Production Design Jobs in Hollywood
In television and film, the production design is the person most responsible for the overall artistic vision of the show. The production design conveys a sense of time frame, the setting, and character-specific activities and emotions. Designers work closely with directors and producers to define shots, story boards and matte paintings. They are also responsible for choosing visual effects and music for a film. Designers can also consult and assist in pre-production and post production.
Some of the roles of production designers in film production are the following. First, an individual that has both technical knowledge and creative input on the film project. Second, these individuals are usually employed by an art department, which is a division of the production company usually found on or near the sets. Art department artists are responsible for creating the locations and costumes, as well as the minutiae around the set. Art department artists are also responsible for selecting photography, posters, book cover designs, and other visual merchandise for a film project.
Many production designers begin their careers as interns or assistants to producers and directors. In order to qualify as an assistant, an individual must undergo training in both technical and leadership skills. Internships are typically short term, although some production designers have been known to remain employed as full-time employees. Individuals interested in the field of production design should obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. Most production design majors require that their subjects possess a strong background in communication, graphic design, interior layout, film history, computer science, and math.
A production designer must have excellent interpersonal skills, leadership skills, artistic ability, and analytical abilities. The art director on the other hand, is in charge of making the vision of the producer or director visible to the cast and crew. The art director usually dictates what the mood board looks like and determines the colors and types of backdrops that will be used. He or she also often has final say on whether or not the film will be shot on location or on a sound stage. The art director shares control of the budget, but is often less hands on in the creative process than his or her colleagues in production design.
Both production design and art department work together to create a movie. Typically the director and the art director will meet face to face and discuss the specifics of each scene that will be filmed. They then decide on the look of the script, which will often be colored and designed by the production design department. Once the script is ready, it is sent to the art department, which will go through the script line by line, colorizing and applying makeup, lighting, and additional shots. The final product is referred to as a matte painting or visual draft.
While production design professionals make an hourly wage, their pay rates depend more on the type of project and their experience. An assistant production director makes anywhere from ten to twenty dollars an hour. A line producer makes anywhere between forty to sixty dollars an hour. A director may also receive a bonus for producing a specific film, depending on their line producer salary.
There are two schools of thought in Hollywood about how to best use the production design process to add visual appeal to a film. One school believes that the key to success is to hire the most talented people available, regardless of their skill level. The other school believes that the key to success is to make sure the crew has a clear understanding of the entire design process. As long as mood boards, location books, storyboards, matte paintings, and final scripts exist, there will be a place for production designers.
If you’re interested in breaking into Hollywood and becoming a production designer, your best bet is to enroll in a formal education program at a school or art college that specializes in the art department. Look for a school that offers classes focusing on the design process and working with film production designers. It is best to focus on a particular aspect of production design like lighting, makeup, or special effects. Once you finish your schooling, you should be able to find work in the commercial world as a design assistant. While these jobs don’t pay as well as a job in Hollywood, they are definitely worth the effort and the time you put into it.