From Film to Fashion, Production Designer Claudia Simoes Sets the Tone

Born in White Rock, Canada, a small town just outside of Vancouver, production designer Claudia Simoes has used art across various mediums as a means of communication for as long as she can remember.

As a child, Simoes excelled as a painter, dancer and photographer; but if you had asked her at that time what she wanted to do in terms of a career, her answer would have vacillated between the various art forms she loved. In reality, none of them singularly held the potential to encompass all of her talents.

“I changed my mind so much as a kid I was kind of all over the place, I had wanted to be a dancer for a really long time I even thought of opening my own dance studio, but I was about 12 with that dream… I wanted to be a painter at one point – I had a crazy obsession with Frida Kahlo in high school,” says Simoes. “Everything that I had said I wanted to be always had something to do with art and entertainment.”

It wasn’t until Simoes attended the prestigious Vancouver Film School for visual art & design that the young creative found a funnel for all of her diverse talents through production design.

About discovering the career she was clearly destined for, Simoes explains, “It was a great feeling, I got insanely lucky to be able to find a career that combines everything I love, not everyone gets to experience that.”

One of Simoes’ first professional projects in the industry was the music video for Mackenzie Porter’s debut single “I Wish I’d Known.” As an integral contributor to the set and production design of the video, Simoes used her artistry to create a shabby chic look within an old warehouse that perfectly accompanied the sweet country style of the song.

After working with Simoes on the music video for “I Wish I’d Known,” production designer Caitlin Byrnes enlisted the young genius’s contributions on the feature film Preggoland.

Preggoland, which was released last year, starred Oscar nominated actor James Caan (The Godfather, Las Vegas, Elf, Middle Men, Get Smart) and multi-award winning actress Sonja Bennett (YPF, Random Acts of Romance, Stained, Rise of the Planet of the Apes).

The winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the Fargo Film Festival, the Best Film Award from the Omaha Film Festival and the Most Popular Canadian Film Award from the Vancouver International Film Festival, Preggoland followed Ruth (Sonja Bennett), an unwed and childless 35-year-old who fakes a pregnancy in order to fit in with her friends.

Early on in her career Simoes wrote, directed, produced and production designed the film Always Midnight. A beautifully shot black and white silent film, Always Midnight revolved around an abusive relationship brought on by drug addiction.

“It was very dark,” recalled Simoes. “I knew I had to have very strong production design for this film because there was no dialogue, so I did a lot of research on what props would stand out in black and white.”

In 2013 Simoes wrote, directed, edited and production designed the film Sh*t Winos Say for the Vinos Film Festival in Whistler, British Columbia. Yet another testament to her talents as a filmmaker and production designer, the film was chosen as one of the top eight out of over 300 submissions; and it went on to receive astonishing praise as one of the few films selected to screen at the festival.

As a filmmaker, Claudia Simoes knows exactly what it takes to get a story across visually, a facet of her skillset that has made her an integral contributor as a production designer on a wide range of projects. What sets Simoes apart from other production designers working in film and fashion is her vast knowledge of lighting and overall design, and how the two blend together to create a desired mood on film.

Having worked as a professional photographer in the past, her expertise in lighting has been a rare asset to all of the productions she has worked on. Simoes even led several lighting workshops while in Vancouver over the last few years.

As the production designer on Ruby Starling’s video “27 Club,” her work garnered international attention last year when the video was featured on Black Magazine’s BLK TV. What’s more—she even designed the shirts featured in the video!

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