Production Designers and Art Directors
What Are Production Designers and Art Directors?

Production Designer
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.

Art Director
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.

Art Directors and Assistant Art Directors

Thank you for your interest in the Art Directors Guild, Local 800 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). If you are presently seeking employment in the entertainment industry or have already begun working at a company covered by one of our agreements, we hope the following information will be of assistance.

Individuals who perform covered work as an Art Director or Assistant Art Director under a Local 800 or IATSE collective bargaining agreement may apply for membership thirty days following commencement of employment (see next paragraph below for admission eligibility requirements). The individual is obligated to submit an application and the required fees in accordance with the Agreement under which he or she is employed as the necessary pre-condition to continued employment under a union agreement. Many of the Local 800 agreements require that preference of employment be given to those individuals having previous work experience in the motion picture industry. (See below under Motion Picture Industry Experience Roster.)

Eligibility for application and admission into Local 800 as an Art Director or Assistant Art Director is typically triggered by working for a signatory company in a Local 800 covered classification. Thirty calendar days from the start date the employee is required to join Local 800. And there are four typical scenarios:

a. When a project starts out non-union then signs an IA agreement; that is, it's organized." Employees working in a Local 800 covered classification when the project is organized are "grandfathered" into the union. Please contact the Guild's Membership Department.

b. Employees also become eligible when they work on signatory commercials and music videos.

c. If a signatory company not covered by b), above (say one doing a television show or feature film), wants to hire an Art Director or Assistant Art Director, and the individual is not on the Industry Experience Roster, the company may petition the Local to do so under the applicable Off-Roster sideletter to the Local 800 Basic Agreement. If the petition is granted by the Off-Roster Hiring Review Committee, the individual may be hired and is eligible for admission into the Union.

d. If the individual in c), above, is already on the Roster at the time he/she is hired by the signatory company (see below), the company doesn't require the Guild's permission for that hire, and the individual is eligible for admission into the Union and is required to join after thirty calendar days.

The Guild does not maintain a hiring hall. Prospective employees or members should contact employers by letter and resume and express an interest in employment. A portfolio clearly demonstrating skills and abilities generally will be required at all employer interviews. A resume may be forwarded to the union office where it will be maintained on file for six months.
Health and welfare, retirement benefits and minimum wage scales and working conditions are negotiated by the union in the majority of its collective bargaining agreements, and the employers make contributions on behalf of covered employees, in accordance with those agreements. Employee/members are notified when they've qualified for benefits. Additionally, members receive the following benefits and partake in the following activities:

Workplace grievances resolved by union
- Guaranteed prominent placement of screen credit
- Training and education (seminars, symposia, etc.)
- Access to employment information
- Annual ADG Membership Directory and semi-monthly newsletter
- Annual Awards Banquet
- Film Society screenings

We look forward to welcoming you into the membership of the Art Directors Guild, Local 800, IATSE. Should you have any questions regarding union membership, please contact the union office.

Motion Picture Industry Roster
Entrance onto the Industry Experience Roster assures the individual preference of employment over all others not on the Roster; placement on the Roster is a necessary pre-condition for Art Directors and Assistant Art Directors wishing to work on most film and television projects.
To get onto the Industry Experience Roster, one must apply to Contract Services and have worked a total of no less than 30 days for one or more signatory companies, within a period of 365 consecutive calendar days immediately preceding the time the person makes application for Roster placement. Another way to qualify for Roster placement would be to have worked 175 days as an Art Director/Assistant Art Director, union or non-union, in the three year period preceding application for Roster placement.

There is also a Commercial Industry Experience Roster; 30 days working for a commercial signatory is required, and an additional 60 days of commercial work qualifies the person for placement on the Motion Picture Industry Experience Roster.

Once on the Motion Picture Industry Experience Roster, individuals are eligible to work on signatory projects without having to get the Guild's permission. And when the individual begins work on the signatory project in a Local 800 covered classification, he/she must join the Local on or after the 30th calendar day from that date.

For more detailed information in connection with gaining membership into Local 800, please contact the Guild's Membership Department. For more detailed information in connection with placement on the Industry Experience Roster, please contact Contract Services Administration Trust Fund at or 818-565-0550.

Art Directors Guild • 11969 Ventura Blvd. 2nd Floor • Studio City, CA 91604 • (818) 762-9995 • Email the ADG »

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