Character design is not usually the set designers role, but as part of our unit we were to include a character. As mentioned in part one, the set design follows the characters personality and background.
As part of our transforming location project, we are to create a character, story and plot as part of our set. This is to assist with the mise-en-scène. If I was to design as set for a lazy teenager I would have to give evidence within the set of their personality. With this example, I could design a bedroom with an unmade bed, empty takeaway boxes, an overfilled ashtray and possibly some wall posters to indicate their age and lifestyle (a stereotypical, exaggerated example).
In regards to inventing my own character, I often find that inspiration strikes at the most unexpected moments. I have recently had a night in with the girls and naturally the board games made an appearance after we were a bottle down. As we played Cluedo I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone’s fascination with Miss Scarlet was. As a child I always wanted to choose Miss Scarlet as my piece and I think this is because out of all the characters she was the most age relatable. I decided to investigate further.
Miss Scarlet has dramatically changed over the years; the original board game was created in 1949[i] and from then until 1963[ii] she was portrayed as a young, blond woman. In 1972[iii] however, she changed ethnicity altogether and was portrayed as a young Asian woman for two decades before being redesigned in 1999[iv] as a dark haired Italian woman.
It was fascinating to observe the transformation throughout time. Upon researching, I found there was a film that was based off this board games aptly named: Clue (1985) directed by Jonathan Lynn. Miss Scarlet has a background running an illegal escort business and I think in discovering this interpretation and finding out she was once portrayed as Asian, my mind drifted to one of my favorite books, Memoirs of a Geisha.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is set in 1920’s Japan. As Miss Scarlet is portrayed as a flirtatious, entertaining character in Clue (1985), I felt she suited the role of a Geisha.
A Geisha is a traditional Japanese entertainer who attends events and dinner parties. The name can be translated to artist or performance artist, and they spend years in training before graduating to full Geisha status. The most recognised image of Geisha portrays the artists with coloured kimonos, ornate jewellery and painted faces, however this is a misconception. A fully qualified Geisha is usually dressed in plainer kimonos, as she has charm and wit to entertain her guests. A Maiko relies on colourful clothing and flamboyant looks to entertain her guests as she continues to train[i]. In Memoirs of a Geisha, Golden suggests they extend this role to “entertain” wealthy gentlemen. I cannot confirm if this holds any truth as the book itself is a work of fiction and all accounts in my research explain the training process and purpose of Geisha to be for pure performance art entertainment only.
To assist with visualising our character, we were assigned the task of creating a mood board on Photoshop that would convey enough information that the viewer could fully understand the direction we were taking. This is my response:
In this example, it is clear that my character is a Maiko with flirtatious tendencies. She surrounds herself with scarlet and is hinted to be a killer or assassin. I have included a suggestion of her motivations but have left this to interpretation should I wish to adjust this at a later date.
With a clearer understanding of your character, you can now begin designing a suitable set that would compliment their personality, history and time period.