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Film School: The Production Designer

April 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 172

One of the most important roles in any film school education is that of the production designer. You may think it's an easy task, but it's more than just what it says. In some ways it's more of a supervisory position where you have several people working under you. However, all of them contribute to the overall look of whatever film is being made.

The production designer's responsibility is that of maintaining the look of a film. By working closely with the director and the director of photography, they are able to keep the visual style of the film in check over the course of the production.

The production designer works with other key members of a production such as the costume designer, to ensure that the fashion sense meshes with the feel of the film. Say you're making a film set in the 1950s and for some reason someone is wearing clothing for the 1970s; this can clearly be a problem as you want to keep track of these types of issues. The same also goes for props and furniture, especially if it's a period piece that's being made; you always want everything to be from the same time frame. You wouldn't want a film set in the 1940s to have characters using cell phones, would you?

These types of things revolve around the photography, the costumes and many times, in science fiction for example, the special effects. Look at the film Blade Runner for example and its resemblance to the classic film noir style fused with a post-apocalyptic ambiance. Imagine how the overall look of the film would be drastically altered if sunny exteriors were suddenly incorporated into the film? It would sort of throw the whole vibe of the film off kilter, which is why the production designer is such a crucial element to any film production.

In film school, you may not realize how important this position actually is. Production designers work in close contact with the director to make sure that every visual detail is in play. Sometimes it's not an easy task. In some of the films I've worked during and after film school, I've seen production designers work themselves to the ground making sure that everything comes together in the end. On one such occasion, I was helping the production designer search for authentic costumes for a comedy set in the 1970s, which meant scouring many thrift stores and friends attics for polyester clothing. Sometimes it was nearly impossible to find anything, but with plenty of research and finding some off the beaten path stores, most of the required clothes were found.

Such painstaking realism is often sought by filmmakers who strive for every iota of authenticity. Most notable is Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which is set in the 18th century; every single aspect of this particular film is based on the look and style of that era from the costumes, some of which were authentic 18th century clothes, to the use of lighting where specific scenes were filmed entirely in candle light even to the establishing shots which resembles paintings of the era. While much of the look was primarily Kubrick's vision, much of it fell onto the production designer who supervised a crew to make sure that all of the minor details fell into place in the grand scheme of things.

In any film school education, it's important to keep an eye on these details, simply by watching films. It's also important to have a greater understanding on how crucial the production designer is in film, as well as television and theater.

Source: EzineArticles
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