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Nakatomi Profile: Monique Wajon, Production Designer

5 Jul

Nakatomi Profile is a section featuring interviews with collaborators and artists we have worked with.

Who are you? What is your background?

My name is Monique and I’m the production Designer for Esoterica. I started off studying Set and Costume Design for theatre at WA Academy of Performing Arts and by chance fell into production design for Film. Since then I’ve worked extensively in both fields.

What was your approach to the Production Design of ‘Esoterica’?

Well I had to hit the ground running on this one… I came on board very late to the party, but what a party it was! Basically my approach was pretty much the same as always (just a bit sped up) I started off reading the script then finding the most kick-ass bits and trying to work out the coolest way that I can dress those space to make them work for the characters and the script and then kept on rolling through the rest of the script from there.

What’s your creative process?

I begin my creative process like all designers by dissecting the script finding out what is at the root of it, the meaning behind it. Then I start thinking about the overall feel of the film and what sort of look that I want to create for the film. Then its time to get down to the nuts and bolt of the job and work out what is needed for each scene i.e. Set dressing, props and any effects needed.

Be honest, what is the work that you are most proud of from the film?

There are so many things to choose from, but if I had to choose one thing it would be the Death Bath. I don’t want to say too much about it cause it will give too much away but there was so many technical things to consider when designing and making it that it was a great challenge.

What was the shooting like?

Shooting was an intense experience for me, but completely wonderful. I had never worked on anything as large as Esoterica so it was such a steep learning curve for me, which made working on it so exciting.

What have you been up to since ‘Esoterica’?

I’ve been extremely busy since shooting wrapped on Esoterica. I was Production Designer on a few short films including “Little Boxes” which I won “Best Production Design” at this years WA Screen Awards. I have designed few commercials, was the Set Dresser on a Feature Film “Needle,” and even built a cave for a documentary. On top of all that film work I have been working for a few theatre companies as well. Last year I designed the Set and Costumes for “Alaska” and I am just starting to go into the production for “Gasp” another Theatre show.

Give us your top ten films in terms of Production Design and elaborate on the choices.

Well my top 10 changes all the time so here are a selection that I can remember today… It’s a bit of a strange list (im not saying all of these are amazing films) but some of the most random movies have such great design and then others are great movies in every department.

Dr No: Ken Adams one of the true masters of Film Design. It was hard to choose between all his films, Barry Lyndon and Dr Strangelove pop into mind straight away, but I decided to choose Dr No because it is so rich in design and the first (and classic) Bond Movie.

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element: When I was young this was my all time favorite movie. I think it also was the first movie that I watched that made me want to get into Design. There is so much going on in this film, flying cars, Boats in space, gorgeous ballrooms and don’t get me started on the creature designs.

Coraline: When I saw this film at the end of last year I was blown away by it and it has the taken over from The Nightmare before Christmas on my top ten list. Henry Selick is such a genius he directed and production designed it, and you can really tell, there is a consistency to the whole project. I dare anyone to say a bad word to me about the neon garden what a spectacular idea (and it works and looks so much better then the in Avatar).

Down with Love: I hate this movie because I didn’t have the chance to work on it. The whole movie is styled on the old Doris Day movies and they have done such an amazing job with it, when ever I watch it I just want to live in a rockin’ 60’s pad and also have a matching outfit with a friend (if you haven’t seen this movie watch it and keep an eye out for whenever Renee Zellweger enters a room).

MirrorMask: I want to make a film like this, although it doesn’t have the strongest storyline the design and animation is so well put together. This film has a comic book feel (both the writer and director come from a Graphic Novel background) and it is amazingly lush. The movie is a combination of live action, 2D and 3D animation, which gives it an interesting depth that you don’t see in many films.

Amadeus: Recently there have been a lot of movies set in the 18th century but my love for this period always comes back to this one. I think a lot of it has to do with the cheeky nature of the film, but the design is so well researched that it is still a very important part of the film.

Nanny McPhee: This movie has brilliant and awful design all at the same time. The Costume and Art Departments worked so closely together they managed to have some of the sets and costumes match almost exactly in colour and patterns, which in one way is amazing but then its also a bad thing as the characters and sets blend together and its really hard to see the difference between them. Though overall it has an amazing colour scheme that is worth a watch.

Repo the Genetic Opera: This a very recent film based on a stage musical and it has such high production values. Every item in the film is over designed but fits so perfectly into the world that is created.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Rick Heinrichs has a real eccentric style that fits so perfectly with this film. It has a beautiful colour scheme, amazing architecture and slightly strange props, what else could a movie need?

Dick tracy: What beautiful Design, you don’t see this level of style in film these days. Every car, location, costume is design for a particular character. The best part about the design was the strong use of colour. Its very popular at the moment to use a washed out colour scheme I wish people had more courage an used strong colours.

The Cabinet if Dr Caligari: This is my favorite of the German Expressionist films, it has such a theatrical presence to the design. I constantly use it as reference/inspiration for my designs.