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Inside the Production Design of What We Do in the Shadows

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What We Do in the Shadows

Inside the Production Design of What We Do in the Shadows

Kate Bunch, the production designer for the new FX comedy series, talks to us about designing a house for vampire roommates. 

When What We Do in the Shadows' Production Designer Kate Bunch set out to create the vampire's home, she knew it would present a very unusual set of design challenges. "Our characters cannot survive in a regular house. There were lot of modifications that needed to be made for them to live safely and comfortably in their house. We couldn't have our beloved vampires burn to a crisp in their home after all," Bunch tells us.

"We needed to figure out creative ways to block direct light from coming into the house while still seeing daylight and moonlight through the windows," she explains. "In addition to using curtains, we covered the windows with newspaper, boarded them up with wood planks, used thick stained glass in some areas and, sometimes, simply painted the panes. We also had to be careful of reflections in any glass."

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Designing the look and style of the Shadows set while still abiding by the laws of the vampire world is a complicated process that Bunch says started with the script. "You need to start somewhere and naturally the first step is to read the scripts. I imagined the spaces that I see our characters in and took cues from what was written in the script," Bunch reveals. "I also spoke with the director of photography and the costume designer to make sure we were all working together on the overall looks of the show."

She adds, "At the core, we wanted to make sure that we were designing spaces that series creator Jemaine Clement imaged when he wrote the story. Set design is extremely important because it is an extension of what is on the page. The audience learns more about the characters through the sets we build around them."

One of Bunch's favorite spaces to design in What We Do in the Shadows was the living room, the central meeting area for Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) and Colin (Mark Proksch). "We had the opportunity to use a lot of loud colors, wallpapers and fun pattern fabrics. I think that the living room turned out really great. I loved the set dressing that went into that room," she says.

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Bunch made sure that the pieces on the set were both beautiful and fully functional. "We tried to keep all the instruments around the house functional and tuned because Matt Berry plays all sorts of instruments," says Bunch. "A challenging task because the fluctuating temperatures on set would knock them out of tune more frequently than normal."

Despite the breakneck pace of the production schedule and the pressure to make every aspect of the Shadows setting exactly right, Bunch and her team knew the end result would be worth the effort. "I have to say the moments that were the most special were when we put the last touches on our sets," she says. "There were generally warm feelings of camaraderie, feelings of being proud and feeling like, 'wow, we just pulled that off.'"

What We Do in the Shadows is all new every Wednesday at 10p.m. on FX. Catch up on the season, ad-free, by upgrading to FX+


Kate Bunch is a Production Designer and Art Director based out of Los Angeles. She has been nominated three times for an Excellence in Production Design Award for her art direction on Arrested Development, Flight of the Conchords and State of the Union.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bunch's interest in television began when she was 8-years-old after her friend's parents got a video camera. It wasn't long before she was production designing her own bedroom, transforming a vintage refrigerator into a bureau. Her future as a production designer was sealed.

After graduating with a degree in Fine Arts from Chapman University, Bunch worked on projects at Universal Studios and Disneyland, including "Jurassic Park the Ride" and "It's a Bug's Life." She also developed an interest in rehabilitating dilapidated buildings throughout Los Angeles, fine-tuning her skills as she established herself in the world of Production Design.

Bunch loves the wide scope of decisions that need to be made within any given project - from choosing the paint colors on set to making sure the half-eaten burrito on a kitchen counter looks just right.

Collaboration is Bunch's favorite part of her job. Nothing is more satisfying to her than assembling a team and executing a job. To her, focusing on the details is the "fun part." According to Bunch, "Using color and architectural design to tell the story is essential, but things really come alive when you start to think about the detail. You can define a character through details as small as the bubblegum wrapper on a nightstand."

Her body of work can be seen at www.katebunch.com