Feb. 23, 2023

Designing a Movie Set with Madie Hays (Episode 4)

Madie: If you're in Star Wars and somebody has, like a jar of peanut butter on their counter, why did they choose that jar? And then there's probably a label on it and there's a graphic designer behind that, designed that label specifically for the show, for this character, for this set. There's so much thought that goes behind every single piece for this set.

Nicole: Have you ever wondered how a set is designed for your favorite show? Welcome back to the Multitudes Podcast. I'm Nicole, and in this episode, I sit down with Madie Hays who designs sets for TV, film and theater productions. Madie is a L.A based art director, scenic and production designer and you can find her set designs on Apple TV, HBO Max and Netflix and in this episode, we talk about all of the details around how a set is built, Madie’s experiences working on shows as well as what to look for in a set. We talk about the industry and also Madie’s story on how she got into set design.


This is a really interesting, creative and detail-oriented conversation and I hope you enjoy. Please be sure to subscribe to Multitudes, wherever you listen to, your favorite podcast and you can also find me on Instagram at “Multitudes.podcast” and “Multitudespodcast.com”.


Welcome, Madie.


Madie: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.


Nicole: I'm so excited to chat with you today about production and scenic design. Madie is a Los Angeles based art director, scenic and production designer, currently working mostly in TV and film. And she is a new member of the Art Director's Guild, which is part of a union called the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, which covers television, film and theater sets.


First, can you tell us a little bit about what a production designer and scenic designer does?


Madie: Yeah, so basically the difference between them is really the medium that we're talking about. So, a scenic designer is more in reference to a theatrical designer, somebody who designs the scenery and the background of a play, a musical, an opera, something like that. Whereas a production designer generally refers to somebody who's doing something. I mean, it's, it's very similar. The process is very similar, but you know, it's for television and then movies, not live events.


Nicole: Yeah, I'm thinking like scenic design feels to me like something behind the scenes and I would imagine an effective set design for a viewer almost has an essence of not noticing the design in a way that is natural and effortless, like it can blend in, right? But I'm also thinking of other sets that stand, like very much stand out and really become like a character of the show.


Can you talk a little bit to that and like, how you think about blending in versus a set that like really stands out?


Madie: Yeah. I think you definitely don't want to have the audience thinking, “oh, this is a set” the whole time that you're watching it. So, in that aspect, yeah, you definitely want it to, you know, seem naturalistic and in some sense of that word, so that it doesn't seem like you've built and painted this whole fake thing and you want it to feel very grounded within whatever world that you've created. So yeah, there's definitely that aspect but I also do think that most sets should act as, if not a full character in the show, I think it should at least inform the characters, especially like, if it's their personal spaces.


You can tell a lot about a person from where they're living or what their office space looks like, or you know, things like that but yeah. For instance, some of the bigger, more like fantastical projects definitely call for more fantastical, you know, set design, which is where I think people notice it more when it's a little bit more imaginary or it's things that you don't see every day and I think that, yeah, that sort of becomes a character in the story in its own right and it tells you a lot about what the world is and who the people are that live in this world and all of those things.


So yeah, I think your thought is very, it's right on the nose, kind of both. You kind of want this balance between being an effective storyteller, but also not overshadowing the actors and the story itself.


Nicole: Absolutely. I'd love to get more into the process of set design for movies and TV and also theater and wherever you want to start with or setting a scene of how you would start setting up a set. Can you walk us a little bit through the process?


Madie: Yeah, so yeah, they're pretty similar processes in both of, for theater and for TV and film. You basically start with the script. You always start with the script and the director.


So basically, you'll read the script. What I like to do is read it, just one time, just to let it sink in and then read it again and start making my notes about like theme and just interesting points and logistics and things like that that you have to pay attention to within the script, but basically starting to build the world in your head.


And then what I like to do is come up with a design concept, which just basically means what you're basing your world around. Like in theory, you have a little bit, I mean, well, not always, sometimes you have a little bit more freedom and your concept can be a little bit more abstract, but in film, you tend to stay a little bit more grounded in some kind of reality.


You start sort of researching, doing some visual research, looking up a bunch of art and photos and pictures and sculptures and whatever is interesting to you that's relevant to whatever the script is, whatever that world you think. And then you put together some kind of presentation for the director and it's basically just a conversation starter.


So, you say, “Hey, this is how I see this world. This is how I think it could be, or the direction it could go”. And you see what they say and you know, the director is obviously the end all be all of it. So, whatever they ultimately want is the direction that you go, but yeah, but you do get a little bit of say at the beginning at least, and it's a little bit different for theater because there aren't as many collaborators as there are in film.


So, in theater, I would say the strongest relationship between the director and any of the design team is definitely the scenic designer. But in film and TV, as a production designer, you start with the director but then the cinematographer, who is the person who decides where the camera's gonna be and all of that stuff with the director.


They come in and they have a lot of say and a lot of sway as well. We like to say that, in film and TV, the production designer is the director's first wife, and the cinematographer is the second wife. So, they get ultimate say sometimes.


Yeah. So, that's kind of how you start with concepts and research and then diving in the nitty gritty of what does the director actually need physically, like logistically to set up whatever story they need to tell.


Nicole: And I'm curious about those, like first point when you're talking with the director and you mentioned that you get a little bit of say and they'll usually come back with comments or feedback. Like what are those conversations like? And make an example of a little bit of say that you've got and like, a type of feedback that they would give to you?


Madie: Yeah, I mean, it's totally dependent on the director. Sometimes directors come in and they know exactly what they want, they know what the world is, they have all these ideas in their head, and they kind of just want you to be able to translate that and execute it. But other times, directors, they don't really know what they want or they're very open.


So, you'd be come in with like some kind of idea like, “Oh, let's set this in a swamp in Louisiana, and I think it'll serve the story better this way, blah, blah, blah” and of course there's producers and all of those people who handle the logistics and the money who ultimately come down and tell you what you can and can't do but this first initial sort of chat with the director in both camps in theater and film and TV is really the most exciting time because it's sort of when all the possibilities are open.


So, a lot of those first dialogues are really just you and the director throwing ideas back and forth at each other, which is great and both of these art forms are very much collaborative. It's not like a painting where you're sitting there and you have all the control over what the audience will see. Yeah, it's a little more complicated than that, which I think makes it really fun.


Nicole: Yeah, that sounds really fun and I'm curious also, like, what's it like working with a cinematographer and like, what's that relationship like between you and the director and the cinematographer?


Madie: Yeah, the cinematographer. They have all the say over how scenes are lit and which also means, they have a lot of opinions usually about some of the colors that you're using, mostly on like on walls and stuff like that, but like the bigger swathes of color. You and the director usually come up with the general color theme, but sometimes the cinematographer will come in with a whole other idea, and then you have to work with them to figure out how it all blends together and how it all comes, you know? And makes this cohesive world that is ultimately always serving the story.


So yeah. It's just always compromise and collaboration and every project is different because you're always working with different people.


So, it's really about navigating everybody's kind of working style and figuring out how to make that all come together.


Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. That's really exciting and creative and I'd love to keep going on the process. So, you're at the stage where you are in conversations with the director, cinematographer. You have like the design concept and presentations and then, what happens?


Madie: Yeah, so then you're basically, you start doing drawings or sketches or models like digital models or physical, like little quarter inch scale models or half pitch scale models or whatever it is to start actually taking those concepts that you have developed and bringing them to life and basically how do you translate this theme visually into something that comes across to the audience immediately.


And you can do that through, you know, anything. You can do it through color or through shape or whatever it is. So, the next step is basically just starting to do the actual work, more the logistics side of things.


Nicole: That's great. And do you mostly like work in, like what tools are you using at this point? Like Photoshop or…?


Madie: Yeah. So, I mean, this is also all dependent on the scale of the project that you're doing. So, like for theater, a lot of the times the scenic designer will do a lot of this stuff all by themselves, or they'll have like an assistant or two and they all kind of share responsibility but head designer will have the final say, but they'll kind of delegate making the drawings or models but in film and TV, if it's like a union show, which is most shows that you would see like in theaters or on any of the streaming services of that scale, there's a lot of other different people in the department that you're working with who you delegate all these tasks to.


So, there's the production designer who, you know, works with the director, comes up with the concept, all the stuff that we've already talked. But then they have, the art directors, they're responsible for finding the materials that are right, coordinating with all of the people who make these things happen.


And then there's also more specialized people like concept illustrators who will, during that initial phase with the director and the designer, they'll help the designer come up with these sketches or images to show based on whatever the designer wants the world to look like and yeah, they would be using, they can use whatever they want really.


Photoshop for sure is a big one and just like 3D modeling programs like Maya or Blender, sometimes Rhino and also sometimes actually they're also starting to use, playing video game engines. In UCLA, we learned a bit of the Unreal Engine and that's basically just because you can sort of build a model in one of those other programs that I was just talking about, you know, sketch up Maya, whatever, and then bring that into the video game engine and you can light it and you can texture it and you can move through it, which helps the director sort of really look at all these, or look at your set like close up or you can just use this tool and static images, “Keyframes” is what we call them, usually, to show what the set looks like and how it works within the action of the project and then there's also confusingly, in film and TV, there's a position called a set designer who is responsible for all of the drafting, which is basically all of the technical drawings who we send to, or which we send to construction to start building and painting and all of that stuff.


So, there's definitely, I mean it's very, very collaborative and there's a lot of different programs and a lot of different people who all are working towards this common goal of the director and the designer's vision together.


Nicole: Sounds like there's a lot of people that are involved at different stages and I'm curious, like when you get to the design stage and like the building stage, what are like different aspects of that, that would be helpful to like walk through?


Madie: So, they basically wanna start building as soon as possible because things take time. So as soon as you sort of have a schedule of, I'm talking mostly about film and TV now, but once you have a schedule of what's shooting first, that's how you figure out what you're gonna build first or if there's location, you figure out, you know, how you're gonna change that location. And that can involve some building or it might not, or it might just be ……. or wallpaper or whatever, or just set decoration sometimes too, which is, you know, furniture, art on the walls, whatever that needs to be. So yeah, for like a stage build, which you have a lot more control over usually, you give your plans, which the set designer has drawn up, you give those to the construction team and the construction team is made up of people who build thing like walls and      all that set or whatever you need and then there's painters. There’s plasterers who do sort of the texture on top of the walls, and they'll also do like molding, or if you have like specialty columns or you know, any kind of specialty texture, you have plasterers who will do that, and then the painters will come over it and paint on it. And then there's also a greens department, which is all the plants that you need, and that usually comes at the very end, partially dressing, which is the set decoration that I was talking about before.


Yeah. So, those two departments kind of work on top of each other too. After everything has been built and plastered and painted where the shell of the set is ready to go, then you bring in the set decoration team and the greens team, and they basically finish it out with all the details, you know, there's a tree outside or there's a potted plant in the corner and whatever they need to do to finish out the set.


Nicole: Yeah. I'm curious, like for, let's say like an average show that you might see on Netflix or something like that, like how long is that process? So, we’re talking about to go from concept design to finished product of the set?


Madie: It depends on… It's always different. It's really always different, but it's really, it's a lot shorter than you probably would think. A lot of sets get done in a matter of weeks. Yeah. Yeah. It's a very, very quick moving process, and as you said, it's a lot of moving parts and yeah, like the art director is kind of the one who's trying to oversee all these moving parts and making sure that all the departments know when things are happening and what's going on, and just basically making sure everybody is on the same page, but yeah, it's pretty, it's pretty quick. Like you'll, a lot of times you'll give the construction department a rough drafting of whatever room you're building, and they'll kind of have those walls up within the same week, sometimes within a couple of days. And then you kind of have to keep refining it, refining as you get more details about the set, because it doesn't always all come in at once.


Sometimes you learn things as you go along or as the script is developed or as the director and the cinematographer realize that they need things or specific things. So, you kind of start with the really bare bones and then you have to just continually build on top of it.


Nicole: It's really interesting to think about like all the steps that are part of it. Thank you for walking through the process and in such detail. And can you tell us about how you became interested in set design?


Madie: Sure. So, I think it was… It'd been in me for a very long time when I was very, very young, like three, four, five, six, seven, whatever. I had a really good friend who was very interested in theater and storytelling and a lot of Disney movies actually and we would basically, every time we got together, we would make plays that were based on whatever Disney movie we were obsessed with at the time. And I would be responsible for setting up the scene and then acting in it as well, and then making our parents watch it.


But anyways, yeah, I moved away from that as I got older because, you know, when I was younger, I had this idea in my head that I really wanted to be successful whatever that meant to me at the time. And so, I was thinking more, you know, doctor, lawyer, something like that. Didn't really think about a career in the arts.


So, in high school, I started working, in my senior year, I joined the theater club as a techie, which is like behind the scenes, designing, painting, building sets for the school plays and I kind of fell in love with it at that point, you know, building these worlds were kind of make-believe imaginary for, you know, a small amount of time on stage.


And then once I got to college, I still sort of had it in my head that I wanted to be a doctor. So, I was pre-med, quote unquote, but I found myself instead of, you know, doing my science homework, I was in the scene shop, building, painting, designing sets.


And I sort of realized that that's where a lot of my interests lied instead of in the... I mean, I still am very interested in sciences and things like that, but my heart was telling me that that's where I really wanted to go.


Nicole: Yeah. And when you were in college, what was going through your mind when you were thinking about, can I work in the arts and be successful? And was there a turning point when you realized that you could be successful working in the arts?


Madie: Yeah, so there is actually a very, very famous scenic designer in the Broadway world, named Derek McClain, and he is also a graduate of Harvard University. So, he came and gave this masterclass where he talked about all of the things that he's accomplished and all the shows that he's worked on and things like that and that was the very first time that I saw somebody who was very successful in the arts and in this very specific field that I was interested in.


So yeah, that was, Where I realized I don't have to be a doctor. I can be a successful artist in this way.


Nicole: Yeah, absolutely and Derek McClain is one of the most critically acclaimed set designers for theater, opera, and television. He's done Broadway sets, like Mulan Rouge, like Carol King musical and you actually worked with him, right?


Madie: Yeah. So, after that masterclass, I stayed in touch with him because, I mean, there weren't many scenic designers at Harvard at the time. It was pretty much… I was doing a lot of it. And so anyways, we stayed in touch and the summer before my senior year, I believe I went to New York and asked him if I could just kind of shadow him for a day and, you know, see what he really did and what it was like to be him basically and he was more than happy to welcome me and do that.


So, we kind of spent the day walking around New York to the different shows that he was working on at the time, and he would show me backstage and they were all on kind of different parts of the process or different stages of the process. And at the end of the day, it had gone really well. So, I was kind of just like, “Hey, like I would be really interested in interning for you next summer. What do you think about that?” And he said, yes.


So yeah, I spent a summer interning for him and working in his studio, which is amazing. I learned a lot about, you know, the professional world and what is needed to be a successful designer and learned a lot of practical skills as well, which was really, really awesome. Really helpful.


Nicole: That's awesome that you were able to have that experience and that you were able to outright ask him for working for an internship towards together. And yeah, that sounds really informative.


Madie: Yeah, I was very lucky. He's super generous with his time and his knowledge. So yeah, I switched my major to the history of art and architecture, which it was biology or something before that.


And ever since I've just been working or I started working mostly in theater and then after I graduated college, I took a few years off in between grad school because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, but I kept working in theater backstage, doing really small theater shows in Boston and working for the American Repertory Theater as like a props artisan or whatever they would hire me for, basically.


So, I just kept working in the arts. Working in the arts, and I loved it. I realized that that was what I wanted to do and finally one of my friends, or a few of my friends had a small production company in like the local Boston area and they asked me to come on as a production designer. And at that time, I kind of also did costumes and makeup and whatever else they needed because it was a really small crew but I realized that I really loved the pace of film as well.


Nicole: Amazing. I'd love to get into a specific show that you've worked on and if you have a favorite show or a show that challenged you in a particular way.


Madie: Yeah. Well, the last project that I worked on, I just, I finished it in November and it's a Netflix Marie happens mostly in space. It was my first sci-fi that I worked on, and it definitely challenged me in many ways. They, well, firstly, the series went a little bit weird because I got married right before that project, so I basically got brought on later in the project just as a location art director.


Nicole: Congratulations.


Madie: Oh, thank you so much. So, I was basically only responsible for this one location, which was up in Northern California but it was really challenging because a lot of the movie is visual effects, which is basically like the computer graphic type things that happen after you shot everything. So, a lot of the scenes were where normally you would sort of like have built and painted and plastered and whatever. All of these things, it was more like green screen or blue screen. So, a lot of it was imaginary in a way that is even more imaginary than what we already do.


Nicole: What is the difference between a green screen and a blue screen?


Madie: Oh, it's just like a very technical thing. It basically just whatever will stand out more. They use blue screen more for like night shots, like darker things and green screen more for more day shots. But it's usually up to the, the VFX coordinator, whatever they kind of want, whatever they think will work better in the space because there's also, you have to think about like the green reflections in, or like the bounce of the green or the blue against the actors or the rest of the set.


There's also an orange screen now that they're using. So, it's really just kind of dependent on whatever the VFX people need.


Nicole: Gotcha.


Madie: And VFX is Video effects. Visual effects.


Nicole: Visual effects. Okay. Got it.


Madie: So, there's visual effects and there's also, just so you know, special effects is another thing, but that's more, that's like all in real time. It's like people who are setting up the explosions and whatever kind of, like a door needs to open on its own, like all the practical things that happen on set. That's special effects versus visual effects, which is all digital.


Nicole: Got it. Okay. That's so many, really... Yeah. It's such a creative process.


Madie: Yeah, it's exciting. It's never boring. That's what I like about it. But yeah, this project definitely was a little bit different because the main character is sort of in a mech suit, the full time, like a mechanical suit.


Nicole: Oh, like their wardrobe?


Madie: Yeah. It's their wardrobe but it's actually like in this one, it will be all VFX because it's not like a practical thing that you can't really, because it's like a robot basically that she's sitting in. So, you can't really build, I mean you can, but it would be really, really difficult to build and have like a working moving robot in that way. So, it's all visual effects. So, a lot of the shots that we are doing, it would just be like tracking where the character would be, but there was no character in the scene.


So, it's something, it was just something that I had never done before and I thought it was really interesting because you're, kind of just like shooting a blank canvas for the VFX people to put the character into and you have to kind of think ahead of time about what the blocking is, what the staging is, what the actor will do, or what the character needs to do.


And then there are like, there are real characters who need to react to that person too who isn’t there in real life. So, it's very challenging and very different, a different way of filmmaking, which I thought was really interesting.


Nicole: Yeah, that sounds like a really challenging and also really exciting project to work on. I'm thinking like, what thoughts or advice you might have for someone considering becoming a set designer?


Madie: Well, first of all, you need to make sure that you definitely love it and are gonna commit your life to it, because no matter if it's theater or film, It's a lot of hours. It's like for, I mean, theater can be like your whole life, it can be every minute of every day. But for film, a traditional day is 12 hours. However, most art directors and production designers get paid more like a flat rate. So, they don't really go by hours. So, they often end up working way overtime.


But yeah, basically that's one thing. It is a commitment. It's something that you wanna make sure that you really love before you totally dive into it but other than that, yeah, you need a lot of different skills. You know, technical skills, you need to be able to draw, you need to be able to express your ideas visually, even if you can't really draw. I know a lot of people don't really do that, but they find other ways to do it, like visual collages or research boards or whatever. Whatever it takes to get your ideas across and also just communication skills in general. Being able to talk with your director and having them know what you mean and what you want and be able to understand what they want and need as well.


And then, yeah, I think just, I'm not sure if I would necessarily recommend grad school for everybody, but for me it was really helpful because in undergrad I was very much self-taught. Harvard doesn't really have like a technical theater or design program. So, I sort of pieced together my skillset from the few classes that I could take there, but also a lot of the practical work that I was doing.


So basically, but grad school was really great for me because I was able to sort of learn a lot of the technical skills that I hadn't learned in undergrad, which some people don't need. Some people kind of learn that either on their own or in undergrad or whatever. But then another reason to go is the connections you make, because a lot of the job, most of the jobs that I'd gotten after, or since I've joined the industry, have been through connections that I've made through graduate school.


So, you know, it's all about, it's really, I know this is so cliche, but they always say It's not about what you know, it's about who you know and that really, truly is a huge part of this industry. So not only honing on your technical skills, but you know, also being able to be a personable person that people wanna work with because, you know, your jobs only last a few months, or at most like a couple of years, and then you have to get hired again. So, you want a good reputation. You wanna be able to say that people wanna work with you. So, yeah, it's a whole lot of different things that you kind of have to balance.


Nicole: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. For just someone who's watching a movie or something on Netflix, for example, what is something that you can have them look for in the set design, like any behind the scenes tips or something to just like keep your eyes peeled for a set.


Madie: Yeah. I mean, I like to look for, like repeating themes, whether that's the colors that they're using or you know, like the shapes that they're using or whatever it is. I like to just look at what is repeating in the sets, and then, why did they make that choice. And also, I encourage you to look really a detailed way about at the set decoration. So, like, all of the really small details, like every little piece of whatever, especially like in a show where the whole world is made up, like a piece of trash on the street or whatever that was placed there.


Everything is on purpose and nothing is by accident or, I mean there are some things that are by accident, but yeah, I think looking specifically at the sort of each of the pieces that go into those types of sets are really interesting because for instance, if you're in Star Wars and somebody has, like a jar of peanut butter or whatever on their counter, you can look at the jar. Why did they choose that jar? And then there's probably a label on it and there's a graphic designer behind that who, you know, designed that label specifically for the show, for this character, for this set.


So, everything is just like, there's so much thought that goes behind every single piece that I think just taking in general, just a much deeper look at what is around the characters in each scene, I think is always really interesting because I think it's the filmmakers trying to tell you something about the characters or the world or whatever it may be.


Nicole: That's fascinating. I'm thinking like the period pieces aspect and the research aspect. Do you consult historians or like, let's say you need to build something for the 1800 in the UK. How would you go about? This is just an example if you have any, how would you go about researching that?


Madie: Yeah. You basically, you just gather all of the, I mean, all of the information that you can really, and that's where like art directors, assistant art directors come in a lot of handy because they can, the designer's able to kind of delegate like, “oh, can you look into, you know, what did horse and buggies look like in the 1800 or in the whatever, 1871 in London. What did that look like?”


So, you get really, really specific and basically just trying to learn everything that you can about that particular subject or that time period or whatever you're trying to recreate and yeah, sometimes you go to museums or, yeah, we've reached out to like historical experts or whatever it takes really to make it right.


Nicole: Right. Yeah, absolutely. And when you're watching shows, like either on TV or a movie, do you think about the design? Like, as your trained eye is watching something?


Madie: Yeah, yeah. I try really hard not to. I try to just, sort of like enjoy the show and experience what the filmmakers intended but yeah, you can't, I mean, you really can't help it. You, kind of, are like, oh, that's definitely, and also, you know, something that's really funny is now that I've been working a couple of years in LA, I'll be watching shows and note it, like I'll know exactly where a location is because I've worked there before. I've shot something there before because we kind of reuse the same places a lot. So that always is kind of just funny. I'm like, oh, I've been there before. I know that set. So yeah, you're always kind of just aware of it, for sure. But yeah, it's nice when you can kind of try to turn that part of your brain off and just enjoy it, but it's hard.


Nicole: Yeah, absolutely and I'm curious about what happened after a show. Where does everything, where does the set go? Is there like a sustainability aspect? Do you mention that you've seen sets before on TV?


Madie: It depends. If it's like a TV show or a movie that is expected to have sequels, a lot of times the sets, we call it “fold and hold”, which is like they disassemble it as neatly as they can, as nicely as they can and wrap it up and basically just store it until the second season is starting to shoot or whatever or the sequel to the movie or whatever it is. But if that's not the case, a lot of times it can be very wasteful, which is really unfortunate, one of the biggest issues in our industry.


But a lot of people are also taking it more initiative to counter that. So, there's like, there's a couple of companies, like one is called Eco Sets, which is you can kind of tell them that you're about to strike a set, we have all these walls that you can come and use and then they'll resell or give away, sometimes to other productions. And a lot of times those will go to a lot lower budget productions and things like that, so it helps everybody.


And yeah, there's a lot of companies that are kind of trying to figure out a more ecologically responsible way of filmmaking and set-making but yeah, we definitely have a long way to go.


Nicole: Yeah, it's really interesting. It sounds like one of the pin points of the industry and I was wondering, just moving to more about the industry as a whole, besides the sustainability aspect, are there other aspects of the industry that you would want to see a change in?


Madie: I mean, yeah. I think the biggest thing is really just giving more opportunities to more diverse voices and stories. I mean, it's definitely better than we were a few years ago, but there's again, a long way to go still. There's still aren't that many female directors, especially not female directors of color, or even in my side of it, like production designers.


It's mostly dominated by white people. There's a lot of room for a lot more people to come in here and start expressing their own points of view and that's something that a lot of the people that I work with specifically are interested in. They're trying to bring up women, women of color, people of color in the industry and give them more opportunities that haven't really existed before.


The Academy Awards have gotten a lot of flack for being whitewashed and ignoring a lot of content that's been created by people of color over the Steven Spielbergs and James Camerons, whatever. All the old, white guys who have been historically in charge of movies but yeah, that's the most glaring issue to me for sure. It's definitely still not where we wanna be yet. It doesn't really reflect the actual population.


Nicole: Right. Yeah. We have a long way to go, especially in the TV and film industry for sure. And are there any shows that you love their set design or that you would encourage someone to check out the set design? Based on…


Madie: Yeah. Well, probably the most, the most recent ones, the Lord of the Rings series that just came up, the Rings of Power. Those sets are, a lot of them are digital, but they're just really amazing. They're huge and grand and magical and beautiful, and I think they're really well done.


And also, on Disney Plus, it's like a Star Wars show called Andor, and it's a show... A lot of the Star Wars shows now are using much more digital technology, like they're kind of just shot in like a green screen globe and there's not many like physical pieces around for the actors to interact with, but this show Andor, it's not like that. It's a lot of more practical sets, which are the actual, like physical things. And I think a lot of that was really well done as well. And there's some like sort of visual themes like shapes and stuff like that, which carry through really well, and you sort of see the whole world for what it is but yeah, I think that one's a really good one too and the story is really good.


Nicole: Okay. We'll definitely have to check that out and link it in the show notes and this has been such a great detailed conversation and I really loved talking with you about set design. I think it's a world in which we see a lot, but we don't have a lot of windows into how it's made. And I really appreciated you going into the process. Can you tell people where we can find you, where we can take a look at your work and all those good things?


Madie: Yeah. My Instagram is the word “hashtag_madie”, M A D I E, which I have some of my work on that. And then I have a website that's “www.mhaysdesign.com”, M H A Y S design.com, which has a lot of my portfolio on there too.


But then I have a couple of things that will probably be coming out this year, but probably later in the year. Another project I worked on last year was called Expats, which is a Nicole Kidman centric show. That's coming on Amazon Prime and that should come out later this year as well.


Nicole: Amazing. Thank you so much, Madie.


Madie: Yeah, thank you Nicole.


Nicole: Thank you so much for listening to another episode of Multitudes and I hope that you check out the worlds that Madie builds. They are really cool and creative and you can find them on her website and on Instagram and we’ll have those links in the show notes and please be sure to subscribe to Multitudes Podcast and you can find me at “Multitudespodcast.com” and on Instagram at “multitudes.podcast”.