Bringing film worlds to life: Interview with alumna Elaine Xu, production designer

If you have a UK Netflix or US HBO Max subscription, you may stumble upon a charming short film called “Dolapo is fine”, in which a young Black girl faces pressure to change her natural hair and her name. Goldsmiths alumna Elaine Xu (BA Design 2018) was the production designer for the film,  her second job in cinema and one of her many skills alongside curation, design consulting or marketing. But what is a production designer exactly, what do they do, and what kind of abilities do you need for it? Elaine talks about working in this field and others, and how her Goldsmiths experience helped her career:

Elaine on the set of "Dolapo is fine"
Elaine on the set of “Dolapo is fine”. Photo by Helen Murray, helenmurrayphotos.com

How did you become a production designer for films?

I’ve always liked building sets. My third year project at Goldsmiths was about cultural conservation, how to preserve intangible culture before it disappears completely, and the final presentation at the degree show was a Chinese Tea Ceremony installation. My tutor at the time was Nick Mortimer, who worked a lot in theater and provided me with a lot of knowledge on building sets. Production design for film was a surprise pathway.  When a friend asked me to work on the production design for a short film in Tuscany [Drowned, directed by Daria Kocherova], at first I hesitated because I didn’t have any experience in films, but I decided to give it a go anyway. Continue reading “Bringing film worlds to life: Interview with alumna Elaine Xu, production designer”

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