Sian Laycock – creating the reality

In ‘Jacks’, we’re living in a stylised environment: a heightened reality in terms of the colour palette. The set is bold and the lighting is vibrant, with lots of neon. It’s almost retro-inspired and could be a set from any time in the last 20 or 30 years.

Sian Laycock, Production and Costume Design, 13th Street Films

While some girls played with Barbie dolls, Sian Laycock had cardboard boxes to cut up, and pens and pencils to draw with. She grew up doodling art in Camp Hill, Brisbane, and now designs the set and costumes for 13th Street FIlms. In ‘Jacks’, a crime-comedy short film, Sian gets to unleash her inner quirky.

“With the costumes for the two main male characters (Spud and Drew), they complement each other. One’s got the flannel shirt and the black leather jacket. The other’s got this really cool Western-style shirt with clip buttons – the visuals are this running horse on the front. They play off each other, it’s like an homage to the buddy duo genre and the film will have a nice 80s retro vibe.”

Spud (Tristan Barr)
Drew (Jake Doak) and Sian’s nightclub bathroom graffiti

The film plays with tropes: the seasoned drug dealer and the newbie, the gangland boss, the Asian assassin. Plus the drug deal goes down in a tacky, tropical-themed motel.

Zhi (Sen Shao)

Sian made the dressing gown for Yang, plus the motel curtains and bedspread, all from the same material!

“So Yang is a big crime boss who blends into the ridiculous motel environment. She’s so confident that she really doesn’t need to stand out. She’s lying on the bed and she’s thinking, ‘I could be sleeping, I don’t care.’ In the world that we are creating, you come upon a bizarre new scenario and each time there is a new reveal. It immediately puts the audience on edge.”

In the world that we are creating, you come upon a bizarre new scenario and each time there is a new reveal. It immediately puts the audience on edge.

Sian Laycock
Yang (me)
Me wearing the curtains

Then there’s the Firebird sports car…

“It’s a late 70s model, and it’s amazing! It really fits in that era. Not that I lived through it but I find the 80s to be fascinating. So we are taking inspiration from those sorts of things and having fun with it.”

The Firebird

“It’s been really fun melding this sort of amazing aesthetic with a comedy. In my experience, the production design and the sets for comedy are colourful and fun, but they do have to live in some sort of reality. So heightened reality means you get to be a bit wilder. People have become accustomed to seeing films set in a more elevated world. Even in dramas. Have you seen the film ‘Drive’? That’s a very stylistic noir-ey sort of drama.”

Spud and Drew in the Firebird

13th Street Films is a nurturing environment. Sian said, “The team that we have means we have a really safe space to learn and grow. ‘Jacks’ has given me a lot of inspiration, to be able to do something where you don’t have to hold back. In stories which are true to life, the sets are just realistic. It can be fun, but the point of it is that people should not be paying attention to the set, so those are not as creatively fulfilling.”

When you are put on a project, it’s about what the client wants. With this, it’s up to us to define it and it’s really rewarding when you see it. You know that it wouldn’t have been possible without everything that we’ve all contributed to it. It’s a really good feeling.

Sian Laycock
Sian Laycock

More posts coming about these amazing people at 13th Street Films and production company Visul, as well as posts about the other actors in ‘Jacks’. Can’t wait!

Above screengrabs from JACKS [2020] a Visul and 13th Street Films production. Cinematography: Trimedium. BTS photography: Gabby Zussino

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