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Back To The Valley
As a Los Angeles native, Vicky Jenson is familiar with the city's contrasts and contradictions. She knows both of Ryden Malby's two worlds firsthand—slick, ambitious professional Los Angeles and the more faded, comfortable San Fernando Valley. Each represents something very different for Ryden. One is where she came from; the other is where she is determined to arrive.

Jenson, who had worked previously as a production designer, was very specific in the look she wanted to create. "It is very important to me that the visuals have a style that communicates something about the characters,” she explains. "To me, visuals tell the story as much as any other element.”

Working with production designer Mark Hutman, Jenson developed a visual narrative to complement the story she wanted to tell. She requested a design concept that would serve as "a love letter to Los Angeles” and capture the different aspects of the city. "Ryden's dream is working in a sleek Century City glass and steel office building, so we searched out locations that would reflect exactly what this Emerald City in her head is.

"We contrasted that with what I called ‘the vanishing valley,'” says Jenson. "When I was Ryden's age, I vowed I would never go back there, but the location scouting gave me a wonderful sense of nostalgia—all the faded signs and the palm trees and the dusty houses. So in the movie, the buildings of Century City are like a ballet to me. When we get to the Valley, and see those little signs and Bob's Big Boy, that's like a polka.”

Jeffrey Clifford credits Jenson's upbringing with giving her a special perception of Ryden's world. "There's a sense of being an outsider in this city that Vicky understood,” he says. "Ryden is somebody who wants to have a big important career, and to grow beyond her family into the world. She's pushing against where she comes from, pushing from the outside in. She's not from Beverly Hills or Malibu. She's from a really suburban neighborhood that happens to be adjacent to a bustling, very cosmopolitan city.”

The differences are reflected in two houses located on the same street: the Malby home and their neighbor David's more cosmopolitan digs. "My job is always to support characters and the telling of the story but never upstage them,” says Hutman. "The house we found for the Malbys is a single story, ranchstyle house, which is very common in the Valley. It's not new, but it's not old either—it's just somewhat non-descript. For David's environment, we went very stylish and masculine. His house is more modern, with dark leather couches and a minimalist color palette. And he has a pool.”

Hutman put a great deal of time and effort into finding the small objects that have accumulated in the Malby home over the decades. "By layering the environment with props and set dressing, we were able to really showcase the Malby quirkiness,” says Hutman. "The house is a sort of time capsule for the family. They are packrats who have collected family mementos and odd knickknacks through the years. We figured this was Grandma Maureen's house originally, so there are a lot of things that are deeply personal to her. Nothing really matches, but this is home and everything reflects family memories.

"Walter's garage is his haven,” continues Hutman. "It's filled with debris from past projects and all the oddball things he collects—old surfboards, lawnmowers, radios, a ton of tools. Everything is in various stages of being taken apart. But it's his space and it's sacred ground to him.”

Many of the same considerations came into play in the film's costume design. Jenson was very specific about the way she wanted Ryden to look. "I wanted Ryden's outfits to evolve over the course of the film to reflect her growing awareness.”

In keeping with that idea, costume designer Alexandra Welker devel

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