The Art Direction Handbook for Film [NOOK Book]

Overview

Whether you'd like to be an art director or already are one, this book contains valuable solutions that will help you get ahead. This comprehensive, thorough professional manual details the set-up of the art department and the day-to-day job duties: scouting for locations, research, executing the design concept, constructing scenery, and surviving production. You will not only learn how to do the job, but how to succeed and secure future jobs. Rounding out the text is an extensive collection of useful forms and ...
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The Art Direction Handbook for Film

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Overview

Whether you'd like to be an art director or already are one, this book contains valuable solutions that will help you get ahead. This comprehensive, thorough professional manual details the set-up of the art department and the day-to-day job duties: scouting for locations, research, executing the design concept, constructing scenery, and surviving production. You will not only learn how to do the job, but how to succeed and secure future jobs. Rounding out the text is an extensive collection of useful forms and checklists, along with interviews with prominent art directors, relevant real-life anecdotes, and blueprints, sketches, photographs, and stills from Hollywood sets.

*Thorough, practical, on-the-job manual for art directors for film containing anecdotes, interviews, and illustrations from actual sets
*Written by the art director of films such as Vanilla Sky, JFK, and My Cousin Vinny
*Includes valuable career advice from an insider

Whether you'd like to be an art director or already are one, this book contains valuable solutions that will help you get ahead. This comprehensive, thorough professional manual details the set-up of the art department and the day-to-day job duties: scouting for locations, research, executing the design concept, constructing scenery, and surviving production. You will not only learn how to do the job, but how to succeed and secure future jobs. Rounding out the text is an extensive collection of useful forms and checklists, along with interviews with prominent art directors, relevant real-life anecdotes, and blueprints, sketches, photographs, and stills from Hollywood sets.Thorough, practical, on-the-job manual for art directors for film containing anecdotes, interviews, and illustrations from actual sets

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is the ultimate guide for anyone who wants to work in the design aspect of the film and television industry." - Black Filmmaker

"Mike Rizzo is a first rate talent; an artist and a craftsman. His writing is insightful, and provocative. He is uniquely suited to write a book like this, which fuses the wisdom of traditional filmmaking to the power and hope of the digital possibilities of 21st century filmmkaing." —John Gray, Helter Skelter, Martin and Lewis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780080472027
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 7/15/2005
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 21 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

MICHAEL RIZZO is a writer, artist, photographer, teacher, art director, and web designer. Among the films he has both art directed and production designed are: Vanilla Sky, Notes from Underground, JFK, My Cousin Vinny, Murder in the First, My Fellow Americans, Conundrum, and So I Married an Axe Murderer. TV credits include: The Hunley, The Day Lincoln was Shot, Comic Relief '89 and '90, All My Children, Golden Gate, and The Lost Battalion.

He is a regular contributor to Below the Line, "a newspaper that strives to be the editorial voice of the crew” and to Trace, a monthly magazine published by the Art Director's Guild, of which he is an active member. His work on The Hunley has been nominated for Best Design for a TV Film by the Guild. He has also taught Production Design for Film and Television at Santa Monica College's Academy of Entertainment Technology, and Visualization for Film at the American Intercontinental University.

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Read an Excerpt

The Art Direction Handbook for Film


By Michael Rizzo

Focal Press

Copyright © 2005 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-047202-7


Chapter One

Introduction

Art directing is somewhat like snowboarding or skydiving—the essence of the activity is in the doing. In that way, an art director is by nature an action figure. The definitive art director is also a unique amalgam of contradictions. On one hand, creativity reigns with few boundaries; on the other hand, practicality takes primary focus. Balancing pairs of opposites, like art and commerce, make the job of art directing unique and challenging. Getting right down to it, an art director is best described as a design manager.

How can this be? Doesn't the job description of art direction include phrases like "seminal creative force" or "visionary?" It certainly does, but indirectly so. As a design manager, the art director on a film project operates as a department manager in form but as an artist in substance. In other words, business decisions for the art department are made on a daily basis, enabling the physical side of creative film production to happen according to schedule, while creativity provides the foundation for those decisions. Before we venture too far, perhaps it's best to establish a fundamental difference between the "production designer" and the "art director."

CLARIFICATION

Talent and title are important aspects of filmmaking, generally referred to as billing. When we examine the art department hierarchy, the production designer is found at the top with the art director close at hand (see Fig. 1-1). As a side-by-side relationship, the production designer and art director complement one another. Although the terms "production designer" and "art director" are constantly used in substitution for one another, they are not interchangeable or synonymous. Why? Sharing the same hierarchy level of the film pyramid with the director and cinematographer, the production designer delivers the visual concept of a film through the design and construction of physical scenery. In this sense, the designer is the seminal, creative force of the art department. Referring back to the image of the action figure, the art director drives the process of design from sketch to actual physical scenery. The art director, or design manager, heads and runs the art department, interfaces with all other departments, supports the art department arm of the shooting crew, oversees scenery fabrication, and controls all aspects of the department expense and scenery budgets. Although an art director's creative input is essential to support the initial creative ideas of the designer, the totality of the design in terms of conception and responsibility belongs solely to the designer. This idea of symbiotic, creative support is echoed in a recent interview with art director Linda Berger (Angelmaker, Forrest Gump, Death Becomes Her):

Why are you an art director?

I have been thinking about the silent film designers most of my adult life. In the last ten years, especially through my work with the Art Directors' Film Society, I have begun to look at them within the whole context of art direction. As a professional in the field of movie making who started out in the theater, my earliest adventure in the networking process was to go to New York City right out of design school at The Goodman and The Art Institute of Chicago—with no connections, no anything—except my education, a handful of very close friends, and two seasons of professional summer stock in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. When I arrived in New York City, I did everything I could to find my way and continue to learn. I was an Off-Broadway lighting electrician, a lighting designer's assistant at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the ballet and modern dance, and worked in costume shops at Lincoln Center and in the individual shops of costume designers. I worked props and painted scenery. I also worked in television as an animation assistant and did lots of commercials. Eventually, I became an Off-Broadway theatrical designer. The first time I saw my name on the marquee from across the street, I almost fainted. Regardless, I challenged myself to meet people and explore the possibilities. It thrilled me to walk around the city and actually stand in the places where great designers stood. Now many years later, I continue to do exactly that when I work with a production designer. And, to have eventually met some of them, I allow myself to climb within their skins so I can see from their angle of vision in order to fully understand how to contribute to their vision. That's how I view art direction.

I can't speak for everyone, but I think most people look at art direction from the outside in. There's nothing wrong with that. I tend to do it from the inside out; it's my instinct to do it that way. Expressing myself as an art director in this way allows me to leapfrog through time and enter the mind and spirit of any great artist or designer. Oftentimes, certain art directors have such a difficult time doing their jobs because they are in competition with the designer. Most importantly, they're missing a great opportunity. In its own way, projecting myself into the designer's mind that way is very gratifying because I learn so much about myself in the process. It's thrilling to make another person's vision a reality.

Art directors share a great creative component with the designer, but do you also see yourself as a creative manager, for the most part?

I'm not fully doing my job if I'm just nuts-and-bolts managing the art department. The daily process is a creative process in how I deal with people, how I process instructions from above, how I convey ideas to those who need answers from me, and how I think on my feet when I'm on set. Any film I work on is not just my film, but the designer's film first. Again, I can only be creative in my position if I'm seeing the project through the designer's eyes, as a proxy. Understanding my designer's tastes and aesthetic responses supports how I supply what is needed at any given moment—how I contribute ideas and follow through to completion all those details that we all collaborate on. So, if I am a creative manager, then it happens on a continuing, organic basis. How I fulfill my job changes slightly as I work with different designers, given the differences in perspective. In the same way, the designer has to think the way the director thinks in order to do his or her job properly. There's a line of thought and function that connects everything in a collaborative environment like a movie.

Storytelling drives what we do. Two questions are always asked. What is the story we want to tell, and how are we going to tell it? The biggest part of my job, then, is storytelling through the interpretation of the production designer and director's vision.

Together, both the designer and the creative manager strategize about the functioning of the art department and scenery output, but the art director alone spearheads design management on a tactical level by delegating responsibility and guiding each task to completion. With the creative integrity of the art director kept in strictest respect, this book will deconstruct the art director more as a marketing and operations manager rather than a seminal creative force. In the end, the reader will view the art director not only as a peerless, organizing force for the art department but also as a powerful shaper of policy and systems management for the larger film project.

SOME HISTORY: WILFRED BUCKLAND

All production designers are art directors, and formerly, there were no production designers at all—there were only art directors. In earliest film memory, the first creative moviemaker to be given the title of "art director" was Wilfred Buckland (see Fig. 1-2). "By 1916 when Photoplay (magazine) commented on the rise of the 'artistic executive or art director,' Wilfred Buckland had already been working for Cecile B. de Mille and Paramount since 1914 and would continue to 1927."

Previously, he had designed Broadway theatrical productions, and later for the fledgling movie business developed a form of minimalist, a Carravaggio-like lighting that engulfed the characters in darkness except for a single source of side illumination. This dramatic theatrical effect quickly became a silent film trademark known as "Lasky lighting," after the production company that made The Cheat (1915), his most successful film (see Figs. 1-3A and B). It was also one of Cecil B. DeMille's masterpieces, shot in Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format, combining all the ingredients typical of the infamous DeMille style "a mixture of sex, sadism, and sacrifice, washed down with lurid melodrama." Buckland's lighting contributions were groundbreaking. Two signature scenes in the film—the branding of the heroine by her wealthy Japanese paramour and the subsequent shooting scene—are lit with such theatrical richness and integrity that our attention is just as adroitly manipulated today as it was during its initial release.

This early maverick's scenic designs created an equally powerful tour-de-force for film-going audiences in the early twenties. Towering 40 feet above Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, King Richard's castle, the centerpiece for Douglas Fairbank's Robin Hood (1922), is arguably the largest set ever constructed in Hollywood history. It took 500 workmen three solid months to build. Considering Los Angeles was more of a wide spot in the road then, the silhouette of the completed castle set could be seen for miles. It exemplified W. Buckland's penchant for creating extravagant, naturalistic sets, and it attests to his flair and flexibility as an early art director. Allan Dwan, director and trained engineer, recalled, "We worked out a couple of interesting engineering stunts for the big sets. On the interiors, the walls meshed together with a matrix, which we designed and built, so they could be put together rapidly in sections. The interior of the castle was very vast—too big to light with ordinary arcs. We didn't have enough. It was an open set, and certain sections were blacked out to give the right atmosphere. So to light them we constructed huge tin reflectors, about twenty feet across, which picked up the sun and shot the light back onto the arches inside. Then we could make effects." This set was larger than life in all ways—from the completion of the steel-frame, reinforced, working drawbridge, signifying the end of set construction, to the fact that the shooting of the film on its massive sets was a big tourist attraction—the magic of the Dream Factory continues to stir our imaginations (see Figs. 1-4A–F).

Under the steady but tumultuous employ of Cecil B. De Mille, Buckland was a prolific film designer—79 films listed on www.imdb.com—spanning 1914–1927 (see Appendix A, Buckland Filmography), rivaling the overlapping accomplishments of a younger upstart, William Cameron Menzies. Incidentally, as supervising art director Buckland ran the art department for Robin Hood overseeing Anton Grot and William Cameron Menzies, not credited as assistant art directors. The practical vision of Buckland, the little-known Hollywood art director and initiator of the use of controlled lighting within studio environments, set a standard in the first decades of the twentieth century that has become as commonplace as shooting film sequences in Hollywood sound stages today. He stands as an art-directing giant; his creative ingenuity ennobles the craft of film design even now.

The stills shown here illustrate the enormous sense of theatricality belying his earlier, formative years in New York City. His exuberance for designing these impressive, interior castle shots matches that of the swashbuckling star and sole producer of the film, Douglas Fairbanks.

PAST CHANGES

The function and title of art direction continued into the next decades before the landscape of the art department was changed forever. Since Buckland's inauguration, Hollywood's creative visual managers were simply called art directors. Each of the existing studios including 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, and Warner Brothers contained stables of art directors overseen by a supervising art department head. The paradigm shift began in 1939 during the Golden Age of the American Studio System. William Cameron Menzies, having grown up under Buckland's tutelage, set a new standard for visual excellence by mapping the film epic, Gone With the Wind, with detailed concept sketches and storyboards, and adamantly insisting on using them as guides for shooting the film. David O. Selznick, the film's producer, rewarded Menzies' efforts of managing every detailed aspect of GWTW from a visual standpoint by crediting him with the title of "production designer." By the way, GWTW was art directed by Lyle R. Wheeler and set decorated by Edward G. Boyle.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Art Direction Handbook for Film by Michael Rizzo Copyright © 2005 by Elsevier Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface; Introduction; Hierarchy of Responsibilities; The Relationships; Art Department Set-Up; Location Department and Scouting; The Design Process; Tricks of the Trade; The Physical Scenery Process: Construction; The Physical Scenery Process: Mechanical Effects; Vendors; Principal Photography Begins; Keeping Ahead of the Camera; Art Department Maintenance
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