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What is a production designer, you might ask? It's only one of the most important people on set, the glue that holds everything together.
So what does a product designer do? Read along, and you'll find out everything you need to know!
Start by learning about film production. Learn all of that and more in or article on filmmaking.
What does a production designer do?
It is almost easier to answer the question "What does a production designer NOT do?". Because a production designer seems to be here, there, and everywhere when it comes to the visual style in a project.
In short, a production designer works with everything that has to do with the visual concept of the production. This includes the set design, costume design, location, and cinematic style.
The production designer starts off by going through the script of the project. Then they start brainstorming ideas for the overall visual style of the movie. Typically with the director of the project.
Once they're done, they start deciding upon a visual style to go with. This will have implications for each of the earlier mentioned visual parts of the movie and their respective departments.
Perhaps a movie set during World War 2 would require a costume designer that has experience in this area to ensure authenticity.
A lot of time is spent researching the different eras that stories are set in. This includes the political climate, historical events, and more.
The production designer also has to provide visual and elaborate descriptions to the different art departments. In this way, it's easier for the departments to approach a project.
Production designer responsibilities
The aforementioned responsibilities are just a fraction of what a production designer has to do.
To get an overview of what the job is really like, we've made a list of the most typical responsibilities of a production designer.
- Read through the script to note down visual ideas.
- Decide on the different visual concepts and production requirements with the director and producers.
- Hire the art department.
- Provide sketches, models, and drawings for the art departments.
- Provide notes for the make-up, costume, prop, special fx, practical effects, and graphics department.
- Research the relevant history, political climate, and all other necessary information about the time and place the film is set in.
- Research different production studios and locations to shoot.
- Plan out the design budget, and monitor it regularly.
- Instruct the set department and various other departments, and oversee that it's done right
- Instruct the art department, and make sure that everything is ready for the day after.
- Appear on shoots to make sure that the visual concept is being overheld doing shoots.
- Provide relevant notes for the actors and director of photography.
- Monitor that everything is going after the book at the different sets and locations.
- Provide notes for, and monitor the colorists, editors, and VFX artists during post-production.
How much does a production designer make?
The average yearly salary of a production designer is around $90,000.
However, this all varies on things like experience, resumé, abilities, and so much more. You shouldn't expect to land $90,000 immediately when you're starting out on smaller projects. It's something you have to earn through years of hard work.
As it probably became apparent to you in the previous section, a production designer has a large number of responsibilities on the film. It's one of the people who follow the project from beginning to end.
3 Skills needed to become a production designer
Many skills are needed to become a production designer, but some are more valuable than others.
We made a list of three essential skills you need to become a production designer.
1. Eye for design
Because you have to more or less develop the entire visual concept, it is evident that you need to have an eye for design. This doesn't just include understanding the concept of designing, but preferably you're also able to draw or create graphical sketches for the other departments.
You don't have to be an artist, but you need to create visual references for other people to understand the visual direction.
Furthermore, you'll need a good understanding of the various aspects of art theories, what different colors mean, different types of cultural history to truly create a good production design.
This will come in handy when you brainstorm with the director, and you can mention different art styles or pop culture references.
2. Management skills
You'll need some great managing skills, and you'll need to monitor several things at once. Conceptualizing the visual style and concept you have in mind isn't going to be easy, but it has to be done.
You'll have to stay on top of several departments and explain the creative vision to everyone who needs to know.
You should also expect to do a lot of negotiation between the producers and director. You'll always have to find a way to limit the director's vision to something budget-friendly.
So you're going to need some good people skills and how to keep everyone in the process happy.
3. Understanding of budgeting and financial management
Lastly, you'll understand budgeting and finances. It's not easy to have an overview of the different costs of the visual departments, but nonetheless, you'll need to stay on top of it.
But you mustn't plan out different things with the various departments if it's not within reason, in terms of the budget.
So you'll need to be realistic, and always have the budget in mind from the start of the creative process to the execution.
What to expect as a production designer
You have to expect to work long hours from the beginning of the project to the end. Keeping the continuity in the visual concept requires hands-on work. It might slow down a bit once you reach post-production as you won't have to be present as often.
You have to expect a lot of responsibility and that you have to communicate with a lot of different people.
You can expect to have loads of creative expression and creative control over the project.
Learn more. Deep dive into filmmaking
I hope you feel more enlightened regarding what a production designer does.
If you want to get into production design yourself, consider reading our article on filmmaking. Here you'll learn everything you need to know about making and producing films.
What does a production designer do?
A production designer does everything that has to do with planning and executing the visual style of a film.
What does a production designer do on set?
A production designer monitors the different departments, to make sure that the visual concept is being shown in every way.
What do you need to be a production designer?
You'll need the following 3 skills: Eye for design, Management skills, and Understanding of budgeting and financial management.
How much money does a production designer make?
The average yearly salary of a product designer is around $90,000.