Briefs: Vincent Bates and the Oscars, Lydia Ledon on ‘Masterchef Junior’

Vincent Bates was a set designer on "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," up for an Oscar for best visual effects. Lydia Ledon of Atlanta is on "Masterchef Junior" on Fox. PUBLICITY PHOTO/FOX



Vincent Bates was a set designer on "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," up for an Oscar for best visual effects. Lydia Ledon of Atlanta is on "Masterchef Junior" on Fox. PUBLICITY PHOTO/FOX

Georgia set designer Vincent Bates spent months creating parts of Knowhere, headquarters for the Marvel film “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which received an Oscar nomination for visual effects this year.

“This was world building,” he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What blows my mind is the fact I had the opportunity to do this, but also do it in Georgia.”

In “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” Knowhere was so expansive, the film needed a half-dozen set designers including Bates who reported to an art director. He spent eight months on the project in 2021 and 2022, building out an armory, huge blast shields and a cockpit. The movie went on to generate $846 million worldwide and is now on Disney+.

Bates, a 40-year-old Smyrna resident, received a masters in architecture at Savannah College of Art and Design out of Savannah in 2013. He knew someone in the film business who suggested he use his skills in film and TV. “The industry was so young in Georgia,” he said. “It felt like a perfect time to get in.”

So he moved to Atlanta and began at the very bottom as a production assistant in a forgotten movie, “Project Almanac.” He was able to do some set design work on the 2017 film “Goosebumps.” He did what is dubbed “small location augmentation” to make sure an existing location looks good. “That’s a great way for a lot of people to start out,” he said.

After building an alligator pen for Kevin Hart’s “Ride Along 2,” he did his first big build on Sony Playstation’s “Powers,” a massive sci-fi prison for one of the characters. He erected an entire hotel suite for “Keeping Up With the Jones.” His credits continued to build: “Game Night.” “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” “Shaft.” “Doctor Sleep.” “Jumanji: The Next Level.”

But he said the pivotal build out for him was “Suicide Squad,” which involved Brutalist architecture with stacked stone and concrete, and walls and cars blowing up. “What made that a challenge was making it look good but also functional within the realm of the project,” he said.

He said he watches movies differently than a lot of people because of his job. “Instead of watching the actors,” he said, “I am looking past them and studying the set. How much screen time does my set get?”

While he will be watching the Oscars Sunday, winning or losing doesn’t matter much to him. “At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do the best job I can,” he said. “I enjoy this job. Every project is a different challenge. And you can’t rest on your laurels. There’s always something new to learn.”


MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestant Lydia Ledon, Aarón Sánchez and Daphne Oz in the “Under The Sea” episode of MASTERCHEF JUNIOR airing Monday, March 11 (8:00-9:00PM) ET/PT on FOX. CR: Greg Gayne. © 2024 FOX Media LLC.

Credit: Pete Dadds

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Credit: Pete Dadds

Atlanta has a 9-year-old representative on season nine of “Masterchef Junior,” which debuted this week.

Her name is Lydia Ledon, the youngest of four children. She is up against 11 other contestants ages 8 to 11 for the $100,000 prize.

“If I win $100,000, I’m getting a new go-kart, then I’m going to buy a horse,” Lydia said during the season 9 debut on Monday.

She cooks dinner mostly with her father George with a focus on Cuban cuisine.

“Ever since I could sit on the counter, I always wanted to help in the kitchen,” Lydia said in a separate interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I liked to help fry fish we would catch. I’d throw on the seasonings.”

The family grew up in south Florida, where fishing was accessible before moving to Atlanta four and a half years ago after Lydia’s parents retired from the firefighting force in Miami Beach.

Lydia said the scariest part of the show was getting judged by Gordon Ramsay, Daphne Oz and Aaron Sanchez. (Ramsay’s daughter Tilly is part of the crew now, too.)

“It was stressful when they try my dish because they don’t make any facial expressions and you can’t go off of it,” Lydia said.

Gordon Ramsay, she said, “is intimidating.”

“I like her ambition and like to see she has no fear of doing it,” said her father George, who is now doing home inspections.

She loves cooking steaks and anything with strawberries. “She made a taco with strawberry salsa that was really good,” George said. “I thought it was going to be too sweet but it was amazing. I ate too much of it.”

Lydia would love to be a chef when she grows up. “It would be really fun,” she said.


“Masterchef Junior,” 8 p.m. Mondays on Fox and available the next day on Hulu