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The Importance of Production Design in 2 Minutes

You don't need $150 million to have great art direction. What you do need is an understanding of design principles, a vision and deliberate execution. Practical lights and some props help, too.

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First thing’s first – the reason a Stanley Kubrick movie looks great is because of Stanley Kubrick. Yes, he had cinematographers – but their vision for the visuals took a backseat (a very distant backseat) to what Kubrick had in mind. That being said, Stanley was never technically his own cinematographer and he ended up using John Alcott in most of his later movies – presumably for his lighting prowess (and probably his obedience). Even so – watch almost any acceptance speech for “best cinematography” and the cinematographer will almost always thank another person: the production designer.

Simply put, how do you expect to have a good shot with nothing decent to shoot?

Here are some of Stanley’s (and John Alcott’s) production designers:

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
Harry Lange & Ernest Archer

“A Clockwork Orange” (1971)
John Barry

“Barry Lyndon” (1975)
Ken Adam

“The Shining” (1980)
Roy Walker

“Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
Anton Furst

Fun fact about “Full Metal Jacket” – for some scenes, Kubrick set off dynamite in some of the buildings without telling the actors to get authentic reactions.

Got another 2 minutes? Here’s why you should watch “Full Metal Jacket:”

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