In film and television, a production designer or P.D is the person responsible for the overall look of a filmed event such as films, TV programs, video games, music videos or adverts. Production designers have one of the key creative roles in the creation of motion pictures and television. Working directly with the director and producer, they must select the settings and style to visually tell the story. The term "production designer" was coined by William Cameron Menzies while he was working on the film Gone with the Wind.1 Previously (and often subsequently) the people with the same responsibilities were called "art directors."2
From early in pre-production, the production designer collaborates with the director and director of photography to establish the visual feel and specific aesthetic needs of the project. The production designer guides key staff in other departments such as the costume designer, the key hair and make-up stylists, the special effects director and the locations manager (among others) to establish a unified visual appearance to the film.
The "art department" is a group of people who work with the production designer to implement the scenic elements of that vision. The art director, as the production designer's lead manager carrying out designing, supervises set designers, model artists, computer designers, graphic designers, set and storyboard illustrators, and assistant art directors. Within the art directors budget jurisdiction is wall to wall carpeting, stage/set floor covering (hardwood, linoleum, tile, ets), wall coverings, finishes, wallpaper, etc. The Art Director deals with specific budget accounting for all charges related to the construction and finishing of both stage and location sets. The Art Director supervises set construction and painting, as well as modifications to existing locations, such as changing signs or installing new carpet. An art director has myriad specialists reporting to them including the construction department, which includes carpenters, painters, plasterers, riggers and other trades, propmakers, greensmen (landscapers), sign painters, and scenic artists, and drapery departments. A production illustrator, such as Mentor Huebner, provides pre-production concept art and storyboards. The set decorator, often someone with experience in interior decoration, finds, shops, selecting set dressing from prop furniture rental houses - decorative items for the sets such as furniture, knick-knacks and lighting fixtures. The decorator is responsible for area rugs. Wall to Wall set carpeting is the art director's jurisdiction and part of his budget, which the art director selects. The set decorator must coordinate with the prop master any actor's hand props which is used in specific settings. Working under the decorator are buyers, as well as a crew of set dressers who bring the items to the set, arrange furniture, hang curtains (drapery department lead) and "dress" the set. A property master coordinates with the production designer, but also works closely with the director and actors to provide the items handled directly by the actors such as newspapers, weapons, musical instruments and food. For the most part, the prop crew, along with an on-set dresser, maintain the integrity of the production designer's vision during the shoot and manipulate the items for the camera.
Since 1929 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences grants an Art Direction Award to an outstanding Production Designer. An Art Director may only be considered eligible for an Oscar when there is no Production Designer credited. IATSE #800 Board of Directors must approve any Production Design request for this credit, which must be submitted to the union for approval. In 2012, the Art Direction Branch in the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Academy was designated The Designers Branch. This branch includes members as art directors, assistant art directors, set decorators, costume designers, illustrators, research historians, and applicants related with an art department.
Some of the crew who work in the art department under the production designer include the art director, set designer (draughtsman), set decorator, costume designer, property master, concept artist, graphic designer, and model maker.
In the United States and Europe as well as Mexico, production designers are represented by IATSE local 800; the Art Directors Guild. The production design credit must be requested by the producer, prior to completion of photography, and submitted to the Art Directors Guild Board of Directors for the credit approval. In Canada, production designers are represented by the Director's Guild of Canada, except in British Columbia where they are represented by IATSE.
- See Category:Production designers, Academy Award for Best Art Direction and Art Directors Guild Hall of Fame
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- Cairns, David (March/April 2011). "The Dreams of a Creative Begetter". The Believer. Retrieved 2011-03-31. "Menzies was an art director, production designer (a title he invented himself), producer, and director, the man who created the look of Gone with the Wind, unifying the work of a posse of directors."
- Preston, Ward (1994). What an Art Director Does. Silman-James Press. p. 150. ISBN 1-879505-18-5.
- Barnwell, Jane (2004). Production Design: Architects of the Screen. FWallflower. ISBN 1-903364-55-8.
- Block, Bruce (2001). The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film, TV, and New Media. Focal Press. ISBN 0-240-80467-8.
- Ede, Laurie N. (2010). British film design: a history. I.B.Tauris.ISBN 978-1-84-885108-5
- Hans-Jürgen Tast (ed.) ANTON WEBER (1904-1979) - Filmarchitekt bei der UFA (Schellerten 2005) ISBN 3-88842-030-X;
- Katz, Ephraim (2005). The Film Encyclopedia (5ed). Collins. ISBN 0-06-074214-3.
- Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800 Union local representing Art Directors and Production Designers
- ADG Art Direction Wiki Online community and knowledge base relating to film design
- British Film Designers Guild
- The Austrian Filmdesigners Association (VÖF - Verband Österreichischer FilmausstatterInnen).
- Production Design Training Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School
- Production Design training in Auckland NZ at Unitec Performing and Screen Arts