Bringing a Visual Concept to life is all about creating an imaginary world that gives depth to the story and the director’s vision through subtle detailing & designing .

Priya Shree, our next pathbreaker, Production Designer at her own production Design Studio , PRIYA & SATYA DESIGNS, designs & creates sets for TV Commercials, Feature Films, Web Series etc.

Priya talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her graduation project in production design that was the beginning of her fascinating journey in the “make believe” world !

For students, it always pays to take a step back and explore your interests before you hone in on what you really want to do? Time spent now can always be saved later.

Priya, tell us about Your background? 

I am from Patna, Bihar. I did my schooling in two of the best schools of Patna, Mt.Carmel High School & Notredame Academy. I grew up studying science. I was good in studies and took maths & science in class XII though I had an interest in art from my childhood days. I used to take part in all the extracurricular activities of school which includes art & craft. Painting & creating new ideas have always been my passion. I have participated in many painting competitions and have designed so many theatrical performances in school. Building & Creation were a part of my life, since childhood. I used to get bored with everyday regular activities, so I was always trying to look for something new & exciting. I was a curious child. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi (NIFT) in Fashion & Communication Design.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

I was good at painting & designing. While giving all the exams of Engineering, I also opted for NIFT Entrance exam post Class XII. I qualified for NIFT, with a very good rank. I got through the best design college of India & my life changed after that. I have grown in the field of Art & Design since then.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I studied at NIFT Delhi. Being a part of a middle class family, the expenses were a lot during my college days. We were supposed to create live projects for our assignments. Since I couldn’t meet my expenses, I started taking up design work, photography & writing, organising events, jobs, theatre, for funds. I started enjoying working & doing real projects from my college days. NIFT gave me an opportunity to learn about well known people & showed me diverse career paths. I did internships under some renowned people like Tarun Tahiliani & Nitin Desai. That was the beginning of my journey.

As every student,I was also confused as to “what is my calling”? What should I do ? I was in a Fashion & Communication Design course. So, i tried to work on every aspect of fashion & communication such as styling, writing, branding, designing, exhibition, retail design, fashion shows etc. The turning point was when I got an opportunity to work with Tarun Tahiliani, in his Grand Finale of Wills India Spring Summer Fashion Show, 2010. His workplace was beautiful, every part of the building was telling a story. There were inspirational pieces all around me. I saw how they made a product from scratch & it just overwhelmed me. While working in the fashion show, I was extremely attracted towards the beautiful set put up by Sumant Jayakrishnan. It was remarkable. 

In the final year of college, we had to do our graduation project. Seeing the fashion show and being inspired by the set, I was overwhelmed by the idea of making sets. I remember that was the time when Kaminey movie came in, & to my surprise, I started understanding camera angles and sets better. And, at that moment, my vision was clear, to pursue my career in the world of filmmaking . I wanted to work in Bollywood. I had skill sets in design and space design. So i just focused on that, and found production design was my calling. The first thing I did was to find the most remarkable & well known production designers of that time, tried to hunt for their contacts, made a portfolio to impress them and reached out to them asking for a project. With some ground work, I landed at ND Studios, Mumbai, co-owned by Nitin Desai. For my graduation project, I worked on the Alibaba & Chalis Chor theme at Adlabs Theme Park. It changed my life. I made a design for the front facade, for the theme park, for fun and it was selected, & got constructed. That is when i realised that this is what I am supposed to be doing.

Shifting to Mumbai from Delhi was a major change for me . I got an opportunity to do the graduation project with Nitin Desai (India’s best production Designer), which led me to Mumbai. Surviving in Mumbai is tough, so I did a job for a year with Grandmother Design Studio, saved a bit. And, post that, I started my journey in the Indian Film Industry, aka Bollywood. I started assisting renowned Production Designers like Wasiq Khan, on films like Gabbar & Bhoothnath Returns. Production houses liked my work & recommended me for the project “Bang Bang”, as an Assistant Art Director. Post that I got an opportunity to work as an Art Director for the movie “Great Grand Masti”. It was in 2016 that I realised I was ready to start my own company for production design, PRIYA SHREE Designs, since I have done a lot of TV Commercials, Web Shows , Films etc.

How did you get your first break? 

I worked a lot on understanding the industry. I researched a lot on production design for films. I created some hypothetical projects, to showcase my design and my ability to perform in the industry. I tried to tap into different networks of people for work. I pitched my portfolio to as many people as I could, & then some of them replied back.

One needs to be ready to answer all the questions regarding the job you need to do. Bollywood is a very unorganised industry & you need to reach the right people to showcase your craft. And, only your craft & skills work. So master your craft & keep growing, people will notice.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: Survival in Mumbai – The city is fast & expensive. You have to keep up the pace. Also, You need to have a backup monetarily, because it takes time for Bollywood to start paying. I did a job, & saved some money.

Challenge 2: One needs Network & Connections to grow. With no Godfather in the industry it was tough. I used to sit and read all the credits for the Art Department, try to connect , find their contacts, reach them through email address, call their offices to get some work, or get leads to approach the right people to get the right project. It was tough, but if you are determined, you start understanding the network & solve it. Nowadays, social media is of great help to grow & to find & connect to the right person. Also, with the growth of digital platforms, the scope has increased. 

Challenge 3: Surviving in the Industry – Once you crack the project, there are people who are much more experienced than you & you need to learn how to tackle challenges at work. You learn this with experience.

Where do you work now? Tell us what you do?

I am the owner of a production Design Studio , PRIYA & SATYA DESIGNS. I design & create sets for TV Commercials, Feature Films, Web Series etc.

We create the look & feel of the films. Essentially, we design the visual language which you see.

What skills are needed for your job? How did you acquire the skills? 

You need to understand design, architecture, interior design, fine art, commercial art, filmmaking & management skills. I am a Communication Designer by degree.

What’s a typical day like?

Adventurous, super hectic, but fun. We create & design something new everyday. It’s full of madness, but at the end of the day when you see your end product you’re happy.

What is it you love about this job? 

Everything. It’s my passion. It’s colourful, it’s like communicating your own story through sets.

How does your work benefit society? 

I am a part of the Media Industry. We play a major role in communicating the channelized message to the society. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you! 

The making of a HACKED Gas Station Set, with an IT server Room inside. It was a 100ft by 100ft set, which we needed to construct in 4 days. There was a lot of detailing & designing. The team of 150 people were working together on one set . It was fun. So many creative minds working together to create an imaginary world.

Your advice to students based on your experience? 

Listen to your heart & follow your passion. Every student is unique & has potential to do something amazing, find your passion & start working towards it. You will see you meet all your goals & will be successful & at peace.

Future Plans? 

To expand my design studio & make a base in various other cities. So that we can get talent from all over the country.