ASK A PRO: Dalila Mendez, Production Designer
Dalila Paola Mendez is a first generation Guatemalan/Salvadoran queer artist born and raised in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California. A versatile artist, she works in several media including acrylic paint, silkscreen, etching, digital art, photography and film. Most recently, she provided production design for the award-winning film Mosquita y Mari.
When it comes to filmmaking, production designers are key. They’re the ones responsible for the overall look and visual feel of a story, including the locations, set designs and prop choices, which requires close collaboration with the director and DP. Here, Dalila shares some of her production design do’s and don’ts to get you started.
1. What are the three most common mistakes indie filmmakers make with regard to production design — and how can filmmakers avoid them?
✓ DON’T: skimp on your art department budget. It tends to be the first to be cut down, which can be disastrous. It’s extremely important in creating the look for the film; it really is a character in itself. If you are strapped for cash, there should be at least a small amount for the art department, and then it really requires a production designer to be creative and to use their resources.
✓ DON’T: wait to hire your production designer. Always have the production designer start in the pre-production stage to begin working with the director and cinematographer to begin creating the look of the film.
✓ DON’T: forget about your set dresser. Always have a set dresser on hand, even if it’s a PA. Make sure they are meticulous to details so they can redress a set and maintain continuity.
2. What are the top three things filmmakers should do to achieve a top dollar, high-value look for their film?
✓ DO: pay attention to details. Make sure your art department team is detail-oriented.
✓ DO: be resourceful — get locations that really work for the look of the film, so you can use what is already available at the locations to add to the visual narrative.
✓ DO: use your ingenuity. Choose a production designer that understands the film you’re trying to make and will make choices that complement and contribute to the film’s creative vision.
3. Required viewing — your top three films of all time:
Blade Runner, Moulin Rouge and In the Mood for Love.
4. Required reading — must-read material for production design:
- Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction by Cathy Whitlock
- The Filmmaker’s Guide to Production Design by Vincent LoBrutto
- a color swatch book from Behr or Glidden paints is indispensable
5. How can filmmakers find a production designer? How can they contact you?
Film Independent’s Project Involve program is a great way to meet diverse, independent filmmakers! And filmmakers are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– by Lee Jameson, Film Education Coordinator
October 3rd, 2012 • No Comments