A few thoughts on what role production designers have on film production.
It depends on how ready the visual concept of the director/screenwriter from the beginning of working together. There are directors (f. e. Kocsis Ági, the director of Eden was like this), who have very strong visual ideas even upon writing the script, while other directors connect to the story on a more lyrical way and make the visual concept later in cooperation with the cinematographer and the production designer. In both cases, the production designer as the head of the art department, starts working with this concept, weaves it further, and unwraps it adhering to time and monetary constraints.
- Why is their work important for you?
As the production designer is responsible for the scenery, props, and basically everything that has to do with visuals apart from camera work and thus has a very important role next to the director and cinematographer. Essentially, together with actors and the story, they juggle with all material elements that can make storytelling more proficient. I always bring up this example, but let’s say that we read in the script that X stepped into the little house where they could see there hadn’t been anyone for a while…then, the scenery depicts it for the viewer by how mouldy, how nitrous the walls are painted, what objects there are in what order, how much dust covers the whole scenery that the character enters. Naturally, the cameraman will light it all in a way that makes it the most dramatic and will build up such a camera movement that will allow for the actor, the scenery and the plot to prevail the best.
- Why is it important that there is a festival where such professionals are awarded?
Because in many cases the production designer works in the background and only the staff knows what a big role they have in the end product.
- A short story from a shooting, where working with the production designer was memorable?
My answer to this would be when I worked as an art director on a Swedish movie with the incredible Danish production designer, Sabine Hviid. We shot the movie partly on the far north and the sunny Canary Islands. Its title is Charter. I highly recommend everybody to watch it, because it’s a fantastic movie and this year the Swedes are sending this to the Oscars.
So, I learned a lot on Sabine’s side, among all, that anything for the scenery. So, as we lived in the hotel we were shooting in, she brought the best things from her own room for the hotel room scenery, among others, her headboard and her bedpost.