Designs on Film
A Century of Hollywood Art Direction
By Cathy Whitlock
(It Books, Hardcover, 9780060881221, 400pp.)
Publication Date: December 2010
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Who can forget the over-the-top, white-on-white, high-gloss interiors through which Fred Astaire danced in Top Hat? The modernist high-rise architecture, inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead? The lavish, opulent drawing rooms of Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence? Through the use of film designcalled both art direction and production design in the film industrymovies can transport us to new worlds of luxury, highlight the ornament of the everyday, offer a vision of the future, or evoke the realities of a distant era. In Designs on Film, journalist and interior designer Cathy Whitlock illuminates the often undercelebrated role of the production designer in the creation of the most memorable moments in film history. Through a lush collection of rare archival photographs, Whitlock narrates the evolving story of art direction over the course of a centuryfrom the massive Roman architecture of Ben-Hur to the infamous Dakota apartment in Rosemary's Baby to the digital CGI wonders of Avatar's Pandora.
Drawing on insights from the most prominent Hollywood production designers and the historical knowledge of the venerable Art Directors Guild, Whitlock delves into the detailed process of how sets are imagined, drawn, built, and decorated. Designs on Film is the must-have look book for film lovers, movie buffs, and anyone looking to draw interior design inspiration from the constructions and confections of Hollywood. Whitlock lifts the curtain on movie magic and celebrates the many ways in which art direction and set design allow us to lose ourselves in the diverse worlds showcased on the big screen.
Cathy Whitlock is an interior designer, journalist, and the author of Re-de-sign. She is a contributing writer for Traditional Home and The Huffington Post and her design, film, lifestyle, and celebrity profiles have appeared in American Airlines Celebrated Living, Architectural Digest, Glamour (UK), and Veranda magazine, among others. Her blog, Cinema Style, chronicles the world of art direction in film. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Art Directors Guild is the successor to several organizations, the earliest formed in 1924 in Hollywood. The Guild is both a professional society and a labor organization, recognized as IATSE Local 800. Its 2,000 members practice the art-crafts of: production design, art direction, illustration, set design, model making, graphic design, matte art, scenic art, and title art. Thomas A. Walsh, a narrative designer for film, television, and the Broadway stage, has served as the Guild's president since 2002.
“[Designs on Film] traces the art of building pretend worlds. Starting back in the pre-talkie years, and moving through Hollywood’s golden age and the epic-crazy ‘60s, right up to contemporary Hollywood, the book is packed with insider tidbits about the wildly inventive—and improvisational—business of movie-making.”
-Wall Street Journal
“Whitlock makes a major contribution to movie literature by saluting undersung production designers, set decorators and art directors.”
-Los Angeles Times
“An amazing glimpse into art direction.”
-The New Yorker
“This lush book of pictures and drawings showcases big-screen glamour over the decades, from the opulence of Cleopatra to the more modern majesty of Batman.
“A compendium of images celebrating iconic interiors and architecture….[Whitlock] sifted through decades of archival photographs to assemble this rare glimpse into the world of Hollywood art direction and set design. ”