A production designer is the leader of the Art Department and an indispensable creative role on a film set. The position may not be as well-known as writers, directors, or producers, but it is the production designer that ultimately translates the writer’s imagination, the director’s vision, and the producer’s plan into a compelling visual story. Pulling from a background in the arts, this individual uses color, theme, composition, and lighting to create a distinctive sense of place, time, and mood.
What Does A Production Designer Do…?
During Pre-Production? Most of a production designer’s work happens on day one, long before production begins. They read the script and meet with the director to understand their creative vision. It is the designer who makes the call on crucial decisions like: Should shooting take place on location or built sets? or Should the film use CGI animation or live-action special effects? Notably, a production designer hires and manages the entire art department– set designers, set decorators, prop masters, art directors, graphic artists, special effects supervisors, illustrators, wardrobe consultants, and more.
Research is often necessary to set a film in a particular time period or adhere to a specific artistic theme. Production designers can create mood boards or look books, sketch designs, or make computer models to convey ideas back and forth. The art director usually collaborates on this part of the production, turning sketches into technical drawings or models to aid the set building team.
During Production? The art department budget and daily work schedules are all managed by the production designer. These early risers are some of the first people on-set, making sure the camera and lighting are set up just right. The Director of Photography often consults the designer to ensure the artistic vision is carried out according to plan. They carry walkie-talkies to communicate with their second-in-command (art directors), overseeing the construction and set dressing.
During Post-Production? Following wrap-up, the production designer remains tied to the film, providing input on CGI effects, coloring, and anything else that will affect the final look of the movie.
What Does It Take To Be A Good Film Production Designer?
The best film production designer possesses:
- Artistic eye— Most production designers excel at building, drawing, and digital graphics. Background training in art, color theory, lighting, art and film history, pop culture, and design elements are essential.
- Management abilities — The ability to juggle multiple responsibilities and communicate calmly, clearly, and compellingly are all assets to this role.
- Financial savvy — Art department budgets can easily spiral out of control if a restrained production designer isn’t at the helm. Resourcefulness and out-of-the-box thinking are often necessary.
Where To Find A Production Designer (And So Much More!) For Your Art Department
Now you no longer have to wonder, “What is a production designer?” If you’re making a film and need one, contact Movie Prop Rentals for all your needs. Our production designer and art director have worked on major motion pictures like Last of the Mohicans, Bad Boys, Into the Blue, Jeeper’s Creepers, and Step Up Revolution. We can offer many in-house services, including prop curation from one of our two warehouses, prop fabrication from our 3D print studio, set building and construction crew, lighting, and special effects.