Tag Archives: Set decorator

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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PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Art DepartMENTAL’s Top 10 Best Production Design of 2011

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Art DepartMENTAL'S 2011 Top 10 Best Production Design

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.

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PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Quentin Tarantino

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What makes a Quentin Tarantino movie so great? The soundtracks full of 70s tunes, the stylized gore, and of course the David Wasco production design. Sets like the warehouse in Reservoir Dogs and the the Cinema Le Gamaar in Inglourious Basterds make the films just that much more memorable. Take a look.

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Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Production Designer: David Wasco |  Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Production Designer: David Wasco | Art Director: Charles Collum | Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Jackie Brown (1997)

Production Designer: David Wasco |  Art Director: Daniel Bradford | Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Production Designer: Yohei Taneda, David Wasco | Art Directors: Daniel Bradford, Hidefumi Hanatani, Minoru Nishida | Set Decorators: Yoshihito Akatsuka, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Production Designer: David Wasco |  Art Director: Daniel Bradford | Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Death Proof (2007)

Production Designer: Steve Joyner | Art Director: Caylah Eddleblute | Set Decorator: Jeanette Scott

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Production Designer: David Wasco | Art Director: Marco Bittner Rosser, Stephan O. Gessler, Sebastian T. Krawinkel, David Scheunemann | Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

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Are you a Tarantino lover? Which of his films do you think have the best production design?

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Alison.

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ART DIRECTORS GUILD AWARDS: Which Commercial Would You Choose?

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The Art Director’s Guild Awards taking place tomorrow have nominated the best in production design/art direction. Every year I always forget that they include a category for commercials and music videos. I found it interesting this year no music videos received a nomination; all five nominations are commercials. I myself stopped doing commercials because I generally found them uncreative and soul-sucking but I found these commercials (while I’m sure soul-sucking) at the very least extremely creative and thoughtful. While commercials can afford to spend thousands on the perfect commercial to hawk their products, music video budgets are dwindling on par with record sales. Music videos used to be the place you could let your art direction freak flag fly but it’s great to see, as there becomes less opportunity in music videos, commercials are letting loose and becoming more creative than ever. Check out these nominations and watch the videos. It’s just about the only category you can watch all the nominations and make a decision in less than ten minutes!

Full list of Art Director’s Guild nominations: click here.

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The Commercials:

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Got Milk? Commercial | The Dentist | Production Designer: Jeffrey Beecroft

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Farmers Insurance Commercial | Frozen Pipes | Production Designer: Ken Averill

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Capital One Commercial | Rapunzel | Production Designer: Jeremy Reed

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Ford Fiesta Commercial | Launch | Production Designer: Floyd Albee

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Dos Equis Commercial | Ice Fishing | Production Designer: Jesse Benson

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Based solely on the production design, which commercial would you vote for, and why, if you had a say at the Art Director’s Guild Awards?

My answer is below. Just want to make clear I have zero affiliation with any of these companies. Thanks for reading!

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Rose XO.

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PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: The Coen Brothers

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Joel and Ethan Coen jointly write, direct, produce, and edit films as a team. Their newest film, True Grit, is nominated this year for ten Oscars, including Best Achievement in Art Direction. It is also nominated under the Period Film category at the Art Director’s Guild Awards this year. Let’s take a look back at their career in this week’s “Production Design Porn”. As you will see, they clearly had an eye for detail from the very beginning.

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Blood Simple. (1984)

Production Designer: Jane Musky


Raising Arizona (1987)
Production Designer: Jane Musky | Art Director: Harold Thrasher | Set Decorator: Robert Kracik

 

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Production Designer: Dennis Gassner | Art Director:  Leslie McDonald | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

 

Barton Fink (1991)

Production Designer:  Dennis Gassner | Art Director: Robert C. Goldstein, Leslie McDonald | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

 

Fargo (1996)

Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs | Art Director: Thomas P. Wilkins | Set Decorator: Lauri Gaffin

 

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs | Art Director: John Dexter | Set Decorator: Chris L. Spellman

 

O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

Production Designer: Dennis Gassner | Art Director: Richard L. Johnson | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

 

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Production Designer: Dennis Gassner | Art Director: Chris Gorak | Set Decorator: Chris L. Spellman

 

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Production Designer: Jess Gonchor | Art Director: John P. Goldsmith | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

 

Burn After Reading (2008)

Production Designer: Jess Gonchor | Art Director: David Swayze | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

 

A Serious Man (2009)

Production Designer: Jess Gonchor | Art Director: Deborah Jensen | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

 

True Grit (2010)

Production Designer: Jess Gonchor | Art Director: Stefan Dechant, Christina Ann Wilson | Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh

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What is your favourite Coen Bros. film? Do you think True Grit will win at the Oscars or the ADG Awards?

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- Alison

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TV SETS: The Good Wife

I have fallen in love with the sets of ‘The Good Wife’ as many, many of you have. To read up about the beautiful sets by Production Designer Stephen Hendrickson and Set Decorator Beth Kushnick in Beth Kushnick’s own words you have two new avenues: A Q&A by the Set Decorators Society of America or Beth Kushnick’s brand new blog at CBS to answer set decor questions from viewers.

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“As a set decorator I think it is all about the details! Even though things like a collection of fortunes from fortune cookies placed in a bowl in the kitchen (which was my eight-year-old daughter’s contribution) or bedside table junk in the bedroom (coins, a random earring, a chiropractor’s business card) most likely will never be seen on screen, they give life to the sets and I find them very necessary to complete the lived-in feeling.”

- Beth Kushnick, SDSA

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Rose XO.

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Sources: Set Decorators Society of America and CBS Broadcasting Inc., all photos by John Paul Filo/ CBS ©2009 CBS BROADCASTING INC.

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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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TV SETS: ‘House’ Psychiatric Hospital Set Build

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A great behind-the-scenes video with the Production Designer and Set Decorator of ‘House':

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“We create the environment, for them [the production team and shoot crew] to make you [the audience] believe.”

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I’ve never done the modelscope trick before. I’ll be doing a scale model of a cabin build for the feature I’m currently in pre-production on right now. I’m definitely going to try that out. The director would love it.

This is a really great, albeit short, video of the process of production design and decoration. A lot of people just don’t understand the immense amount of time and work that goes into each set. It’s great to show it on such a well-known show too because it really brings it home for the audience.

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I hope you enjoyed those four minutes as much as I did.

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Rose XO.

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Tying the Knot

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I had an Art PA email me the other day, whom I’ve never met, but is a member of my Facebook Art Department group, asking me if I knew of any tutorials or online demonstrations of tying the proper knots when loading trucks as said Art PA seemed to be having a lot of trouble with it. It’s sad to say but this email brought me much warm and tingly happiness.

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Why did this persons ever-so-slight despair make me so happy?


In the film industry we are constantly loading cube trucks with ridiculously expensive and fragile things and then unloading them as quickly and efficiently as we can without breaking anything. Everything must be packed and padded well with sound blankets and the like and then tied down good and tight but also have the ability to untie it all at a moments notice.

There are rigging points in any truck and you start with many bowline knots of sash cord all along the rails. During load-in you then tie everything down as required with the truckers hitch knot. Simple as that: Bowline knot, trucker’s hitch knot.

It is amazing how many people screw this up.


I was one of those people.


This is why the Art PA’s email made me all warm and tingly. I found myself getting all nostalgic for a time that most would consider a low point in their burgeoning careers.

On my very first commercial as an Art PA everything went swimmingly. We were on schedule and in fact, it looked like we were going to finish early for the day. Which is why the Set Decorator, lets call her ‘Brenda’, told me to start loading the first location as they were onto the exterior now. As I am finishing tying down the bulk of these large scale toys, it starts pouring rain out of nowhere.

One of the set dressers comes running towards the truck, “They’ve added new shots, mostly inserts, to wait out the rain. We need the rocking horse, the dollhouse, and the teddy bear ASAP.” I, of course look at her for a minute like an idiot and then slowly and inefficiently try and get to them. She then starts digging through to help me. Then comes ‘Brenda’ soaking wet and with an angry face not even a mother could love. By this time the set dresser had found the items.

‘Brenda’ yells, “What in the bloody hell is taking so long?”, and jumps in.

“She did overhand knots! I can’t get them out!”, the set dresser told her.

She turns her head towards me, “What are you? TWO!”, ‘Brenda’ berates me as they finally unleash the toys together.

I will never forget the venom in her voice as she said this to me. After all, she knew I was green when she hired me and NO I was not fucking two! It’s not exactly like everyone’s running around telling you the importance of tying the perfect knot. And it was a commercial! They probably wouldn’t even use the shots, which they didn’t.

What killed me is after all this, not only did it stop raining, but the set dresser retied it all and didn’t even bother to let me watch and learn how it was done. I was sent off to clean the windows for the next shot all the while holding back tears. I later did cry in the privacy of my own car and vowed the day I would get back at her.

Although I have encountered her since, we do not say hello and I have not worked with her for obvious reasons but I feel no need for vengeance.

On the next shoot I learned those knots and I learned them well (from a grip, no less). Now that it’s come time for someone to ask me for help to tie the perfect knot I did not respond, “What are you? TWO!”. I responded with links:

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http://www.ehow.com/video_2355218_tie-truckers-hitch-knot.html

http://www.brooxes.com/newsite/Downloads/KAPKnots.pdf

http://www.animatedknots.com/bowlinebight/index.php?LogoImage=LogoGrog.jpg&Website=www.animatedknots.com

http://www.animatedknots.com/truckers/index.php?LogoImage=LogoGrog.jpg&Website=www.animatedknots.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNWELuXo_bY&feature=related

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I hope I’ve helped in some small way because learning the hard way– sucks.


Rose XO.


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PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN

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The Best in Production Design


Production design stills that inspire me to do better everyday:

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2001

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Production Designers: Ernest Archer, Harry Lange, and Anthony Masters

Art Director: John Hoesli | Set Decorator: Robert Cartwright

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catch me if you can

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Production Designer: Jeannine Oppewall | Art Director: Sarah Knowles

Set Decorators: Claudette Didul and Leslie A. Pope

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clockwork orange

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Production Designer: John Barry

Art Directors: Russell Hagg and Peter Shields

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conformist

The Conformist (1970)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Production Designer: Ferdinando Scarfiotti

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closer

Closer (2004)

Director: Mike Nichols

Production Designer: Tim Hatley

Art Directors: Grant Armstrong, Hannah Moseley, and Mark Raggett

Set Decorator: John Bush

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life aquatic

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Director: Wes Anderson

Production Designer: Mark Friedberg

Art Directors: Stefano Maria Ortolani, Marco Trentini, and Eugenio Ulissi

Set Decorator: Gretchen Rau

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pd- barry lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Production Designer: Ken Adam | Art Director: Roy Walker

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playtime

Playtime (1967)

Director: Jacques Tati

Production Designer: Eugène Roman

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hook

Hook (1991)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Production Designer: Norman Garwood

Art Directors: Andrew Precht and Thomas E. Sanders

Set Decorator: Garrett Lewis

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dune

Dune (1984)

Director: David Lynch

Production Designer: Anthony Masters

Art Director: Benjamín Fernández

Set Decorator: Giorgio Desideri

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logan's run

Logan’s Run (1976)

Director: Michael Anderson

Production Designer: Dale Hennesy

Art Director: Dale Hennesy

Set Decorator: Robert De Vestel

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pd- dogville

Dogville (2003)

Director: Lars von Trier

Production Designer: Peter Grant

Set Decorator: Simone Grau

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punch_drunk-09

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Production Designer: William Arnold

Art Director: Sue Chan

Set Decorators: Jay Hart & Lori A. Noyes

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star wars

Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Director: Irvin Kirshner

Production Designer: Norman Reynolds

Art Directors: Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, and Alan Tomkins

Set Decorator: Michael Ford

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Do you agree? Which one is your favourite? Who and what inspires you?

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Rose XO.


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