Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA gives us an inside look and some great insights into the making of SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING... Here's a peek into my methodology behind dressing locations. I'll take my own photos of the location and, in a very old-fashioned way, apply a layer of trace paper, onto which I'll draw the set. Although my drawing skills are crude, I find this is the best method to organize the space visually, and it's an effective way to communicate my intentions to my crew and the Production Designer.
In our interview meeting, Director Jon Watts expressed his desire that Peter Parker's high school—for kids who excel in math, science and technology—be the kind of school about which viewers might say, “I wish I'd gone to that school!”
Here's an example of a concept sketch I did for an idea that was quickly abandoned: a high school darkroom...
Ideas often flare up as vague suggestions, and my way of coping with the anxiety of not having “the answers” is to try to develop an approach for quick problem-solving. If the idea for the scene goes away, I'm often left with its vestige, which can serve a useful future purpose.
The transformation from Theatrical Scenery Workshop (in real-life) into Wood and Metal Shop Class required a massive overhaul, and is one of my favorite sets. We got to feature beautiful wooden sculptures that were fashioned from coffee stirrers by local high school students, and a giant 3D head sculpture that was milled by students at a local arts university...
For Peter Parker's detention scene, I thought it would be intimidating to situate him in an English Lit class, surrounded by imposing literary figures staring down at him in stark black and white images. The mismatched desktops were intentional, the idea borrowed from Brooklyn Tech School for the Sciences...
I draw because drawing organizes my thinking. And when my thinking is organized I am a more effective communicator. When I communicate effectively, people on my team understand my intention and give the best result. Also, I just really like to draw.
Production Designer Oliver Scholl and I collaborated on the cramped quarters of Peter Parker's bedroom. We had many technical challenges to accommodate, including a spider walk on the ceiling, in addition to creating a room that was rich with character. I loved that Oliver embraced my idea of a bunk bed in a room for a single teen. [Continued on next photo...]
...I thought the gesture might transmit a subtle idea about a lonely child, longing for connection...a dramatically ironic thing for a boy who possesses extraordinary abilities that he has to keep secret.
I like to challenge my dressers to invent moments that speak to the character. This sublime detail is so evocative, and is one of the wonderful things that happens when you encourage another person’s creativity. DVD art courtesy of Set Dresser AJ Austin...
This home for Liz [Laura Harrier], Peter Parker's love interest and captain of the school’s academic decathlon team, was a complete re-do and served as a space for a surprising twist. I was relying on the abstract painting in the background to subliminally telegraph a secret...
I've discovered I can get more done if I'm not supervising every stick of furniture that comes off the truck. I make detailed sketches and dress plans for my team, and they often have locations dialed-in well beyond my expectations by the time I've arrived to set. They're really, really good.
Growing up I loved disaster flicks like EARTHQUAKE, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, and TOWERING INFERNO, so I always jump at the chance when we get to dress a post-destruction phase of something. I'm less enamored of those moments when the ADs quietly ask us to restore it days later...
When you're re-creating a scaled replica of the Staten Island Ferry (and splitting it in half), you've got to get the details right. I marvel at my crews' ability to fabricate complex pipe systems, as well as their remarkably upbeat dispositions, despite the Georgia summer heat...
When I looked at the seating in the Staten Island Ferry, I thought, “How on earth are we going to do that?” Cue my crackerjack team of fabricators whose engineering minds kick into high gear whenever they're presented with a challenge. The results are uncanny and a dead match.
Toomes's Warehouse, which becomes the Vulture's [Michael Keaton] lair, was one of those empty canvas industrial spaces where you could really allow your imagination to take off on a flight of fancy.
[Keaton’s response...]“The first day I walked onto the salvage company set, I was really impressed with the size and scope... It really exceeded what I had envisioned in my head – it was such a great visceral environment to work within and was perfect for the creation of the Vulture and his suit.”
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Set Dec crew, partial*, on the Warehouse set (L to R): Katie Childs, Head Buyer; Grant Samson, Leadman, one of the most decent, thoughtful, trustworthy persons I know—this guy makes it all happen; Mike Garcia, Gang Boss; Gene Serdena, Furniture Guy; Jenn Sandel, Buyer; Frank Lawrence, Set Dec Driver; Blade Ladish, Set Dresser
*Not everyone pictured, see below for complete list...
In the Avenger's New Compound, we were vexed to find a centerpiece that played off the existing architecture and made a dramatic statement. I challenged Production Designer Oliver Scholl to design an iconic piece that might be the coolest seat in a Marvel movie. He sketched what became this lovely lobby bench, which impressed the heck out of everybody...
Special Effects Supervisor Extraordinaire, Dan Sudick, also managed a Set Dec fabrication shop for me, on-site at Pinewood Studios Atlanta. Here, Dan just finished testing the sturdiness of one of many “marble” benches his team created for the Washington Monument sequence we shot at Pinewood. Dan is one of the behind-the-scenes heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A great team of very fine folks, our core Set Dec Crew. [Front LtoR] Set Dressers John Day, Blade Ladish, AJ Austin [Middle] Gang Boss Dana Corbett [Rear LtoR ] Set Dressers Patrick Steven Johnson, Bam Hughes, AJ Caulfield, Matthew Townsend, Jacob Kee; Driver Larry Railey; Set Dresser Brad Terry; Gang Boss Mark Kwiatkowski; Set Dresser Patrick Dalen; Leadman Grant Samson; Driver John Scott; Gang Bosses Josh Moceri and Mike Garcia *Not everyone pictured, see below for complete list...
When tensions were running high, we relied on our mascot Igby (who belongs to Set Dec Coordinator Amy Lehman) to offer unconditional support... and hilarity.
Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA takes us behind the scenes and through his methodology for the sets of the standout hit SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING!
SET DECOR is stepping out of the box for this special edition album, which Serdena narrates through the captions.
Per Serdena’s request, because several of his crew members, all of which were vital to the production, were not included in the film’s official credits, we are providing their names here, as a special acknowledgement from the set decorator.
He also gives a shout out to several of his key resources, many are SDSA Business members.
Enjoy the album above!
And, along with the set decorator, give a nod to those listed below...
Grant Samson, Leadman
Jory Alvarado, Drapery and Upholstery Supervisor
Katie Childs, Head Buyer
Jenn Sandel, Buyer
Kemper Harris, On-Set Dresser
Jaime Rosegren, 2nd Unit On-Set Dresser
Amy Lehman, Set Dec Coordinator
Aram Paparian, Set Dec P.A.
Patrick Steven Johnson
LCW (L.A.) — A major contributor!
Alpha Medical Atlanta
Warner Bros Property (Atlanta and L.A.)
Bridge Props (Atlanta)
Prop Source a.k.a. Georgia Prop Source(Atlanta)
Georgia Film Art (Atlanta)
Universal Property (L.A.)
Sony Property (L.A.)
Hollywood Studio Gallery (L.A.)
Studio Art and Technology (SAT)/ Independent Studio Services (ISS)
Central Atlanta Prop Service
RJR Props (Atlanta)