Here’s a holiday gift for everyone!
This inside look of the world of LAST CHRISTMAS was provided by Universal Pictures. Seldom do the studios remember to include recognition of the set decorator and team in their campaigns. We were so delighted, we’re showcasing the whole section, with extra notes from Set Decorator Raffaella Giovannetti SDSA in the captions above.
Happy Holidays from all of us at SET DECOR and the SDSA!
Karen Burg, Editor
A Winter London-Land
Production Designer Gary Freeman and his long-time collaborator, Set Decorator Raffaella Giovannetti, were tasked by Director Paul Feig to showcase Jolly Old London as both an exciting fairyland and deeply intimate. As Tom’s
[Henry Golding] mantra “Look Up!
” is a call for those around him to experience the wonders they are ignoring, the director hoped to create a setting that gave life to Santa’s
catchphrase: “Time to sparkle
Freeman was duly impressed with what Feig and Writer/Actor Emma Thompson aimed to accomplish.
“In these troubled times, it’s quite nice to do something positive, and Emma’s energy is intoxicating,” Freeman says.
“Also, it was interesting that we were shooting in London. We tend to shoot other places for London all the time, so it was nice to highlight what is so great about the city. We shot the whole spectrum.
As a Londoner, you are often walking from A to B, head down, and you never really take in your surroundings. During Christmastime especially, it is stunning.”
“Paul wanted to show London as the beautiful city that it is, and we spent a lot of time finding places that would look spectacular,” Freeman continues. “He wanted to give London a slightly fairy-tale look. He loves fairy lights, sparkle and shimmer. Wherever we went, we were always looking for beauty.”
The designer recalls preparing the exterior of the Yuletide Wonderful
set in the center of Covent Garden two weeks before Christmas. “The biggest challenge for our department was prepping that shop set in Covent Garden,” Freeman reveals, “...with the public trying to buy all the props and dressing. Part of the deal with Covent Garden was that we didn’t shut them down, especially given the time of year. We had one weekend to get the set together before the crew started filming on Sunday night. It was quite brutal, but the team did really well.”
Raffaella Giovannetti, an Italian-based set decorator whose skill set is shown in her work alongside Freeman on TOMB RAIDER, ALLIED and EVEREST, served in this role for director Feig. Bringing the lush sensibilities that she provided to the look of EAT PRAY LOVE, Giovannetti immersed herself in all things Christmas, even if that meant shooing away would-be buyers to her gorgeous shop throughout the production.
The set decorator introduces us to her process. “When I started to prep the film in September 2018, I began with the shop that was the last set to be shot, even though the entrance of the shop was shot at the beginning of the film,” Giovannetti says. “Luckily, I started shopping for it immediately. Even if it seems unusual to look for Christmas decorations at that time of the year, it was almost late!”
As she contacted various companies that sell holiday fare and visited showrooms across Europe, the designer was as astonished as Santa
herself [Michelle Yeoh plays the shop owner who has dubbed herself Santa
] to see the limitless options available to her.
“It was amazing to see the Christmas showrooms,” Giovannetti says. “It felt like entering into a fairy tale, as there were some beautiful pieces and some other very weird ones. From that moment, I had in mind the shop that I wanted: one full of colors, baubles, Santa Clauses, elves and weird decorations. I wanted to have the shop completely full of items, where not even a piece of a wall of the two-floor shop was visible.”
Dressing the Yuletide Wonderful
shop was the most delightful set she’s crafted in her career. “I felt like a child,” Giovannetti says. “Besides all of the decorations, we created shopping bags with the shop name, small personalized presents, boxes, tags and shop labels. Everything was real and very funny. I’ve done numerous Christmas scenes, but have never bought so many decorations and fairy lights as I did for LAST CHRISTMAS.”
For key scenes in which mother and daughter Petra
[Emma Thompson] and Kate
[Emilia Clarke] bond over a day of shopping and eating in Covent Garden, the crew dressed 16 market stalls all related to Christmas. “We used actual stalls in the market and replaced all the dressing in those,” Giovannetti says. “Covent Garden Market is an open area, and we had to work around people who were shopping for Christmas.”
Although they began dressing sets very early in the morning, around 4:00 a.m., the square was packed with people. “Everybody was asking the price or touching and moving the dressing,” Giovannetti says. “It was a continuous reply of, ‘Sorry! It’s not for sale! We are doing a film. Please don’t touch it.” She laughs, “It was a nightmare!”
As fastidious as she was about the Covent Garden-based set dressings, Giovannetti was just as painstaking throughout production.
“The other sets were easier to prepare, even as I wanted to be very specific with all of them,” Giovannetti says.
The Jenna and Rufus flat
set was young, fresh, alternative....a lot of green plants, as well as yellow and red colors against greys.
’s family house had an eastern European touch to it, keeping the color more monochromatic and with some classic style.
The homeless shelter was full of art. I wanted to offer that residents created some of the paintings.
The streets outside were full of fairy lights and festoons.
It was a film full of joy.”