Production Design

Production Design, like any component of film or television, is a vast blend of art and science, and cannot be easily comprehended in something so brief as a blog entry. That said, Production Design is one of those few things, like Direction, that is present in every frame of the movie.

The lead actor or actress isn’t in every frame of the film, nor is the score—sometimes times silence is the right musical choice. Not every scene has dialog, fight choreography, or a big emotional moment. But every frame has Production Design.

With such an expectation and burden, Production Design is first the jurisdiction of the artist, then the technician.

Since film is a visual medium, Production Design should be entrusted to visual men and women—visualists, if I can use that word.

Like any artist working on any canvass, everything must be considered: colors, saturation, complimentary colors, warm vs. cool tones, distribution, composition, texture, lines, geometries, patterns, and even the grain of the canvas.

Production Design more than anything other than a title card, sets the time, space and mood of a film, and should never be relegated to the less-artistically inspired.

Make every frame beautiful. Make every frame count.

A blank white wall can be the perfect Production Design element in some cases.

For novice Production Designers, my three best suggestions would be: 1) create layers in the set; 2) create density not with the big things, but with the small; and 3) let shadows fall where they will, and try to have an open dialog with your Director of Photography about keeping those stylish shadows and not letting him give in to the impulse to light everything evenly.

My three cents worth, as it were.

Most importantly, even the most amazing Production Design will not deliver you a great film, it will only deliver a stylish one.  The greatness of any film remains in the hands of the writer (script), the actors (performance) and the director (direction).

Virtually everything else can be forgiven.


The Last Frame of the Planet of the Apes

Quite possibly the most evocative and surprise ending in any film of any genre, the ending of the original 1968 The Planet of Apes still gives me chills.

Perfectly executed: suspense, drama, revelation, horror, framing, lighting, setting, special effects and score.

Flawless and perennial.

Forbidden Planet

One of the greatest archetypal science-fiction films ever made.

Walter Pidgeon, Ann Francis and the late Leslie Nielsen deliver on a brilliant play by Cyril Hume (effectively Shakespeare’s The Tempest in space).  Intelligent, honest and blunt Forbidden Planet is a cinema milestone not only in terms of special effects but of philosophical accuracy.

I am genuinely grieved to hear this remarkable film is being remade. I can only hope one of the five (possibly) qualified directors in Hollywood has been trusted with this sovereign work.

Star Trek owes virtually it’s entire franchise to this film.

Orwell’s 1984….plus 26 years

Well, if there was any lingering doubt that we are well into the tyrannical deconstruction of a once-remarkable republic, this should take care of it:

Formerly free Citizens of the United States…we are free no more.

Our government has for decades been declaring war on the very freedoms patriots in former ages fought to grant us.  With each passing day, our actions, our words, our patterns, our preferences, our very thoughts are being surveilled by anonymous forces with our government and industrial/military complexes.

I still cannot believe I am seeing the unraveling of my country in my lifetime.

Between spy programs like Carnivore, Echelon, Magic Lantern, and government audacity like the Patriot Act, to wholesale  bailout of the institutionalized thievery known as modern banking, our nation, indeed the nations of the Earth are positioning themselves for a fall of cataclysmic proportion that can only be rectified by apocalypse, war or rebellion.

Those are the choices to which we are being reduced.

If I am ever blessed to hold my grandson on my knee, I will have to preface my recollections with the grim disclaimer:  A long time ago, in an America that no longer exists….

David Jetre
Writer | Producer | Director | Designer
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