Netflix's Set it Up set decorator shares details of her role in the art department
Alexandra Mazur is the set decorator for Netflix's latest rom-com Set it Up, which stars Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. Based in New York, Mazur has worked in both television and film for over 25 years. Some of her other set decorating credits include upcoming film The Sun is Also a Star, and TV series Blue Bloods, Life on Mars and Quantico. Here she talks to Mandy News about set decorating, her past projects, how she got involved with Set it Up and what an aspiring set decorator can do to find work.
Please tell us how you got involved in Set Decorating, and how this took you into the world of film.
I got my first art department job in 1983 when I was pursuing a Masters degree in Media Studies at the New School – there was a flyer posted for interns wanted for a low budget horror movie. I had been an art major in college, so once I was on the film I became the art director by default, as the conditions were so bad that any art director with a modicum of experience quit after a day. That job taught me the importance of Unions.
How did you get involved with Set it Up?
I had worked with the Jane Musky, the Production Designer of Set it Up, on several projects since I first met her in 1994, when I was a shopper on City Hall. Our last project together was Notorious, in 2008. I was delighted to get the call to do Set it Up.
What was the process of working on the film? How did you go about creating the world these characters live in?
We created a look for each of the characters, based on research pictures of 20-something’s apartments, corporate offices and start-up companies. Harper is a Yankees fan, so we put a lot of Yankees images in her apartment and office area. Her roommate Becca is the bubbly, outgoing presence in their apartment, so her bedroom was a contrast to Harper’s. Charlie’s apartment was more pared down- comfortable, but not really decorated.
Kirsten’s office was filled with awards, mementos and reminders of her successful career as a sports reporter. Rick’s office was upscale and opulent-filled with expensive objects.
You have also worked on some big TV series, like Blue Bloods and Life on Mars; What was it like working on shows like that and how does your process change, if at all, between working on a series or a feature film?
Working on a series and working on a feature are similar in the early pre-production period. On a series, we have that time to create the permanent sets that will be present on each episode. Each episode also has at least one swing set (built on the stage) and several locations.
We have a week or less to prepare those sets. With a feature, the details are extremely important, as the camera spends more time on each set. On series we have to work more quickly to create those sets. We also have to maintain the permanent sets, and have them reflect day to day changes in the characters’ lives. And we have to maintain a reasonable budget.
What are you working on at the moment, for the rest of 2018 and beyond?
At present I am working on a feature called The Sun is Also a Star – a story about a Jamaican/American girl and a Korean/American boy, both in their late teens, and their subsequent struggles to establish their identities.
What advice do you have for people wanting to get involved in the Art Department, and to become a successful set decorator like yourself?
My advice to aspiring Set Decorator would be to familiarise themselves with local sources, filmmaking protocol and terminology and decorating styles and periods. It is important to pay attention to details, but not to lose the big picture.
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