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"Stealing" a scenic design

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by Spikesgirl, Apr 22, 2008.

  1. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    It was a fun discussion and really forces one to think about choices.

    Another question - and I'm not sure how to word think succinctly, so bear with me.

    A set designer sees a show and then 'designs' the basically same set and passes it off as his original design. When similarities are pointed out, he brushes them off as both of them seeing a common theme. Is it okay to 'borrow' another designer's set as your own or should you, to the best of your ability, just design from the script and your own gut feelings? When should you use the set design (groundplan) in the back of the script?

    I'm just curious...

    Char5lie

    P.S. Tony - haven't read "Rick" yet, we have a show in dress and starting rehearsals on the next one - next break though, I'm there...
     
  2. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    It's called appropriation not borrowing.....starting at the end.

    The only...and I repeat only time to use the groundplan in the back of the script is when the action of the play is sooooooo set specific you can't get away from it. Think Wait Until Dark or any comedy with 15 doors in it.

    You ask about a designer seeing one set and redesiging it as his own (redesign being the best word I can come up with). Thats a hard one...who's complaining? The original designer? Then there's an issue legally IP and all.

    I had a teacher who would assign his scenic design class the same show he was designing for another company during the summer. And without seeing the second designer's proscess it's hard to speak to. Was it as simple as...oh that's a pretty set I'll use that...or did he actually do the leg work ahead of time and find similar conclusions?
     
  3. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Back in the dark ages while in college, we were told that the groundplan in the back of the Samuel French script was usually drawn by the original Stage Manager or Propmaster and should not be taken as absolute. However, if the playwright, in his "description of setting" calls for a door SR, a window upstage center, and a pair of French doors SL, there can't help but be similarities. Sometimes there is specific action in the script that requires those elements and sometimes not.

    Perhaps I'm a purist, but if a playwright tells me there should be a door SL, by golly, I'm going to put a door SL. But that's just me.

    I "steal" good ideas all the time, such as Tom Skelton's color donuts, or Jules Fisher's congo box booms. I don't think I've ever actually "stolen" a scenic design, but many have been similar to the original or another production.

    This is an interesting topic, and one of the reason's one finds the boilerplate text:
    This drawing and all of the ideas, arrangements, designs and plans indicated thereon or represented thereby are owned by and remain the property of the designers and have been created and developed for use on and in connection with the specified project. Neither this drawing nor any of such ideas, arrangements, designs or plans shall be appropriated by or disclosed to any person, firm or corporation for any use or purpose whatsoever, except by the specific and written permission of the designers.
    on Light Plots, including my own. But I "stole" that language! Immoral?
     
  4. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    I tend to overwrite my instructions re doors and windows and my set descriptions. I get yelled at by designers and tell them to ignore what I say and look for the intent.
    There are situations. In "Look Back in Anger" Osborne doesn't leave a lot to the designer but Shakespeare (why do we always go back to Shakespeare) gives no notes in the script and will give only simple dialogue lines like "This is Illyria Lady." to indicate whereabouts.
    I don't necessarily think "borrowing" the floor plan is immoral as it is probably drawn from the script. Then I guess that decoration and dressing lies in the designers image.
    I (I don't do set designs anymore since I was sacked from a production of "Can't Pay Won't Pay" for "artistic clashes" {I was an artist the director was a philistine but that's a different story}) try not to look at any previous representations (photo's and floor plans) until I've got my ideas on paper. Then I see if everything in the script will work on my design the go the Director.
     
  5. cvanp

    cvanp Active Member

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    In a lot of the old musical scripts it is my understanding that they just use stage directions from the original production, not necessarily because it was intended by anyone, but because that's how they did it so it's used as a framework.

    Because of this, I tend to ignore the directions (other than obviously to know if I need a door or something in a scene) and put stuff where I want it. It also helps I work very closely with directors (I was the director of one show I designed, I am good friends with another director, and my father is a director) and I tend to know going in what they want in terms of accuracy with script directions.
     
  6. bobgaggle

    bobgaggle Well-Known Member

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    I see nothing wrong with using ideas from another production of the same (or different) show. I saw a school production of les mis that had three turntables (one big, two small) and a multi level catwalk across the upstage. When i designed Jekyll and Hyde, I built a single level catwalk and one large revolving platform. While i wasn't consciously thinking to replicate Les mis, i guess seeing the design influenced my own.

    But even if you're going to do something someone has already done, add your own flair to it. There's nothing new under the sun, so try to put a little personal spin on what you've done. And honestly, who can be proud of something with their name on it when they did nothing to contribute to it?
     
  7. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Different situation. You saw a solution in one show that became applicable to another. The question at hand is blatanly seeing one show and replicating the design then calling it your own.
     
  8. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    Didn't mean to open a can of worms, guys - or it this a good thing.

    Designer in question saw a production and literally borrowed the entire set without any legwork (or permission) and then touted how wonderful his design was. I happened across some photos of the original set and asked about them - ooo, bad, bad, Charlie! I was punished for my insolence. When it happened again ( and again), I alerted the head of the department and he would have a word with the designer. Finally he was 'promoted' to not having to do set designs and another person was brought in. I just feel that you should give credit where credit is due and not steal other's work as you own. Wouldn't have had an issue if designer would have just acknowledge his actions in some way, but he'd swagger around claiming that he was a genius because of his inventive work.

    Now, if you happen to replicate something by accident, I thought I was being quite creative designing a double-sided smoke house for "Oklahoma" only to see photos of another show at a different theater (two years after ours, but predating ours by three years) wiht a similar smokehouse design. That I feel is just reading the script and pulling the same cues. I also see nothing wrong with seeing something that works in one show and applying it to another because it's another set of circumstances and you're having to adapt it to that particular show.

    Sorry - I'm raging now...in, out, in, out. Okay, better now.

    On the topic of the design in the back of the book, I was always under the impression that it was the first design used and merely a suggestion. We are getting ready to tackle "The Big Bang" and will be, indeed, using the design in the back of the book because the set is so, so specific. However, I am fully acknowledging this ahead of time, so thusly, not stealing, per se.

    Great input though everyone. I'm enjoying the discussion.

    Char5lie
     
  9. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    See now with a little more detail i can see this as a problem.

    I don't find anything wrong with..."I saw this production of X and here's what I think worked and can work in our production of X."

    Yes it can make things a little stale.

    On the other hand "swagger around claiming that he was a genius because of his inventive work" type people should be drug out in the streets and shot. Or my favorite "This is the way they did it on Broadway!" Give me a Broadway budget and I'll do the same thing.

    Its funny I've been assigned to the remount of a production we did this past spring. The show originally opened in our Black box and is moving to our main stage. Same set, same costumes, but the student LD has a better summer gig. I've been struggling with how much of her original work to keep in the show, vs how much to redesign for the space. She knows there were probelms with it the first time around. But I've been playing the balancing game because we don't want the director to get it into her head that she can redesign the show.

    Such is life.
     
  10. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    First off, to address the original issue. It is wrong and illegal to make even a near exact copy of another designer's work and call it your own. If you are using the same groundplan, paint ideas, set dressings, etc. as another show then it is technically a copyright infringement (unless you have permission). Even if you do whatever you have to do to make it fit in your space. However, as was said, there are many shows that, no matter where you see them will look amazingly similar due to the requirements of the script.

    Now, on to Grog's remount issue. I think, and this is just my belief, that if you are remounting a show, it is an opportunity to do it better. Even if you were the original LD for the first production, wouldn't you rather have the chance to fix the things that didn't work, and make it better as opposed to just hanging the same plot with the same problems and digging up the old cue list and disks? Also, if you are changing spaces, who is to say that the original plot would work in the new space? Also, if you are a new designer on a remount, why should you feel obligated to use any of the previous designer's ideas? It is your show now, it is going to be your name in the program, shouldn't it be your design?

    That's just my 2 cents, I don't know the whole of your situation, so I mean no offense.
     
  11. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    None taken...part of the dilema is not to appear as if I'm ground-uping the design so the director, who'll take a fathom if you give her a cubit, doesn't start adding more set/props/costume elements. This show is supposed to be a remount...which means cheap.

    I'm of course making a new plot for the new space (even though it was done proscineum style in the BB) namely because I don't feel like trying to wrap my head around the old LD's style of design. Don't have the time or the energy.
    Now cue score/sheet...that's a different question...and when I actually watch reh I'll figure out how much of that will change.
     

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