The following article is written exclusively for Strange Culture by Hunter Woo. Hunter Woo has been involved with the art department of major motion pictures including the current release, American Dreamz, directed by Paul Wietz.
For most art students graduation means an uncertain future in the world of art. As a graduate art student in L.A., I always hoped I could work in an "art department" for a movie upon graduating, the only problem, I had know idea what that would entail.
Upon graduation, I did indeed begin working as an assistant in an art department but as a painter, I quickly realized I hadn't taken the appropriate classes in school.
A year and half later, I'm still working in the art department and I've been learning about the business of making movies ever since.
So to answer the question, what does the art department do? Think of it this way, everything you see on screen that is not the actors, lighting, or special effects is the work of the art department. Essentially the art department is an in-house architecture and interior design company hired by the producers.
The department is lead by the Production Designer who "designs" the show and the Art Director implements the Designer's vision by making sure communication is flowing to all other departments, especially the construction department. And once the sets are built they are dressed by the Set Decorator,who works to implement the Designers vision with color and tone. The Decorator is also responsible for coordinating all the details that create the story.
Working in an art department is exciting, as you constantly strive to bring the script alive. It can include building models, to creating dressing, to finding obscure furnishings. Working on a film is never dull, but it is a job just like any other. You have to get past the fact of the history of some of the sound stages you're working on.
On my last picture, Nancy Meyer's "Holiday", we shot on the Sony lot and were on the same stage where much of Wizard of Oz was shot. I was geeking out a bit, but then, like any other job, it's back to work as usual.
Currently, I'm working on Judd Apatow's follow up to 40 Year Old Virgin. I'm really excited to see how this one turns out. I know we've put a lot of hard work into the sets, now it's time for the director and actors to take over and actually shoot the movie. It should be a fun summer.
(Pictured above Hunter Woo with one of his paintings; next the stage being built on the set of American Dreamz; All pictures courtesy of Hunter Woo)
Woo's blog can be found here.
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