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The Art Director:
The Unsung Hero of Filmmaking
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If you're like me, you spent too much of your low-budget filmmaking career soldiering on with no one in the specialized position of Art Director. Oh, you might have had a producer or props person who tried to cover this position along with about three other ones, but there is something truly magical about having someone whose sole job is to oversee the sculpting of the world that the actors breathe life into and which the cinematographer captures.

I was reminded of this as we were shooting Depleted: Day 419, in which we brought on Sarah Jane Gray as our Art Director. While artistic personalities can be flighty, Sarah Jane's a combination of the true artist and the responsible individual that's learned how to make deadlines. She had never Art Directed a film before, so she was at first concerned that she might not be up to the task. However, once she came on board and saw how well the job complimented her sensibilities, she rose to the challenge like a champ.

Depleted: Day 419 is definitely the most challenging film I've ever directed, as it required a fully sculpted sci-fi world to be filmed in only four days, including major action components like a complex slo-mo gun fight. As such, the art direction was extremely important, since the buildings and interiors had to look as though they were left over after general scavenging had gutted out most of the valuable items. This required massive amounts of work from Sarah Jane and her team of helpers, but, in the end, was extremely effective. (Additionally, the creation of a forging studio for the film's heroine was a work of genius.)

With the elaborate shots required of an action film in so short a period of time, the art direction had to dovetail perfectly into the choreography, as well as into the cinematography and lighting. Because of the hard work of the folks in all of these areas, it all came together amazingly well, especially considering how exhausted everyone was.

While, obviously, most low-budget films don't require as many elements as we put in Depleted: Day 419, it's still something to consider when setting up your crew list, even if your film is a "slice-of-life" or a romantic comedy. If you can find a reliable artistic person who can oversee the world you're wanting to create as Art Director, you're far more likely to come up with a film you'll be proud of in the long run! And, if you've already found someone who does this job well for you, be sure to be extra nice to them, as they probably get a lot less recognition than they deserve!

Just something to think about!


God Bless,

Jeremy Hanke
Microfilmmaker Magazine

JeremyHankePicture The director of two feature length films and half a dozen short films, Jeremy Hanke founded Microfilmmaker Magazine to help all no-budget filmmakers make better films. His first book on low-budget special effects techniques, GreenScreen Made Easy, (which he co-wrote with Michele Yamazaki) was released by MWP to very favorable reviews. He's curently working on the sci-fi film franchise, World of Depleted through Depleted: Day 419 and the feature film, Depleted.

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