Category Archives: Art Direction

HAPPY OSCAR SUNDAY: Remember that time DOP Robert Elswit gave Production Design 80% of his Oscar?

Production Design Oscar Nominees

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.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Art Department, Art Direction, Awards Season, Production Design

The 2015 Art Directors Guild Award Winners

19th Annual Art Directors Guild Excellence In Production Design Awards - InsideGeorge Clooney presented a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ADG Awards to his friend and long time collaborator, production designer Jim Bissell.


10377625_10152644687117454_297637731897434329_n (2)

Grand Budapest Hotel

Continue reading


Filed under Art Department, Art Direction, Awards Season, Production Design

The Ten Commandments of Production Design

Ten Commandments Of Production Design


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.

Continue reading


Filed under Advice, Art Department, Art Direction, Production Design

HUMP DAY QUOTE DAY: Alex McDowell on Technology


Alex McDowell at 5D Berlinale Presentation


“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


Filed under Art Direction, Hump Day Quote Day, Production Design

An In-Depth Look at the Design of the ‘Prometheus’ Rovers

Prometheus Poster Art Courtesy of 20th Century Fox


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 setsPrometheus’ prop vehicles, the RT Rovers, continue this theme.

Continue reading


Filed under Art Direction, Design Love, Exclusive

Dante Ferretti’s Best Art Direction Oscar Speech


Tom Hanks hands husband and wife team, Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo their Oscars for Best Art Direction.


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


Filed under Art Direction, Awards Season, Film Industry

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


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.

Continue reading


Filed under Art Department, Art Direction, Awards Season, Design Love, Production Design, Production Design Porn, Top 10


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!


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


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


Rose XO.


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.


Filed under Art Direction, Design Love, Production Design, Production Design Porn

The Art of Reality Television Production Design

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?


Rose XO.



Filed under Art Department Tips, Art Direction, Production Design, TV Sets

How to Feel Miserable as an Artist

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?


Rose XO.



Filed under Advice, Art Department, Art Direction, How To, Production Design