Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Wednesday Photo

And links, lots of links...

Every now and then I’ll sift through Google Analytics to learn how new readers of this blog found their way here, a quest that often leads me to another interesting blog. Chasing down one such thread last week brought me to “Art DepartMENTAL” – an absolutely wonderful name for a blog detailing what actually goes on deep in the bowels of the Art Department.

A film crew works more-or-less together, so most of us at least have some idea what the other departments do – and the closer we work, the more we understand. Grip and electric are engaged in making the visuals of every shot as seamlessly perfect as possible, and thus know a lot about what the other department goes through. We don't know much about hair and make-up (who work hand in hand), while camera, sound, wardrobe, and production seem to exist in their own little worlds.

Meanwhile, Art Department takes care of the sets. Headed by a Production Designer, the Art Department designs, builds, paints the sets on stage or on location, among other things. A couple of people make the decisions, while an army of carpenters, painters, and floor people (carpets, phony hardwood, linoleum, and tile veneer) do the work. Other than a stand-by painter on hand for any last-minute painting or aging of the set, the Art Department is usually gone by the time the actors, director, and the rest of the first unit crew arrive to shoot the scenes.*

Art DepartMENTAL takes you into that world. One recent post contains a short video showing how the Art Department of “House” built a complex set of a mental hospital for the show. Running less than five minutes, it does a nice job showing exactly how the difficult process of duplicating a location set on stage – and making it shooting crew-friendly -- unfolds. An artfully designed set can look great on film while making life a lot easier for the first unit crew – and conversely, a badly-designed set soon becomes a complete pain in the ass for everybody involved. When the sets are right, they’re usually easier to light and look great on camera. It’s a good video well worth your time.

I recently stumbled across another blog called When the Ship Comes In. It's not a production blog, but one specializing in detailed, thoughtful analysis of whatever films catch the sharp eye of Yossi Gur. I’m not much at film analysis, but Yossi’s review of “”Deep Water”” – a gripping documentary about one man’s doomed quest to win a solo yacht race around the world – really captured the essence of the film, which I saw (and loved) last year. This makes me want to go back to see what he has to say about all those other films I haven’t yet seen.**

Last but not least: through a friend-of-a-friend, I'll soon have a chance to view a pre-release DVD of “Strongman,” a gritty new documentary out of New York. I love good documentaries, and having seen the trailer, I’m looking forward to seeing the film. When that happens, I’ll report it in a future post.

* For a deeper (and darkly humorous) understanding of what this really means, read ”Below the Line”, by J.R. Helton, and check out The Standby Painter

** Despite the title of his blog, Yossi writes about all sorts of movies ("Bruno" is among other recent reviews), not just films with nautical themes...

1 comment:

Art DepartMENTAL said...

Thanks so much for linking to me and writing about my blog. I really appreciate it. I'm still in the process of changing the look of the site and I haven't had time to write the posts I really care about yet but I'll get it there. It's unfortunate there is not more people out there writing about the art department.

I just read your post about going into work sick and I had to laugh as I'm just about to do a music video this weekend (prepping today)and I've been blind-sided by a head cold. I can't afford to not go in (like you said) so I'm filling up on meds and hoping for the best.

I'll probably write about this on my blog later. Anyhow, thanks again. I love your blog. It's very insightful.