With the Oscars on Sunday, we thought this would be a good day for a blog about art direction for films.  Now, we will be honest and say we know nothing about film making or the process when it comes to doing set design, but we do know how important this is to the overall feel of a film.  It sets the stage, so to speak.  This years nominees are for The Artist, Harry Potter, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and War Horse.  Below are pictures of each film and the tone the production designer and set decorator intended to set.


Laurence Bennet (Production Design), Robert Gould (Set Decoration)

This is a take on the silent film era, so the set needed to have a 20s flair.  A strong Art Deco influence is apparent in the sets for the film, making it very authentic and real.  It’s hard to believe this movie was made in 2011.  Robert Gould was interviewed regarding the set decoration in the New York Times recently which explains more about this whole process – you can read the article here.  His budget was only $305,000!  For the entire movie!


Stuart Craig (Production Design), Stephanie McMillan (Set Decoration)

Stuart Craig has been with the Harry Potter series since the first movie adaptation which is why the films all have the same tone.  This is rare for a series and probably partly added to the success of the whole franchise – the continuity maintained throughout all eight movies allowed fans to really bond with the sets.  If you have more interest in the design for this movie, another very interesting Q & A between Craig and the New York Times can be found here.  The goal for these sets was to capture a contemporary time in a non-traditional world (wizardry and witchcraft).  Architectural Digest featured the sets along with an article found here.  The following are some images from that article.


Dante Ferretti (Production Design), Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration)

The goal for this film set in 1930s Paris was to combine both period and fantasy, something that apparently is very difficult to achieve and remain believable.  The two professionals who worked on this film are a husband and wife team and previously won an Oscar for another Martin Scorcese film, The Aviator.  You can read an interview Dante did with the New York Times regarding his designs here.  We didn’t see this movie, but from what I have read it seems to be a shoe-in for this category (and the sets for The Aviator were pretty spectacular, if I remember correctly).  Take a look and see what you think.


Ann Seibel (Production Design), Helene Dubreuil (Set Decoration)

One of our favorite movies last year, this Woody Allen feature is set in both modern day AND 1920s “Golden Age” Paris.  The differences, while subtle, allow for the believable transition at midnight in the taxi (if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t worry).  We loved the art direction in this movie.  Woody Allen has such a way with choosing the right actors, production staff and setting to make a movie feel exactly the way it should.  He certainly is amazing at capturing upper-crust eccentricity with the help of talented Ann Seibel – the taxidermy wedding scene??  Amazing!  An article about Ann Seibel where she describes her process (and shares her inspiration boards for some of the sets) can be found here.


Rick Carter (Production Design), Lee Sandales (Set Decoration)

It wouldn’t be an Oscars without an epic Steven Speilberg movie, so of course this film is nominated.  Admittedly, I have only seen the previews – I didn’t think I could handle watching horses in a World War I movie after tearing up at only a two minute glimpse, but the art direction looked amazing!  The film is set in World War I era England and the various battlefields in Europe.  Trenches were obviously an important aspect, as well as the quiet English countryside.  On an interesting side note – War Horse was adapted from a play of the same name that utilized full sized puppets as the horses.  A slideshow of photos from the play can be seen here.

Who do you think will win?  Our money is on The Artist.  The whole movie had a fantastically authentic vibe.  A close second is Midnight in Paris.  We will know on Sunday – enjoy the Oscars and cheers!