What do you mean by “Art Director?”

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This is the question I get asked when I tell my friends and family that I work as the “Art Director” on the show Impress Me (formerly known as The Impression Guys) that premieres on Wednesday 3/18 at 10:30pm on Pop TV (first plug: complete 😉 )

Let me start by saying that I am a low-budget Art Director that works almost exclusively with independent projects. On a big budget movie where there is an actual Art Department, this job would be very different. Wikipedia actually does a decent job of explaining the Art Department Hierarchy.

Now back to what I do :)

For Impress Me, specifically, this is what my job looked like.

  • Get an email from Ben (the Writer/Director) with a rough version of the script.
  • Read through the script and make a list of any time an actor uses a prop, a set piece, or needs special wardrobe.
  • Email that list to Ben and see what is already on set, what the actors can bring themselves, and what I need to track down or create.
  • Start tracking down and making stuff!
  • Email the cast or other crew members the things that they are responsible for bringing.
  • The day before each day of shooting, pack everything up that I need to bring and send reminder emails to cast and crew that are responsible for bringing props/wardrobe/set pieces.

Then it turned into an entirely different job once I got on set. On larger budget productions, sets are built from scratch and then decorated from scratch and everything that is on screen is there very intentionally. On lower budget productions, typically a space is rented that is already furnished/decorated and you work with what you have. The latter was Impress Me (which airs this Wednesday night 3/18 at 10:30pm on Pop TV!)

We would bring the additional props that we needed for the story and then redecorate to make things work on camera. Kinda like this –

  • Get to set.
  • Eat a bagel.
  • Find out what scene we are shooting first.
  • Get the actors into that wardrobe so that they can get their mics on (Eric and Ian, you’re welcome.)
  • Go find out what the first shot is.
  • While they are lighting that shot, move everything around so that it looks good on camera.
  • Get the props ready.
  • Makeup check/hand the actor a tissue to dampen the shine and…
  • Action!
  • Reset the props.
  • Action!
  • Reset the props.
  • Action!
  • Etc.
  • Find out what the next shot is and repeat! For 16 hours. Usually.

One fun fact is that Impress Me is a TV show that was shot like a movie. Instead of shooting one episode at a time, we shot all the episodes (that were written) at one time. This happened in three rounds, with the latest installment being the last seven episodes of 160 pages shot in 14 days (if you’d like to see tons of behind the scenes photos from that shoot just search the hashtag #theimpressionguys on Twitter).

Which means that the show was not shot consecutively. So keeping track of which props and wardrobe were needed on which days was also part of my job. We discovered early on that the easiest way to keep track of wardrobe was to take photos of the actors in their wardrobe with the slate…

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It also lead me to end several emails with the phrase “…and bring Walken just in case.”

I’m not going to lie to you guys…acting on the show was the highlight. It’s my favorite thing to do and that’s why I’m in LA chasing it down.

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(So watch me this Wednesday 3/18 on Pop TV in the series premiere of Impress Me!)

But doing this, with this team, was the closest 2nd place I’ll ever have.

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<3 Fannypack

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