January 31st, 2020 by Karen Burg & Gene Cane for podcast

Main Photo
Here's the now iconic photo... Betzler Dining Room... Jojo dining with an imaginary friend and an amazing mother! Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson. Photo by Kimberley French ©2019 Searchlight Pictures.

Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.”  
--Taika Waititi
JOJO RABBIT is a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy [Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo] whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother [Scarlett Johansson as Rosie] is hiding a young Jewish girl [Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa] in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler [Taika Waititi], Jojo must confront his blind nationalism. 
In the end, as much as JOJO RABBIT showcases the tragically absurd realities of authoritarianism and nationalistic fervor, as well as the personal wages of prejudice and hate, the film equally reminds us of our human connection and the simple responsibility we all have to do what we can...including simply trying to be good to one another.                                   
--Searchlight Pictures  
Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA and Set Decorator Nora Sopková SDSA created incredible sets to not only frame but reveal the characters in this deeply humanistic tale of tolerance, hate and most importantly, love. Their work has quite rightly been recognized by multiple award nominations, including ADG, BAFTA and the Academy Awards. 
As we mentioned in our coverage of the Oscar nominations – see Awards section – if you’re going to tell a seemingly impossible story, it’s best to find artistic souls who will equally embrace that experience.

So early on, Taika Waititi reached out to his friend and artist Ra Vincent, with whom he has worked on several projects.
Taika wanted a look for the film that was unexpected and filled with the spirit of childhood. Because the audience is seeing through the eyes of a 10-year-old, instead of the usual grayed-out colors of war-time films, Ra chose to have the film’s palette begin in rich, vibrant tones.
“At Jojo’s age things are a little more rosy-tinted and the world seems bigger and more amazing. So, we set out to try to re-create this feeling, but within 1940s Germany.”
Ra provided fascinating details in a lovely conversation with SDSA Executive Director Gene Cane and me for SET DECOR, which for the first time we are bringing to you via video/audio!
Click here:
Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA Oscar Nominee Interview
We’ve included some of the details in the photo gallery above. 
You’ll find below a sample of what Ra shares in the interview.
And then, as a postscript, a letter from Writer/Director Taika Waititi...
Karen Burg
Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA
Re: the aspect of filmmaking abroad and on such a small budget... 
“There are a number of things you have to take into consideration with such a small budget...around $14million for the entire production....and of that, the art department plays with just around $800 with that in mind, one of the key thoughts is okay I could bring my set decorator and art director and a few key technicians with me, but what’s going to happen once we land in the Czech Republic is that we’re going to team them up with another person who has technically the same role...”
“So instead of the customary people you go to, whom you communicate well with, I took a chance, short-circuited that process a little bit and went with all local crew. So, after sitting down for an extraordinary amount of interviews with interesting people, some with broken English, some with great English, and some communications that transcended the spoken language in some areas, I ended up with a fantastic team. 
Nora Sopková, who is the decorator on our film, was a standout person for me. She had a really beautiful way of describing mood, color and furnishings in a bit more of a theatrical approach.  Re: Crew:
For some of the Czech crew, having English as a second language, meant that they pay a lot of attention to what you’re saying. So when you give an instruction, or when you are trying to encourage them into a feeling about a certain space, they’re looking for the slightest little clues. And it’s not just the words that come out of your mouth, it’s the things that you reference, it’s the way that you stand, it’s the expression on your face. I think that they were really great at noticing those cues. And as a result, we ended up with a seamless communication system, which you know, I think we often take for granted.”
...For more, click on the link above!
Bridge Furniture & Props
As a gift for our readers, we are offering Taika Waititi’s open letter re: JOJO RABBIT
“I have always been drawn to stories that see life through children’s eyes.
In this case, it happens to be a kid that we might not normally invest in.

My grandfather fought against the Nazis in World War II and I’ve always been fascinated by that time and those events.
When my mother told me about Christine Leunen’s book Caging Skies, I was drawn in by the fact it was told through the eyes of a German child indoctrinated into hate by adults.

Having children of my own, I have become even more aware that adults are supposed to guide children through life and raise them to be better versions of themselves, and yet in times of war, adults are often doing the opposite. 
In fact, from a child's point of view, during these times, adults appear chaotic and absurd when all the world needs is guidance and balance.
I experienced a certain level of prejudice growing up as a Māori Jew, so making JOJO RABBIT has been a reminder, especially now, that we need to educate our kids about tolerance and continue to remind ourselves that there’s no place in this world for hate.
Children are not born with hate, they are trained to hate.

I hope the humor in JOJO RABBIT helps engage a new generation; it's important to keep finding new and inventive ways of telling the horrific story of World War II again and again for new generations, so that our children can listen, learn, and move forward, unified into the future.
Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.”
-Taika Waititi

Photo 3
Betzler Dining Room... Writer/Director Taika Waititi describes Jojo’s mother... “Rosie’s a defiant woman who decides that so long as ideals of empathy and tolerance are being pushed to the margins, she will work fearlessly to uphold them. Contrary to Jojo, she sees all too clearly the poisonous world Hitler is forging, so her natural response is to help, as she says, by “doing what she can”—which in her passionately practical way is a lot. But that also means hiding the truth of her life from Jojo to keep him safe, while hoping her little boy comes to his senses.” Scarlett Johansson. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler kitchen... Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA designed the kitchen to have a pass-through window into the dining room, but one with considerable panache... Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi. Photo by Kimberley French ©2019 Searchlight Pictures.

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Betzler kitchen... Here, the other side of the pass through. The kitchen put together in Rosie’s inimitable style. A dejected and lonely Jojo seeks comfort from his imaginary friend... Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler kitchen... However, the actual comfort comes from the environs of his mother’s kitchen... Roman Griffin Davis. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler kitchen... Ra was delighted with the Art Deco cabinetry and smalls Set Decorator Nora Sopková SDSA brought in... Note the rounded glass cupboards and the incredible copper tea kettle! Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler kitchen... Ra designed the entire house set[s] to flow one into another, to give flexibility for movement and camera, particularly for Taika’s improvisational style, allowing him and other actors to be inspired by and play off of anything. Director of Photography Mihai Malaimare Jr considered it a gift. “The interior of the house was incredible for us. Ra’s sets were so rich that we could shoot in every direction and it was pure joy.” Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler house entrance & stairway, concept sketch... You can see from this early concept sketch the natural flow of rooms and immediate warmth of the curved lines that will be key throughout... Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler house stairway, concept sketch... Here, a sample colorway, rich palette, inspired by Rosie’s vivaciousness, strength of character and openness to experiencing life as an art. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler Living Room... After looking out the window searching for his mother, Jojo awaits her arrival, ready to protect her and himself from what he thinks is his sister’s ghost. He has heard noises from upstairs. Roman Griffin Davis. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler Living Room... A behind the scenes shot of the room being dressed. Note the missing lampshade, the pillows askew and no side table dressing at the moment. But more importantly, note the sofa designed and created for the room, the fabulous tray and the triple-paneled draperies... Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Betzler Living Room... The fantastical glass chandelier would take over a normal room, but this space has so much artful detail, the gorgeous statement piece simply anchors the room from above as the sofa does from below. Don’t miss the fireplace details! Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

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Jojo’s mother, Rosie’s bedroom... Boldness of design and yet a comforting welcoming space. Pattern on pattern, strongly defined curved lines...and straight! Note the fabulous piece tucked in the corner, which became an inspiration for the room, and don’t miss the incredible doors and thickness of the walls of this stone house... This is a working photo from the Art Department. You can see the actor tape marks and cord... Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.