Mood Boards 101

mood boards 101

If you’re applying to be an Assistant Designer at NTSA, you may have noticed that your application requires a mood board. Today, we’re going to take you step-by-step through how to create a mood board for a hypothetical production.

1. Choose your show.

Any play or musical can make an interesting mood board! You want to choose a show that you could talk about for hours, one that you have really strong thoughts and feelings about — because we’re going to see all of that reflected in your designs. Are there any shows that you’ve gotten into heated arguments with your friends about? Are there any shows that you’d wait outside for days to get a ticket for? Are there any shows where you’d absolutely cosplay your favorite character at Broadway Con? That’s your show! So if you think that all Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark needed was a little bit more gritty realism or you’re hardcore #teamjamie in The Last Five Years, then we want to see you write about and design that show. (Seriously though, we would love to see a Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark reboot from someone. We not-so-secretly love that show. Rise above, Spidey.)

2. Pick out the major theme.

Pick up a copy of your show’s script off of Amazon and read it. Now go back and read it again. And again. You want to make sure that you fully understand the material before you start designing. Pick out the major theme by asking yourself: What lesson was the playwright trying to get across to the audience? The musical adaptation of Spring Awakening, for instance, was about how lack of communication between children and adults can have dire consequences. When the show opened on Broadway in 2006 (and even during its early 2001 workshop), teenage pregnancy and STDs were on the rise, thanks to abstinence-only education, which “shielded” students from their own sexuality. This was, of course, the same kind of sex ed that led to Wendla’s unfortunate demise.

3. Identify the show’s relevance.

So you understand the major theme of the show. Now go one step further: Why is that theme relevant NOW? If you’re looking at Schwartz's classic Pippin, for instance, what makes this fable about an aimless and disenchanted millennial (by which we mean from the first millennium, of course) who finally discovers himself through simple human connection particularly relevant for today’s audiences? If you can’t find a compelling reason why the playwright’s lesson still needs to be communicated today, then you might want to choose another show.

4. Understand the time and location of your show.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be the time and location listed in the script (although you should definitely research the time and location intended by the playwright). Tiny Ninja Theater created a production of Hamlet billed as “Shakespeare’s classic tale of murder and intrigue performed by inch-high plastic ninjas and assorted dime store figures on a briefcase-sized stage.” Just make sure that you can explain WHY you’re choosing to perform Shakespeare with inch-high plastic ninjas — and the answer should never be “because it looks cool.” Have an answer grounded in literary analysis instead.

Important: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your production needs to have some kind of gimmick to be successful. Sometimes, a beautifully-rendered version of a play or musical set in its original time and location can be extremely impactful. We love a well-done gimmick as much as anyone, but this isn’t Gypsy. You don’t “got to get a gimmick.”

5. Sign up for Pinterest and create a new board.

Sign up for Pinterest and create a new board for your mood board. Use the Guide to Pinterest to help you get started if you don’t know how to use the platform yet.

6. Search for images.

Google Image search is always a sure thing, but don’t feel limited to what you can find on Google. David Neat has a fairly comprehensive list of visual research websites on his blog that you might want to consider checking out. You may also want to consider checking out some fine art sites like Bēhance; Design M has a list of excellent fine art gallery websites.

7. Explain your thinking.

Once you’ve selected your images and saved them to your Pinterest board, you’re going to need to submit a document that explains your thinking. Why did you choose each of your images? What does it have to do with the major theme? With how the characters relate to that theme? With how the time and location relates to the theme? (Always bring everything back to the theme!) Make sure to include specific evidence from the text whenever possible. And if you can’t think of a compelling explanation for how an image you selected relates back to the theme, it’s time to choose another image!

You can find more information about mood board creation at Creative Market. Some of the guidance isn’t going to be relevant to your NTSA application, but they have some good tips about color and typography, not to mention some excellent examples of mood boards at the bottom of the post.

Once you've created your mood board, CLICK HERE to apply to NTSA!

Posted on Oct 31, 2017 in Auditions  

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