Premiere Lighting: The Shape of Water

premiere lighting


On the outside — literally — film premieres are about the red carpet, the flashing lights, the step-and-repeat and the media. Inside the event, however, the story is very different. The design of a premiere is usually an extension of the film’s artistry and how it made the audience feel.

For instance, when Jennifer Wang, founder of JWang Consulting, began to design the look of the Los Angeles premiere for director Guillermo del Toro’s adult fairy-tale, The Shape of Water (which won a Golden Globe for Best Director, Motion Picture, and Best Original Score), she wanted it to be a continuation of the world in which the audience had just stepped out of. “It was important to evoke the feeling of the film,” she said. Immersive experience is the phrase that comes to mind, especially for this story of a watery love affair between an aquatic creature and a lonely mute girl.

While Wang just founded her own event company last year, she has been producing film premieres and corporate events for 18 years and has a well-developed sense of style, objective and sense of how to mix the two. As it was in the film, light and color were important to achieving the look she and her client, Fox Searchlight, sought to best immerse guests in this unique world. Images By Lighting’s lighting designer, Nicholas Blasi, was be instrumental in helping her do this.  Blasi understood the objective immediately. “She was very clear; Jennifer wanted guests to feel immersed inside the world of water.”

premiere lighting

That world began from the very moment guests entered Ocean Prime Beverly Hills, the event space. There, the actual creature’s tank prop from the film was surrounded by watery floor-to-ceiling gobo projections that created a continuous flow of teal blue current. The teal itself was a custom tint that reflected the color palette used in the film and its promotional materials (below). After some trial and error, Blasi found just the right combination to recreate it, and then added purple uplighting on architectural elements to warm up the feeling of the space.

shape of water lighting

The restaurant provided the client enough room for the 500-plus guests, and the several wide open spaces that could work as a canvas for the lighting. However, what it didn’t provide was easy access for the use of a generator. Any possibilities they kicked around always ended up meaning that cables would have to be visible through the space and that would deter from the watery look.

premiere lighting

Instead, Blasi brought in all LED and ran it on house power. “We brought in tons of glass gobos and rotators to create the movement. There were about 30 throughout the space, and another 80 uplights and pinspots. Everything was battery-powered,” Blasi said, adding that while this approach was needed in this case, green solutions like this are the future of lighting.

No river runs smoothly and a test run revealed a possible dam. “The main bar back is amber glass which did not tie in with the look of the party,” Wang explained. “Originally we were going to cover it in Plexiglas and backlight it in blue. But as we were testing the lighting, the moving lights on the wooden walls around it looked perfect. So instead of bringing in Plexi, I worked with AAA Flag and Banner to create a vinyl decal that recreated the look of the wood panels and would replace the amber glass for the night. It looked so good, the head corporate person from the restaurant jokingly commented why they didn’t print wood decals instead of buying real wood all the time?”

New ways of seeing, changes in preconceived notions … these were not only the result of vinyl decals but also the film’s underlying message. Like water and love, design and lighting are also essential elements with no formal shape until talented event professionals use them to construct the “shape” —  a beautiful event space such as this — with them.

The Team

Planner: JWang Consulting | Lighting: Images by Lighting | Venue: Ocean Prime Beverly Hills | Floral Design: Empty Vase | Furniture: Blueprint Studios| Rentals/Water Walls: Town and Country Event Rentals | Specialty Chargers: BBJ Linen | Linens and Pillows: La Tavola | Vinyl Bar and Water Wall Decals: AAA Flag and Banner | Audio: CBC Technical | DJ: Raul Campos | Photos: Line 8

Fully charged! Fun fact … The charger plates from BBJ Linen (which rents more than linen) appeared to be specially designed for del Toro’s creature and Wang’s design.

Left: “Luxe,” a turquoise blue charger | Right: Sea Sponge Blue charger