December 5, 2011

Illustration

A peek behind the scenes at the production design of the upcoming Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln

Let's talk a little bit about film production design and art direction. I live in Richmond, Virginia where Steven Spielberg is currently filming his latest motion picture, Lincoln. We walked around the Virginia State Capitol this afternoon and took a look at how Spielberg's production company is transforming it into an 1860's White House.

It got me thinking about my days writing and directing industrial videotapes — how-to videos and small productions on budgets, most of which, wouldn't equal the cost of one days lunch for the cast and crew of a major film. But it reminded me of the importance of art direction in film, how much hard work it is, and how satisfying the results can be.

As described by Media Match (an online database of over TV and film professionals), the Production Designer is responsible for the entire art department and helps the director achieve the film's visual requirements. The Art Director facilitates the production designer's creative vision for all the locations and sets.

If you've ever wondered why films cost what they do, take a look around this one location and at the extent to which the producers have gone to make it believable. (Please excuse the quality of the images, I was documenting, not composing.)

spielberg lincoln richmond virginia

First, a quick panorama of the scene that I stitched together (you may have to click on it twice to see it full-sized)...

The shot below shows what is actually the back side of the Virginia State Capital. The columns and roof are a facade build for the picture to simulate the White House in Washington DC at that time...

The paved drive that surrounds the Capital has been covered with a thin layer of mulch...

Something in the shot we don't want the camera to see? Put some trees in front of it...

Need to hide a trash receptacle? Camouflage it with a pile of supplies...

What separates one film from another? One thing is the level of detail. Check out the coloring of the tents, the fabric on the chairs, and the labeling on the ammunition...

The Governor's Mansion is just outside your view beyond the portico....

On the periphery there are other props being readied...

and remnants of production everywhere...

This is the full job description for a Production Designer...

And a job description for an Art Director...

The Production Designer for Lincoln is Rick Carter whose credits include Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, and Avatar...

The Art Director for Lincoln is Curt Beech who Art Directed Star Trek and The Social Network...

Veteran Production Designer Jim Bissell talks about judging the Best Art Direction Oscar...

A look at Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln...

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Comments

I am not a fan of Hollywood and would rather they go away. Their presence here only serves to bring more of them to buy property in the state, artificially raising property taxes. The inherit progressive (note elitist styled socialism) nature turns my stomach as well.

Deo Vindice

Haha... I think anytime you glue everything and everyone together (i.e. "Hollywood"), you risk your credibility. There are plenty of folks who have moved here from all over that have improved Virginia greatly.

Fun and interesting! Thanks, Chuck!

Too bad there are Neanderthals like the one above.

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