A team of second-year Production Design students have turned to the heavens for inspiration and taken their talents sky high to design and build a Gothic Sci- Fi studio set as part of their degree studies.

The students from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD)’s university-level campus in Hartlepool were given a challenging brief to develop a ‘Doctor Who’-inspired set for their BA (Hons) Production Design for Stage and Screen programme.

The task involved creating a suitable setting for ‘an interplanetary explorer who has had trouble with his time travel machine and has come to the Interstellar Navigation Archive to have its memory reinstalled by two stargazing professors, who hold all the maps and charts of the universe’.  

Over the past six months, the talented young designers have worked extremely hard to design, build, furnish and dress the ‘Celestial Encounters’ set, and benefitted from advice and support from industry experts Tina Sherifa Hicks and Jemma Gershinson.

Tina, a TV production designer for TV shows such as Eastenders and Waterloo Road and Jemma, a production manager at independent production company Roughcut Television, whose shows include Hospital People, took part in a series of production meeting and provided invaluable feedback to the students.

The group were assisted by fellow first year and third year students from the Production Design degree course, and will also collaborate with students from BA (Hons) Creative Film and Moving Image, who will be utilising the set and writing a script as part of their degree studies.

The next generation of set and production designers were thrilled to unveil the stunning results at a special viewing at The Bus Sheds stage and sound facility in Hartlepool. The ‘Celestial Encounters’ set will then be available as a resource for all the college’s programmes to use for photoshoots, catwalk costume shows and illustration drawing sessions.

For the students, the ‘Celestial Encounters’ project has involved the whole process of set construction, beginning with the initial concept art, leading into the production of a set proposal, working out how to construct the set, building it using layering techniques as well as new painting methods and then focussing on set dressing.

Starting the project in September, the team worked through design processes and began construction in November with the final touches being added to the set just before the opening on Wednesday 14th March.

20-year-old student Andrew Huck from Carnforth in Lancashire, said: “We were all given the opportunity to work on areas that we wanted to improve or learn, one of the highlights of the project for me. I was heavily involved in the construction of the set and set dressing, allowing me to develop both my knowledge and practical skills.”

Andrew, who is currently living in Hartlepool during his studies, continued: “I have enjoyed how the project felt like a real brief, providing the pressures of the industry within the university boundaries. This gave us scope to prove ourselves and learn to overcome obstacles through the process.”

He added: “All of our family and friends were invited and everyone from the local industry that we have links with, so we had a truly great opening night!”

22-year-old Poppy Hall from Ingleton in Darlington, also based in Hartlepool for her degree studies, was lucky enough to have one of her designs chosen for the Gothic-style set.

She said: “It was very exciting seeing my designs go from paper to a scale model and now a full size set. I was also a part of the construction team where we built the flats and the structure of the set, and as the project went on I assisted with painting and set design.

“Working within a tight budget was a challenge, which meant we had to come up with creative solutions to problems we encountered. It has been really interesting to see the how the process works from designs on paper to full size sets and everything that is required in between. I have loved learning new skills that I will be able to use in the future.”

Ben Whitelock, 19 from Ingleby Barwick in Stockton, worked on the design team initially and was responsible for the ‘look’ of the set’s architectural features and how they would be constructed.

“I was in charge of the design for the astrologer’s room on the right hand side of the set and created the room’s windows, and with a few other students worked on the construction and assembly. I also created the design for the stained glass and applied it to the windows, as well as leading on the painting as I knew how the finished outcome should look.

“I really enjoyed working in a team and I never thought I would be able to help create something of this scale at university, so it’s a really rewarding feeling to step back, look at the finished set and know that all the hard work we’ve put in has paid off.”

He added: “The course is a lot of fun and provided me with a lot more challenges which make me push myself and my abilities. It’s a very diverse course, meaning that you can cover a wide range of techniques and focus on skills you want to learn and develop and are really interested in for a career.”

For more information on opportunities at CCAD contact (01642) 288888 or visit www.ccad.ac.uk.