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Interview with a Time Machine Designer Prarthana Joshi

PD PJThere are so many inspiring things about cinema. The element of empathy towards the characters, the gateway to many mini worlds and the self-discovery or rather spiritual aspect that eventually becomes a subconscious journey for every filmmaker. Those are all so great.

PJ Joshi

I love interviewing creative people, because they will always surprise you! “I designed a Time Machine.” – told me PJ (Prarthana Joshi) when I asked her what is the most unusual item she has in her prop collection. A Time Machine! How often can you meet people  for whom designing such thing just a part of their daily routine? Definitely not every day unless you are in the field of Art, Film & Entertainment.

Prarthana or PJ

Even as a child PJ was very crafty so she was constantly designing and painting. But the first design she ever created was a logo. “It sounds as a simple thing but you are trying to represent a personality in a tiny graphic. I remember printing 100 business cards and see my creation there in front of me. Can’t forget how rewarding it felt!” – recall PJ.

After school she decide to study Architecture and in 2008 successfully completed
her Bachelors Degree, but once she came on a movie set for her case studies PJ fell in love with the process of filmmaking and hence decided to take a leap of faith and transition her architectural career to a production designer.

What I like filmmaking is that, all these people from different places – personalities coming together for one single goal of telling a story. It is amazing! I end up meeting so many people who are passionate about same things that I am and are willing to go extra miles for it. It keeps me motivated and inspired.

Katia Rekho: Can you tell a little bit about the projects you’ve done?

PJ: The nature of projects that I take vary all the time. I have done production design for shorts and few features. I have done tons of graphic designing, a bit of interior designing and architectural designs back in the days when I did work as an architect.

The feature called Dance of Insanity that I did some time ago was also a unique experience. One of the leads is a vampire who has lived for centuries. It was fun designing his space. He had to have memorabilia from different time periods. Sort of an ageless look.

KR: What has been your most challenging project and why?

PJ: Same Time Same Place, directed by Matt Gengel, was certainly very challenging and unique. It is a story of a heartbroken man spends thirty years building a time machine so he can go back and make sure he never met the woman who broke his heart.

It is a love story, which took place in 2013 and 1973. So there were lot of things that were suppose to look brand new in 1973 and those same things had to look old in 2013. There were lots of special props, set dressing items and very specific designed props as well.

Prarthana Joshi or PJ

KR: Can you please tell us more about working on a Time Machine?

PJ: Designing it was quite interesting and unforgettable experience. As a tribute to Back to the Future, the director had decided to make the time machine into a fridge (The BTTF fans know that the DeLorean time machine was going to be a fridge). We bought this old two door 70’s fridge and realized that we didn’t have a space for it. So we kept it in my garage car parking. At that time, the tents in the apartment complex were not allowed to store anything in the garage in place of the car and somehow I got away with that. It took me 1 week to work on the design in the midst of Los Angeles summer! My roommate used to come down, brought me water and entertained me once in awhile. The character in the film coincidentally had been working on the time machine in the garage as well!

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We also have an electronic part in the fridge that reads out the date and I had one of my engineer friends volunteered to design that!

KR: This movie has so many awards, congratulations! How does the experience with Same Time Same Place compare with other sets?

PJ: The best part was that I was working with good friends and we all knew each other’s rhythms and expertise very well and that itself was so much fun. It was tons of research and not much time and very limited budget. We ended up going to all these cool vintage places. Did costume trials and reference pictures, thrift store stops. Just tons driving around the city. We had a garage in the script where the character was spending most of his time. The garage location that we ended up getting was an empty garage and had to be filled up to look used for 30 years! So director and I made this extensive list of all things that should be there. One weekend we decided to hit all garage sales and pick up some pieces. And to our surprise, the first garage sale that we went to had almost every single item on our list. Including a used Christmas tree and decorations. The owner just gave it us for free! I have so many random experiences on this set that things just came together for some reason.

Bill Suplee

KR: Favorite part of the production design process?

PJ: The research! Collecting information from different sources, watching other movies or even just plain and simple “google”. It might sound mundane but I end up learning so many cool things. For example when I was working on Same Time Same Place; I was researching on 70s clothing, fashion, music, different popular shows and historical events that happened during that time. I wouldn’t have stumbled upon these things on my own. It’s like each project lets you peek into a unique world.

And when the final project is done. It is like a record of the work you done. It is really cool when people see your work. I feel they are getting to see who I am through my design and I just communicated with all those people!

KR: What do you hope to achieve from you career?

PJ: I hope to be able to work along inside really talented directors who I can help to achieve their vision and be a part of telling universal stories. I most certainly want to travel more, meet more people and just have an adventure hand in hand with my career.

I’m feeling excited and blessed! Looking forward to exploring different design avenues!

It is like using your creativity as a source to earn money and to do what you love doing. There is nothing better than that. I haven’t been more excited about my future than now.

production design PJ

KR: What genre of movies would like to work on set of the most?

PJ: Stories that have visual character in the script. Certainly love period pieces the most but it is equally great to work with a director who knows what he/she wants, than working with someone who gives me 100 % freedom. I think when they give me visual references and/or write-ups describing the space they want to create it gives me a direction to explore. I also love designing spaces based on the character biography, which makes the actors a deeper sense of who they are playing when they come to the set. I think the small things create the larger picture.

KR: What projects do you have coming up?

PJ: Currently just finished a production design for a music video with Andrew Bachelor and working on a landscape design project for the very first time. I am really excited for that.

I am also co producing a web series – Black KungFu Chick and we are in pre production right now.

P.S. If you would like to explore more of PJ’s work visit her website! And I wish her all the best…

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I am an LA based Russian born entertainment journalist. Growing up in Siberia I always had a passion for Theatre Arts and Film, but at the same time I have always truly loved writing. From the time I was just 14 years old I became the editor of the school news paper, and never stopped writing ever since.