REFLECTION: An Interview with Prop Stylist Gina Freedman
For June, the crew was tasked with evoking life in the city after the sun goes down. Prop stylist Gina gives us her secrets for making the chicest puddle ever.
The concept is a bit provocative – what was your first reaction?
I think the noir look is always so striking, so I immediately loved the concept. I love the feeling of the city at night, and I imagined a urban detective story waiting to happen. I think the puddle shoot is a great splash page for Rue La La – and there’s a story waiting to be told as well.
Give us the inside scoop: Was there a real neon sign that was made for the reflection shoot?
Before I was brought on, I believe there was some discussion of making a real neon sign, but ultimately the sign was done entirely in post production. As you’ll notice, although the logo is upside down, it isn’t backwards as it should be. Working with the available light, I think Josh was still able to create the shadows and color palette in the photo that you’d see if we had actually had the sign.
What did it take to perfect this reflection?
Of course much credit is due to post production, not just in creating the sign digitally, but also taking the bits and pieces that we shot and making the photograph magical. A lot of post-production work went into creating the puddle itself. The sidewalk on which we shot was surprisingly level, but creating a believable puddle on a flat surface is still quite difficult. A few weeks before the shoot, Josh and I tested a variety of fluids to find one that would give us the clarity and viscosity we needed. The trick was to create a surface that would retain its shape while still maintaining the appearance of water. Ultimately, we did it with a variety of materials (as well as the luck of simply pouring water on the sidewalk), and the end image is a composite of the attempts that worked best.
The scene looks like a dark, dingy night – what was it really like outside?
Although the scene looks like a dreary evening, it was a clear night (I’d call it starry, but hey, that doesn’t really happen in midtown Manhattan!). We were pretty amused that our puddle photo shoot was pushed repeatedly due to the threat of rain – but as a props person I can assure you that it’s significantly easier to make a dry street wet than to dry a sidewalk in the middle of a rainstorm! Getting the right level of moisture was a combination of wetting, spraying, and patience – all of which happened on the first dry evening we had in weeks!
What was the neighborhood like?
Our set was in Midtown Manhattan, which is often busy at all times of the day, but we were on a relatively quiet block near Grand Central Station. During the day, the block is a major route for commuters, so it was pretty hectic as we were first setting up, but by the time night fell, the atmosphere had quieted down significantly.
And the mood on-set – did it match the darkness of the end result?
I’d say the mood was fairly mellow, at least on my end. We pushed the shoot a few times, so it was a relief to see my puddle-making experiments work out on the day of the shoot. And dreary though it may have appeared, it was a pretty lovely city evening about five feet out of frame.
We’d love to know who inspires you.
I love the style and lush atmospheres created by designers Antxón Gómez and Aline Bonetto, but am equally inspired by the mentality of the props/effects person – combining technical knowledge with creative solutions. I have some set shop experience, so it has always been a real inspiration to see tricks of the trade applied in new ways as the situation deems. If there’s not a way to do it yet, it can be figured out! Working on the Rue La La splash pages has been a real treat. For the most part, there’s always a fun, technical challenge to work out. From steaming the windows of a car to making a puddle that defies physics, it’s usually a fun opportunity to troubleshoot and ultimately pick up another skill.