Rock On, Bajirao Mastani, and Jodha Akbar are some of my favourite films. Apart from their stories and star cast, what I adore about these films is their sheer grandeur sets designed intricately. The amount of effort invested into creating pitch-perfect set designs is unfathomable by the audiences. It is undeniably the efforts and the solid creativity of the artists, designers and the director that help bring life to the entire film.
Although this area of expertise hardly comes to our minds, a profession of this kind does exist. It is commonly called Production Design.
“I am a quirky visualizer who loves to dive deep into imaginative fantasy worlds full of myriad colours and dimensions creating an interesting environment for the characters of a story,” says Rupali Ingle, a Production Designer. A movie buff, Rupali chose this career because of her immense love for fantasy worlds which are majorly constructed for theatre and filmmaking purposes.
The career of Production Designing entails creating and designing the overall look and feel of a particular film or play. It involves creating the props, graphics, and sets, as well as managing the department that is responsible for creating the whole set-up.
A production designer, as Rupali explains, imagines and designs the world in which a story takes place whether it’s in Film, TV or theatre. It is her dream to design a world that the world hasn’t seen before. She says, “That’s the most fun part of being a production designer, every time there is a new story and you get to imagine and bring that story to life with your environment. I feel as a production designer, I get to paint my ideas on a much bigger canvas and I can’t wait to work on some exciting projects coming my way. Some of my favourite movies are Alice in the Wonderland, La La Land, Moulin Rouge, Avatar, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Dune, Chronicles of Narnia Trilogy, Hunger Games Trilogy etc. I absolutely love fantasy movies as I feel they are more fun, there is a challenge in coming up with something new and there’s more creative freedom for a designer.”
Rupali Ingle graduated with a Master’s degree of Fine Arts in Production Design from Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, Chapman University, the USA in 2021. She says, “As soon as I graduated last year in 2021, I got selected for the Prestigious Art Directors Guild Local 800 (Hollywood Labor Union for Production Designers & Art Directors) Production Design Initiative Program 2021. It was a dream to get selected in this competitive program and it came true thanks to all the amazing mentors who I connected with on my way.”
The Production Designer has a rich work experience under her hat. When asked about her first working experience ever, she says, “During my first year of undergraduate college, an exhibition was conducted where I displayed my work. The head of Graphic Design saw my work and asked me to do ‘Set Design’ for a theatrical play called ‘99 Women’ which was happening in India for the first time. I contacted the ‘99 women’ page on Facebook. I got the reply and after a short trial of doing some rough ideation sketches for the show, the director Sonali Kothari gave me the job. It was an amazing experience and I designed some more theatre shows.”
So determined Rupali has been toward her career, she used to watch movies and short films, make a list of production designers and reach out to them through social media. She then used to forward her resume to them. She says, “To my surprise, a lot of them got back to me and I ended up getting the offer to intern in the art department for the 2018 hit Bollywood movie ‘Kedarnath’ under Production Designer Mayur Sharma.” Rupali has interned under Fashion Designer Karishma Shahani Khan at her famous fashion label ‘Ka-Sha’ while she was in the final year of her undergraduate degree at college. She has also worked on ABC’s hit show ‘Abbott Elementary’ the most tweeted comedy series of 2022 so far as the Art department Assistant at Warner Brothers Studio Burbank. After this, she got the opportunity to work on the Hit Paramount plus show ‘Star Trek Picard’ as an Assistant Art Director. She says. “It was the biggest art department that I had the privilege to work in so far in my career and I absolutely loved working under production designer Dave Blass every minute of it.”
Apart from working on these amazing union projects, Rupali has worked as a Production Designer on short films like ‘La Casita de la Mariposa’ translated to ‘The House of the Butterfly’ for which she has won 9 Best production design awards so far at various international film festivals like the Platinum award for Best Production Design at Independent Shorts Awards, Indie Short Fest, San Francisco Indie short festival, OTB – Only the best international film awards. She also won the ‘outstanding achievement award for Best Set Design’ at the IndieX film festival. She has many projects lined up, some of which like ‘A Yemeni’ have already been nominated for many international awards. She says, “I am super excited and I can’t wait to work on more exciting projects coming my way.”
When asked about the basic skills one requires to pursue production design as a career, she advises, “The most important skill that you need is ‘Passion’. Working as a Production Designer means working at least 12 hrs a day so you definitely need the motivation and love for creativity to keep you going. Some of the basic skills would be multi-tasking, time management, illustrating, model making, digital and hand drafting, 3D Modelling and basic construction skills would be an add on.”
A creative career like production design is not prominently known, however, it is an option definitely worth taking if you wish to take up something unique, especially in the creative field as your profession and career. Something to think about isn’t it?