March 18th, 2019 by Karen Burg

Main Photo
Vers quarters, on Hala, the Kree home planet... Vers a.k.a. Carol Danvers [Brie Larson] begins a journey of self-discovery... Photo by Chuck Zlotnick ©2019 Marvel Studios

Set Decorator
Lauri Gaffin SDSA International

Production Designer
Andy Nicholson

Marvel Studios

A former officer and Air Force test pilot, Carol Danvers a.k.a Vers [Brie Larson] becomes the universe’s most powerful hero when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races, the Kree and the Skrulls. Danvers is a maverick and not easily controlled, but through her journey she finds her true self and the path to harness her incredible powers. 
– Marvel Studios

The CAPTAIN MARVEL film is set in the 1990s...a first for the MCU.
In this pre-Avengers time period, cell phones were just phones, pagers were in, Internet cafes were the rage and video rental stores dotted the landscape on Earth, while superior technology reigned on other worlds.
To bring this juxtaposition about, Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck turned to Director of Photography Ben Davis ASC, Production Designer Andy Nicholson [GRAVITY, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, DIVERGENT] and Set Decorator Lauri Gaffin SDSA International [IRON MAN 1&2, THOR, FARGO] and their estimable crews.
1990s...Here and There...
With the story set in the mid-1990s, the filmmakers decided to base the production in and around Los Angeles for its 75-day shooting schedule, including shooting Los Angeles for Los Angeles, using local stages and locations for the alien environments, plus a stint in the outskirts of Baton Rouge for the dreamy, beautiful atmosphere of the bayou country.

Iconic ‘90s...
As part of a galactic Spaceforce from the Kree homeland planet, Danvers, known as Vers at the time, literally crashes into the 1990s, through the roof of a Los Angeles Blockbuster Video store.  Nicholson, Gaffin and their teams transformed a derelict strip mall into an instantly recognizable slice of the ‘90s with the iconic video store, a Radio Shack, a dry cleaners and even the corner phone booth!
Gaffin reveals, “My crew laughed at me when I told them we would need 5000 video tapes for the Blockbuster store! Then they enthusiastically jumped in, searching through thrift stores and eBay, buying large lots of VHS tapes and compiling a huge stash. We basically sifted through about 7000, looking for the right size specific to Blockbuster, and ended up with about 4000 good ones. We then made Blockbuster labels and covered the cassettes with the appropriate real movie titles from the ‘80s.”
They also re-created vintage candy boxes and bags—racks and racks worth—and the now also iconic Rock the Vote posters along with band and movie posters, which required myriad specific clearances. [See photos above]
At one point, Vers/Danvers ends up at a cyber-café, dealing with dial-up internet! The period computers and café elements were spot on...
Welcome to the ‘90s!


Other notable location work included an atmospheric older crash site semi-buried at a mountain lake. The scattered plane parts included a 30-ft cockpit and wing tips...and the destroyed master component of a new energy...all “buried” in the shifting sands by Gaffin’s crew at the majestic Shaver Lake, CA.
[See photos above for more details.]
The screenplay origins for the “lost” plane were filmed at Edwards Air Force Base. Gaffin says, “The personnel at the base couldn’t be more helpful. I had a great relationship with them during the IRONMAN shoots, and they understood the importance of authenticity of the sets. This time it was re-creating a hanger scene from that era, with the appropriate planes in the background as well as in key positions.

S.H.I.E.L.D. underground facility...
MCU fans, in particular, will appreciate the pre-Avengers emergence of Nick Fury. The former Army Colonel & CIA Cold War operative, has joined S.H.I.E.L.D., a covert international peacekeeping organization that operates as humanity's first line of defense against Earth's most dangerous enemies...and eventually will become its Director. However, at this point in the 1990s, he doesn’t believe that aliens exist...until he meets Vers/Danvers and some shape-shifting Skrulls in a Los Angeles strip mall!
Fury joins Vers/Danvers in her quest, taking her to a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. underground facility containing miles of vaults of stored information. To create a realistic impression and provide background for some major fight scenes, Gaffin says, “Over 5000 boxes were assembled in alphabetical order, labeled extensively, then archived at the UCLA Library basement. Buyer Sara Gardiner-Gail had a detailed layout and assignment of every box to be assembled and its placement, and our crew’s diligence and perfectionism creating these archives was an outstanding effort by everyone!” [See photos above.]
Editor’s note: After the shoot, Gaffin was pleased to be able to donate the archival quality boxes to the library. As most set decorators feel, “I hate waste and love to recycle/reuse whenever appropriate and possible.”
Stage-builds/other worlds...
While there were many practical locations, there was also a fair share of stage work where Nicholson, Gaffin and their teams [many hands and minds!] created the intergalactic worlds of the Kree and Skrulls.
Crucial that the two civilizations differ from each other in order for the audience to tell them apart, the Kree world is angular and symmetrical, with heavy use of metals, the Skrull world is curved and asymmetrical, with the use of ceramics and other organic materials. This basic broad-stroke design aspect applied to all elements of the two worlds, including buildings, spaceships, interiors and clothing.
Nicholson says, “The overall curved design for the Skrulls extended into the interiors of their ships as well. When you see the interior of the main battleship, it’s all about organic lines and curves. A lot of it was made out of ceramic with a skeleton behind it. We did an architectural language that was about plates and skeletons and the skeletal structure behind that. So, there are layers and layers...all woven organic materials. That contrasts with the Kree world, where we went for a much more linear, straight-line and angular look.”
The geometric, controlled look of the Kree world is depicted in Vers’s quarters, which gives audiences a glimpse of Kree life, as well as another perspective of the beautiful futuristic city below.
Down home...
In deliberate contrast, we see the simple Earth-life Kodachrome-esque flashbacks Vers/Danvers experiences of her childhood...momentary glimpses include a carnival at a raceway where Gaffin’s team dealt not only with circus tents and rides, including a Ferris wheel, but also 2000 hay bales to line the perimeter!
Pancho’s bar...
Along the journey of discovery, Vers and Fury visit a version of the Pancho Barnes test-pilot hangout bar made famous in the film and book THE RIGHT STUFF, which happens to be the VHS film cassette Vers pulls from the shelf when she crashes through the video store roof. She senses a connection...
Along with aeronautical ephemera, Gaffin brought in a vintage jukebox with appropriate vintage CD’s, and framed photographs selected from the archives at Edwards Air Force Base, plus photos created to fit with those, which show hints of Vers/Danvers’s history...
Maria Rambeau’s world...
A former test fighter pilot and Carol Danvers’s best friend, Maria Rambeau has a passion for what she does, is strong-minded and centered, and was a loyal confidante in Carol’s life. It seems a natural progression to find her and reconnect, which happens on the other side of the country in the bayous of Louisiana. Creating Maria’s warm, unpretentious (but full of symbolism) home and hanger/workshop was a delightful project that Gaffin embraced. Here we find the family layers of was Rambeau’s parent’s home and now where she raises her daughter...and simplicity in a beautiful natural setting. Here, Carol finds the emotional connection she was missing.
Such a contrast to the Skrull and Kree worlds, and yet...oops, no spoilers!
We’ll let you discover for yourself!

Gaffin notes the depth of collaboration and commitment throughout the film. With her background in photography, she has an enhanced awareness of the importance of the lighting and framing of a shot, and has worked closely with top cinematographers around the world. Whether re-created time-periods or leaps into other worlds, Gaffin brings an artful aspect to the film, “I look at it as I would a photo, how to bring a deeper resonance into the frame.”  She appreciated Davis’s process, vision and openness. “It was a privilege to work with someone of his caliber and kindness.”
For the key partnering, Nicholson’s skill in defining imaginative futuristic worlds coupled well with Gaffin’s eye for detail, whether in space or in Earth’s spaces! “Andy is focused on the story and he is very good at refining his beautiful designs to make them believable, while totally understanding VFX and communicating with the director and cinematographer! Whether it’s a location or a set, future or past, he explores all the possibilities to create the most effective solutions for the film.”
“And it all comes together because of our incredible crews. The diligence and commitment of my team...and their skills and knowledge!
I rely on my brilliant Leadman Anthony Carlino, as I have for so many productions. His understanding of the mechanics of a large set and his solid confidence in getting things done provide an anchor even in the wildest of situations. And our guys always come through for does Buyer Sara Gardiner-Gail and our team of Buyers and Set Dec dept.
They all rise to the challenge every time, no matter the size or requirements, and they keep a sense of fun and willingness in each project we take on.
Their enthusiasm and dedication and camaraderie is amazing...they are my soul on a film.”
Editor’s note:

Gaffin would like to acknowledge her "incredible" crew members who are an integral part of this filmmaking experience...and the SDSA International Business Members whom she relied upon for myriad aspects of the sets...
CAPTAIN MARVEL Set Dec Department Key Crew:
Anthony Carlino, Leadman                                                           
Sara Gardner-Gail SDSA International Associate, Buyer 
Kate Fettis, Buyer  
Chelsea Mondelli, Set Decoration Coordinator  
Gang Bosses:
Mark Boucher                               
Paul Boucher 
Tyler Kettenburg                            
Randy Severino
Set Dressers:
Marcus Epps, On-Set                              
Scott M. Anderson
Max Bostic
John Boucher                                
Corey Felix Gomez 
Marco Lopez                                 
Danny Metz
Brian Nabours
Nick Rymond                                                            
Mark Sunga                                   
Johnny Agnew, Driver
Claire Fredrickson, Set Dec Production Assistant
SDSA International Business Members:
Advance Liquidators
Air Designs
Alley Cats Studio Rentals
Alpha Companies
American Screen & Window
Art Pic
Astek Wallcovering
Diamond Foam & Fabric
EC Props
Faux Library Studio Props
Green Set
Hand Prop Room, The
Heaven Or Las Vegas
History For Hire
Hollywood Cinema Arts
Hollywood Studio Gallery
ISS/Independent Studio Services
LCW Props
Lennie Marvin’s Prop Heaven
Linoleum City
Modern Props
Modernica Props
Omega Cinema Props
Playback Technologies
Practical Props
Premiere Props
RC Vintage
Sony Pictures Studios
Warner Bros

Photo 3
Kree Starforce... The design aesthetic for the Kree world was centered on straight lines, angular geometrics, metals... Set dec department not only did the furnishings but also manufactured and fitted the pipes, hosing and other detailing of the sets’ surfaces... Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 4
Kree Starforce... Kree elite military operatives prepare for a mission on planet C-53 a.k.a. Earth... L to R: Korath [Djimon Hounsou], Att-Lass [Algenis Perez Soto], Vers/Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel [Brie Larson], Bron-Char [Rune Temte], Minn-Erva [Gemma Chan]. Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 5
Block Buster Video Store, mid-1990s... Vers/Captain Marvel crashes through the roof of the popular video store, then tries to get her bearings... Brie Larson. Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 6
Blockbuster Video Store, mid-1990s... Set Decorator Lauri Gaffin SDSA International tells us, “My crew laughed at me when I told them we would need 5000 video tapes for the Blockbuster store! They enthusiastically jumped in, searching through thrift stores and eBay, buying large lots of VHS tapes and compiling a huge stash. We basically sifted through about 7000, looking for the right size specific to Blockbuster, and ended up with about 4000 good ones. Then we tackled the labeling process!” Photo ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 7
Blockbuster Video Store, mid-1990s... Labels were created for the films of the ‘80s, early ‘90s that could be cleared + the Blockbuster labels that were essential to all the product on the shelves. Gaffin’s teams also re-created vintage candy boxes and bags, plus posters for films of that era, cleared through the well as stand-up character cutouts. But that’s another story! Photo ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 8
Phone booth, mid-1990s... Anchoring the same strip mall as the video store is a re-created Radio Shack, a dry cleaners, and this vital segment of every main corner, a phone booth, which Vers actually uses! Posters from popular bands of the time [particularly some of the directors’ favorites], a few for non-existent bands for those ever-hopefuls, and the now iconic Rock the Vote posters set the period. Photo ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 9
Metro, LA, mid-1990s... Vers/Danvers [Brie Larson] has spotted alien shape-shifters getting onto the train. Of course, several action sequences follow...with both exteriors and interiors of the cars, which Gaffin’s team dressed for period and safety. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick ©2019 Marvel Studios

Photo 10
Cyber café, mid-1990s... A superhero who not only saves the world, but grapples with the ‘90s to do it! How many superheroes have to deal with dial-up?!!! Brie Larson. Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 11
Cyber café, mid-1990s... The team put together period-correct working computers and coffee/café elements for a flawless reproduction... Buyer Sara Gardiner-Gail SDSA International Associate checks off her list. The painting is by Curtis Gutierrez, the photo on the right is by Gaffin. Playback Technology ensured that the computer screens worked! Photo ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 12
S.H.I.E.L.D. secret underground facility, 1990s... Vers [Brie Larson] teams with agent Nick Fury [Samuel L. Jackson] in search of top secret information... This was filmed at an existing facility 1-mile underground! Gaffin’s crew augmented the piping and lighting, and added interior details... Brie Larson. Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Photo 13
S.H.I.E.L.D. secret underground facility, vaults... Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel [Brie Larson], in “borrowed” clothes, goes on an active search for information about her past, but she and Fury are impeded by shape-shifting Skrulls in the guise of S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel...including his boss! Photo by Chuck Zlotnick ©2019 Marvel Studios

Photo 14
S.H.I.E.L.D. secret underground facility, vaults... Miles of vaults of stored information. To create a realistic impression and provide a seemingly vast background for some major fight scenes, Gaffin says, “My team consistently comes through! Over 5000 boxes were arduously assembled in alphabetical order, labeled extensively, then archived at the UCLA Library basement.” Editor’s note: After the shoot, Gaffin was able to donate the archival quality boxes to the library. As most set decorators feel, “I hate waste and love to recycle/reuse whenever appropriate & possible.” Photo ©Marvel Studios 2019