Category Archives: Advice

The Ten Commandments of Production Design

Ten Commandments Of Production Design

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1)    All the camera sees is the last coat of paint.

2)    Don’t cheat (unless you have to).

3)    Signs of protest are best done by amateurs.

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My Life in the Art Department in Los Angeles

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As a new contributor to Art DepartMENTAL, I will be covering the Art department scene in Los Angeles in greater detail as the months go on. Rose and I thought it would be a good idea to start off with a little bit about myself and my work in the art department through a Q&A. So without further delay, Rose asked and I answered…

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HUMP DAY QUOTE DAY: Do the Best You Can

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Haskell Wexler- Cinematographer

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“If you can spend your time doing the best you can doing Continue reading

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How to Feel Miserable as an Artist

Source: Canadian Illustrator, Keri Smith

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Don’t do this to yourself. This may have been written for fine artists but I believe it translates to anyone in a creative field. A list like this will help keep you in check.

Thoughts? Which one of these do you find yourself doing the most?

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Rose XO.

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What Nobody Tells Beginners…

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In the video above, Ira Glass has articulated so well what I’ve been thinking for years. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked:

“When should I start designing? Am I too young? Am I good enough?”

My answer is always “You are never too young and you will never be good if you don’t try,” but I’m grateful someone like Ira has more accurately expressed the importance of trying and the inevitability of failure in the beginning. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 10,000 hour rule or even the 1000 hour rule by now but if somebody had told me this in the beginning perhaps there would have been a lot less tears, heartache, second-guessing, and overall insecurity about why I was having so much trouble achieving what I wanted to achieve. I knew I was better than what I was churning out at times yet I blamed myself at every turn but now I know…

The overwhelming odds are that your best work WILL NOT be at the very beginning of your career and THAT’S OKAY.

It is through trying and failing that you will learn everything you will need to be successful. You can sit at home reading every book and watching every movie but until you step out onto that set you will never know what you yourself are capable of. You may fail- in fact you will very likely make every beginner’s mistake known to man no matter what you read in the past telling you what not to do. However it is by making those mistakes that you will learn over a course of time what works and what doesn’t… and for the people who put you down or stand in your way on your journey forward -> FUCK’EM! After all, the best revenge is massive success. Remember that and you’ll be fine.

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To Beginners: What is your biggest fear about getting started and getting better? To Veterans: How long did it take you to attain a certain level of excellence or at the very least feel comfortable in your position? What’s the best advice you were given in the beginning that helped you along?

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Rose XO.

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Source: David Shiyang Liu | Originally shared to me by Cybel Martin, @CybelDP

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HUMP DAY QUOTE DAY: Ambition

 

Today’s Hump Day Quote Day theme is Ambition. You can check out last week’s theme, Ego, here. The next quote theme will be Film.

What is Ambition?

1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment

2. the object, state, or result desired or sought after

3. desire for work or activity; energy

Source: dictionary.reference.com

Let the Quotes Commence:


Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

- Les Brown

We are told never to cross a bridge until we come to it, but this world is owned by men who have ‘crossed bridges’ in their imagination far ahead of the crowd.

-Anon.

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.

- C. Archie Danielson

Big results require big ambitions.

- James Champy

The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves.

- Herbert N. Casson

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

- Thomas Jefferson

Ambition is a lust that is never quenched, but grows more inflamed and madder by enjoyment.

- Thomas Oway

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Rose & Alison

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HUMP DAY QUOTE DAY: Ego

 

Today’s Hump Day Quote Day theme is an exploration of the Ego. You can check out the last hump day theme, Design, here. The next quote theme will be Ambition.

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What is the ego?


1. The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves.
2. In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality.
3.
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit.
  • Appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.
Source: The Free Dictionary
 

The Ego According to Freud:


William James (1890) proposed a distinction be...

Image via Wikipedia

Sigmund Freud proposed that the human psyche could be divided into three parts: Id, ego, and super-ego. Freud discussed this model in the 1920 essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and fully elaborated upon it in The Ego and the Id (1923), in which he developed it as an alternative to his previous topographic schema (i.e., conscious, unconscious, and preconscious). The id is the impulsive, child-like portion of the psyche that operates on the “pleasure principle” and only takes into account what it wants and di sregards all consequences. The term ego entered the English language in the late 18th century; Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) described the game of chess as a way to “…keep the mind fit and the ego in check”. Freud acknowledged that his use of the term Id (das Es, “the It”) derives from the writings of Georg Groddeck. The term Id appears in the earliest writing of Boris Sidis, in which it is attributed to William James, as early as 1898.

The super-ego is the moral component of the psyche, which takes into account no special circumstances in which the morally right thing may not be right for a given situation. The rational ego attempts to exact a balance between the impractical hedonism of the id and the equally impractical moralism of the super-ego; it is the part of the psyche that is usually reflected most directly in a person’s actions. When overburdened or threatened by its tasks, it may employ defense mechanisms including denial, repression, and displacement. The theory of ego defense mechanisms has received empirical validation,[43] and the nature of repression, in particular, became one of the more fiercely debated areas of psychology in the 1990s.
Source: Wikipedia
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Let the Quotes Commence:

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Our own self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults.

- Lord Chesterfield

Thinking is often regarded as an extension of the ego. Clever children in school base their egos on being clever and on being right all the time. They dislike group work because they cannot then show the rest of the class where the good idea originated. When the ego and thinking are treated as the same thing there is a reluctance to be wrong and a need to defend a point of view rather than to explore the situation. A person should be able to treat his thinking much as a tennis player treats his strokes: he should be able to walk off the court complaining that his backhand was not working very well on that occasion or that it required more practice. The new meta-system is very much in favour of the self, but a self that is based on a proper sense of dignity, not an inflated ego.  A person who dare not admit he is wrong inflates his ego but weakens his self.

- Edward De Bono

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

- Colin Powell

An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is capable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.

- Carl Gustav Jung

Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.

- Frank Leahy

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How does this relate to the Art Department?


In the Art Department, no matter what the position, we are constantly working with creative and differing personalities. The film and television industry is a high stress and highly skilled field of work. Put those together and you have the perfect storm for ego eruptions on a daily basis. The ego often manifests itself in power struggles, intense defense mechanisms and the ever seductive blame game. When it comes right down to it people just don’t want to be embarrassed or admit wrong-doing, especially in an industry where there is always someone stepping on your heels ready and willing to take your job. I am no stranger to this myself but I’m not the only one and I take great solace in that (and that’s probably my ego talking).

It is incredibly hard to keep your ego in check when you have many people asking for your time, opinions, and skills all at once but awareness is the first step. I find what has helped me overcome battles recently is to take a well-timed bathroom break and take a step back. Even if just for 5 minutes. Look at the situation from 5 different people’s point of view in hopes to unbias yourself from what is going on. If you find you have done wrong or even something as simple as, for example, not considering someone else’s ideas or suggestions because they aren’t your own, go back, admit wrong, and apologize as professionally as possible. In the end you’ll manifest things differently the next time and you’ll earn more respect from your colleagues after apologizing or admitting you were wrong than being the egotistical jerk through and through. Examine your process and you’ll find a better way to deal with your ego. I guarantee it. After all the Art Department is a team like any other and as the saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in Team”.

 

Rose XO.

 

“The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more powerful the Oedipus complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the stricter will be the domination of the super-ego over the ego later on—in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt.”
—Freud, The Ego and the Id (1923)

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ART DEPARTMENT TIP #1: Children’s Artwork

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Children only draw full bodies. They may not always include a torso but they will always include limbs representing the body. Children can not conceptualize the bodies different parts thus they can not draw them separately. It is only in bad movies where you will see a floating head without the body attached.

Just a tip to keep in mind next time you are in the art department office trying to finish kid’s drawings for Set Dec. If you have the opportunity or connections with primary school teachers, it’s actually best to get children’s artwork done by children as adults have a very hard time trying to draw and think like children. We are far too co-ordinated.

I found a great article about the psychology of the way children draw. It’s really worth a read:

http://www.answers.com/topic/children-s-drawings-of-human-figures

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Notice that even though the people are in a boat their entire bodies are shown as well as the fish and birds.

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Have you ever noticed any films where the children’s artwork was so obviously faked?

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Rose XO

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HUMP DAY QUOTE DAY: Waiting on Art?

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“A production is only as fast as its slowest department, and the last thing you want is for your department to be slow.”

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-Lloyd Ahern, ASC

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I loathe hearing “Waiting on art” or “Waiting on props”. It’s every departments least favourite thing to hear, “Waiting on ——-”. It’s nerve-racking. It’s not the AD’s fault that he has to say that. The other departments need to stay informed as to why they are not shooting at any given moment despite a bunch of people standing around minus the department who is scrambling to get what they need to get done in the least amount of time so the camera can roll and the schedule can remain in tact.

If your department is repeatedly slow, the likelihood of continued work with the same people is unlikely. It’s kind of a dealbreaker.

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Rose XO.

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How to Judge Best Art Direction

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Production Designer, Jim Bissell, explains with great insight what makes great production design and highlights the movies that were nominated this year. Those movies being: The winner- Avatar (PD- Robert Stromberg, PD- Rick Carter, and SD- Kim Sinclair), Sherlock Holmes (PD- Sarah Greenwood and SD- Katie Spencer), Nine (PD- John Myhre, and SD- Gordon Sim), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (PD- Anastasia Masaro, SD- Caroline Smith, and SD- Shane Vieau), and lastly The Young Victoria (PD- Patrice Vermette, and SD- Maggie Gray). I also just wanted to congratulate all the nominees and say how proud the Canadian film industry has been that three of the nominees are Canadian. I hope to work with Anastasia Masaro, Gordon Sim, and Patrice Vermette in the future. Kudos to the winner, Avatar, which absolutely raised the bar this year for production design.

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Hope you enjoyed the video and you can make an informed decision next year on your favourite art direction. Did this video help you realize what makes great art direction? Do you feel that Avatar deserved to win the Oscar this year for Best Art Direction?

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Rose XO.

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Source: ADG

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