Editor's note: Up until now the focus of this blog has been on exploring aspects of OOKKUU's products, such as their construction, history, and use, but that is hardly the full extent of what we wish to accomplish here. Our overarching goal in running this blog is to prompt thought and conversation on the purpose and various roles of design in our world. We believe such context can help create a deeper understanding of the quality present in the pieces we carry. With this goal in mind, we reached out to William Budge and Nicole Löbart, both of whom are established film designers, to ask if they might contribute an article on their work and the role of design in film. The result is the article below, which we are glad to be able to share here. We invite our readers to leave us a comment or e-mail us with any questions or notes.
INT. BEDROOM - DAWN
A man sits at the edge of his bed. A cold breeze washes over him. He looks up at the sound of early morning traffic: The delivery trucks are arriving. He glides into his slippers and slowly walks over to the bathroom.
Who is this man? Where does he live? What are his interests and his status in life? What is the layout of his place and how does he move through it? Where does light come from, and what is this scene about? These are some of the questions film designers must answer when beginning to create the look of a film.
In film, the designer creates for dramatic purposes and develops a visual concept of the thematic, psychological and emotional concerns of the screenplay. A film is like a mosaic in which each piece relates to the whole and every set supports the context of the story. The designer examines what the story is about and translates it into practical sets that frame the action and serve as a stage for the actors.
Conceptual art for the film TRESPASS, which shows the architecturally beautiful yet sparse interior set design.
For TRESPASS that stage is a modern mansion in which an estranged couple, portrayed by Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage, live. Their characters are dwarfed by the space surrounding them. They appear lost. Sharp angles, slick surfaces and an absence of personal belongings remind the viewer of a public space, rather than a home. Even the open floorplan kitchen and adjacent dining area, purposefully located close to the front door, are uninviting. The house mirrors their broken relationship. It feels cold and dead — a place where no life takes place. Large windows and ceiling beams allow for a theatrical and moody lighting concept, further enhancing the progression of the story. To reflect Nicole Kidman’s eclectic taste as an architect, the house is furnished with beautiful and select furniture, designed by Eames, Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe.
Image of the house from the film THE SECRET SEA, which reflects both the environment and the character that lives there.
A very different kind of house was built on a rural location for the period film THE SECRET SEA. Here the house itself is dwarfed by the elements of nature. Like its owner, a poor fisherman who lost his wife to the ocean but has not lost hope, it stands strong and proud. The house was constructed by hand using raw and naturally aged materials from its surroundings, such as stone, wood, clay, straw and moss.
In the Film DON’T COME KNOCKING, Sam Shepard’s character, an alcoholic has-been western movie star, is searching for his long-lost past by visiting his mother and the places he grew up in. To create a theatrical and timeless setting for his time travel and search for identity, locations were altered by using a restricted color palette and removing distracting details like trash cans, street signs, and advertisements. This puts the viewer into the mind of the lonely character, who is so wrapped up in himself he doesn’t see much of the world around him.
Image of the lush rainforest constructed for Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT concert series.
Environments for film do not only include man-made structures. Sometimes the story unfolds in a natural setting, taking the spectator to caves, deserts, swamps, and forests. For THIS IS IT, Michael Jackson’s planned concert series, a magical rainforest “grew on stage” to show the wonders of the natural world, and then “lit on fire” to raise awareness of the devastating effects humans have on the Amazon. Two different sets with custom designed trees, a pond, grass patches and flower beds were created. To contrast the lush green utopian scene, smoldering black skeleton trees, tree stumps as well as a bulldozer were constructed.
The burned remains of the rainforest, constructed for Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT concert series.
Designing for the moving image is not about making pretty images, but about complementing and expressing stories visually. Every set, prop, and landscape create mood, inform the viewer what the scene is about, and who the characters are in it. Combined, these build a world unique to each film.
By William Budge and Nicole Löbart for OOKKUU
All artwork and photography is copyright c the red 5 design group, Nicole Löbart and William Budge, unless otherwise attributed to the respective owners.
Nicole Löbart is a conceptual designer and illustrator working in Los Angeles.
WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT, SONY PICTURES, UNIVERSAL PICTURES, DISNEY, THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY, NU IMAGE, MILLENNIUM ENTERTAINMENT, IFC FILMS, CRYSTAL SKY PICTURES, ENTERTAINMENT ONE, STARZ, AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT, APPLE.
Nicole was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. She expressed an early interest in the visual arts in the form of whimsical crayon murals covering her parent’s living room, and vibrant grass paintings on the facades of freshly renovated houses. She also enjoyed building duct tape spaceships and testing her self-made bow and arrow on the neighborhood boys.
Today Nicole has created concept art for some of the most innovative filmmakers of our time including Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Zack Snyder and Michael Jackson. She is the co-founder of the red5 design group, where she collaborated on numerous commercials, music videos and films. As an Art Director, she has been fortunate to work with critically acclaimed director Wim Wenders and co-writer Sam Shepard.
Nicole holds an MFA in Theater Design, graduating with honors from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany. She also holds an MFA in Production Design from the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles under tutelage of legendary production designer Robert F. Boyle. There she was sponsored entirely on scholarships from American Express and the Carl Duisberg Society.
Her multifaceted career has spanned multiple categories and countries, beginning with her theater work in Germany and continuing in the United States in feature film. Nicole is a dual card member of the Art Directors Guild in Los Angeles and just finished her first children’s book.
William Budge is a production designer, art director, and illustrator working in cinema.
HBO PICTURES, NETFLIX, WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT, SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT, PARAMOUNT PICTURES, DISNEY, FOX TELEVISION, THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY, NU IMAGE / MILLENIUM ENTERTAINMENT, SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT, IFC FILMS, COLUMBIA PICTURES, CRYSTAL SKY PICTURES, HASBRO, HUMMER, VICTORIA'S SECRET, MICROSOFT, APPLE
William is currently the VFX art director on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Prior he art directed the new Netflix show THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, based on the best-selling novel of the same name. He recently completed art direction on the HBO show QUARRY as well as the Paramount feature film SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, and the Fox television show RAKE, directed by Sam Raimi, Jon Avnet, and Amy Heckerling.
Among others he worked with director Joel Schumacher on TRESPASS, collaborated with Michael Jackson on his last tour THIS IS IT, and art directed for multiple award winning director Wim Wenders on the films LAND OF PLENTY and DON’T COME KNOCKING.
Accomplished in many disciplines, William created designs and artwork for Apple iPad billboard campaigns, film posters, and numerous commercials and feature films.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Design and an International Design Excellence Award (IDEA), as well as an MFA in Production Design from the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles.
He is a member of the Art Directors Guild.