PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese at work on the set of The Departed


“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.”

-Martin Scorsese

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!

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Mean Streets (1973)

Art Department Unknown

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Production Designer: Toby Carr Rafelson

Taxi Driver (1976)

Art Director: Charles Rosen | Set Decorator: Herbert F. Mulligan

New York, New York (1977)

Production Designer: Boris Leven | Art Director: Harry Kemm | Set Decorator: Robert De Vestel & Ruby R. Levitt

Raging Bull (1980)

Production Designer: Gene Rudolf | Art Director:  Alan Manser (L.A) & Kirk Axtell (L.A) | Set Decorator: Phil Abramson & Frederic C. Weiler

The King of Comedy (1983)

Production Designer: Boris Leven | Art Director: Lawrence Miller & Edward Pisoni | Set Decorator: George DeTitta Sr. & Daniel Robert

After Hours (1985)

Production Designer: Jeffrey Townsend | Art Director: Stephen J. Lineweaver | Set Decorator: Leslie A. Pope

The Color of Money (1986)

Production Designer: Boris Leven | Set Decorator: Karen O’Hara

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Production Designer: John Beard | Art Director: Andrew Sanders | Set Decorator: Giorgio Desideri

Goodfellas (1990)

Production Designer: Kristi Zea | Art Director: Maher Ahmad | Set Decorator: Leslie Bloom

Cape Fear (1991)

Production Designer: Henry Bumstead | Art Director: Jack G. Taylor Jr. | Set Decorator: Alan Hicks

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Speed Hopkins | Set Decorator: Robert J. Franco & Amy Marshall

Casino (1995)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Jack G. Taylor Jr. | Set Decorator: Rick Simpson

Kundun (1997)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Alan Tomkins | Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Robert Guerra | Set Decorator: William F. Reynolds

Gangs of New York (2002)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Stefano Maria Ortolani | Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo

The Aviator (2004)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Robert Guerra & Claude Paré | Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo

The Departed (2006)

Production Designer: Kristi Zea | Art Director: Teresa Carriker-Thayer | Set Decorator: Leslie E. Rollins

Shutter Island (2010)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Robert Guerra | Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo

Hugo (2011)

Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo

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What is your favourite Scorsese film? Why does it resonate with you?

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Rose XO.

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NOTE: Our apologies to subscribers who may have received an email of this post last week while it was in progress. We value your time and are working to make sure that never happens again. Thanks for your patience.

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INSPIRATION: The Abstractions of the Obscure Artist, Kathleen Munn

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Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario

In August of 2011, I went to the AGO here in Toronto for an exhibit on Abstract Expressionism. The Rothko‘s were even more transcendent than I ever thought they could be and I also found a couple of artists to admire that I hadn’t heard of before. I subsequently wrote down their names and pieces and finished the exhibit reinvigorated that life is indeed beautiful. I then went down the magnificent staircase of the Frank Gehry-renovated building to the main floor and decided I wanted to see more art despite quickly running out of time before the museum would close. I decided I was going to look for the abstract lithographs they had mentioned in the exhibit. On my way to the lithographs I took a wrong turn. The best wrong turn ever.

Frank Gehry-designed spiral staircase in the W...

I went into a large room after being struck by the brightest most beautiful cubist painting I’d ever seen. I looked at painting after painting; drawing after drawing all the while thinking to myself, “Why have I never seen any of these before?”. I didn’t realize it was an exhibit at that moment of just one artist so I kept looking at the labels on the wall. Suddenly I realized every single magnificent piece of artwork in those two large rooms was created by an artist I’d never heard of– Kathleen Munn. It was then and there I decided I had to know everything about her. Luckily I turned around and behind me was a huge biography on her life and artwork. Duh.

So who was this mysterious Kathleen Munn?

Kathleen Munn was born in 1887 in Toronto, Canada. At a young age her grandmother, an amateur painter herself, recognized Kathleen’s talent for art. By 1912 she was sent to New York City to study at the Art Students League where the Modernist movement was developing all around her. She became inspired by Post-impressionist artists like Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse and began to delve into landscapes with a post-impressionistic spin later exploring a more modernist artistic approach. In 1920, Kathleen took off with her sister and traveled to Europe to take in the masters and this is said to be where she began her quest to express spiritual and religious stories through modernist techniques and applications.  In 1928 she was invited to show her piece, Composition, with the Group of Seven in Paris and it was during this trip that she became heavily influenced by Cubism having gained more exposure to Picasso and Braque. She spent the subsequent years doing what she considered her best work: The Passion Series, depicting the death and resurrection of Christ. She never felt fully comfortable being completely abstract and felt art should express a larger purpose. In 1939, the public still unresponsive to her output and obligations to the family business forced her to give up on her artistic aspirations.

Despite showing with the Group of Seven, the conservative Toronto art scene did not know what to make of her artwork given how unique and disjointed it seemed in comparison to popular Canadian painters who mostly painted landscapes. What is special about Kathleen is that she was the first to embrace Cubism here and one of the first to grasp Modernism at all in Canada. Instead of changing her art in order to be accepted she continued to explore new concepts including ‘dynamic symmetry’ and Denman Ross’ colour theory.

The more I read about her the more I liked her. She did not enjoy the status quo and she was downright obsessive to learn new and better methods as witnessed in her notebooks. The one thing the Toronto critics did admit is that she was highly skilled and had mastered technique.

I left the exhibit promising myself to go back and see it the next weekend. Unfortunately, I (like always) was too busy to go back before the exhibit closed but I find myself thinking about her and her artwork often. So often that now 6 months later I felt the need to write about her. But that’s what good art does. It envelops you.

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“Art is an adventure not a habit.”

 –Kathleen Munn

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The Dance | c. 1923 | oil on canvas | 61 x 76.2 cm

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The Crucifixion (Passion Series)

c. 1934-1935 | pen and black ink over graphite on wove paper | 57 x 77.2 cm

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Last Supper | c. 1938 | graphite on paper | 38.7 x 49.5 cm

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Untitled  | c. 1926-1928 | oil on canvas | 37 x 60 cm

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Untitled (Cows and Chickens) | c. 1916 | oil on canvas | 76.2 x 101.7 cm

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Untitled (Female Nude in Forest)

c. 1923 | oil on canvas | 54.5 x 45 cm

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Untitled (Deposition) |  c. 1926-1928 | oil on canvas | 41.2 x 55.6 cm

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“I am very hopeful that some day my art will be rediscovered.”

- Kathleen Munn

(Written in her notebook the same year she passed- 1974)

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Do you have an artist, obscure or otherwise, that you haven’t been able to stop thinking about since you discovered him or her?

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Rose XO.

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Sources: The Art Gallery of Ontario, The National Gallery of Canada, Eclectix Arts, The Toronto Star, ARToronto.ca and Wikipedia

Note: I could not find titles or information on some of her work. As I find out I will update this post.

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LINKS & STUFF: Art=Drugs, Midnight in Paris & Brad Bird Gets Reamed

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It’s been a busy January but here is the best of what I’ve found for you the last couple weeks in the social media universe. This is the best time of year to find great information on art direction so please take a look and I think you’ll absolutely be inspired. Feel free to peruse our TwitterFacebookTumblr or our Google + Fan Page for more art department and film related goodies! Circle us on Google + and we’ll be sure to circle you back.

I think my parents made this.

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The 84th Academy Award Nominations [and Winners] are…

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[UPDATED FEB 26th: Winners listed with an * in red below]

At 8:30am EST this morning the Academy Award nominees were announced. Hugo led with 11 nominations followed by The Artist with 10. Noticeable snubs included Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling and Michael Shannon among others as well as their amazing films Shame, Drive and Take Shelter. Most shocking of all was the Best Picture nomination for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as the film has not been all that well-received.

I personally was sad to see The Tree of Life snubbed in the Best Art Direction category as I think Jack Fisk brings with the goods each and every time and still hasn’t won an Oscar for his beautiful and restrained work but it was such a tight category this year. Overall I’m pleased with the craft categories but they really missed the mark with the major categories. They do this every year so I’m not sure why I’m surprised. I like to look at the positive though: At least Robert Stromberg will not be winning an Academy Award this year and with any luck nobody will pull out a hat to put on their Oscar. I could not have handled a threepeat.

I was also very pleased to see French Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar nominated for Best Foreign Language Film as well as Polish & Canadian co-production In Darkness in the same category. I don’t say it enough but I am very proud to be Canadian.

The 84th Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 26, 2012. Here is the full list of Oscar nominees:

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Bérénice Bejo for The Artist (2011)

Jessica Chastain for The Help (2011)

Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs (2011)

Octavia Spencer for The Help (2011)

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

BEST WRITING, SCREENPLAY WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR THE SCREEN

BEST WRITING, SCREENPLAY BASED ON MATERIAL PREVIOUSLY PRODUCED OR PUBLISHED

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

Bullhead (2011): Michael R. Roskam(Belgium)

Footnote (2011): Joseph Cedar(Israel)

In Darkness (2011): Agnieszka Holland(Poland)

A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi(Iran)

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SCORE

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SONG

The Muppets (2011): Bret McKenzie (“Man or Muppet”)

Rio (2011): Sergio MendesCarlinhos BrownSiedah Garrett (“Real in Rio”)

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BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION

* The Shore: Terry GeorgeOorlagh George

Tuba Atlantic (2010): Hallvar Witzø

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What do you think of the nominations [and winners]? What were your favourite films of 2011? Let us know what you think.

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Rose XO.

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LINKS & STUFF: ASC Awards, SOPA and Film Production Bingo

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Here are a few of our favourite links from this week. Feel free to peruse Art DepartMENTAL’s TwitterFacebook, Tumblr or our Google + Fan Page for more art department and film related goodies! Circle us on Google + and we’ll be sure to circle you back.

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  • Version 2.0 of Fontbook‘s iPad app is available and contains samples of over 620, 000 typefaces!
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How was your week? Did you find any great links or posts?

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Alison

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INSPIRATION: The Elegance of Christian Dior

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Today’s inspiration post is all about the gorgeous and elegant design of Christian Dior.

“Christian Dior (21 January 1905 – 23 October 1957) was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world’s top fashion houses, also called Christian Dior.

On 16 December 1946 Dior founded his fashion house, backed by Marcel Boussac, a cotton-fabric magnate. The actual name of the line of his first collection, presented in early 1947, was Corolle (literally the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals in English), but the phrase New Look was coined for it by Carmel Snow, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar. Dior’s designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes; Dior is quoted as saying “I have designed flower women.” His look employed fabrics lined predominantly with percale, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist, giving his models a very curvaceous form.

Initially, women protested because his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the previous limitations on fabric. There was also some backlash to Dior’s designs due to the amount of fabrics used in a single dress or suit. During one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over this profligacy, but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended. The “New Look” (a name given it by American fashion-magazine editor Carmel Snow) revolutionized women’s dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after World War II.”

Source: wikipedia.org

Some of Dior's sketches

Dior's "New Look", 1947

"Junon" dress, fall/winter 1949-50

"Eventail" dress, Fall-Winter 1956-57

From Christian Dior's autumn/winter haute couture 2011 show

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“Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.”

- Christian Dior

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Do you have a favourite design by Christian Dior? Who’s your favourite fashion designer or fashion house?

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Alison

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LINKS & STUFF: ADG Nominees, Arts = Happiness and Title Design

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Here are a few of our favourite links from this week. Feel free to peruse Art DepartMENTAL’s TwitterFacebook, Tumblr or our brand new Google + Fan Page for more art department and film related goodies! Circle us on Google + and we’ll be sure to circle you back.

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  • A new study shows that 4 of 6 of the happiest activities are arts-related.
  • Check out this video featuring the best in title design:
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How was your week? Did you find any great links or posts?

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Alison

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PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Black and White

The Artist is nominated for an Art Directors Guild Award for Best Production Design in a Period Film this year, and it got me thinking about other black and white films with great production design. Here are a few of my favourite films/scenes that are beautiful without Technicolour.

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The Birth, Life, and Death of Christ (1906)

Art Direction: Alice Guy

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

Art Direction: Otis Turner

Metropolis (1927)

Art Directors: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht

Citizen Kane (1941)

Art Director: Van Nest Polglase | Set Decorator: Darrell Silvera

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Art Directors: Hans DreierJohn Meehan | Set Decorators: Sam Comer, Ray Moyer

Persona (1966)

Production Designer: Bibi Lindström

Mahattan (1979)

Production Designer: Mel Bourne | Set Decorator: Robert Drumheller

The Artist (2011)

Production Designer: Laurence Bennett | Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper | Set Decorator: Austin Buchinsky, Robert Gould

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What is your favourite black and white film?

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Alison

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LINKS & STUFF: The Designer’s Toolkit, Pantone and the Holstee Manifesto

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Here are a few of our favourite links from this week. Feel free to peruse Art DepartMENTAL’s TwitterFacebook, Tumblr or our brand new Google + Fan Page for more art department and film related goodies! Circle us on Google + and we’ll be sure to circle you back.

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Designers were asked around the world which apps they most used for their various design needs. Click the graphic above for the full infographic with all the results.

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  • Production Designer, Clay Griffith talks about his past art department work and gives some insight into the design of We Bought A Zoo including a few drawings which illustrate how they built the zoo in the film.

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How was your week? Did you find any great links or stuff online this week?

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- Alison

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PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Christmas Edition!

Merry Christmas, Art DepartMENTAL readers! It’s that time of year again: garland on mantels, tinsel on trees, and of course – Christmas movies on television. There are too many Christmas films to mention but here are a few classics I think have noteworthy production design elements in them.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Art Director: Jack Okey | Set Decorator: Emile Kuri

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Art Directors: Richard Irvine, Richard Day | Set Decorators: Ernest Lansing, Thomas Little

A Christmas Story (1983)

Production Designer: Reuben Freed | Art Director: Gavin Mitchell | Set Decorator: Mark S. Freeborn

Scrooged (1988)

Production Designer: J. Michael Riva | Art Director: Virginia L. Randolph | Set Decorator: Linda DeScenna

Christmas Vacation (1989)

Production Designer: Stephen Marsh | Art Director: Beala Neal | Set Decorator: Lisa Fischer

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

Production Designer: Sandy Veneziano | Art Director: Gary A. Lee | Set Decorator: Marvin March

Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Art Director: Deane Taylor

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Production Designer: Michael Corenblith | Art Directors: Lauren E. Polizzi, Dan Webster | Set Decorator: Merideth Boswell

What’s your favourite Christmas movie and why?

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- Alison

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