The Production Designer and The Art Department

A breakdown of the modern art department courtesy of Alex McDowell. This image is from The Art Direction Handbook for Film (RIZZO, M., 2005) and shows how the design departments are organised in relation to everyone else.

the art dept

The Production Designer is the head of the art department, so this is a breakdown of a simple art department structure in regards to the roles and relationships.

Production Designer as head

The core Team:-

The Art Director:- Organises everything on behalf of the Production Designer from coordinating the designers to the logistics of set/property production on a day-to-day basis. The AD reports directly to the Production designer.

Set Designer:- Designs and supervises the set build. Depending on the size of production can design one or more sets and  also produces drawings/concepts/blue prints. They too collaborate with the Director and Director of Photography.

Set Decorator:- Responsible for the décor of the set or location from soft furnishings through to lighting fixtures.

Property Master:- Responsible for all objects and props that are used by the actors. Works with the Set Decorator and Production Designer and is responsible for obtaining the props.

Support Staff:-

Buyer:- The person who purchases all decorative items such as furniture, clothes, props etc. They need to be good negotiators and to have a good knowledge of sources and suppliers.

Construction Coordinator:- Responsible for the building of sets from the technical drawings. Supervises the construction crew.

Construction Crew:- Made up of the carpenters and painters.

Production Illustrator:- Artists that paint or draw the concepts of the Production Designer’s ideas. Generally, they are only used on larger productions and are particularly useful in Science Fiction and Fantasy when trying to raise more funds for the production.

Scenic Artist:- Responsible for painting backdrops, signage, illustrative materials, murals, props etc. They can paint out hot spots, shadows or anything that interferes with the filming.

Set Dresser:- Works under the Set Decorator and applies the décor to the set. They often have a background in furnishing and decorating.

Greensman:- Responsible for the care and maintenance of the grass, shrubbery, trees and plants on location. They also can be involved in any landscaping needed for the shoot.

Draftsman:- Makes technical drawings of all the sets to scale ready for construction.

Location Manager:- Responsible for the location during pre-production and during filming. They are also responsible for the security of the location.

Location Scout:- Collaborates with the Director and Production Designer in finding suitable locations from the script.

Costume designers, Make-up and hair are all separate departments but are still under the supervision of the Production Designer. The production designer needs to have a good understanding of these crafts and of how they fit in to the overall look of the film.

Notes taken from The Filmmaker’s Guide To Production Design. Vincent Lo Brutto 2002

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