Apart from the costumes, everything physical that is needed to tell the story of Ren is provided by the art department.
Although the initial plan was to film most of Ren: The Girl with the Mark‘s first season on location, it was finally decided that a number of sets would be built for the series. Planning of the outdoor set of the village of Lyngath and several indoor sets was done by Christopher Dane and other team members. Several weeks were spent scrounging the materials to keep the cost down and in July the first set pieces were put up. Over six weeks, Chris and a group of volunteers accomplished the herculean task of building eight houses and a keep, a large platform, the village gate, plus several movable background pieces. The indoor sets of the guard room, prison, Karn’s house and Ren’s home were built mostly during breaks in filming and some used parts of the outdoor village set.
Sets are more than the walls and floors of buildings. All the items in them must be acquired or made. A number of items were from Kate Madison’s fan film Born of Hope and fixed up for Ren, but most items were found in car boot sales, thrift shops, borrowed or donated. Many items such as the traders stalls and tables were made especially for Ren. Hundreds of items, big and small were used as needed by set dresser Amanda Stekly to bring the sets to life.
Example: The Reather build
As a major plot item and the focus in several shots, the design of the Reather was instrumental to season one of Ren. After many design sketches,a mock-up was made using MDF (medium density fibreboard), wood and polymer clay to finalize the design and to plan fabrication.
The hexagonal design allowed the basic shape to be broken down into three parts. A window part was made from plastic sheet and a top and bottom part were made from plastic sheet and polymer clay in a jig to keep the parts exactly at an angle of 60 degrees. These pieces were moulded and six castings of each of these three parts were made to form the main body.
Additional parts, such as the crystal holder were cut and shaped out of PVC sheet. The crystal itself was cut from the handles of two pieces of transparent green plastic cutlery. The handle was formed from steel wire (a coat hanger ‘acquired’ from the costume department) as it had to handle the weight of the whole Reather, which was covered in a layer of epoxy putty. Laser-cut plastic windows were fitted and epoxy putty was used to fill gaps and smooth everything out.
The outside was sprayed with structure paint to give it some texture and everything was painted gold. Then it was weathered lightly on the inside and heavy on the outside to give it an aged bronze look. The crystal and windows were glued in place and the whole thing was glued together and closed. Then another round of putty was used to fill gaps and smooth out seams, and the paint was touched up. The Reather was finally finished only one day before it was needed for filming.
A second, slightly different, Reather was needed that had to look damaged. It was put together from earlier castings in a similar manner to the first one, but parts had to be added that were missing on this earlier version. Once the build was complete, it was cut in two and bent as if damaged. The windows were broken and shards glued in the frames. The broken Reather was outfitted with a different colour crystal and painted in a steel colour instead of the gold/bronze one.
See how the impressive village set began life as a group of big plywood boxes in a Cambridgeshire car park. With materials generously contributed from far and wide, and the hard work and dedication of many wonderful volunteers, the village of Lyngarth gradually takes shape.
With the structure of the village set in place, the dedicated team of crew and volunteers begins to paint, texture and thatch the buildings.
The cast and crew of Ren all fell in love with the magical set for Karn’s house. Find out how a chance donation of twisted Willow shaped the construction of this unique house, and what it was like for actor/designer Christopher Dane to build the set for this own character. Read the accompanying blog post