Production Designers and Art Directors
What Are Production Designers and Art Directors?
Production Designers are the visual artists and storytellers, who, in consultation primarily with the director, create and develop the overall look, atmosphere and emotion that move the story. They do this through the conception and creation of stage sets and the selection and alteration of practical locations and backgrounds. Production Designers also collaborate with the visual effects team and provide the designs necessary to maintain a coherent blend between the look of the production, cinematography and the post-production visual effects footage.
Production Designers are more than just motion picture architects and engineers who build sets. They are involved in the overall production design and/or selections of visual effects, lighting, props and set dressing. They communicate regularly with producers, directors and cinematographers and collaborate consistently with the second unit, stunts, special effects and numerous other departments. They also provide all necessary backgrounds and ensure that all sets are well photographed and contribute to the totality of the film.
Production Designers are artists who adapt their style to all types of films. The scope of their talent is limitless. Their imaginations soar within a practical and economic framework. They make seemingly impossible things possible for filming, all the while under the pressures of money and time.
The Production Designer typically has a staff that often includes an Art Director(s) and/or Assistant Art Director(s) to technically develop the design concepts and manage the progress and schedule. The terms "Art Director" and "Art Direction" are titles often used interchangeably with "Production Designer" and "Production Design".
These are specific duties handled by the Production Designer of a movie, television show or commercial:
- Collaborate with the director and producer to interpret the script, select locations and settings and decide on a style and approach to visually tell the film's story.
- Select and oversee the work of Art Directors and/or Assistant Art Directors to technically develop the design concepts into practical sets, managing the process and schedule.
- Oversee the following professionals, all vital contributors to the look of the film:
a. Set decorators, who dress the settings with furniture and props, supervising a team that includes a lead person, a carpet and drapery person and swing gang.
b. Set designers, who create technical drawings to build or modify sets, locations and signs.
c. Illustrators, who draft three-dimensional illustrations and/or sketches and designs used in the preparation and production of motion pictures.
d. Graphic Artists, who create all necessary graphics, including signage, books and posters. (These professionals, of course, are also members of Local 800.)
e. Model makers, who create study models of proposed sets.
f. Art department coordinators, who provide logistical support and research.
g. Location managers and scouts, who seek out possible locations and manage location filming and permits.
h. Prop masters, who provide, with the help of an assistant, the necessary hand props for actors to use during filming.
i. Construction coordinators, who coordinate the building of sets with a foreperson, prop makers, laborers, painters, green persons and scenic artist.
j. Visual effects staff, including matte painters, model builders and digital effects artists.
k. Special effects staff, who engineer, integrate and coordinate with the art department all phases of physical and mechanical effects.
-Picture car coordinators, who select appropriate vehicles for action and background.
-Work closely throughout the production with the many departments that contribute to the television and movie-making process including directors of photography, costume designers, writers, unit production manager, production office staff, auditors, assistant directors, makeup artist and hair stylists, transportation coordinator, sound crew and post production department.
-Work with the sound crew regarding acoustics and microphone positioning in relation to the various sets; work with the visual effects team to make sure certain sets and blue screens are set up in a way that allows digital shots to be inserted during post-production.
The Production Designer plays a crucial role in conveying and realizing the overall vision of a motion picture or television project.
The Art Director's responsibilities and contributions to the production are the same regardless of whether that production is originated on film, digital data, tape or live electronic transmission. The Art Director's primary function is to support and follow through on the visual concepts for the production as specified by the Production Designer and director. That support includes a combination of both creative and management skills.
Additionally, the Art Director is responsible either completely or in part for the efforts of many departments within the production. These departments include: Art Department, Construction, Set Dressing, Props, Locations, and Special Effects.
Assistant Art Director
The Assistant Art Director works with film construction crews such as the construction coordinator, foreman, painters, plasters, greenspeople, sign painters, metal shop workers, staff shop workers, mechanical effects builders and grips.
The Assistant Art Director is also responsible for acquiring materials, both common and unusual, needed for the production, for doing research on period and contemporary design elements, and otherwise assisting the Production Designer and Art Director as required.