Just as there are moments that make a day sing, there are sometimes “smaller” projects that stand out for a top set decorator, even among a long list of credits. Collaborating on the set for the staging of the song Chandelier for the singing phenomenon Sia’s appearance at the GRAMMY Awards® gave Set Decorator Jason Howard SDSA one of those prismatic experiences. He shares with SET DECOR a quick look at how it all came together…
Chandelier is such a rich song, and Sia is a truly unique and singular artist. Having material with that level of substance and gravity informs the process of creating the set in a way that enriches every aspect of the result.
This set was a particular treat to work on. Last year, Production Designer James Yarnell and I did a kind of stripped down elemental set for Sia on DANCING WITH THE STARS for a performance of the same song. After that, I already had a good grasp of the aesthetic Sia was looking for when Art Director Alana Billingsley contacted me about doing this.
Alana and Production Designer Brain Stonestreet had already produced some fairly detailed mockups when I came on board. The fantastic ceiling pieces with all those bulbs were already underway. It was up to me to fill up the room and flesh it out. Some specific pieces were called out, like the mattress, turntable, radiators and pieces for choreography. Beyond that, I was allowed to go crazy with everything. What more does a Set Decorator want?
I went to my trusty thrift/antique resources and got to work. I hit St. Vincent de Paul, King Richard's in Whittier, Antique Row in Pomona, and then Goodwill for shopping carts full of clothes and textiles by the pound.
Working in a muted, controlled palette and having the opportunity to do multiple layers and textures is always fun. The treasure hunt aspect of projects like this is one of my favorite things to do. Wandering the few true antique malls we have left is like going on an architectural dig. There is nothing quite like discovering that one perfect item. Sometimes pieces just leapt out that were not even on my list of things to find. The ivory velvet hanging lamp demanded inclusion. Near the end, I needed some columns, and Glass Horizons had exactly what was required. Only one made it into the show, but that was a magical find.
The set presented some technical challenges. Due to venue space and height restrictions, it was broken into wagons. The two center wagons remained upright while moving on and off stage. However, the rest had to be tipped either onto their sides or their backs, to be moved into place. Those wagons had wheels and framing attached. This meant everything had to be immobilized. Brackets and screws were extensively utilized as well as grip chain strapping. If it couldn't be screwed down, it was hot glued. The only exceptions were the few loose items used as props by the dancers.
Matt Goland and his crew at Vision Scenery Corporation did a great job securing the pieces for transport and performance. They were so thorough that if I left a piece sitting too long before placing it, it got screwed down! They made putting it all together a breeze.
Sia created a compelling song, and her vision was a great inspiration. Her enthusiasm for the end product and her kudos to all of us were very gratifying. With people like her, Alana and Brian, this project goes down in my career as a true highlight.
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