Production designers play a key role in film, television, and beyond. They’re responsible for the overall look and feel of what they are working on, working closely with the director to figure out how to visually tell the story.

Currently, some of Dodge College’s students are showcasing their work in the Production Design Showcase in the Main Lobby of Marion Knott Studios.

As all of the students whose work is featured agree, when you’re learning about production design, there is no better teacher than John Chichester. John, who is just finishing his first year of teaching at Dodge College, has a long list of credits, including
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Get Him to the Greek
, and
Tropic Thunder

“Many times, films are not green lit yet, but a studio knows they want to make it. A producer brings on a production designer very early on to get the look of the film down, to help present it and get the movie made,” explains Chichester. “Once it’s approved, the production designer helps to really make the world of the film come alive, from set dressings to entire worlds.”

photo of a production design model of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

A model of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

The students, who range from undergraduates to second year graduate students, were tasked with taking a play, novel, or a historical figure and creating some sets that pertain to them. As a result, there are models ranging from the Swiss Family Robinson’s Treehouse to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favorite hangout.

On display are not just models of various sets that the students created, but also concept drawings, previsualization sketches, and architectural blue prints.

Allison Krumwiede (MFA/Production Design ’15) decided to create the house from Ray Bradbury’s short story ‘The Veldt’ because she always loved the story.

“I love creating the look of a story. When I was growing up, I was always illustrating, and to be able to apply that to my love of movies was a perfect match. You design the look of everything before any other part of the production is involved, and it’s very satisfying, creatively,” says Krumwiede.

Krumwiede credits her love of comic book and graphic novels for helping shape her style and her transition into the world of production design.

The exterior of a set based on Queen Elizabeth II's childhood

The exterior of a set based on Queen Elizabeth II’s childhood

“It’s the production designer who helps create a different world and makes the story possible,” says Rui Zhao (MFA/Production Design ’14). “A well-designed filming location can help a director get more ideas of visually telling the story, inspire an actor’s performance, and make it easier for a cinematographer to capture the image.”

“Since production design is not as prevalent as directing or producing, the students wind up doing twice as much as everyone else since they are working on two to three thesis films every semester, “ says Chichester.

As for plans for the future, Chichester says, “Eventually, I’d like to get the program together with the screenwriting students, and have them really go through the process of creating a vision together early on.”

The Production Design Showcase is on display from now until Sunday, May 18.