Joseph T. Garrity
And it’s a lot of work. People don’t appreciate all the work that goes into it, all the people that are part of the art department or the people that are affected by what the art department is doing and how we all interconnect. People are always surprised to hear. And we are the one discipline where people go well, what exactly is that? And so we’re always fighting that lack of knowledge and a lack of appreciation of what an art department and designer brings. All famous productions- can you imagine the productions that are burned into our skull, and how much design is part of the memory of these films? Some people think that they just walk into places and shoot and it’s not the case at all. 85% of the time it’s not the case. But the best review of good design is that there is no mention. Because it works and people believe. What we do and sometimes what the cinematographer does and what the costume designer does just seems to be natural and fine and it just moves the story along. And it keeps this believe system and helps transform us, an audience, to a place where we can believe this is really going on. With bad design and a bad story you start looking around- something’s jolting.
And then with period pieces and the future and all that, production design comes forward. That’s what people think is good production design but it’s not always the case. Those coffee-table kind of period pieces that we go to historical mansions to shoot. It just brings the design forward and gives it more importance but there are great films where it looks like you just shot them, but in reality they were totally orchestrated.
AS: Do you have any films that you think of as representational of good production design?
JG: Well there are the classic ones like Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz- those big things. I loved All that Jazz. The big movies that you remember. But I thought things like Ordinary People- regular films- there are some that are just so spectacular. I loved a film called Character, a period thing that was just told so well through art direction and cinematography. There are so many others. In every film something wonderful’s been done by an art department.
[Award winning production designer] Bob Boyle’s turned 100 this year. He’s a teacher here and has been for many years. But you know the stories that he tells about his beginnings and about coming from USC architecture school in the Thirties and coming into the film business which was booming during the Depression. He came from an architectural background. He worked with Alfred Hitchcock and did North By Northwest and the Birds- all these fabulous films. He worked in Hollywood when it was the studio system and you could go to work in a world where people are making movies and the lumberyard’s there. Everything you’d ever need is within the boundaries of the studio.