Posts Tagged With: Alex McDowell

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

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

Designing the future: Clarifying dystopian and post apocalyptic

Designs of the future can be divided into utopian or dystopian in their  underpinning conception. The surface design tends to fall into a limited set of styles, defined as futurism, retro futurism, realism, gothic and post apocalyptic” (BARNWELL, J., 2004: pg 100)

I have already looked at some futurism art references so I will now turn my attentions to post apocalyptic futures and what dystopian actually means in terms of society, film and literature.

When dealing with film and fiction, dystopia and post apocalyptic are usually categorised as separate types of film although some stories encompass both situations.

Dystopian:- The antithesis of utopian: figuring a nightmarish world in which rational impulses to engineer society back-fire dangerously. (KING, G., & KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000)

dys·to·pi·a

noun

a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.(online. available at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dystopian?s=t  [sourced on 21/12/2013]
So looking at recent films I can start to clarify what films are classed as dystopian:-
min rep
Minority Report (2002) Picture and budget courtesy of IMDb.com  :-
In a future where a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, an officer from that unit is himself accused of a future murder. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/
Production Designer:- Alex McDowell
Director:- Steven Spielberg

Budget:

$102,000,000               (estimated)

Utopian:- An imaginary state of ideal harmony and perfection derived from Thomas More’s Utopia (1516).  (KING, G., & KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000) For the purposes of comparison.

Post apocalyptic:-

a·poc·a·lyp·tic

adjective

1.

of or like an apocalypse; affording a revelation or prophecy.
2.

pertaining to the Apocalypse or biblical book of Revelation.
3.

predicting or presaging imminent disaster and total or universal destruction: the apocalyptic vision of some contemporary writers.
(online. available at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/post-apocalyptic?s=t [sourced on 21/12/2013]
So anything set after  apocalyptic events such as large-scale environmental disasters, widespread viruses, biblical events, wars etc. Living in the after times is termed as post apocalyptic.
the road
The Road (2009) picture and information  courtesy of IMDb.com
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Production Designer:- Chris Kennedy
Director:- John Hillcoat

Budget:

$25,000,000               (estimated)

The films and books are often categorised together as there is often a cross over of ideas, situations or causes. The same audiences or readers are drawn to both kind of stories as seen in on-line book groups such as Apocalypse Whenever found at https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/967-apocalypse-whenever. Both types of story are generally about forms of survival.
What I will be looking at as part of my research is the audience/social context  through engaging with fans of the genre but also as a designer thinking about such questions as:- Are there differences between the two strands of dystopian and post apocalyptic stories in terms of design? Do they present the same problems in terms of budget and approach?
At first glance at the two example films above, there does seem to be quite a difference between the size of budgets. I will look at this in more detail in future research.
References:- BARNWELL, J., 2004. Production design: Architects of the Screen. London, New York: Wallflower
                        KING, G., & KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000. Science Fiction cinema: From Outerspace to Cyberspace. London:
                        Wallflower
                        Online sources :- https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/967-apocalypse-whenever
                                                        www.IMDb.com
                                                        http://dictionary.reference.com [All sourced on 21/12/2013]
Categories: Dystopian and post-apocalyptic philosophy, dystopian film and designers, post-apocalyptic film and design | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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