Sculptor Michelle Millay talks with us about her work sculpting sets and statues for film and television. Millay’s movie work includes Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hangover, Domino, Batman and Robin and I love You Man. In TV she worked on the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.
Millay designs and creates her own sculptures for some film projects. On others, she works from someone else’s design. “It depends on the art director or who is making the film,” she says. “I’ve had the opportunity to design off of their ideas, and make maquettes (small preliminary models). Sometimes, Production has a certain thing they want fulfilled for the look they need.”
Millay says she tries to add a little of herself even when an art director gives her the initial direction. What influences her work? “I love classical sculptors,” she says. “Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova, Rodin. Nineteenth century sculpture is my favorite.”
Millay works for Local 755. She says, “I get called on a variety of jobs, mostly figurative.” As with all film sets, there’s a lot of interaction with production staff while she’s executing a sculpture. “Always. They come by to see progress, or to give me input and direction if need be. Some jobs, they just trust me and let me go.”
When it comes to a preferred medium, she says, “I prefer clay, but that is mostly for my own work. Film, TV, music videos and commercials demand speed, and foam is the best for that. After 20 some-odd years, I prefer it for that main reason. It is fast, light, and very forgiving. Some might think otherwise, but to me, an easy fix for changes.”
Millay’s portfolio demonstrates a strong skill for the human form. Much of her work on film and TV sets results in a larger-than-life figure. How difficult is it to maintain proportions in those scales? “I work from maquettes, a smaller version of sculpt, or I project an image onto the foam, front and profile views, and proceed to cut out form with a saw wire. I always check measurements as I go along.
“I also love the figure and classical art. I always put one hundred percent into all my jobs, even if it’s seen for just a second on screen. I don’t sculpt for the camera. I sculpt for others, and for me.”
“I would say at first, all my projects were challenging, but as I learned how to do things, I became more confident.”
One of Millay’s most challenging, and biggest, projects so far was Pirates of the Caribbean. “There were many chiefs,” she says. “Large crew and lots of stress. I received the shooting schedule and went to mold makers, painters and construction to figure out the time they needed to get it done. Then I calculated how long I had for each piece and how many people I needed.
“The biggest job was the treasure cave. I hired a gang boss to handle that, while I handled figureheads for the ships as well as props. We had over 20 sculptors, and every day was a challenge. I loved every second.
“Jobs aren’t always that big, and sometimes I’m just needed for a couple of weeks. I recently finished ‘The Hangover Part III’. That was fun.”
Millay’s parting thought: “I love my work, and love to create.”
Millay’s portfolio http://www.mkmillay3d.com
Millay on Pinterest https://pinterest.com/millayart/
Millay on IMDb http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0587769/