I have been absent awhile, due to the fact that I've not done any art worthy enough to appear on this blog. However, within the past few months, I'm pleased to say that several pieces have been drawn that are of the quality to be displayed here in this web forum. But that's for later. Today, I have only text; enjoyable text, I believe...
I've been spending several months (actually over a year) working with John Moore in developing HeuMoore's most recent project, Ace Wonder. The website is here at www.acewondermovie.com.
The film is a remake of our 2007 short film, Heartstrings. However, don't be disheartened; we're going to make it better, I promise. The basic premise is the same, changed only slightly: the Moore family, whilst on vacation, breaks down in the small, rustic town of Willowwood. Gator Moore, an aspiring detective novelist, meets Derek Morton, a confused young man obsessed with a set of clues his recently deceased grandfather left behind. Gator, smelling a story, is immediately endeared to Derek. What follows are laughs, thrills, intrigue, mystery, enigma, puzzles, riddles, more plot development and stuff like that. How's my logline so far? Please, bear with me; I've yet to read any of Robert Mckee.
My role in this project is that of production designer. Basically, this position supervises the entire visual design of the film, ranging from costume design to set design to prop design to character design to... well, you get the picture. Basically, the timeline for my work on the film goes thus:
Pre-production: September 2009-April 2010; drawing.
Production: April 2010-June 2010; running.
Post-production: June 2010-TBD; drawing.
Yes, lots of drawing.
This was the first time we sat down and thought through the costumes, sets, props and color schemes. John had a very specific vision in mind, which comes through in the finished project.
Within film production hierarchy, there is a trinity; not holy, but pretty awesome: director, cinematographer and production designer. The director presents his vision to the two department heads. The production designer supervises what is to be photographed, while the cinematographer deals with how to photograph it. Although creativity must be allowed, it must be based on the director's vision; that's especially important when the director is also the writer, as in my case. I defer to him for the most part, because I respect his authority in this area. However, if I believe I have a better visual idea, I allow my thoughts to come to his attention through the opening of my mouth.
I don't know if my feeble efforts to explain production design will impart the import of this area of filmmaking. It is indispensable, and if one does not take proper care and time to run through the visual design of his film, no matter how great the script, or dynamic the score, or fantastic the actors, his film will fall flat. It will not be real. Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, which is more of a fairy tale/ horror story, with magical occurences that could not possibly happen, has a setting that is so tangible it feels like you're in 1799 New England.
My favorite example of production design is the monumental film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Recall the Viking/Saxon motifs running throughout the culture of the Rohans? Or the very apparent influence of Greco-Roman and Byzantine architecture within Minas Tirith? The design team made an excellent decision in taking something that's familiar to us and putting a slight fantastical twist on it.This ability to completely engross an audience within an artificial atmosphere was the appeal of the recent blockbuster, Avatar. Cliché plot points and flat characters do not matter when you're distracted by the reality of Pandora, especially compounded with the great 3D effect.
Even within documentary filmmaking, it is important to think through the visual themes that can be utilized to make the film more powerful. One of the best examples I've seen is the chilling, alarming Demographic Winter. This symbolism is apprehensively pertinent, especially in light of the approaching threat of a disastrous social and economic winter.
For more info regarding production design, I highly recommend The Filmmaker's Guide to Production Design by Vince Lobrutto. Although not explicitly detailed, it covers the basics of visual design quite sufficiently for the beginning designer.
Thanks for reading; I hope it was informational and enjoyable.