Hannah Wiessler Leas

"It was so easy for me to get into set design with an Architecture degree behind me – about half of the Art department either studied architecture or worked at a practice in their earlier careers"

CompanyWarner Bros.LocationLeavesdenCourseBA ArchitecturePositionJunior Draughtsman

About Warner Bros.

At Warner Bros., I am currently freelance working in different Art departments of films – Set Design. Jobs vary in length from the shortest that I have worked on being a couple of months and the longest just over a year. For the past year and a half I have been working on two different films both in Warner Bros Studios Leavesden (Watford..) I am currently on a large production at the moment with an art department of around 40 people however this number fluctuates quite a lot depending on how quickly sets need to be drawn and shot on. Drawings are done by either Hand, on the drawing board or CAD, depending on the nature of the drawing. For example an old broken stone column would usually be done by hand compared to a slick sci-fi door, which would be done on computer. The office is filled with models, historic reference and concept art of each set that the Production designer has picked as he/she has overall design control of the film.

What are your main roles and responsibilities?

At the beginning of a job I will be put with an Art Director who is in charge of a few sets. The Art Director will draw the plans and elevations and I will then draw the technical construction details. These details then go to an on site construction team (which include carpenters, painters, plasters, sculptors & special effects) in the studio where the sets will be built in a very short time period. Other responsibilities include surveys if there is any filming on a location, White cards models of the sets, 3d models for 3d printing / visualisations and set dressing just before it is shot on.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Going on location – having access to private buildings that the public never would be able to see. Working on a period film which lets you do in depth research into a very specific type of architecture and learning how to draw details of the era. I also enjoy the temporary nature of the job – each job is completely different and everything happens so quickly as no building regulations are needed!

How did you get from your architecture degree to where you are now?

I did a lot of research into jobs where architectural skills would be useful. Then 6 months of cold calling Art directors until one gave me a job!

How has your architecture degree shaped your career, and what knowledge, skills or values developed at SSoA have you found relevant in your progression?

Every skill I have learnt in my degree I have used. Vectorworks, sketchup and Rhino are industry standards and it was good having a head start with knowing how to use the relevant software. Also having a prior knowledge of how buildings work and spatial awareness is key as we know exactly what actions and events will be happening in each space from the script we can design a set that is perfect for its function.

What top tips would you offer architecture students who are considering alternative careers to architecture?

It was so easy for me to get into set design with an Architecture degree behind me – about half of the Art department either studied architecture or worked at a practice in their earlier careers. Architecture has so many transferable skills that you don’t realise you have learnt and it was the best degree I could have done.

Where do you see yourself in future?

Working my way up through the Art department to be an Art director and working on a mix of small and big films depending on the subject matter. But as its on a freelance basis maybe a lot of holidays as well.