Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tip #23: Production design -making it look high budget

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer/Production designer)

The problem with many low to no budget films is exactly that, they look like no budget films. Usually the entire budget has gone on cast, crew, lighting and camera equipment. Often Production Design is an afterthought or sometimes dismissed entirely with detrimental results. On big budget films money is the ultimate problem solver, throw enough money at a problem and it goes away. The challenge on a low budget film is to achieve the same result without the money.

Even a low-budget film can have effective production design by understanding the purpose and responsibilities of the craft. Often this requires a lot of time and creativity but the results look professional and polished and anything but cheap. The easiest way to make a no budget film look expensive is by getting high production value, if what you put in front of the camera looks expensive and well finished, then the audience will assume a lot of money has been spent where it hasn’t.

The job of a production designer is to find the film’s visual potential and intent and express it in the physical environment. The primary concern for a production designer is establishing an authentic physical environment in which the actors can develop their characters and present
the story. Therefore creating and providing a cohesive visual and physical context that directly informs and supports the storytelling function.

The design of a film can create a sense of place. The atmospheric qualities of the sets, locations, and environments are essential in establishing a mood and projecting an emotional feeling about the world surrounding the film. There are many tools available through production design to accomplish this task. Locations, sets, colour palettes, props, wardrobe and so on.

The next blog post will look at how to achieve this by visually interpreting the characters.