Art direction is a broad concept encompassing many visual elements of film production ranging from the designing and construction of sets to finalising the locations, decor, props and costumes. Over the decades, the nature of art direction has changed considerably. In today’s highly competitive world, studios recruit full-blown art directors, ie, artists who are responsible for the overall look of a film and not just the sets.
The art director
Creating life-like sets is the work of the art director. A futuristic modern era, a village scene or even a tribal community - whatever is the demand of the script, the art director creates it within the budget. The work demands hard work and dedication as an art director’s pay packet is subject to his creativity and work.
Working under the supervision of the art director, the art department is responsible for arranging the overall look of the film including the design and the ambience of the scenes as desired by the director. Individual positions within this department include: art director, assistant art director, production designer, special effects supervisor, draftsman, set decorator, set designer, property master, property assistant, etc
Explains Chandravadan More, National Award winning art director for the film Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story, “Art directors collaborate closely with the director and cinematographer to visualise the screenplay. Together they determine how visual components can best be combined to tell the story. The most beautiful ballroom on earth means nothing unless it helps the context of the story. When devising sets or considering locations, art directors must first determine the volume or overall size and shape of a space - does the scene call for a large, rectangular space, or a claustrophobic enclosed space, etc. Once the architectural elements are in place, art directors decide how to decorate their sets and locations. Apart from the props and furniture, set decoration also includes the foliage and food that is used in the given scene. Sometimes, individual props and furnishings can be crucial to the story. Color tones, shading and textures are some of the elements which are also very important in art direction.”
Theatre v/s cinema: When asked about the differences in the role of art directors working in films from those associated with theatre, More says, “Ultimately, what separates art directors working in films from their theater equivalents is the camera. Every set or location must accommodate the camera’s changing three-dimensional view. Whether the camera itself is moving, or the framing is changing, the set should facilitate the movement. A good art director will consider how the set or location will look from various angles and in different lighting conditions as demanded by the script. As far as theatre goes, the role of the art director is competitively easier as the sets are smaller and cameras are not used. ”
Anand Sawant, an associate art director for Bollywood films such as Border, Refugee, etc, has more than 25 years of experience in this field. He says, “As an art director, you need to keep yourself updated with technological developments. The most difficult aspect of art direction is arguably the development of a sound and creative concept. A degree in any stream is always preferred. Most of the areas in filmmaking are highly technical and therefore require professional training. Even for artists and directors, which are basically creative fields require inherent talent, and training help in honing the skills.”
He further adds, “If you're interested in pursuing a career in this field, a certificate or diploma course in art direction will surely prove to be an advantage, however, education in a variety of creative fields can also be very helpful, especially interior design, architecture, visual art, landscape design and drama/theater studies. Good film and TV schools will provide hands-on opportunities for building a portfolio that will be essential when looking for work.”
The Indian film industry produces the largest number of films in the world. The industry gives employment to a large number of people. Thus, there is ample scope for students in the area of art direction. However, finding employment in the film industry is highly competitive and requires a lot of hard work, determination, flair as well as experience and qualifications. Besides the film industry, art directors can also find employment in performing art companies, television production houses, small studios located throughout the country and theatre.
When it comes to remuneration, renowned art director, Pradip Singh, who has been in this profession for 18 years, says, “A fresher in this field will have to work as an assistant art director for a few years. He/she may earn anywhere between Rs 25,000 – Rs 50,000 per month whereas the remuneration for professional art directors may run into lakhs of rupees per film.”
Institute listing (indicative)