Hayley Nebauer was selected to be V&A Artist in Residence 2012-2013, in connection with their major exhibition ‘Hollywood Costume’. Part of Hayley’s proposal that won her the residency position was to make a science fiction short film in order to demonstrate her hybrid design process in a real film scenario. As soon as Hayley won the residency she asked Emma E. Maclennan to come on board as director and producer of the film.

Hayley had set a specific design brief in her proposal that the film must adhere to:
      • that it should be based in a science fiction setting in which strong environmental winds had heavily influenced society – the way in which people lived and also the development of their culture and aesthetics;
      • the filmmakers must use 2 contrasting historical aesthetics to influence and inform the creation of an original aesthetic for the film: 18th century Rococo and 1930s Streamline Moderne;
      • the script should be written by an up and coming writer.

Hayley was eager to recreate the real life process of costume design in film, so rather than inform writers what her chosen design influences were going to be, she and Emma sent out the science fiction brief omitting any design details to a handful of writers, including Philip James Booth. The challenge for the filmmakers then was to use the aesthetic periods Hayley had set to create a vision and designs that serviced the chosen story. ‘AIR’ written by Philip James Booth was the script Emma and Hayley chose to develop into the short film.

Emma and Hayley created a unique sponsorship package to attract potential sponsors in order to fund the film. They spent a year raising the funds to enable the sets and costumes to be designed and built from scratch, to cover transport and catering costs and unusual equipment and material requirements. More information about the sponsors’ involvement with ‘AIR’ can be found on the Sponsors page.

Working and filming in the V&A Museum held as many challenges as exciting opportunities. There were many unusual obstacles when building sets and filming at the V&A – not least the power and fire regulations which meant the film had to be shot almost exclusively with fluorescent lighting units (removing the entire range of lighting options that are standard use in filmmaking) and the banning of certain equipment, such as smoke machines, all providing a unique challenge for Director of Photography, Pete Wallington. The art department were forbidden from using oil-based paints meaning they could only use water based paints, eliminating the vast options and techniques mastered by art departments in the usual creation of sets and props, so along with the challenging design brief, Richard Selway and his department had to bring his and Emma’s ideas to fruition adhering to these rules.

It was a challenging and exciting creative collaboration between everyone involved to achieve the atmosphere and memorable look of ‘AIR’.