The Alternate Reality of the Art Department


|  A Weekly Film Making Blog on the BSFF Website  |

Creating a believable reality for a motion picture story can be a struggle.  From certain elements in a high value films like the Star Wars prequels to the lowest budget backyard shorts, it can be a serious failing of a production if the visual recipe doesn't feel somehow authentic.  So much fret is put into other aspects of film making, but a major component of helping to create the suspension of disbelief is whether or not the world the film maker shows us looks and feels viable to the story.

  This can be a constructed alternate CGI reality or something utilizing actual real, grimy, and dirty locations, but always it has to be legitimate to the narrative.

  Some low-fi film makers worry so much about lighting, what camera they're gonna use, are the skin tones properly adjusted?  And then a character that's supposed to be wandering around England during the medieval age will be wearing construction boots with a branding tag on the side and modern tread on the sole.

  Well, that busts the fantasy.

  Art department and sound.  Really so much else can be forgiven, but when those things are messed up your film doesn't stand a chance.  However, get the setting and the visual tone right, and the narrative can breathe easier; being compelling in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

  Not too long ago one of my film making tasks was to help create a very very silly comedy horror on a low-end video camera.  It's an homage to bad and cheap 1970's drive-in movies. The shots are, honestly, technically horrible by today's standards.  Or even 1930's standards if we're being really honest.  But our crew created a believable environment for the setting and that made the film (somewhat?) tolerable.

  Ultimately, how a particular film is shot is important, but it's also only a single element in the whole recipe.  In my opinion, it's more like a spice rather than the fundamental ingredient.  And you can't make a good dish with just a spoonful of paprika!

  One of the most visually impressive locations for film (and okay, I'm a little biased here) is the desert.  Stark and beautiful, the minimalism of an arid setting like the Anzo-Borrego state park is a creative boon for films that build their realities here. 


  What do you think?  What have been some of your favorite films based only on the talents of the art department?