The production designer heads the art department by bringing creativity, organizational skills, and an eye for detail. They are responsible for ensuring that every shooting location is suitable and prepared to execute the director’s vision for the film. In sum, production designers fill an integral role on set–present from day one to wrap.
Directors may consult with the production designer during the early stages of film development with script in hand. What costumes, props, and film locations might be needed to create the right aesthetic? What colors, themes, compositions, and elements can evoke the emotions and complement the actions of each scene? Of course, it’s primarily the director’s role to make the final choices. However, a strong production designer can lend expertise and resourcefulness, influencing the look and feel of the film to a considerable degree.
The production designer springs to action as soon as the director decides how audiences will experience the film—identifying which places and resources work best to create the perfect atmosphere for each scene. Research into art, politics, and history help bring the production to life. Whether a crumbling tomb in ancient Egypt or a hip Manhattan condo, the production designer helps determine what is necessary to assemble a believable set.
Production designers are experts in building, drawing, and creating computer graphics, with solid background knowledge in lighting, color theory, artistic design, and history. They may sketch out the scenes, develop scale drawings and models, or create CAD renderings to help translate their ideas to the art directors.
This leadership role involves assigning specific duties and projects to the art team, monitoring progress, and ensuring that production deadlines are met. Set designers, illustrators, wardrobe, makeup artists, graphic artists, special effects supervisors, and prop masters all have their work supervised by the production designer. This role involves working closely with the director to ensure that every aspect aligns with the overarching creative vision. A production designer also works with the costume designer, the director of photography, and sound designers.
Working with the producer, the production designer plays a crucial role in calculating the cost of materials and budget allocations. In addition, production designers often source potential studio space or on-site locations, prepare a props list and scout materials, and help hire staff.
When a project doesn’t go as planned, a quick-thinking production designer often comes up with a workaround, keeping the team positive, productive, creative, and on budget. Most commonly, production designers find cost-effective ways to shoot a scene, which may involve traditional methods and special effects rather than CGI.
Ultimately, a production’s size dictates the production designer’s primary responsibilities. For example, on a big-budget blockbuster, the production designer’s work is mostly conceptual, with art department staff doing much of the hands-on work. On a smaller production, the production designer may play a more supervisory role, wearing multiple hats to bring concepts to life.
Whether you’re a production designer involved in procuring rental props or a filmmaker looking for a production designer with Hollywood chops, you can count on Movie Prop Rentals to help execute your vision.