The highly believable yet “make-believe” settings that we buy into in the film and television world are layers deep. A series of adept professionals collaborate to manifest stories that entertain and elicit the intended emotional response, all for our enjoyment. Though you might be most familiar with the names of the actors in these productions, those who work behind the scenes are equally important in your release from reality. Production Designer Harshita Reddy has found her talent sweet-spot applicable to a number of different settings. From indie films like Moth to the Oprah Winfrey Executive Produced series Cherish the Day to her work on the twice Primetime Emmy award winning Rent Live on 20th Century Fox, Reddy has contributed greatly to the absolute believability of these wildly diverse environments. Her contributions as an Assistant Art Director, a Set Designer, and a Production Designer are all different labels which can be sifted down to the all-inclusive title of “insightful talent.”
Some of the most intriguing and creative filmmaking these days is taking place in the Indie scene. In fact, many of the major studios are adopting the production style and aesthetic of these films in hopes of attracting the expanding and discerning audiences who embrace the Indie film creations. As Production Designer of director Shu Zhu’s Moth, Harshita was tasked with establishing the duality of Eastern and Western cultures. Moth follows an Asian-American actress who attempts to revive her career in the youth-obsessed Hollywood. Traditional and modern mindsets of differing cultural concepts merge in the setting of this #MeToo era. Moth has been selected by major film festivals around the globe and received a number of awards including the Grand Jury Prize at the China Young Generation Film Forum, Best Actress at UNDO Divergent Film Awards, Best Director at Chongqing Film Festival, in addition to being included as one of the “Top 20 Short Films of 2019” by UK Film Reviews. Telling this decidedly relevant story of the female experience in Hollywood, Reddy’s role as PD is further proof that she is among the most gifted and storytellers today as well as the ideal professional to manifest this kind of story.
It’s not surprising that Reddy found herself working with Oscar nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (for 13th) on the OWN Network’s upcoming series Cherish the Day. A romantic anthology series which narrates the romantic relationship of a single couple over a five-year period, there’s a decidedly more modern perspective to communicating this story. In addition to Xosha Roquemore as Gently James and Alano Miller as Evan Fisher, season one stars legendary Oscar Nominated actress Cicely Tyson as Miss Luma Lee Langston, a renowned star of yesteryears who encourages her live-in assistant [Gently James] to pursue a relationship with Evan Fisher; a relationship that is disapproved of by his mother. As the relationship of the characters evolves, so does the design/look of the show; resulting in an effect on other departments such as cinematography, props, costumes, hair & makeup, etc. Hinting at the immense influence of her work and the entire team, Harshita states, “For the lead characters Evan and Gently, the designer decided upon a color palette and a specific aesthetic for each of them that represented their contrasting personalities and lifestyles. Over the course of the show as their relationship evolved, so did their world. We achieved this via visual storytelling by slowly combining their color palettes. These gradual and subtle changes played a big role in establishing the influence they had over each other, for better or for worse.”
It’s indisputable that we found ourselves in a time when women in the TV and film production industry are increasingly encouraged for their skill and vantage point; Reddy is ideally suited to contribute to both of these. These productions have brought to fruition some important moments for her as a filmmaker. Harshita recalls, “During the filming of the last episode of Cherish the Day, we gathered for a quick group photo celebrating all the women working on the show. It was a very special moment, standing with Ava and Ms. Tyson alongside all these amazingly talented women to take the photo. Little did we know that we were creating history. Deadline published an article confirming that Cherish the Day ‘has achieved full gender parity with a production crew of over 50% women, including 18 female department heads.’ I’m looking forward to more of those moments.”