Category Archives: Production Designer

American Hustle – the Pattern Showcase

I grown up watching movies like Casino, Boogie Nights, Taxidriver Donnie Brasco or Serpico. When I saw pictures from sets of American Hustle, my heart went crazy. I just love the aesthetics of american 70s, the fashion, the huge cars and especially the colours. I chose American Hustle as first of Academy Awards nominated movie to look behind the camera and talk a little bit about its aesthetics.

Story of American Hustle takes place in late 70s in NYC. As production designer Judy Becker states, its not the same New York as in Taxi driver. It is the world of upper middle class, not world of homeless people, shady existences. Its more clean, more bright, more colourful. It is the world Becker remembers from her childhood as she explains:

“All my earlier sense memories were of Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 1970s – visits to museums and restaurants, coffee shops and the Plaza Palm Court with my parents, visits to my relatives in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, people who were very similar to the Polito family in the movie…”

Becker stressed this out to her team and as general reference chose the film The King of Comedy (1982). King of Comedy takes place in the same place and time so for Judy Becker it was an obvious choice when she wanted to tell a story in different way than people are used to, but was also a bit of challenge to achieve this effect with budget of $40 million.

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Lawrence G. Paull – PD of Blade Runner

Lawrence G. Paull was born in 1938 in USA. Paull is best known for his work on Ridley Scott’s sci-fi film Blade Runner (1982). This movie is considered as one of production design breaking points and is the project Paull was nominated for Academy Award for production design. In 1982 Oscar went to creators of Ghandi, but Paull won BAFTA together with futurist Syd Mead and VFX inventor Douglas Trumbull. Three years later, Paull was nominated for BAFTA again for his another famous movie – Back to the Future (1985). As majority of production designers, Paull has architecture background, he graduated from architecture faculty of University of Arizona. Shortly after, he discovered that conservative world of architecture is not for him and after seeing Dr. Zhivago (1965), movie that was being set in deep frozen Russia, but being shot in hot spain, movie significant for its art direction, he decided films are his future. in 60s Paull worked as draftsman on numerous productions before he actually started to work as set designer and art director. Later in 70s he made his first movie as production designer called Little Fauss and Big Halsey (1970). Paull was also teaching production design program at Los Angeles film school since 1999 for a short period of time and is a professor at the Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

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Back to the Future

I guess I dont have to introduce this iconic film released in 1985 under direction of Robert Zemeckis, designed by one of the best production designers ever – Lawrence G. Paull. One of the most significant movie vehicle was designed for this series: Back to the Future’s DeLorean.

Period movies are always challenge for production designers as much as fun. When you are about to connect 50s, 80s and near future – it sounds like a lot of fun.

Motive of time, clock and time traveling goes through all the story of Back to the Future. Obviously, its the main plot, but even in the brilliant opening sequence, that was created like one continuous storytelling shot, you can see importance of time for dr. Emmett Brown and get introduced to the story just with props and set dressing of Brown’s lab.

DeLorean

Besides all the gadgets dr. Brown has in his house in 80s or all the useless inventions in 50s, the thing that interests us the most is obviously the DeLorean time machine. Production designer Larry Paull and executive producer Steven Spielberg hired veteran of movie design, former Disney animator, concept artist Ron Cobb, man who stands behind designs for movies such as Alien, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and others.

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