Main Photo
Dan’s attic room, New Hampshire... Ewan MacGregor plays Dan Torrance, the grown-up version of little Danny, who survived the horrific events of THE SHINING in 1980. Ewan McGregor. Photo by Jessica Miglio © 2019 Warner Bros.

DOCTOR SLEEP

November 13th, 2019


Set Decorator
Gene Serdena SDSA

Production Designer
Maher Ahmad

Warner Bros.

Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA takes us into DOCTOR SLEEP and down its rabbit hole!   The storyline:
Ewan MacGregor plays Dan Torrance, the grown-up version of little Danny, who survived the horrific events of THE SHINING in 1980. DOCTOR SLEEP first picks up where THE SHINING left off...child Danny and his mother, Wendy, have flown the haunted Overlook Hotel in Colorado, and relocated to Florida. Danny’s psychic abilities make him a conduit to the ghost world, and he spirals into addiction to escape his demons.
 
DOCTOR SLEEP traces Dan’s journey from childhood to current day, where he finds himself clean and sober and living in a rented room in New Hampshire. His sobriety brings about a clarity of mind that allows his psychic powers to re-emerge.
He begins to receive messages from a stranger, Abra, a little girl in a neighboring city with similar talents. They communicate psychically, until Abra senses a horrific event that compels her to call out for help.
 
Dan and Abra join forces to battle the True Knot, a group of ancient beings who draw their strength and longevity by committing heinous and cruel acts against innocent victims.
 
The production...
When Dan first arrives in his attic apartment, the notion was to give the room the character of a furnished rental for a down-and-out person seeking shelter. There were a number of challenging factors: the set had to conform to certain architectural conventions to allow for shots that had been meticulously storyboarded...also, the character lives in this space over an eight year time span, so we had to develop the look of him gaining gradual ownership of his dwelling, but still allow for stunt and effects work.

It presents a daunting challenge to preserve the integrity of character in a set, when there are so many competing agendas aligning to sacrifice the character to the technical demands of the film. 
 
The huge challenge was re-creating several key sets and set elements of the Overlook Hotel from the 1980 film THE SHINING, including the Lobby Great Room & Mezzanine, the Guest Quarters, the Boiler Room and the cavernous and elegant bar, the Gold Room. 
 


Most distinctive was probably David Hicks’s infamous hexagonal carpet design. DOCTOR SLEEP's Production Designer, Maher Ahmad, and Supervising Art Director Austin Gorg, spent long hours analyzing the long tracking shots of Stanley Kubrick’s film to try to get all the details right. They had the added benefit of gaining access to some of the original blueprints, but closer inspection of the film revealed, as is often the case, that there were unexpected deviations from the original plans. Local 44 Buyer Katie Childs is a pro at sourcing vendors who can re-create miles of carpeting...and, after myriad color samples sent back and forth, manages to get it just right. Graphic Designer, John Pundt, did a brilliant job of analyzing all the carpets and area rugs in the original Overlook Hotel, rendering graphic files from them, and then helping us get the colors to match. 
 
Set Dressing Paint Foreman Danielle Couture had to find just the right age level to suggest the long state of dereliction of the hotel, but still allow the environment to be recognizable.

Room 237 is the infamous room in THE SHINING with the dead, decomposing woman in the bathtub who is prone to making unexpected appearances. We got to re-create the insanity of that room: peacock Art Deco carpets, 70s chevron bedspread with matching curtains, and raspberry velour seating area.
 
When you’re trying to faithfully re-create something, the challenge to achieve historical authenticity necessitates that one subjugate one's natural expressions of taste and design in the service of making a facsimile of someone else’s tastes and aesthetic criteria.The pleasure is derived from feeling like you’ve done a successful job.
 
The layout of the halls and rooms were built so the geography matched that of THE SHINING. The Art Department researchers made a massive archive of digital stills from the original film, and each Set Dresser could be found glaring into their phones and tablets, as they dressed in the details of each room, trying to make everything match.
 
Again, the task of matching one's work to the specifications of the original, calls for a deliberateness of gesture, of taking unexpected turns and circuitous routes, all dictated by something built on a cinematic iconography, but, on closer inspection, grounded in a vintage reality that is mind-boggling. The elements of Op-Art carpet, mixed with Art Deco and 70s Disco flourishes, shouldn’t really come together...but, somehow, they do.
 
DOCTOR SLEEP was a massive undertaking, fraught with a lot of political in-fighting that is sadly endemic of much of our culture. Through it all, my team held their heads high, showed up each day, delivered fine work and kept their morale up. We have grown a fine working family, where each member plays a vital role, and is given tremendous responsibility. There’s a creative spark you try to foster, and hope it catches fire. When you get the right mix of craftspeople, and everyone hunkers down and gives it their all, you have a chance of making things ignite, and that is the beauty of making art.
 






 
 



Photo 3
Dan’s attic room, New Hampshire... When Dan first arrives in his attic apartment, the notion was to give the room the character of a furnished rental for a down-and-out person seeking shelter. There were a number of challenging factors...the set had to conform to certain architectural conventions to allow for shots that had been meticulously storyboarded. Also, the character lives in this space over an eight year time span, so we had to develop the look of him gaining gradual ownership of his dwelling, but still allow for stunt and effects work. Photo courtesy GS.

Photo 4
Dan’s attic room, New Hampshire... It presents a daunting challenge to preserve the integrity of character in a set, when there are so many competing agendas aligning to sacrifice the character to the technical demands of the film. Ewan McGregor. Photo by Jessica Miglio ©2019 Warner Bros.

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Overlook Hotel, 1980... Yes. This. We had to re-create David Hicks’s infamous hexagonal carpet design that was heavily featured in THE SHINING. [See below for Gene’s great story about this!] Roger Dale Floyd. Image ©2019 Warner Bros.

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Overlook Hotel, 2019... Also iconic, Room 237... Drapery & Upholstery Foreman Jory Alvarado (Local 44), stands before his re-creation of the Room 237 chevron drapes and sofa. Jory not only had to match the drapes from THE SHINING, he then had to hand-age them to reflect 40 years of dereliction. Photo courtesy GS.

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Overlook Hotel, Room 237... The infamous room in THE SHINING, with the dead, decomposing woman in the bathtub who is prone to making unexpected appearances... We got to re-create the insanity of that room: peacock Art Deco carpets, 70s chevron bedspread with matching curtains, and raspberry velour seating area. When you’re trying to faithfully re-create something, the challenge to achieve historical authenticity necessitates that one subjugate one’s natural expressions of taste and design in the service of making a facsimile of someone else’s tastes and aesthetic criteria. The pleasure is derived from feeling like you’ve done a successful job. Photo courtesy GS.

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Overlook Hotel, Room 237... Set Dressing Paint Foreman Danielle Couture and her team had to find just the right age level, to suggest the long state of dereliction of the hotel, but still allow the environment to be recognizable. Photo courtesy GS.

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Overlook Hotel, Room 237... Set Dressers Josh Moceri and Sam Carter have a bit of fun in the horrific bathroom of Room 237... Photo courtesy GS.

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Overlook Hotel... The humble, haunted Guest Quarters of the Overlook Hotel...where all of the dressing failed to observe any rules of continuity. Try analyzing featured events such as radiators and bedside tables, that seem to magically rearrange from shot-to-shot in THE SHINING...then try to satisfy the demands of a director who insists that everything be congruent with its predecessor. Good luck. Photo courtesy GS.

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Overlook Hotel... Re-creating the Boiler Room, which was briefly featured in THE SHINING, was a monumental task in counter-intuition. There were so many elements that were dictated by the original...elements from which, of my own volition, I might greatly deviate...but the task at hand was to do a faithful re-creation of someone else’s work. Photo courtesy GS.

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Overlook Hotel... Boiler Room detail... Photo courtesy GS.

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Doctor’s office, with a twist... We created a simple set for the Doctor’s Office in DOCTOR SLEEP, but then the director threw a twist at us. He wanted the set to be a copy of the Office set where Jack Nicholson interviews for the role of caretaker of the Overlook in THE SHINING. Photo courtesy GS.

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Doctor’s office, with a twist... We replaced all the elements of the original with pictures and furnishings that made sense in a doctor’s office, but we composed all the elements in a strict composition which mimicked the original Interview Office. The results, while utterly banal, were equally satisfying. Photo courtesy GS.



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