DIVINE SECRETS OF
THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD
Accommodating a 60-Year Span of Life
"Since the film covers three different time periods, the late 1930s and
early 40s, the 1960s and the 1990s, the production had to return to the same
locations three and four times, meticulously re-dressing and aging each
set," says executive producer Mary McLaglen. That logistic challenge fell
largely to production designer David J. Bomba, working closely with director of
photography, John Bailey and costume designer Gary Jones.
Bomba read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood a year and a half
before he was hired to design the film. "As soon as I read anything,"
he says, "I start to visualize it." Rather than re-read the book, he
then designed the sets based on his memory, the script, and Khouri's
suggestions, going back to the book only for specific details pertinent to Pecan
Grove, Vivi's home or the Spring Creek cabin.
Bomba found the project both challenging and enjoyable, relying upon the work
of Degas to set the proper mood. "Degas spent a short time in the late
1800s in New Orleans," he explains, "and I referenced the colors of
his paintings from that time. What interested me most was the monochromatic
theme with a strong accent color. One painting, called The Rehearsal, is
golden with a splash of red, so I started with that image, keeping in mind the
reality of Louisiana and its hues. I chose color values indicative of the late
30s, early 40s and into the 60s, when avocado, gold and bright orange were
popular, and did variations of the Degas palette for each period."
Costume designer Gary Jones, who also begins to visualize scenes and, in
particular, clothing, immediately upon reading a book, was able to harmonize the
costumes completely with the production designer's choice of color.
"Clothing either matches the overall palette or opposes it," says
Jones, "depending upon which way it needs to be. In this case we were
working toward a cohesive tone set by the director and production designer,
using the book for support. For example, Vivi is known to have a penchant for
sunflowers. For my work, that meant not sunflowers strictly but lots of gold and
yellow for her, and David was already using those tones in his sets."
The main action of the film takes place at Pecan Grove Plantation, Vivi's
home, which, according to Bomba, was the most difficult location to find.
"I was a little discouraged at not immediately finding Pecan Grove,"
he says, "or a house that had the presentation it needed. We were looking
for something that had a sense of character because the house holds a lot of
pain and ages through the story just as the characters do."
After exhausting the options in the Wilmington area, locations manager Mike
Hewitt started looking further outside "the zone." He finally struck
gold in Faison, North Carolina with his discovery of Buckner Hill House, a
150-year-old antebellum house listed in the National Register of Historic
Houses. Although more than an hour's drive from Wilmington, everyone agreed
that the magnificent structure was well worth the commute. Aside from having the
correct look, its placement atop a hill ensured that there was nothing visible
around it to interfere with filming.
"Inside the house is a central hallway with four rooms downstairs and
four upstairs," says Bomba. "Each room has dual entrances so that
staging, blocking and filming was less restricted. It gave the camera more
options and offered me, as the designer, infinite possibilities. Our director of
photography, John Bailey, took particular advantage of the architecture."
"The high-ceiling rooms made it possible to rig overhead," says
Bailey of the Buckner Hill House. "It offered lots of windows and doorways
through which light and camera positions could be secured while leaving easy
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