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Inspiration Board : Short Film Set in 1961 NYC

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My best friend, Nicki, is in the final steps of earning her MFA in film from San Francisco State. The preparation for her thesis film, Woo Woo, has consumed her the past few months, and up until this point Nicki has done all the work herself. She has really impressed me—I know the amount of work that goes into a daily TV show and it has a staff of about 80 people—she is managing all the parts behind the scenes.

When she started her first year in the graduate program, she asked me if I would art-direct her thesis film. How could I refuse the opportunity to work with my best friend on a project that is the start of her career—I couldn't say no.

It's been fun so far, 1950s image researching, photographing locations, prop shopping at Brimfield flea market... The film takes place in Astoria, Queens, in the early 1960s—a period piece is more challenging then you might think. It is quite difficult to find furniture from that time that is NOT retro or that doesn't have a Danish modern feel. The family isn't 1950s Rockabilly or Lone Ranger style, the mother isn't wearing poodle skirts or cat-eye glasses, the film will not be like a scene out of Madmen or even Leave it to Beaver. The goal is to create something nostalgic and paint a picture of a time that no longer exists of a working class, religious, immigrant family living in the bustling city though one hot summer.

Here's a brief synopsis of the film and some of my photo inspiration...

Woo Woo tells the story of a young girl and her relationship to a brain-damaged war veteran. Woo Woo, the war veteran, lost his ability to communicate after World War I. He now wanders the streets repeating "woo woo" to himself. The neighborhood children mock him. When the little girl's older sister makes up a story about Woo Woo's past, she becomes terrified of him. Her fear only heightens her curiosity as she begins to watch him from her window.

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The actual house in Astoria Queens in 1961 where it all began. Nicki's Nana still lives in the same house, where we will be shooting the majority of the film.

1 The actual house in Astoria Queens in 1961 where it all began. Nicki's Nana still lives in the same house, where we will be shooting the majority of the film.

Interior inspiration.

2 Interior inspiration.

Interior inspiration

3 Interior inspiration

Father and daughters

4 Father and daughters

Family love

5 Family love

1950's school children

6 1950's school children

Interior inspiration

7 Interior inspiration

Mother bakes coffee cake

8 Mother bakes coffee cake

Mother in kitchen

9 Mother in kitchen

1950's kitchen

10 1950's kitchen

1950's grocery store

11 1950's grocery store

1950's candy shop

12 1950's candy shop

1950's grocery store ad

13 1950's grocery store ad

One of the most difficult props we thought would be to find was an official vintage Purple Heart. I can't imagine anyone ever getting rid of one, but we found one at Brimfield!

14 One of the most difficult props we thought would be to find was an official vintage Purple Heart. I can't imagine anyone ever getting rid of one, but we found one at Brimfield!

The first handmade prop I've made is an embroidered Irish Blessing that will hang on the wall where the family gathers for meals.

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An Irish blessing

1 An Irish blessing

First I ironed freezer paper to a piece of cotton fabric so I could run it through my ink-jet printer. This is a brilliant, easy way to transfer a design onto fabric for embroidery (you can see in the picture above how lovely the print comes out).

2 First I ironed freezer paper to a piece of cotton fabric so I could run it through my ink-jet printer. This is a brilliant, easy way to transfer a design onto fabric for embroidery (you can see in the picture above how lovely the print comes out).

The small black text on this piece was all done with regular cotton thread. The green Irish Blessing and shamrocks were done with embroidery floss.

3 The small black text on this piece was all done with regular cotton thread. The green Irish Blessing and shamrocks were done with embroidery floss.

It feels so good to tie off the last threads and rub your fingers over a finished piece of embroidery. I always love the messiness of the back.

4 It feels so good to tie off the last threads and rub your fingers over a finished piece of embroidery. I always love the messiness of the back.

I found this lovely, old, crocheted trim with a touch of green at Brimfield. Immediately upon spotting it, I knew it would be perfect for an Irish Blessing. I baste stitched the trim around the blessing and mitered the corners so it looked complete.

5 I found this lovely, old, crocheted trim with a touch of green at Brimfield. Immediately upon spotting it, I knew it would be perfect for an Irish Blessing. I baste stitched the trim around the blessing and mitered the corners so it looked complete.

All that is left is framing. In order to print on the fabric, I was restricted to an 8 1/2

6 All that is left is framing. In order to print on the fabric, I was restricted to an 8 1/2" by 11" piece. It was perfect to fit in an 8" by 10" frame but there was not much wiggle room.

It wound up just fitting and I was able to pad the back a bit with batting to give the embroidery a soft, cushion feel. Voila!

7 It wound up just fitting and I was able to pad the back a bit with batting to give the embroidery a soft, cushion feel. Voila!

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