You ever notice how the little things in films are what usually make it feel big? For example wardrobe, props, hair/make up, color schemes? I don't care what anybody says, sweet camera moves and great acting can only get you....Well, sweet camera moves and great acting. Art should be on the very top of your list when doing any creative project. It fills the gaps, its the skin on the skeleton, its a MUST.
So your budgets are usually aren't large enough to afford one those Artsy types. Why should that stop you? Ask any director and they're gonna tell you that directing is 95% pre-production. Don't have the money to hire someone? Do it yourself, after all you're the one with the vision. All you really need is TIME and to be a little scrappy. But if you can find volunteer or have it in your budget I definitely recommend finding a dedicated person for the job.
Other than my cinematographer the one person to have in your pre-production as early as possible is your art director. From set decor to color pallets, this person will direct all the stuff that you don't have time to rack your brain for as the shoot days creep closer. Being able to explain vision two weeks before hand in pre-production to another creative and letting them run with it is a huge relief, plus it will make your sets,wardrobes, props all the better. Lets be honest, your brain only has so much ram, and you don't want to be worrying about color pallets and fabric. A director is a communicator, so communicate what needs to be to the right people, and your doing your job.
Just like you and 96% of everybody else who love's their job, we take on some ambitious projects. When this happens, nothing matters. Time. Money. Talent .Whatever is takes to get it done, right? But spreading yourself too thin sucks. This is when your delegation skill as a director comes in. This is when I brought Marissa Montgomery on board. She's like the "Mighty Mouse" of art directors. I say that only because this was her first big job on a set and she killed it!
After a few initial meetings with me acting out all action in the script to Kill Bill music she was pretty clear on the vision. (When directing a creative I like to simply explain objective and let them run wild. Thats where the magic happens.) She came up with some mood boards and hit it hard! The mood boards were great they gave clarification that we we're on the same page, and it also helped with sparking some good idea's.
Marissa took a not so big budget and hit the thrift stores, good will, even the actors closets. We checked in every few days, she gave me options, I'll I needed to give was a simple "yes" or "no". A few minor logo emergencies and some over night sewing sessions later she had an entire wardrobe ready for 13 different people. PLUS she was $250 under budget!
On set she made sure to make all actors look the part and directed our hair and make up unit accordingly. She also had the help of my good friend/fellow director Grant Spanier, who ended up designing our post art work.
What I learned
Working with someone you trust can make a world of difference. I knew Marissa would get it done and make it look amazing as long as she was given the right information. Also the important's of delegation. I may of been the director but I wouldn't of been skilled in the right way's to pull this off, let alone half of everything else on set. If you cant do it yourself, find someone who can. Or better yet, if someones better at it than you, let them do it. But most of all the role that art plays in motion picture. Having a stylized project really makes you think about the finest of details in all other production categories like camera movement, shot style, actor direction.
When it comes down to it its really to captivate audience and bring them into the world you've created.
You're probably wondering, she did this all herself? Don't you usually have an entire art department and separate wardrobe? Well yeah...And I'm sure I speak for Ms. Montgomery when I say she would of liked that too. It just wasn't an option. Go watch "The Report Card" and imagine it with half ass wardrobe, it would be a half ass project. Good art on your set can make all the difference. Hats off to Marissa Montgomery and all you art directors out there taking care of the finer details, thank you!
Marissa's site - http://www.marissagmontgomery.com/