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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 30, 23-29 October 2021

Career in Art Direction and Production


Ashutosh R. Kavishwar

Light, sound, camera and action… And we see a character moving in front of the camera. Along with the character, we see a backdrop, some spaces created suitable to it. What do we see in the backdrop or in the spaces? Who creates these spaces? A lot of questions… The person behind the creation is called an Art Director and Production Designer

Film and Television are primarily visual-oriented medium. Visuals play an important role in narrating the story. Art Director and Production Designer are responsible for the visual creation of an entire Film and Television production. The concept of Production Designer was derived from the western world to India. But in earlier years of cinema, in India and in the world, an Art Director was responsible for entire visual creation or say visual design. In the 1939 film 'Gone with the Wind', Art Director William Camron Menzies created a series of sketches for the film which depicted the entire story in visual form. The numerous drawings comprised scene-byscene visuals, character design and its getup, costumes, accessories, architecture, interior spaces, furniture and everything. These efforts of Menzies made

Director Victor Fleming's work so easy that he just had to follow those drawings during the shooting of the film. At the same time, similar efforts were made by the Indian Art Directors in Indian cinema. Pioneer of Indian cinema Dadasaheb Phalke, Cinema Kesari Baburao Painter, owners of Prabhat Film Company Damle and Fattelal were all painters. So apart from other areas of film making, their involvement in visual designing, right from the character design to background architecture in their own productions, was obvious. In the further journey of Indian cinema, the same tradition was continued by Art Directors M. R. Acharekar, Bansi Chandragupta, Sudhendu Roy, Nitish Roy, Samir Chanda Sabu Cyril, Thotta Tharani, P. Krishnamurthy, Sharmishtha Roy and many others. Their tireless efforts & hunger for innovation, experimentation and research orientated approach took the profession of Art Direction to a respectful and significant position in the entire audio-visual medium.

With the progression of the technology in audio-visual medium, several key aspects of film and television production became specialised which reflected in its work process, from preproduction to post production. In this phase of specialisation, the need of a dedicated person was created, who would focus and concentrate only on the designing and visual treatment of the production. So an Art Director became Production Designer. Execution of design is an important stage in the work process of Production Design. The person who is taking care of execution of design came to be known as an Art Director. The concept of Production Designer came into existence in world cinema in late 90s and in Indian cinema at the end of 20th century. The Production Designer must have good knowledge of painting, sculpture, architecture, town planning, costume design, and material culture along with thorough knowledge of technicalities related to the film and television production work process. The situation of a story can be based on ancient period or futuristic; it can be the space with spaceship and aliens on any other planet; it can be natural calamities such as flood, earthquake; or based on a fantasy, fairy tale or a dream, a Production Designer is a person who builds and creates with the most remarkable ability, comprehensive research and creative intellect. Production designing is 50% creativity and 50% design management, so the Designer must have managerial skills along with creative intelligence, observation, visualization, and drawing skills. He must have good knowledge of local market and industrial material which is used for construction and execution. Along with key members of the production unit, he should be able to deal with the manpower involved in the set construction

With regard to the Indian and World Cinema, technology and art direction and production design has journeyed hand-inhand. The journey started with lot of experimentation in material, manual work and manual effects and reached to the use of industrial material, latest equipment in construction and digital effects. But the uniqueness of this field is an amalgamation of old practices with latest techniques in the execution of design. Still, it follows the traditional methods i.e. carpentry, moulding, painting and model making with the use of the latest equipment. Miniatures are constructed with traditional methods but shot against green/blue screen to extend it with digitally created backdrop. From Raja Harishchandra to Bahubali and from Metropolis to Black Panther, in the progression of the Indian cinema and the world cinema, contribution of Art Directors and Production Designers is extraordinary. A few institutions and Universities in U. K., U.S.A., Germany, France, Russia, Australia, South Africa conduct the programme of Art Direction and Production Design at undergraduate level and post graduate level. In India, Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII) is the only educational institute, which conducts full time programme in Art Direction and Production Design. It is a three - year Post Graduate Diploma deemed by Association of Indian Universities (AIU) as equivalent to the Master's degree.


FTII Course in Art Direction and Production Design

Students having any of the following qualifications can apply for admission to the course.


  • Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art (B.F.A.) in Applied Art/ Painting/Sculpture/ Metal Craft/ Ceramic & Pottery or
  • Bachelor's Degree in Architecture/ Interior Design and Decoration or
  • Bachelor's Degree in Visual Art (B.V.A.), Bachelor in Design (B. Des.) or
  • Bachelor of Art (B. A.) in Drawing and Painting or
  • Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design
  • Bachelor's Degree in History of Art



FTII, Pune had started imparting education in various aspects of film making since 1961. In comparison to other courses, Art Direction and Production Design is a young course in FTII. It was started in the year 1996 under film wing and completed 25 glorious years in 2021. It is a coincidence that at the same time FTII film wing is in its 60th year and Television wing is in its 50th year. Alumni of Art Direction and Production Design course have established themselves as accomplished craftsman and technician in Indian film industry. With maintaining the legacy of the institute and spectacular career as a Production Designer, the alumni have won several popular film awards in Hindi cinema and the South Indian film industry. The salient feature of the course is an amalgamation of theory, demo and practical inputs in various aspects of Art Direction and Production Design. After the basics in various fields of film making, students learn several aspects of Art Direction and Production Design in the specialisation. Students participate as Art Director and Production Designer in several students' exercises and projects. Regular interactions with eminent Production Designers of India, study tours to shooting locales to study set construction and understanding professional functioning are the highlights of the course. Students' exchange programme to La Femis', Paris is the special feature of this course.


Career opportunities - In the beginning phase of the audiovisual medium, cinema was the only medium as a career opportunity for an Art Director. But today, due to the changing scenario of technology, several opportunities are at our doorstep. One can establish himself/ herself as an Art Director/Production Designer in TV industry (television serials, television shows, news studios and audience participatory programs), ad films and TV commercial, corporate films, web series, events and reality shows. In today's world of specialization, there are a lot of opportunities in the field of production design itself. One can start his/her career as drafting and drawing skill artist, model maker, props designer, set decorator, eventually becoming Art Director and Production Designer. One has to be aware that to become a Production Designer one has to be a good Art Director first.


(The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Art Direction and Production Design, FTII, Pune. He can be reached at ashudesign@ yahoo.co.in/kavishwarashu tosh72@gmail.com) Views expressed are personal