Lights, Camera - Production Design!

Article excerpt

Unknown to celebrity watchers, Ken Adam won his second Academy Award this March for The Madness of King George. The production designer of seven James Bond films and Barry Lyndon (his other Oscar), Adam translates the director's ideas into physical environments, coordinating sets, costumes and make-up and working with the director of photography to determine camera angles and lighting. Depending on the nature of the Mm, production designers oversee location scouting and computer graphics as well.

"In my experience, there are few screenwriters who think in visual terms, and there is no reason why they should," says Adam. "But film is a visual medium, and writers depend on designers to interpret the screenplay."

Dante Ferretti, who has worked with celebrated Italian directors Pier Paulo Pasolini and Federico Fellini and now is collaborating with Martin Scorsese, designed that director's 1993 adaptation of The Age of Innocence, based on Edith Wharton's 1920 novel. Whartons first book, The Decoration of Houses, was a guide to creating elegant living spaces; she was meticulous about the settings in all her novels, whether they were mansions on Fifth Avenue or park benches on the Left Bank. For The Age of Innocence, Ferretti painstakingly recreated the sitting room of the Countess Olenska, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, down to the smallest details described in the novel: "small slender tables of dark wood, a delicate little Greek bronze on the chimney-piece, and a stretch of red damask nailed on the discolored wallpaper behind a couple of Italian-looking pictures in old frames:" Ferretti was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film, as he was this year for Interview With the Vampire, starring Ibm Cruise and directed by Neil Jordan. (Often his designs garnered more enthusiastic reviews than the actors or the film itself.)

In the days of silent film, the position of production designer, sometimes called art director, barely existed. …