Spanning alternate dimensions, THE OA jumps into alternate realities, as the main character OA/Prairie/Nina [Brit Marling] manifests different lives within one, navigating separate but somehow interlaced psychic, yet physical, plains.
The second season, which has come three years after the first, takes us on further unexpected multi-dimensional journeys.
A completely unique story, with fittingly unique sets giving visual context to the mind-bending leaps...
Set Decorator Bryan John Venegas SDSA International talks about the powerful and special collaboration with creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmangli, Production Designer John P. Goldsmith and their multi-talented visionary teams...
“Brit Marling is a tour de force! Getting to work with this talented multi-dimensional actress was a dream. Not only a radiant person, she has a kind and brilliant mind...and, along with Zal Batmanglij, created and wrote this fantastical series. Rarely do I get to work on a project where the team is so deeply, and wholeheartedly invested in the final product. It was a profound adventure and I am beyond grateful for the experience.”
“No story can be told without words on a page that seduce its audience into wanting more. For me the script dictates everything. It allows me to create and dream the sets into existence. Because the show was being shot like a noir film, I needed to interpret the idea and make it relevant, almost editorial in nature and spirit.”
Nina’s Penthouse, San Francisco...
“For me, it’s where Black and White meet that conveys harmony, so I needed to make sure the light supported such a distinct contrast, leaving little room for the grey. The colors were concentrated and muted allowing warmth through certain Golds & Reds (closer to the hue of dry clay or brick), and life through various shades of Green. I used contrasting textures throughout, materials like cane, lacquered laminate, burlap, mohair, brass and mirror. It was very important to our creators Brit & Zal that it didn’t feel “designed”, it needed to feel authentic and lived in, a place of pleasure and seduction, but also a place of repose.”
“In the Penthouse,
we wanted to draw a clear distinction between the lives of Prairie Johnson
and Nina Azarova
. Since the viewers see this set for the first time through the eyes of Prairie
, we needed to make an immediate impression on who Nina
was. In this dimension, Nina
is the daughter of a Russian oligarch, a billionaire living a fast and exciting life in San Francisco. A classy, powerful, sexual, vibrant woman of the day with a penchant for all things taboo...”
“Our production designer, John P. Goldsmith, built such a beautiful set...and I wanted the interior to compliment the grace and elegance of his design.
The parquet floors, elaborate moldings, doors and windows reveal the charm of the space, so we paid respect to those details by resisting all temptation of embellishment. Instead we were deliberate in our choices. We used a compelling mix of disparate styles, where the purity of neoclassicism meets modern clarity. Curial chairs by Rick Owens, John Dickinson side table...Louise XVI, Rococo, and Baroque styles, rounded out with an ivory mohair serpentine sofa…glamorous with an edge.”
“We were lucky enough to work with art liaison Hunter Gray, who helped facilitate the procurement of many of the art pieces on our sets from notable artists Cy Twombly, Gregory Crewdson, and Jennifer Steinkamp.”
“With the lovely Brit Marling as our muse, we felt the space should feel slightly esoteric, light in its essence, but with a dark side…”a strange beauty” being my constant mantra. For the foyer, we mixed mid-century design with an 18th Century Swedish Drapers table, and an Napoleon III Gilt Wood Mirror.”
“I have an affinity for the graphic, the mix of old & new, hard & soft, light & dark. Since this is the first roomPrairie
and the viewer see simultaneously, I wanted to make sure there was a sense of history and a distinct California perspective. Since we never actually meet the real Nina Azarova
, save for the brief moments before Prairie/OA
has jumped into her body, I wanted to hint at her life without giving away clues to where the story is headed.”
...and the elevator vestibule...
“Our amazing director/creator Zal Batmanglij had a very clear vision for the series, a definite nod to the Kubrickian aesthetic being one of the many. Thus, the simplicity of the white settee against the crisp white French details. The light fixture is a standout in contrasts, striking and straightforward.”
opens the door for the first time into her new life as Nina
, it needed to be impactful.”
“The stunning sconce from Arteriors Home was the perfect choice. It has an alien quality about it, a supernatural element to its design, with first signs of the circular motif that runs throughout the series. The kind of light you might find in an alternate dimension. I love the contrast of this shape to the classic setting it inhabits.”
“We wanted to leave small clues for our die-hard fans without spoiling the ride. We also wanted to affirm small connections to Season One/Dimension one.”
Nina’s Dining Room...
“Although we are never exactly in this dining room, it plays prominently in the background of a pivotal scene as OA
comes to terms with having missed a life that Nina
got to live. Here we mix Prouvé standard chairs from FormDecor, with two white Gustavian armchairs from Ob-jects. My amazing buyer Katie Childs found a beautiful Vetrai 10-light chandelier from Cyan Design, which hangs prominently over the dining table, and an elegant area rug from Ob-jects. Two Taccia lamps from Modern Props sit atop a stunning Milo Baughman granite console from Modernica Props.”
Nina’s Master Bedroom...
“I wanted this room to feel like a dream, light & airy, cloudlike and heavenly. I found this gorgeous Louis XVI-style bed with a cane headboard, which allowed light to filter into and through the room. I also finally got to use one of my favorite framed Asian embroideries in Los Angeles, 'Fighting Roosters' from Ob-jects.”
“Brit Marling and the incredible photographer Gregory Crewdson connected during Season One. Lucky for us, Gregory Crewdson is an admirer of the show, and was kind enough to lend us one of his images, facilitated by The Gagosian Gallery in New York. The piece titled Woman at Sink
(2014), resembles a shot from Season One of the mother in her home, something we referred to as a memory pop during production.”
“Our amazing Costume Designer, Meghan Kasperlik, and Brit’s personal Stylist, Megan Gray, were a Set Decoration department’s dream team. They filled Nina’s
closet with nothing but the best, from fashion houses like Gucci, Celine, Sies Marjan and Alexander McQueen, to name a few. We worked very closely with the costume department to ensure the sets and clothes complimented each other, creating stylistic cohesion. The fabric for the built-in upholstered bench paid homage to the beautiful Gucci dress worn by OA
through most of the second half of the series. The heirloom Karabagh Rug ties the whole room together and connects to Nina’s
Nina’s Master Bathroom...
“The Bathroom played prominently in some crucial, so we had to make a statement, with it overlooking the city as OA
transforms into Nina Azarova,
and during an important memory pop.
We worked with the best to create this fantasy bathroom:
· Bath fixtures and hardware supplied by Kohler Co.
· “Calais” chandelier from Circa Lighting
· Roman Emperor plaques from Omega|Cinema Props
· Brass bar cart, lamp, rug and smalls from Ob-jects
· Black Swallowtail chair by artist Brian Fireman, available at Siglo Moderno
· 19th Century Rococo Revival Giltwood mirrors found on 1st Dibs
· Murano sconces from The Pasadena Antique Center, MJH Design Arts
· Artwork by Artist William Logan, who also did a lot of the hand drawings of BBA
and the boys
from Season One
· All custom framing by U-Frame-It Gallery”
“For the entire Penthouse
, making things feel new and fresh was the challenge. During our research we came across so many great manufactures that were eager to work with us. Some longtime collaborators also stepped up. Here are a few of the dynamic designs groups we were fortunate enough to work with:
· Stoneware Pottery by artist Adam Silverman was a must have to get the aesthetic right.
· Alcor sideboard by Antonio Citterio for Maxalto
· Home audio system by McIntosh
· Strut Shelving System by Souda, NY
Treasure Island sets...
“Perched high atop the Treasure Island Terminal Building in the San Francisco Bay, was the home for our clinic
while shooting on location. Although The Clinic
on Treasure Island was an institution for some, it was a prison for our main characters…much like the underground confinement they endured in Season One. We wanted the clinic
to feel stark and cold, solitary and void of comfort. We controlled the palette, opting for black, white, and browns. We used light through the large windows to create shadows, silhouette, structure, and architecture where there was none. Once an asylum in the hands of Dr. Percy
, now a place of incarceration under the authority of Hap
, one large fishbowl looking out…keeping the world outside at bay.”
“The room for Dr. Percy
office was chosen for its 360-degree views of San Francisco. Although the space was visually ideal, it came with many obstacles. The building is a historical landmark, thus we were not allowed to put any holes in the structure...everything in the room needed to be pressure-fitted, including the window dressing and all the cabinetry, which was built in place. Because the room was used as an airport control tower in the mid 1930s, the only way in through the building was a spiral staircase large enough for just two people! All the furnishings had to be hoisted to the roof on a crane and/or small enough to fit in a narrow doorway.”
“Because there was so much construction while shooting on the island, we needed to come up with a solution to block all the cranes in our shot. John designed a built-in desk and corkboard to block most of the construction, and we used some art to hide the rest. The spiral staircase ties us to our clinic built on stage in Los Angeles. I wanted Hap’s
office to have a sense of history, to fuse global design with a nod to California mid-century.”
“The space was loosely based on the office of Sigmund Freud, connecting the founder of psychoanalysis to our protagonist Hap
. We used a mix of mid-century furniture and historic artifacts to convey the parallels Hap
has in this world and the one foot still firmly planted in the other. This character, more than any, was the narrative connection between universes, and you can see that most clearly in his office. Private and isolated but searching for the answers to an alternate existence...”
For many other intriguing sets, see the photo gallery and captions above...
“I am forever grateful to my team led by Lead Man Ray Garcia. My hardworking and talented buyers, Lisa Tong, Katie Childs, Allison Isenberg, Ashley Rice, Alana Shea and Dan Korn (S.F.), who were all so incredible and dedicated. Phenomenal crew: Stephen Thomason, John Pollard, David Sliwa, Josh Towers, Timothy Feimster, Critter, Sal Sanchez, Jory Alvarado, Mike Helbig (S.F.), Seth Miller (S.F.) and Andy Gersh.”
“Our collaboration with the amazing Art Department, led by John P. Goldsmith and Art Director Chris Farmer, was elevated by our magnificent director Zal Batmanglij, the exceptional eye of Cinematographer Steven Meizler, spectacular lighting by Russel Ayer, the ravishing costumes by Meghan Karsperlik and Megan Gray, the beauty of Ma Kalaadevi, the fantastic locations found by Jonathan Jansen, and finally, polished like a diamond by our incredible Visual Effects Supervisor Justin Ball. This team was truly remarkable in every way.”
Beyond his gracious listing of invaluable sources throughout this article and the gallery above, Venegas gives thanks and acknowledgement to the following SDSA International Business Members for their efforts and assistance on the project:
Universal Studios Property/Drapery
Warner Bros. Studios Property/Collection/Drapery
A-1 Medical Integration
Advanced Liquidators Office Furniture
Alpha Companies Motion Picture Rentals
American Screen & Window Coverings
Davie Brown Entertainment/The Marketing Arm
Diamond Foam & Fabric
Faux Library Studio Props
Hollywood Studio Gallery
Hollywood Cinema Arts
Jackson Shrub Supply Inc.
Lennie Marvin’s PropHeaven
Nest Studio Rentals
Pinacoteca Picture Props
Prop Services West
St. Vincent De Paul of L.A. Thrift Store
Sony Picture Props
Town & Country Event Rentals