Set decorators play an essential role in making a movie come to life. They’re responsible for making worlds appear lived in and real. A set that seems too empty with nothing or too crowded with props too new to be believable. The set decorator can transform a simple room into a bachelor’s pad or a gangster’s den.
The best set decorators are the ones that can’t transport you to another world. Whether it’s another part of the galaxy or a coffee shop just down the street, part of entrancing an audience is to take them out of their shoes. A competent set can not only hold our immersion but set the right tone. A haunted house, for example, would probably not be as scary if all the furniture looked new and the walls were clean and pristine.
To celebrate the accomplishments of set decorators, it’s important to point out some of the superstars in this arena. Here are some notable names to keep in mind in film and television who have brought great detail to media new and old.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe should know the name, Richard Roberts. If you don’t, he’s the man behind the set design of such entries as “Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, and the upcoming “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”. You can thank him for the rusted charms of Starlord’s spaceship and the destructive settings of Age of Ultron.
Roberts’s work has also brought fantasy worlds to life on the big screen in “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” and “Dune”, as well as on the small screen with Game of Thrones and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. He’s come a long way from being an uncredited art department assistant on a number of TV movies from the 1990s. So whether he’s working with humans, puppets, or computer-generated characters, Richard would always find a way to place them in sets and worlds that suited them best.
George R. Nelson
The late George R. Nelson may have passed away in the early 1990s but he left behind an amazing legacy. His set decoration resume spans from episodes of The Twilight Zone in the 1950s to Eddie Murphy vehicles like “Harlem Nights” and “Another 48 Hours”. His most notable work was on “The Godfather Part II”, which won him an Academy Award. His attention to detail brought to life the world of gangsters and served up one of the greatest sequels to the greatest movies ever made. He was also nominated for such classics as “Apocalypse Now” and “The Right Stuff”.
George left a robust filmography of exceptional set direction. Notable titles include such 1980s classics as “Big Trouble in Little China”, “Explorers”, “Midnight Run”, “Vibes”, and “When Harry Met Sally”. He had a wide range of films he specialized in, to say the least. So the next time you see one of these amazing movies, just remember that it was George R. Nelson gave these films their unique sets and iconic looks.
Ashley Michelle Marsh
Ashley is a rising set decorator who is working on some of the hottest TV shows. Breaking Bad fans should take note of her work on “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” as well as the hit prequel series Better Call Saul. Suffice it to say, the series wouldn’t have its grimy and lived-in suburban look if not for the work of Ashley.
If you’re also a fan of the Snatchers franchise, she’s been a decorator on both the 2018 series and the 2019 movie. In addition to being a decorator, Ashley also has experience as a set decorator buyer from working in the art department on shows such as Preacher and Longmire. Her skills have been incredibly versatile as she’s served as everything from a staff assistant on Observe and Report to a travel coordinator on “A Million Ways to Die in the West”.
Zsuzsanna Sipos is one of the newest set decorators from Hungary but she’s been at the forefront of some of the biggest movies. Of course, her biggest claim to fame is her work on Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film “Dune”, which won her an Academy Award for Best Production Design alongside Patrice Vermette. She has also had experience with another Villeneuve film, 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049”. She’s got a great eye for bringing grand sci-fi epics to the big screen, perfectly using the Hungarian settings for these two productions.
Zsuzsanna has additionally worked in the art department on such shows as The Borgias and Penny Dreadful. Her latest works include being a set decorator for the recent films “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “The Invitation”. Her next bit of set decoration to be on the lookout for is the “Borderlands” movie, currently in the post-production phase.