Set Dresser: Susanne Leja

“Give me a book and I will take my time to read through it to be able to tell you how the story goes. Give me numbers to work with and I will, eventually, come to a result. Give me a space to fill with a theme, items, colours and I will deliver something to you that you would have never been able to dream of…”

Whether it was our strong friendship or the fact that I have a passion for arranging and designing visual spaces, there was certainly a good reason for Boris Seewald to ask me to be part of the innovative ‘What A Witch’ project. On a Sunday afternoon, over a cup of tea in a typical English terraced-house located in the outskirts of the City of London, Boris captured me with the finalised screenplay of the short movie to-be. I could tell that we probably had quite an intense filming session in front of us…if only I’d known how true that was!

What a Witch

I am lucky to have been able to work in such an enchanting and captivating location as Cleeve House, not far away from the world-renowned and oft visited Stonehenge, in the heart of Wiltshire. This house is full of history and mysteries - which was perfect for the undertaking. And perfect for me: in the various rooms and corners of the residence, tucked away and hidden in cupboards, wall units and boxes, I found what I was to work with. Cleeve House is filled with delicate crockery and old furniture. This was the beginning point of my journey into the imagination, a journey wherein I could bathe in the radiance of 1920’s style. I took this task quite seriously since the background of a movie supports and gives flair to every single action, every setting. The atmosphere in a room guides the spirit of the scene and allows both the actor and audience to feel the story.

What a Witch - The Movie

Wherever the film crew was, I was not. I was rarely seen or heard during the filming process as I was constantly focusing on the next scene. When the crew shot the scene of Morgan arriving at the house I was inside setting up the furniture and the dust. While Rose was walking through the corridors of her country house, I was picking up various old books from the library to fill her dresser. While Morgan was discovering the house, I was carrying old pieces of furniture and lamps across the whole building to give corridors the character of a time before ours. I was contemplating over a range of tea cups deciding which one would be most suitable for our cause and fighting with my homemade artificial dust-mix to make it look as authentic as possible…

My exhaustion after the filming showed me just how much I enjoyed doing the best job I could with the materials available in Cleeve House. It also confirmed the general enthusiasm and delight I take in designing, decorating as well as arranging human spaces according to theme and ambiance.

Susanne Leja

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