my personal project

Giulia Danese

These works of mine are meant to be a glimpse of some unreal, dreamlike scenery, abstracted from my imagination. Each picture is a fantastic tale: for each of them I recreated atmosphere, characters, costumes and settings. Every creature comes alive by magic and is marked by a distinctive symbol.

Questi miei lavori vogliono essere scorci  su alcuni scenari, irreali e onirici, astratti dalla mia immaginazione. Ogni immagine è un racconto fantastico, di cui ho voluto ricrearne l’atmosfera, i personaggi, i costumi e le ambientazioni. Come in un incantesimo, ogni mia creatura portata in vita,  presenta un marchio che la contraddistingue come tale.

backstage work

In  my series, besides create the concept,  i want personally design and craft every costumes, scenography  or also some props and this is a process that can take months of preparation.

For  “The Upcoming End of Byzantium” my last project, in particular, it took about three months of full-time work only for preparation.

My idea for this series, originally, was a little different.

The message and the sensations from which I started were similar, but initially I had imagined it in a setting with a more oriental aesthetic.

For this reason, starting to look for the model, I decided to contact Giulia. I had seen her photos and I had fallen in love with her long raven hair, which in many shots made her look like an oriental beauty, but talking to her, unfortunately, it turns out that she had just cut them … I see her photo with her new look and … no problem, a new idea immediately springs to my mind!

Her new haircut marries well with her physicality, with broad shoulders and narrow pelvis with straight sides, which immediately brought to mind the typical physicality of ancient Greek statues.

So I decide for a new mood of the series.
Furthermore her passion for deer and their symbolism not only led her to tattoo them all over her body, but also inspired her stage name “Ankthi Roe”.
Perfect then for the character of “A New Beginning” the last chapter of the project: The deer, with its multiple meanings, that can be traced back to the whole series, including that of rebirth. Hence my decision not to have the model’s tattoos removed in post production, but rather to keep them as a tribute.

So I started to work at the design of the set and the costumes.

For this series, I wanted the scenarios to be more varied to separate the characters from each other more, albeit with a common thread. This meant creating more than one set.

Moreover, the members of the team all came from different cities and this made it imperative to perform the photo shoot in a single day.
To be able to do this, it was necessary to arrive at the day of the shooting with everything ready, and everything had to be planned to work in a practical and fast way so as to be able to optimize as much as possible the little time that we would have had available.

For this reason, after several evaluations, I opted to shoot in my laboratory. I would obviously have preferred to have a larger space, rather also renting it, to have less possible design-artistic limitations  but, such a project involves a lot of work with all its relative discomforts, moreover I needed a space where I could work, go and come, at all hours of the day and night for a long time, and with the possibility of having further time later, to rearrange everything after filming … as you can imagine, for a set like this, it takes days to disassemble and clean up everything.

So, using my lab was the most practical thing to do. Having to reduce the scope of the project already for reasons of space, I didn’t want to give up however to a minimum of diversification of scenarios and for this I had to get to work to create environments, which had elements of the scenes easily and quickly interchangeable in one reduced space.

It was a real challenge… first of all, wanting to simulate an open space for some characters, the background backdrop was not enough, so I wanted to help the photographer to get a minimum depth more on the image. To do this, I built a base platform for the set design, tilted with a gradation proportionate to the set and the surrounding space to create an optical effect that would give even a minimal idea of perspective.
After which, since in my productions I wish there were more real elements possible, rather than added in post-production, to bring the observer back to the materiality of the scene, I decided to use sand and real clay, attached by hand (at the expense of my back) of so that it created the natural cracks of parched earth.
The order of the shots for the various characters was defined based on the possibility of transmutation that the basic scenography  could get from its technical qualities.

For this the chapter of “Eschaton” was taken first. I wanted to simulate a dream-apocalyptic situation, as if the character that represented the Eschaton precisely, gave rise to a form of energy that would magnetize the earth around itself until it was  smashed  and fragmented into various clods that would rise floating towards the sky.
So I hung the “floating” clods with the transparent fishing line (easily removable, once their purpose had ceased, cutting the lines at the base), but instead, with regard to the large echelons of the ground that broke by tilting upwards,  I had to invent an ingenious and practical system so as to be able to quickly push down it all down to get a perfect plan that could be used to stage the second character.

For the setting of “Lost Sacrality”, continuing to go back and forth, to do this job of recomposing the soil, and to stage the large altar of polystyrene and wood, the clay reacted as obviously I had already foreseen, and it crumbled creating the image and the perception of a different ground from that on which the first character was set…perfect for my purpose!
As for the background, I had already imagined leaving the one used for Eschaton mounted, and then simply changing the color in post-production, so as to differentiate the atmosphere of the scenes and to remember, in tribute, the bright colors of gold and yellow tones of some images of my favorite film “Immortals”, by Tarsem Singh, to which I was slightly inspired for this series.

To pass to the shooting of the character of “A New Beginning”, I made the transmutation of the environment minimal and simple. It was enough to change the background with a black backdrop and bring the plants to the stage, to remember the vision of an altar located in a small night garden.
The abundance of dry ice smoke would have thought of the atmosphere.

As soon as we finished working with the platform, we were able to move our things and ourselves above it, in order to free the only small corner of the free room of my studio, which was the one we were in during the execution of the shots, to unless we were hidden behind the altar, crouched down  like rabbits, to add dry ice in the cauldrons between the various shots.
Obviously, I had  already pre-arranged the walls of the small space , like a nomadic tent, in the days prior to the shooting, so as not to lose even more time. So to finish setting up “Escape from Babylon”, the last remaining chapter of the series, I stretched a plastic sheet on my poor floor and poured sacks of real sand over it.
Once the props were staged, the last set was ready too!

At the end of the day, we were all exhausted to say the least, and in the following days, it took me almost a week just to dismantle the sets, clean everything, and to finally riappropiate me of my lab … . but it was definitely another more adventure that I can tell!

Giulia Danese

backstage shooting

backstage scenography