When I was gearing up to shoot Take a Little Time last spring before COVID, the only to-do I had under art/props was “find silverware set; engrave a knife.” I ultimately did get that done in August…and then that list blew up exponentially, seemingly overnight. We’ll start with the knife—but first, the set:
When I wrote a script centered around a dead grandmother’s antique silverware set…I swear I had no idea that, back home in Virginia, in the back storage room in our basement…we had my dead grandmother’s antique silverware set. Let alone that it existed at all! I went to my parents and asked where I might start searching for such a thing, mid-COVID (I wasn’t hung up on whether it belonged to a dead grandmother), and they were like…the basement? So that was crazy. Shoutout Clara.
Once I was back in State College for the fall, I took the big knife (also a fun coincidence, I don’t think it’s exactly part of the set, but it was in there and perfect for the script, so we ran with it) to Signature Engravings on Frasier Street. A couple days later, she was looking like this:
I’ll admit I thought the letters would be filled in, but I think that’s definitely on my failure to clarify when choosing from their list of fonts (I was hyperfocused on nailing the ma-and-pa shop vibe of the grandmother’s store from the script). I think, had the characters been filled in, they would’ve showed up a little easier in the film, but the difference isn’t anything I’m losing sleep over. So I digress.
That’s Lilly posing with our massive Goodwill haul (on a Sunday…because student discounts!). I don’t think we would’ve shot with the restaurant’s actual dirty dishes even outside a pandemic, so we loaded up on utensils and any pans/trays/plates that looked either industrial/back of house, or cheap-yet-fancy/front of house. My roommate Noah helped remove all the Goodwill stickers off each individual item the night before our final shoot day at Mad Mex, and after we wrapped I kept what I wanted in our kitchen and donated the rest back to Goodwill.
That fountain tub is something I bought at Walmart for the shoot, however. In my days washing dishes at fast-casual restaurants, they’d always throw those onto the pile, and they’d be stained with whatever juice they’d just contained for 12 straight hours, so I thought it’d be a fun touch. I tried to stain this one by leaving it out filled with Hawaiian Punch the night before shooting at Mad Mex, but to no avail. I cleaned this and donated it to Goodwill afterwards, as well.
Also in that cart: wardrobe. This is the chart I sent Mark McNeil (Smitty), but every cast member received one in the same fashion. The pictured articles are what we picked out at Goodwill, the charts let the cast know what they had to bring on their end. The wardrobe “numbers” were coordinated between all the charts and lined to the script, so if I told the cast to bring #s 2 and 4 the next day, everyone would bring the right thing, even if one of those actors only had #4 on their chart.
Desmond Taylor and I cooked up some initial color concepts for the characters, which I then ran with and plotted out over the course of the film. You can see this arc in the chart above—Smitty’s primary color is maroon, which spoke to me as his default state of being. He wears that through the entire film until after he self-actualizes in the scene with Vincent. I then wanted the porch scene with MaryKate to feel like the dawn of a new day—so besides leaning into chirping birds in the sound design, I dressed both Mark and MaryKate in blue. By the end of that day, Smitty and MaryKate cook their own dinner by sunset, so I played his orange and her purple off each other. The only color I haven’t mentioned to this point is that green shirt he’s wearing at the beginning…
Since my rewrite over the summer, I knew I wanted to lean into themes of money and capitalism. And much like the final piece I needed to puzzle the plot out, the art design end of this focus fell into place thanks to a Mac Miller lyric— “money kills, that’s the truth, it’s called the root of evil.”
One night a few weeks ahead of shooting, I heard that lyric and was struck by the visual imagery of roots as they intersect with money—you’ve got the obvious green plants/cash connection, for starters. But I imagined the tendrils of capitalism, sprawling their way through everything they come across, sucking the nutrients out and leaving for yet more greener pastures. You’d think it’s a nice thing, a natural thing—it’s plant growth! But sometimes you look closer, and they’re rotten. You’ve got weeds. So all of a sudden, I went big into leaves, vines, and the green motif. There’s that tree in the establishing alley shot (brought out to its greenest by our all-star colorist Bryan Stanley), and a smashed potted plant spilling out of the box he finds the silverware set in one shot later:
Smitty’s got this shirt on under his maroon work shirt in the opener (as opposed to the orange one in the intercuts/ending), since just like in the alley, he’s still spiritually crushed under the weight of all that green. I went to Michael’s and picked up some vines:
And bought these green blackout curtains (blocking light being a gaffing concern of Nick’s) to compliment the maroon tapestry Lilly already had in her apartment, all for the clash of Smitty vs. Vincent, time vs. money:
The vines are those tendrils, reaching out from Vincent to Smitty, trying desperately to ensnare him in what they have to sell so they can drain him and never think twice about it. It doesn’t get much love in the scene, but I also had fun picking out a green watering bucket for Vincent to tend his precious plants with. I reached out to Zeke (Winitsky, playing Vincent) the week leading up to the shoot and asked him what he thought of Vincent as a plant guy. An asshole, inconsiderate, manipulative, greedy…plant guy. We agreed it was a fun wrinkle to add, since his character’s already so damn bizarre in that scene. I also wanted green be a major component of the poster/thumbnail design (which aligns with the hoodie that inspired the title), and the “Take a Little Time” script logo that displays in the opening minutes of the film.
Some other props of note: I bought the money clip that “probably went to ‘nam” off Amazon, and filled it with $130 I withdrew from my checking account days before the shoot (that’s one $100, and 30 $1s, classic). Fun fact—I lost the envelope with this cash in it, and didn’t realize I had until we were transitioning from my apartment to Lilly’s on day two. I eventually found it in a jacket pocket in time to use in the scene, but the panic was both prop- and financially-based there for a second. The last props I pulled together included the “essay,” which is a book report from high school that I found on my Google Drive and inserted the essay lines from the script in between paragraphs once on every page of the document, and Smitty’s apron/nametag. I got the apron cheap at Michael’s, from an arts-and-crafts angle rather than a professional culinary one. I threw together the hybrid pizza/Death Star design in Pixelmator, had Lilly write Smitty’s full name on in Sharpie, and stuck it in a name tag holder picked up from Staples. (That’s also where I bought a roll of price tag stickers for the reveal in the porch scene.)
That’s about it! There’s a dry-erase calendar in Smitty’s apartment that you can barely see (what’s scrawled over it the most? “WORK”), and to accent the purple/orange wardrobe mashup for the sunset shot at the end, I leaned heavy into red: