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From Shakespeare to 'Tangled' -- a Conversation with Designer Douglas Rogers


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Set Designs and Problem-Solving
From Shakespeare to 'Tangled' -- a Conversation with Designer Douglas Rogers

"Models, particularly with theater, let you figure design problems out before drafting and building," says Rogers.

Photo © Douglas Rogers.

Angela Mitchell: Your design models are beautiful – do you often use models in designing your sets?

Douglas Rogers: I often use models both for stage and film. I either do 1/8-inch scale or 1/4-inch scale white models, or fully rendered models that are quite complex. Sometimes, I will build models in Maya to get a quick look in the computer.

Models, particularly with theater, let you figure design problems out before drafting and building. It is much easier and cheaper to solve a problem at a quarter-inch scale, than onstage with a crew loading in a set.

Angela Mitchell: If you could advise today's young set designers on an approach or skill set that you feel is most essential, what would it be?

Douglas Rogers: Three things. One, they need to get to know how to do better research than just looking at other people's pictures on Google. I keep coming across people not knowing how to do basic research.

Two, they need to work on their drawing skills, and to be able to sketch their ideas on a piece of paper better than what I’m seeing out there right now.

As the third thing, I’d also tell them, “Experience what you can for real.” There's nothing like actually seeing something and experiencing it firsthand. It’s not always possible, but whenever it is, it’s so important to do. If you're going to do a Tudor set, for instance, then go to England if you can, and experience an actual Tudor building that you can see, walk around, and photograph. You'll never understand where things are coming from as well as you will from the original experience.

Angela Mitchell: Do you take notes and pictures wherever you travel, with that in mind?

Douglas Rogers: I’m always taking pictures. And whenever I go on vacation, I take a collapsible ruler with me (I know others who do the same thing). Then I’ll shoot my vacation pictures, and I’ll also shoot reference pictures with the ruler in frame so that I always have a sense of scale.

If I don't have my ruler with me (although I usually do – I even have a paper one in my wallet, for emergencies!), I almost always have a hat. I know what size my hats are, so I’ll put my hat in the photo and that also lets me have a sense of scale.

Angela Mitchell: That’s a great idea, to really make note of those experiences or settings that might inspire you in the future.

Douglas Rogers: Oh, I’m always looking and photographing and measuring wherever I go. I was once chased through the Metropolitan Museum in New York for it! I was measuring the knights on the horses, and the guard started chasing me around the museum because he thought I was getting too close to them and was doing something weird. But I was just trying to get a reference!

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