When how you "dress" is equally important in "storytelling"
The title is literal. One that best describes facets of filmmaking often lost in translation. In this series of articles based around "Art Direction", I'm going to make an attempt to explore what is often forgotten and compromised in the process of indie storytelling. In a day and age dominated by gear lust, acquisition, and the proverbial "muscle flexing", it seems that budding & aspiring directors, cinematographers, and movie makers are investing their "dress" sense somewhere else.
As a filmmaker, I've come to realize that there are other elements which inevitably affect your work. It's not just how well you can light or capture an image anymore. Good or bad, a lot relies on decisions made by others and the priorities they place on what is important in a particular event or production.
I recently completed my first feature as a cinematographer, with a world premiere gracing the cinema screen at the world famous & iconic Chinese Theatre
in Hollywood. While it's certainly no "oil painting", the achievement is a personal milestone. And while it also doesn't qualify me as an expert in the field, the sheer volume of days it took us to complete the project has given me a tremendous insight into what I feel matters most.
The Internet is brutal. People are extremely critical of anything you say and do. It takes the same energy and effort to offer something positively constructive, but some choose to use that energy to be negative. My point is that throughout the entire filmmaking process, I've made mistakes. Ones that have made me identify problems and the solutions to them. So there's claim of preaching the gospel here.
The power of hindsight has led me to consider two very important assets in indie filmmaking that tend to be put on the back burner these days - Art Direction and Production Design. In the next few articles, we will explore why "dressing" a set is so potent in the art of visual story telling. It doesn't matter how high resolution your camera is or if you're a master of shaping light. If your set or scene does not lend itself to some critical planning, that 8k sensor or the new fan-dangle lighting fixture won't mean s#*t.
So with that in mind, we will investigate several age old film school fundamentals that many still seem to forget, myself included. These include color palettes and how they create the textural look of a film. I'll also discuss how we can work around a minimal budget to achieve decent production design, working with your Art Director, and using creative shot selection and composition to enhance production value. I will also use scene examples from my film (like the photos included in this introduction) as a case study to illustrate these points.
So stay tuned and I hope you find this series useful. In the next article, we look at the definition of production design and art direction and what it means.
Read the rest of the series!
Read part 2 here: What is Art Direction?
Read part 3 here: 3 Art Direction Tips for Productions on a Budget
Read Part 4 here: Graphic Novel Inspiration: Frank Miller and Zack Snyder
Read Part 5 here: Lessons from a Master – John Seale, ASC ACS
Read Part 6 here: 4 Lessons from a Film Set