The art director has a pretty big responsibility in a film. They need to design the overall look of the film, including sets, props, and other original elements. Basically, they are the master of the Mise-en-scène and are responsible for most of what is seen on the screen. It’s one of my favorites of the main technical categories.
- Avatar: While most art directors need to design a few buildings or maybe a largish exterior, but the team behind Avatar needed to make an entire planet and they needed to do it from scratch. The landscapes on display in the film are completely alien and they didn’t have any real earthly reference point to work from. We’ve come a long way from those backlot planets from Star Trek.
- Inglourious Basterds: Period settings are always good places to show off fine set decoration, and this one does so in a way that few World War Two films are able to. The real highlight here is the design of Shosanna’s theater, which is a pretty cool piece of period architecture from the screen to the basement to the projectionist’s booth.
- In the Loop: This probably isn’t the type of film you’d expect to be honored here, after all most of it is filled with small, messy, and unspectacular offices. But that’s kind of the point. This is a movie that’s all about deglamorizing international politics and part of that is making the sets as drab as possible. This art direction is a far cry from the expensive looking surroundings seen in the average Hollywood political thriller.
- The Road: Here we have a great example of outdoor art direction. To make the apocalyptic landscapes for the film they needed to do some clever location scouting, then make sure to film it at the right time for a dingy look and then fill the spots with the final remnants of a dead civilization that we know so well.
- Watchmen: To recreate the panels from Alan Moore’s famous graphic novel, the Watchmen art direction team needed to create both period sets from across the twentieth century as well as build some very science fiction oriented locations like Dr. Manhattan’s Martian fortress and Ozymandias’ secret North Pole base.