The Production Designer: Views and roles in an everchanging industry

I have come across various points of view on the changing role of the Production designer.

Essentially film and T.V. is all about story and the act of telling/visualising it and portraying it to an audience. It’s the Director’s point of view and the audience’s experience, blending old design techniques with new.

While this is the case, experiences can vary from film to film for the Production Designer with a few designers feeling that the post-production stage of the film process takes away the control of the designer. However, others embrace it or re-invent the role.

I recently read a chapter in which Production Designer Alex McDowell went on to explain how he sees the role of the Production Designer in the modern world. I was interested to see how he saw his role as a more holistic part of the team; the production designer role having no real boundaries physically or digitally.

McDowell also has the un-popular view that a Production Designer doesn’t always need the set of skills that are taught at art college/film schools including drafting, modelling, drawing abilities etc.

“I think the primary quality is not entirely different from what makes a good director it has a lot to do with the ability to visualise and tell stories, to hold a vision of a world and help your team attain it” says Alex McDowell. (HALLIGAN,F., 2012. p138-141)

While I think that my own development of these skills is important at this stage of my career, I do think there is a lot to be taken from McDowell’s views and experience. I like to see a project as a ‘bigger picture’ and I also like to have an understanding of all the processes even if I don’t have all the skills. I work holistically, a ‘Jack of all trades’ so naturally I see where he is coming from in terms of the overall film process and design.

With this in mind I narrowed down some of his comments and thoughts to help with my research and development below:-

1. The acceptance of the digital age.

2. The ability to visualise and tell stories over the ability to draw or draft.

3. Ability to pitch ideas as both physical and digital. That the design exists in all spaces, both physical and virtual.

4. The role of Production Designer is much bigger now, gone are the days of pre-production/production/post production. The designer is there to see that the overall design follows through.

5. Education in the film industry needs to incorporate these changes.

References:- HALLIGAN, F., 2012. Production Design. Lewes: ILEX Press

Categories: dystopian film and designers, General research, The production designer and art department | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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