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Lincoln wins for best production design! Congratulations!

Congratulations to 2013 Oscar Winners: Rick Carter (Production Design) and Jim Erickson (Set Decoration) for LINCOLN
The Oscars will be airing LIVE February 24, 4p PT/7p ET on ABC.

2013 OSCAR NIGHT: The Nominees for Best Production Design

The city is abuzz with the Oscars just around the corner.  Living in Los Feliz, a neighborhood in the Hollywood district, I can definitely feel the electricity in the air.  This particular Oscar category is near and dear to my heart.  I have always had a passion for visually telling a story through setting and style.  I began my career working on theater sets in college as an inexperienced but enthusiastic 17 year old.  To this day, every project I work on comes from a story telling perspective.  What story do I want this art installation, home, event, room, restaurant, office or retail space to tell?  This year there are five films recognized for outstanding achievement in a motion picture for the newly renamed category of Best Production Design formerly known as Best Art Direction.  Below I have listed information on the film, the production designers and set decorators nominated, their award history and some videos and pictures to give you the overall feel of their work.  Most of the pictures link to other articles and blogs which give even more in-depth information from knowledgeable resources.  Keep an eye on the Concept Malik facebook page for tips on hosting your own Oscar party. Best of luck to all the incredibly talented and inspiring nominees.  Enjoy the show!

ANNA KARENINA: Sarah Greenwood (Production Design); Katie Spencer (Set Decoration)

This is the fourth Academy Award nomination for Sarah Greenwood.  She was previously nominated for:
SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) Nominee, Art Direction
ATONEMENT (2007) Nominee, Art Direction
PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005) Nominee, Art Direction


This is the fourth Academy Award nomination for Katie Spencer.  She was previously nominated for:
SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) Nominee, Art Direction
ATONEMENT (2007) Nominee, Art Direction
PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005) Nominee, Art Direction

Set sketch for “Anna Karenina”, courtesy of Sarah Greenwood
Set sketch for “Anna Karenina”, courtesy of Sarah Greenwood
Ostentation and opulence abound with gilt consoles, jewel-tone brocades, and damasks embroidered with classic symbols of wealth. Photo: Laurie Sparham\Focus Features
The floor was painted faux marble and, as Greenwood notes, “The ‘scenery’ was representative of formal court architecture, painted in a traditional baroque theatrical manner with wings and false perspective.” Photo: Laurie Sparham\Focus Features



I do realize this is not production design but the brilliant sketch from three-time Oscar nominee and costume designer Jacqueline Durran.  The leading lady's color palette skews toward rich reds, purples, and blacks—the former exhibited in the crimson ball gown she wears for another dance with Vronsky amidst rumors of their affair.  The dresses in this movie are exquisite with each telling a story.  "Durran reimagined the ensembles originally described by Leo Tolstoy in the book with whimsical touches, such as asymmetrical, Balenciaga-inspired bodices, $2 million worth of Chanel diamond and pearl accessories." - via  Click on the sketch to read more about the costume design process of Anna Karenina.

Click on this picture for more in-depth production design information. COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES

Commentary on Anna Karenina: Why was it nominated?  Stunning.  Every single frame is gorgeously done in almost a theatrical stage stylization.  From the wall paper to the gilding to the extraordinary faux finishes and detailing, this production design is perfection.  The color palette alone is a stand out.  This is my pick for which production team should win Oscar.  Will they?  That remains to be seen.  Their strongest competition will be Life of Pi.  Unfortunately, non-blockbuster movies like Anna Karenina can only hope that enough people took the time to watch their film before voting.  Also, they were not nominated for best picture, actor or director which gives the film less visibility.  If you love design, this film is a must see.



THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY: Dan Hennah (Production Design);Ra Vincent & Simon Bright (Set Decoration)

This is the fifth Academy Award nomination for Dan Hennah.  He was previously nominated for:
KING KONG (2005) Nominee, Art Direction
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002) Nominee, Art Direction


This is the first Academy Award nomination for Ra Vincent.


This is the second Academy Award nomination for Simon Bright.  He was previously nominated for:
KING KONG (2005) Nominee, Art Direction

Production designer Dan Hennah on the set of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (James Fisher / New Line Cinema / MGM / Warner Bros.)
“The main design influence for Rivendell”—the elfin Misty Mountain outpost ruled over by the seated Elrond (Hugo Weaving)—“is the Art Nouveau period, but mixed with elvish ethereal whimsy,” notes Hennah. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Production designer Dan Hennah, who trained as an architect, worked with both digital and physical sets on an 8-acre production facility in his native New Zealand while creating the worldscape for Bilbo Baggin staying true to the book. Photo: Warner Bros.
Production designer Dan Hennah on set decorators Ra Vincent and Simon Bright. Photo: Warner Bros Films

"My role was liaising with our director and concept artists and evaluating what we could best design, while giving visual effects clean lines for set extensions. Simon, with his on-set background and knowledge of construction, provided and decorated environments that would work for the shoot and stand up to the abuses of a 200-strong crew. Ra, with his background in sculpture and fine art, was invaluable in the innovative use of material and fabrics and application of our color palettes. As we built and dressed 103 sets, we told the story through art and architecture." - Dan Hennah via

Commentary on The Hobbit:  Why was it nominated?  Lord of the Rings.  Although the Hobbit was heavily criticized as sloppy, no one can make that statement about the incredible worlds that were created within the over 100 different sets they built.  Each set was artistically carved to bring us into a new world.  They earned their nomination.  Will they win?  I think they are just happy to be nominated.        



LES MISERABLES: Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration)

This is the third Academy Award nomination for Eve Stewart.  She was previously nominated for:
THE KING'S SPEECH (2010) Nominee, Art Direction
TOPSY-TURVY (1999) Nominee, Art Direction


This is the first Academy Award nomination for Anna Lynch-Robinson.

Oscar-nominated production designer Eve Stewart was inspired to create Gavroche’s elephant after reading a passage in Victor Hugo’s novel. Courtesy of Eve Stewart
A team of more than 200 sculptors, painters, and carpenters, Stewart transformed the tallest soundstage at Pinewood Studios into the crooked streets of the French capital. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures. - Via

Commentary on Les Miserables: Why was it nominated? *crickets* The Academy likes musicals? I liked the elephant.  They actually won the BAFTA for Production Design.  Let’s face it…it is an aesthetically challenged movie.  Will they win?  Only if people blindly jump on the Les Mis bandwagon and/or didn’t watch any of the other films.  Any given Sunday…




LIFE OF PI: David Gropman (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

This is the second Academy Award nomination for David Gropman.  He was previously nominated for:
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999) Nominee, Art Direction


This is the third Academy Award nomination for Anna Pinnock.  She was previously nominated for:
THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007) Nominee, Art Direction
GOSFORD PARK (2001) Nominee, Art Direction

Gropman re-created Pi’s namesake landmark—the Piscine Molitor in Paris—on a tarmac at the abandoned airport in Thailand where they filmed. Production team rebuilt the 50-meter pool’s complete footprint, a walkway, balcony painted in a vibrant color to pop
Some of the animal sequences were filmed at the Taipei Zoo. Production designers hand-painted murals and created composite paintings to make the setting more elaborate. COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX.

Commentary on Life of Pi:  Why was it nominated?  Like most, I walked out of the movie theater thinking it was one of the most beautiful films I had ever seen. From the vibrant colors in the zoo to the awe-inspiring water scenes, it was a visual masterpiece.  Will they win?  It depends on if the members saw it as truly inspired production design or mainly a CGI special effects movie.  It is head to head with Anna Karenina. Both are films that every designer should see for inspiration.



LINCOLN: Rick Carter (Production Design); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)

This is the fourth Academy Award nomination for Rick Carter.  He was previously nominated for:
WAR HORSE (2011) Nominee, Art Direction
AVATAR (2009) Winner, Art Direction
FORREST GUMP (1994) Nominee, Art Direction

This is the second Academy Award nomination for Jim Erickson.  He was previously nominated for:
THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) Nominee, Art Direction

"Knowing that I was going to do it from the inside out and how deep that imagery was going to be inside of his head, is a very different way of designing. It's more than just adding the historically correct physical details."-Rick Carter Photo:David James
“This cinematic portrait of Lincoln was designed from the inside out,” Carter says. “Every aesthetic choice hopefully resonates with the heart and soul of the man portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis, as written by Tony Kushner..." Photo: David James
Courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox

I highly recommend this 34 minute discussion from DP/30 featuring (l-r) cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, costume designer Joanna Johnston, production designer Rick Carter, make-up designer Lois Burwell.  It is a great resource for learning the intricacies involved in filming a period piece.

Commentary on Lincoln:  Why was it nominated?  The Details.  I watched various interviews with the production designer and it apparently has the most accurately replicated offices that has been ever been portrayed in a film.  I read that even the candy wrappers were painstakingly chosen to be replicated.  I love that so much effort was put into honoring the last three months of President Lincoln’s life.  As a designer, I can only imagine the amount of research that went into designing every location, with in every frame down to the last candy wrapper.  Within time and budget constraints as well?! These designers are my heroes.  Will it win?  With the exception of Daniel Day Lewis continuing his eternal run of Oscar wins, I feel like the film has not been appreciated as it should be.  There seems to be a cynicism towards it as if everyone knows it must be nominated for the quality of the work but snubbed for the final wins.  (I die a little inside every time Sally Field gets passed up for Jennifer Lawrence.  But that is another blog.)  The only way I could see it having a chance is if the film wins for Best Picture.   However, I am still betting the academy will choose between Anna Karenina and Life of Pi to be the production teams to beat.  But if there is just a little legitamacy in the Oscars...the real competition of true production design without all the special effects...then Anna Karenina and Lincoln are truly the ones to beat.

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