Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

INTERVIEW: Production Designer Ethan Tobman discusses his work on the Oscar buzzworthy film ‘Room’

Room adm graphic

This year at the Toronto International Film Festival I fell in love with a film that absolutely broke my heart. I found myself weeping during and after the screening which I haven’t done in a very long time.

That film was Room.

Room follows a mother and her five year old son, Jack, who was born into captivity after Ma was kidnapped and sexually assaulted for years by her captor, leaving the two of them to live their lives in one small room- a shed in his backyard. While all of this is very grim, the film takes the refreshing point of view of the curious and imaginative child who is still amazed by his small but wondrous world. Upon Jack’s 5th birthday he is told about the outside world and they make a plan to escape. Jack is Ma’s only hope. However, once free will anything ever be the same again?

Recently I interviewed Room’s production designer, Ethan Tobman, who had the unique task of designing a room, with director Lenny Abrahamson, so important to the telling of the story yet so small it would be nearly impossible to shoot. Rarely is production design this integral to the plot and characters of a story that I am so enthralled by its process. Here’s what he had to say…

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Filed under Art Department, Awards Season, Behind the Scenes, Interview, Production Design, Question & Answer

My Life in the Art Department in Los Angeles


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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Filed under Advice, Art Department, Behind the Scenes, Film Industry, Question & Answer

Art DepartMENTAL @ TIFF ’11

Tomorrow the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival officially starts its 36th year fully settled in its new home, the TIFF Bell Lightbox. This year it is 11 days from Sept 8-18 and will showcase 339 films- 258 features and 81 shorts. It is the largest public festival in the world and I would say second in popularity only to Cannes. Even the Guardian thinks Venice is scared of Toronto’s new found prowess.

I have been attending the festival for the past 8 years and every year I look forward to it more and more. This is the first year I will be going to TIFF as an Industry member and this has me more excited (and nervous) than ever before. I’m looking forward to networking and continuing my journey to learn this business inside and out. I know a lot of you out there have never been to TIFF or any film festival like it and do not understand all of the hype and hoopla associated with the festival. It’s hard to describe it but it’s sort of like an amusement park run in celebration of the beauty and transcendence of the moving image. To those who love cinema it’s Christmas in September. One film after another of the very best this World has to offer not to mention the electric vibe the city of Toronto has when it’s glowing in the TIFF spotlight.

Like last year I will be live tweeting again (@artdepartmental) from the festival and be sure to follow the TIFF hashtag #TIFF11 to get the inside scoop on what’s hot, what’s not and what’s being bought.

Programme, schedules & hooch during my 16 hour wait for TIFF tickets.

New this year, I will be posting a daily TIFF Diary for the 11 days of the festival letting you know what’s happening at the festival and my general experience as I attend approximately 40 movies in addition to panels, seminars, and parties. To stay updated you can bookmark Art DepartMENTAL, like us on Facebook, or you can subscibe via email or our RSS feed. As always I will try my best to cover the very best of the fest in production design glory. I hope you will come along for the ride!


Are you attending TIFF ’11? If you are too far to attend, which films playing at TIFF’11 are you anxious to see or hear more about?

Rose XO.

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Filed under Awards Season, Behind the Scenes, Exclusive, Film Industry, Toronto International Film Festival

TRAILER: Boardwalk Empire, Season II


The Season II trailer for Boardwalk Empire premiered before True Blood a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. If you watched all of last season you’ll understand why Season II stands to be THE show to watch this year. Hopefully the visuals will continue to awe. Either way I am waiting with baited breathe. Season two premieres in September- check out the scintillating teasers below:




Do you watch Boardwalk Empire? What do you think?


Rose XO.


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Filed under Art Department, Art Direction, Behind the Scenes, Design Love, Period, Production Design, Trailer, TV Sets

Water for Elephants Graphic Artist, Karen TenEyck, Shares Her Art Department Knowledge & Experience

I made a rule a while back that I wouldn’t reblog other people’s posts but I just found THE post that is making me break my own rule. So great I can’t not share this post from The Water For Elephants fan page with you all. The Graphic Designer of Water For Elephants shares her knowledge of the art department and her experience working under Jack Fisk, one of the greatest Production Designers of our time. Enjoy!

Rose XO.

CREW CORNER: Water for Elephants graphic artist, Karen TenEyck, shares her art and experience During the filming in Tennessee, we posted some crew pictures of the art department that caught my eye. What caught my eye wasn’t the actual picture but the comments the pictures were getting: Is that super art director, David Crank, at the table? Why yes it is! Oooo, la la. Now where’s Jack? xoxo OMG, it’s Jack Fisk and David Crank! I am in heaven!!!!! They are SOOOOOOOOOO awesome. The art department rocks!!! It’s just soooooooooo awesome to see … Read More

via Water for Elephants – The Movie Fan Site Starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon & Christoph Waltz

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Filed under Art Department Tips, Art Direction, Artwork, Behind the Scenes, Design Love, Reblog

TV SETS: Mad Men, Seasons 1-3


With the news that Mad Men was just picked up for two, possibly three more seasons, I thought it would be an excellent time to take a look back at the fantastic work that production designer Dan Bishop and the show’s art department team have produced. This week’s post will focus on seasons 1-3 and the next TV Sets post will focus on season 4, which was just released on BluRay on March 29th. Since Season 5 won’t be airing until early 2012, buying the dvds would be a good way to stave off Mad Men withdrawal this year.


Reception at Sterling Cooper

The Draper Kitchen


Dan Bishop has won 4 Art Director’s Guild awards for his work on Mad Men, and it’s easy to see why – every single set is absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous. Here’s an interview Dan did with the Washington Post and two Q&A interviews from the AMCtv website.

The Drapers' Living Room

"The Bullpen" at Sterling Cooper


Amy Wells is the set decorator for Mad Men, and I’m sure many of us wish we had her job – finding the perfect mid-century furniture to complete Dan Bishop’s sets. Learn more about Amy’s work process by listening to this fantastic interview she gave to NPR , or reading this interview with Interior also did two Q&A interviews with her.


Janie Bryant is the show’s phenomenal costume designer. What would Mad Men be without Joan’s va-va-voom dresses or Don’s dapper suits? There are two great articles at All Plaidout and The Steel Closet in which Janie discusses the details of most of the characters’ season two looks.

Lucky Strike


Mad Men creator Matt Weiner and the crew pay obsessive attention to detail when it comes to the authenticity of props from the early ’60s era. Entertainment Weekly has a feature detailing some essential Mad Men props and set dressing. Propmaster Scott Buckwald gave a great interview to Collector’s Weekly and there’s another fantastic interview about props with Season 3 propmaster Ellen Freund at


The Mad Men website has a ton of great videos with cast and crew members.

Dan Bishop and set decorator Amy Wells describe their jobs and talk about how they collaborate together.

Amy Wells gives us a tour of the Drapers’ redesigned living room from Season 3.

A sneak peek into what Janie Bryant’s costume shop for the show consists of.

Property Master Gay Perello shows off some of the props used in the Season 3 premiere. There are some other great props videos for the Season 3 episodes  “My Old Kentucky Home”, “The Arrangements”, and “The Fog”.

MISC. INTERVIEWS interview with Christopher Brown, Art Director

Design*Sponge interview with Adam Rowe, Art Assistant


This is the first time in four years that Mad Men isn’t airing during the summer months. How do you plan to get your ’60s design fix this summer? What is your favourite season of Mad Men? Favourite set? Favourite character?




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Filed under Art Department, Art Direction, Behind the Scenes, Design Love, Period, Production Design, Spotlight, TV Sets

EXCLUSIVE: From the Sketchbook of Black Swan Production Designer, Thérèse DePrez

Exclusive to Art DepartMENTAL here is a very special post for all of you hardcore art department geeks like I am. As a huge fan of Thérèse DePrez I knew, and as some of you may have seen in the Black Swan production design featurette below, Thérèse DePrez keeps a sketchbook which basically documents the entire production design process. In fact she does this for all of the films she production designs which I found pretty great. Below are six photos of the inside of her Black Swan sketchbook which beautifully sum up the extraordinary behind-the scenes work of the art department in this case headed by the amazing Thérèse DePrez on Black Swan. Enjoy!



Left: Mock up of Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) poster | Right: Production Meeting notes, notice the colour-coding of the notes for different departments


Reference images for the pink visual palette of the film.


Sun-prints Thérèse DePrez made to turn into wallpaper for Erica Sayers’ (Barbara Hershey’s) bedroom set.


Stage and lighting plan for Swan Lake stage scenes. Notice the fantastic logo on the bottom right. The UK Black Swan posters are very reminiscent of this.


Photoshop image of potential drops/graphics for ballet rehearsal room set.


Initial rough models for Swan Lake set piece. Moving cliff set.


Are you familiar with Ms.DePrez’s work? How did you feel about Black Swan? After viewing these photos, notes, drawings, models, reference images, don’t you just want to work in the art department (if you aren’t already)? As seen in these photos, it’s pretty fulfilling work if you can get it.

Rose XO.



Filed under Art Department, Art Direction, Behind the Scenes, Design Love, Exclusive, Film Industry, Production Design

Art DepartMENTAL @ TIFF ’10



In 9 days The Toronto International Film Festival 2010 (#tiff10) officially starts its 35th year in its brand new home, the Bell Lightbox. This year it is 11 days from Sept 9-19 and will showcase over 300 films. It is the largest public festival in the world and I would say second in popularity only to Cannes.

I have been attending the festival for the past 7 years and every year I look forward to it more and more.

This year I just wanted to announce that I will be live tweeting (@artdepartmental) from the festival and writing several blog post exclusives featuring photos, reviews, and a few surprises too. As always I will cover the very best of the fest in production design glory and I will try my best to bring you any exclusives I can. I hope you come along for the ride!

Are you attending TIFF ’10?

‘What will you see?’


Rose XO.


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Filed under Behind the Scenes, Film Review, Out & About

SPRING UPDATE: Hot Docs, Banksy, Anton Kuerti, & Conan

Since I didn’t post much during the month of May I figured I’d let you in on what I have been up to outside the blog world:

Hot Docs

Despite the fact that most documentaries have no use for the art department I love the documentary format very much. Every year Toronto hosts the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the largest documentary festival in North America. This year I was able to take in 37 feature documentaries and 3 short documentaries in ten days – my favourite of which was a film called Autumn Gold. This doc “tells the life-affirming story of five athletes in their preparation for the Track and Field World Championships. Their toughest challenge is their age: these potential world champions are between the ages of 80 and 100.” Such a sweet and beautiful film.

Here is a list of all the films I saw during the fest with my ratings:

  1. The Socalled Movie 2/5
  2. Darwin’s Nightmare 4/5
  3. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage 4/5
  4. And Everything Is Going Fine 3.5/5
  5. Dish: Women, Waitressing and the Art of Service 3/5
  6. Tarnation (Rewatch) 4.5/5
  7. Talhotblond 1/5
  8. Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio 3/5
  9. 1991: The Year Punk Broke 2.5/5
  10. Quadrangle (Short Film) 4/5
  11. Daddy’s Girls 3/5
  12. Joan Rivers- A Piece of Work 4/5
  13. Budrus 4.5/5
  14. Portrait of a Man 3.5/5
  15. The Parking Lot Movie 4.5/5
  16. Bhutto 4.5/5
  17. CandyMan: The David Klein Story 4/5
  18. Autumn Gold 5/5
  19. Peter in Radioland (Short Film) 3.5/5
  20. Marwencol 4.5/5
  21. The People Vs. George Lucas 2.5/5
  22. Blank City 4/5
  23. Sex Magic, Manifesting Maya 5/5
  24. The Canal Street Madam 4/5
  25. Space Tourists 4.5/5
  26. I Shot My Love 5/5
  27. American: The Bill Hicks Story 3.5/5
  28. Sona, The Other Myself 3/5
  29. Tankograd 4/5
  30. Views on Vermeer- 12 Short Stories 5/5
  31. Shadowplay 5/5
  32. Strange Powers: Stephen Merritt and The Magnetic Fields 4/5
  33. Horses 2/5
  34. Monica and David 4/5
  35. Architect of Home (Short Film) 3.5/5
  36. Our House 3/5
  37. Freetime Machos 5/5
  38. Teenage Paparazzo 5/5
  39. I’m Dangerous with Love 2.5/5
  40. Gasland 4/5

As a side note, check out this years graphic design for the festival. I thought they were superb this year. Modern, simple, and sleek. Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) should take note. Pitch perfect with the message too. Kudos to Hot Docs!

Cover graphic for this years Hot Docs schedule

Banksy in Toronto

During Hot Docs I read in the Torontoist that Banksy was creating street art in Toronto for the first time ever. I had already watched Exit Through the Gift Shop so I was particularly intrigued.

He did it for promotion of the film, of course, but I was still happy he came to Toronto. I didn’t have time to see them at the time because of my film-going schedule during Hot Docs. After the festival a lot of them had been painted over, but I was able to check out one of the pieces a couple weeks ago because of the foresight of the building owner at the corner of Front and Church to put a plexi-glass plate over the now infamous street art. Check it out:

Anton Kuerti Music Video

During May I also designed a music video I enjoyed very much called, Notes From the Kuerti Keyboard, for Anton Kuerti, as he played a piece from Beethoven. I had heard of Anton before but I didn’t realize how successful he was until I googled him. As it turns out Anton Kuerti is Canada’s foremost classical pianist and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2007.

I was also happy that we used a Model 1 Underwood antique typewriter from the 1890’s, courtesy of The Martin Howard Collection of Antique Typewriters. Martin Howard was fantastic and showed the filmmakers, David, Katarina, and I all of his many antique typewriters. We were very grateful for his hospitality.

The music video was also a joy because I was allowed and encouraged to create an early 1900’s artists’ world, with a feeling of the surreal for the main set. It is not often that I get the chance to a) do period b) do surreal. I can’t wait to see the finished product!

A look at the main set my team and I created for the music video with Anton Kuerti at work on the antique typewriter.


In 2004, I graced the cover of 24 hours, a daily newspaper here in Toronto, hugging Conan O’Brien at MuchMusic. Six years later he signed my copy after his Toronto stop of his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour at Massey Hall. I’ve loved the man since I was nine years old so this was a big deal for me. He was my adolescent hero and made growing up a little bit easier and a lot funnier.

It has been a beautiful and fruitful Spring thus far and I am hoping for it to continue. So what have you been up to lately? Have you seen any of the films I mentioned or Conan’s tour? What did you think?

Rose XO.


Filed under Behind the Scenes, Film Review, Off Topic, Out & About

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.


“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


Rose XO.


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


Filed under Art Department, Behind the Scenes, Design Love