Picture
Set design is too often overlooked by web series creators and indie film makers in general, but it's one of the easiest things you can do to bolster your production quality without spending too much money. That said, if you're not a designer, it can be hard to think creatively about set design.. 

With so many creators filming in their own homes, it really can be hard to imagine the space in a new way, or in a way that helps tell your story. The walls are white. So what? That's how they came. No coffee table? That's fine. I don't like coffee. Walls completely bare? Uh... You mean earthquake safe?

That's where Chelsea and I were at about a week before we were set to begin shooting "Home at Last." But we were lucky. Mike Bash (co-producer and one of our four main actors) knew a talented set designer that was generous to lend us some wisdom. Here's the top five set design tips we got out of that meeting:
Picture
1) Get into your character's minds when you are designing the space. If this is their home, make it reflect their personalities. For our show, we took a few details we knew about Kim (the main female character in the story), and expanded upon them in our decoration. 

In another draft of the script, we reference that Kim  is a philosophy student. So we populated the room with 'philosophyish' decorations and nic-nacs. The whole place took on a 'buddhist on a budget' feel, and it worked really well. Just look at that elephant! It was $1.

Picture
2) Paint your walls a strong, neutralish color. Gray, beige, darker blue. Dark colors are nice and warm and read well on camera. On our first try, Chelsea and I went with taupe. Then the taupe came out white. So we painted the apartment a second time. Gray and dark blue this time. And it looks great.

It was also helpful to choose a color pallette to work off of as we painted and decorated. We used the greens, blues and grays from the tile art pictured here as our guide. First, we like the colors and are happy to live with them for the rest of our stay in this apartment. Second, it was immensely helpful to have parameters to go by.

Picture
3) Wall decorations - Make sure there's something on your wall pretty much every where you look. If it feels unnaturally cluttered, that's probably good. Hang this items up at about head level, that way they'll show up on camera.

Tag sales and thrift stores are a great place to get stuff for your walls. All of the photographs on the walls in "Home at Last" were taken by my little sister, Emily. She takes great pictures and they look bad ass in the show. Plus, FREEEEEEEE! We also borrowed the art work you see in the show from our DP, who is an artist, and director, who has artist friends.

<--------- A wall of empty picture frames is a great way to fill lots of space for cheap!

Picture
3) Curtains! If you're like us, you live in a mediocre apartment with ugly  venetian blinds. These blinds are crappy and cheap, and they look crappy and cheap on camera. BUT most apartment complexes don't allow you to take them down.

We devised a work around for this. Just buy a long dowel from Lowe's that is a couple of inches longer than your window. Then thread the curtains through the dowels. Then fix the dowels to the existing Venetian blind rods and voila! You've got curtains. They don't stand up to any real scrutiny, but they look great on camera. The picture on to the right of this paragraph should explain the process better than I just did.

4) Design Blogs! You're not a designer. Neither are we. That's why, when prompted, we were happy to turn to design blogs for inspiration. Check this one out to get started.

5) Lights! Talk to your DP and director about how much light should be 'practical', i.e. how much should come from the actual lights you're using as part of the set, and how much is he going to pump in artificially. A few well placed lights can work wonders for lighting, while also helping define the space you're shooting in.

If they fit in with your story, Christmas lights pretty much always look great on camera.

Finally... Get creative and don't be afraid to do the work! I think the reason our apartment was so poorly decorated in the first place, is because we just thought "We don't have a ton of money... Why bother?" But if you get creative, money really isn't a huge issue.

We transformed our entire place for under three hundred dollars. That's painting the living room (2x). Painting the kitchen. 6 picture frames. At least a dozen nic-nacs. 5 walls worth of wall decorations. The list goes on. We even covered all of our white cabinets with beige and green construction paper. It looks better than it sounds.

Picture
See?

Watch our Youtube Videos to get a better sense of how all of this works on camera!

"Home at Last" is a comedy web series directed by Steve Sprinkles. The show stars William Russ (Boy Meets World) and features Jeff Lewis (The Guild). The first episode airs Oct. 25, 2011. Like us on Facebook! Subscribe on YouTube! If you don't do it now you'll be jinxed all day!