Today we celebrate the beauty and power of film through the live global telecast of The Academy Awards. The Oscars may not be perfect but they remain a celebration of storytelling and craft, so for that I am thankful. I want to take the time right now to congratulate all the nominees up for Best Production Design at The 87th Academy Awards tonight and wish them all the best. They are all talented beyond measure and inspire me to learn more and to work harder and smarter.
Category Archives: Art Direction
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.
“We’re in 100 percent digital film space now. I think the industry has to accept that this is like the transition to talkies — it’s massive and it’s game-changing and it’s happening. Continue reading
The production design for Prometheus surprised a lot of people when the first set stills leaked. Instead of the grungy, mechanical aesthetic of Alien, which it predates, Prometheus’ sets are clean, brightly lit, and very colourful. It’s texturing is much less heavy than Alien, and the reflective surfaces and bold, graphic palette seem a world away from the 1979 film’s muted golds, browns and creams. Ridley Scott’s influences for the look of Prometheus can be tracked back to the 1965 film Planet Of The Vampires – in fact the space suits for the Prometheus crew are taken almost verbatim from that film. Broadly speaking though, pulp sci-fi appears to be the major influence for the film’s look, mixing it’s tone and colour with updated version of the bulkheads and corridors of the original Nostromo sets. Prometheus’ prop vehicles, the RT Rovers, continue this theme.
Dante Ferretti was the only winner to thank his crew, let alone any below-the-line crew. Films get made on the backs of their crew and I was so pleased to see that Dante respects his crew enough to thank them. It was lovely to see him win his 3rd Oscar for his staggering work on Hugowhich topped my list for best production design this past year. For once the Academy had it right.
For a list of all the nominees and winners of the 84th Academy Awards, click here.
Below is Dante Ferretti’s acceptance speech: Continue reading
After some long and hard deliberations I have pared down what are, in my opinion, the top 10 best production designed/art directed films of 2011. In the end, given the subjectivity of film in general, all this means is these were my favourite designs. Going through the many films I had on my list I was awestruck at the diversity, styles and overall quality of so many of the films. 2011 was really a banner year for production design the way I see it. Last year, I found it easy to just do a top 5 but this year I found it impossible not to do a top 10 and I easily could have made it a top 20.
“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.”
From the mean streets of New York City to the days of Christ in desolate landscapes to the vast beauty of Paris in the 1930’s, let there be no question that Martin Scorsese is a master of visual storytelling. Great filmmakers don’t stop telling the story on the page, in the camera or in the cut, they continue to use the tool of environment and space: production design. Often times in Scorsese’s films the environment is another character. New York City is his most prominent character no matter which decade he sets his story.
The quote above is an important one for me and one I use very often when designing a film. What you have in the frame is as important as what you leave out. Everything you have in the frame is part of telling the story. It’s the details of the graphics in Travis Bickle’s apartment which were written into the script to the branded poker chips which you may have not noticed in Casino to the tiny tools dressed on the desk in Hugo’s living space, that make Scorsese’s worlds all-encompassing and believable. In a Scorsese film the one thing you can always count on is that every detail is accounted for.
Now obviously Scorsese himself does not implement these details but he demands the very best from his crew. Luckily, success has awarded him the opportunities to work with the very best in Production Design. His work with Production Designer Dante Ferretti is particularly epic and their collaborations together always leave me breathless. Hiring the right people, as they say, is half the battle.
So here now are those worlds. I warn you there are spoilers and violence ahead. Enjoy!
Mean Streets (1973)
Art Department Unknown
Production Designer: Toby Carr Rafelson
Taxi Driver (1976)
New York, New York (1977)
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1983)
After Hours (1985)
The Color of Money (1986)
Cape Fear (1991)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Aviator (2004)
The Departed (2006)
Shutter Island (2010)
What is your favourite Scorsese film? Why does it resonate with you?
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This year, Orange County’s Saddleback College invited guest speaker Production Designer, John Janavs, to speak about the art of reality television production design to a group of students. They were kind enough to post it online for all to see. John Janavs speaks eloquently about how he entered the field of production design, what he looks for when designing a set, how he chooses materials underlying budget limitations and more. This is the single most informative and insightful set of videos I’ve seen all year concerning production design so I suggest you watch carefully and take notes. Enjoy!
Which tip helped you the most? Do you have a better understanding of television production design now?
Source: Canadian Illustrator, Keri Smith
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?