Bangalore: Although actors and gripping storylines may propel a film or television show to success, the reality is quite different. Clothes, makeup, creative camera angles, sound and editing are just a few of the elements that go into making a film. Set design is one such aspect that is frequently overlooked during the credits.
Harshita Reddy born and raised in Bengaluru, who is now based in Los Angeles defied gender stereotypes, transitioned from being an Architect to a Production designer and chased her dreams of a career in Hollywood. She harboured a dream of making beautiful sets for movies since her childhood. Her education at American Film Institute Conservatory (AFI), opened the right doors, allowing her to pursue her passion.
Her interest in production design began at the age of 12 when she witnessed production designer Thotha Tharani's work on the recreation of the Madurai Meenakshi temple for the Telugu film ‘Arjun’. To make her dream come true, she looked for a film institute with a graduate course that focused on production design, but her parents were not quite supportive of her decision. Therefore, she pursued a degree in architecture believing that it could be the first step towards her real passion. "While I was interning at Mindspace Architects, Bengaluru, I got distracted from my goal. But eventually, I found my way back into films," Harshita recalls.
Despite a global pandemic, for Harshita many opportunities knocked on her door. She believes that having the skills to work as a Set Designer as well as an Art Director was what led her to land the Netflix show called 'THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW," starring Kristen Bell. She worked as the lead set designer alongside the production designer Melanie Jones and designed the house of the lead character.
Recalling her time during this show "Covid-19 presented us with multiple challenges such as not having the flexibility to shoot at actual locations and limiting the number of people on set ( to allow for social distancing ) and most importantly very limited time to achieve this daunting task. We had about 3 weeks of prep time and an additional three weeks for construction, alongside building the second lead’s house and other small sets." says Harshita
Harshita recollects that one of her best works was with Oscar-nominated production designer Ra Vincent, who has worked on films like Lord of the Rings, Thor and JoJo Rabbit. She worked with him on a pirate comedy show for HBO Max called “OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH” starring Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi. "It's not very often even in Hollywood that you get to build pirate ships for a 30-minute comedy show," she says, adding to that she explains that she started as a researcher and then was promoted as a set designer.
Giving an insight to the working of the show, Reddy says that her designer trusted her with her experience, "My role as a set designer was to design the main deck of the hero pirate ship 'The revenge,' which was one of the largest sets on the show where a major part of the show is filmed."
Recognising the contributions and dedication to the show Harshita was promoted to an Assistant Art director for the runoff of the show. "My job entailed assisting the Art director with any task that needed to complete the various pirate ship sets including more research talking to different vendors procuring the appropriate hardware and materials from the time period, to create specific ship pieces that are not easily available at our disposal. But my biggest task through the shoot was being given the responsibility of handling all the boats and dinghies (small boats on ships), says Harshita, having been one of the few members of the art department who knew the show in and out she was also given the responsibility to look over reshooting of the show.
Discussing her journey she says one of her biggest challenges was convincing her father to allow her to pursue a career in film. Despite him being a movie buff and exposing her to the world of cinema, he was very sceptical about his daughter's unconventional career choice.
"With encouragement from my maternal grandma and aunt, I got into AFI. Once my father realized I was accepted into one of the best film schools in the world and I was very serious about my career in film he wholeheartedly supported me" she smiles.
Asked about her future plans she says, "My dream project is a James Bond movie and more importantly I am yet to work on an Indian project. I wish that happens soon and given a choice I would love to work on a Indian mythology film," she signs off.