How fun it would be to be a Hollywood production designer. They are the ones who get to build a large part of the dream, so to speak, from scratch. The finished film, of course, is the dream, and it all starts with the script, and then the director’s vision guides the production from day one until all the scenes are shot. In between all that, however, are a lot of jobs that must be done in order to even begin loading the camera with film.
Reeti Narayan is a Production designer and her job is to design the production – just as her title implies. That simply means that everything the audience sees on the big silver screen or the digital TV flat screen in their living room is pretty much from the imagination and hard work of the Production Designer. She is charged with being responsible for the overall aesthetic of the movie. She has to know the script inside and out and she works closely with the director and cinematographer to achieve the director’s vision through colors, themes, mood, lighting and more. She works with a budget and scheduling and must do her work within that budget and she must complete her sets on time so the cameras and actors and everyone else can perform their jobs at the appointed time. That means that all sets have to be ready when the director is ready to yell, “Action!”
Her team of creative professionals can include, art directors, graphic designers, set designers, costume designers, lighting experts, set decorators, set builders, prop makers and more. On many films the Production Designer will draw sketches of the sets and also build miniature sets that are loaded with miniature furniture including framed pictures on the miniature walls. These give the director an idea of what the real sets are going to look like before they are built. Reeti has worked on numerous short films, music videos and TV pilots as a Production designer and being able to articulate visually and verbally what her ideas are is simply part of the job.
Every movie, commercial, TV series, Web series and music video has a Production designer on board. On low budget and very small productions the end credits may not list anyone as Production designer but if there is furniture in the rooms, pictures on the wall, dishes on the table, etc., then someone was there to make those choices and that person is the de facto Production designer. They might have put the original furniture in another room and brought in all new pieces to go with the wall color. Or they could have made the aesthetic decision to paint the wall a certain color and to have the sun coming in from the other window. All Production designers, including Reeti, have to make critical decisions that affect how the audience will perceive the film and the story and the characters. It’s a fun job but one that takes an enormous amount of concentration and hard work.