What does a production designer do?
Production designers create the way a film or TV drama looks. Films can be set in any number of places; a Victorian orphanage, a Caribbean cruise ship, or another planet, for example. They work with all the other visual departments, costume, lighting, visual and special effects, and graphic design. They help create the visual world in which the story is set.
Production designers start with the script. Researching and collaborating with the director, director of photography and other heads of department, they imagine the screenplay visually. They draw sketches showing mood, atmosphere, lighting, composition, colour and texture, which are given to the art director to develop.
Then they work with other art department members to draw up a budget. They prioritise the work schedule and allocate the management of finances to team members performing different tasks. They are usually freelancers.
What’s a production designer good at?
- Creativity: visualise the whole look of a film or TV drama, starting with words on a page
- Art: draw by hand to scale, do technical drawings and computer-aided design
- Design: understand colour theory, know the history of architecture and interior design
- Knowledge of photography: understand cameras, lenses and lighting and their effect on a film’s look and mood
- Organisation: manage budgets, draw up schedules, prioritise and meet deadlines
- Communication: share the vision with a wide number of different people and keep a team working together well