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Production Designer Elisia Mirabelli creates dystopian world in ‘Let Me Down Easy’

Elisia Mirabelli sees the design of each production she works on as a puzzle, and it is her job to put it together. She merges colors and unexpected textures to create a work of art, and dives into the records of a previous time to recreate history. She expresses the emotion behind a story through a collection of objects and blends her curiosity and love of design every day. For all of these reasons, she loves what she does as a production designer for film and television, combining her passions for the performing arts and interior design.

Throughout her career, Mirabelli has shown her versatility and innate talent on every project she has taken on. This is exemplified by her work on various Family Channel and MTV movies, the award-winning film Pretty Thing, the celebrated web series Night Owl and more. Her understanding of all aspects of film production make her work as a production designer both efficient and pointed, with every single prop and set piece conveying a message.

In 2015, Mirabelli once again continued to impress with her film Let Me Down Easy. The film, starring acting heavy weights Tamzin Merchant and Liam Aiken, takes place in a small town, where tradition has reigned, and adolescents are rounded up and tested in an ultimate deviation. The aesthetic of Let Me Down Easy reflects the starkly unadorned world of its inhabitants; a world in which an embellished blaze of beauty is ferociously decadent and irrevocably wicked. In this unvarnished society, beauty is solitarily found in the flowering fields, orderly crops and cloudless skies that envelop it.

“The film centers around the idea of feeling trapped within yourself. How the burden of young adulthood can force you into a series of unscrupulous decisions, reckless choices fueled by feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. How the cruelest words, the things that scrape away at our souls, are said to us by us. How expectation from those that came before us, the failure to reach the first steps of their success, can wear us down before we’ve even begun,” Mirabelli described.

Let Me Down Easy is set in a small traditionalist town that Mirabelli designed in extreme detail. The meek location conveys an unnerving tone through the heightened use of stark colors and minimal set decoration. Their next location, the forbidden water front, is adorned by makeshift tents and a roaring fire that adds to the unsettling visual tone. The tents are unlike anything the characters have ever seen; deep red woven blankets hang loose creating walls, plush Persian rugs line the ground and crushed velvet pillows lay piled in corners, an outstretched scratched dinner table is lined with towering displays of delicate pastries, minced meat pies and fragrant sugary candies. As the children fretfully explore each room, props and set decoration becomes a challenging device in the film, testing the morals and limits of its perturbed characters. This severe unpolished perception of beauty guides the rustic, effortless aesthetic of Let Me Down Easy, according to Mirabelli.

Let Me Down Easy called for the formation of an entire community whose constructed facade eroded as the film’s characters evolved. The film’s thrilling tenor and uncomfortable tone were spawned through its design. Design was integral to planting seeds of hesitation in our audience, creating discomfort in their seats, spawning difficult questions. The sparsity of its street corners, the eeriness of its uniformed neighborhood lanes, the shortage of colour, the lack of feeling. The matter of ‘why?’ a clandestine sensation in the air before our characters even utter their first lines,” she said.

Because the film is set in a fictional town generated on pure fantasy, Mirabelli was able to have the complete freedom to create the setting from the ground up. There were no concrete ties or links to history, and her creative juices were flowing when it came to conveying a darker genre of storytelling.

The film was shot outside of Toronto in the borders of Buckhorn, Ontario, a small rural town north of Toronto and was filmed entirely on location. Shooting deeply in forests without power apart from gas fueled generators or a path safe enough for standard modes of transportation lead Mirabelli and her team to work with and embrace the natural environments that bordered them. A majority of the sets were designed with materials found and collected on site, which included a knotted, 14 fourteen-foot arch comprised of unearthed twigs and branches, a succession of community exteriors equipped with laundry lines built of found tree trunks, a string of makeshift tree stools and 20-foot-wide fire pits that operated as municipal town centers.

“I enjoyed the freedom of constructing an intact community deep-seated in obscurity and inventing a curious, extensive narrative that has never been fashioned before, a new world untethered to surviving history, geography, architecture or design,” she said.

Let Me Down Easy premiered in Cannes in the Palais as part of Telefilm’s Not Short on Talent Program. It continued to screen at over twenty international and national festivals and concluded its run with a broadcasting deal on Air Canada’s international and domestic flights. The success of the film still feels surreal to the production designer.

“It still feels pretty crazy that the film did so well. It was a challenge in terms of the extent of its design work and the difficulty of our locations, so I was beyond thrilled that it came together so exceptionally and was so well received,” she concluded.

Production Designer Elisia Mirabelli creates dystopian world in ‘Let Me Down Easy’ Reviewed by JaamZIN on 7:31:00 PM Rating: 5
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