The teenage bedroom is a place of mystery and, often, domestic horror—a cluttered and sometimes damp first attempt at expressing individual identity through interior decorating. Capturing this atmosphere on film requires a deft touch and a creative mind, something illustrated in a new piece by Broadly’s Sirin Kale that includes interviews with three production designers on their individual approaches to creating the bedrooms of famous teen characters.
Each of the designers, whose work includes Bring It On, Mean Girls, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, agree that their work involves not just making a room look believable, but also mirroring the personality of the characters who live in them.
Paul Joyal says that Lara Jean, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’s protagonist, had to have a room that reflected her creativity, which meant a mural was painted on her wall rather than “just posters, prints, and postcards.” Mean Girls production designer Patricia Cuccia, meanwhile, tried to make Regina George’s rich-kid arrogance evident in a bedroom that was “really over-the-top compared to the other kids in the movie,” contrasting a pink color scheme and curtained bed with the rustic, international furnishings and family photos on display in the room of Lindsay Lohan’s Cady.
If you’re wondering why nobody’s mentioning the band posters that cluttered the bedrooms of yesteryear—an often hilarious and era-defining cornerstone of the cinematic teenager—that’s because getting permission to use them is a pain in the ass. Bring It On’s Sharon Lomofsky discusses how the movie’s script called for plenty of posters in the room of musician Cliff, which required shelling out a shitload of money in addition to getting approval from each artist. “At one point we called Elvis Costello and said, ‘Do you want to be in a cheerleading movie?’” Lomofsky recalls.
“No-one bothers with securing clearances now, because it’s so hard and expensive,” she adds. “To me, that’s really sad—you end up losing the texture and flavor of everything. Cliff’s room now would be totally unaffordable with all those posters.”
Without posters to count on, production designers will have to go even deeper into the abyss of teenage decor to make their rooms believable. This seems difficult, but not impossible. While a musician might require clearance before their image can be used in a film, other, more relatable cornerstones of teenage life—a gross old plate hidden under a desk, weed crumbs brushed hastily into the corner of an Ikea desk, piles off clothes clumped on the floor—will always be public domain.
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