[Press Release by ACMI]

A new exhibition, Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia, opened December 4 for an exclusive season at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia is an astonishing behind the scenes examination of filmmaking through production design. Devoted to the work of film production designers, set designers and film architects, the exhibition pays tribute to the artists behind seminal works of film covering almost a century.

Featuring more than 300 original sketches, storyboards and models behind some of the most recognisable cinematic worlds, Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia explores how spaces are constructed and how production design influences the narrative, mood and atmosphere of a film.

ACMI Director Tony Sweeney today said that the exhibition is a welcome spotlight on an often forgotten part of the film making process. “Film designers are ‘architects of illusion’ who weave magic on and off the screen,” he said. “They play a major role in creating the atmosphere of a film, which ultimately allows us as audiences to be transported to other worlds, sometimes magical, sometimes dark, but always remarkable and entertaining.”

“Through the history of film, production designers have been involved in numerous aspects of the filmmaking process, from the design and construction of physical studio sets to the digital creation of complex, computer-generated environments that we see today. The breadth and scope of the material presented in Setting the Scene and the films featured is truly striking,” said Tony.

One of the major attractions of the exhibition is the undoubtedly the exclusive showcase of the work from Baz Luhrmann’s epic Australia, by double Academy Award winning Australian production designer, Catherine Martin, and her team.
ACMI has worked closely with one of Australia’s Art Directors Karen Murphy curate this section, which features design concepts, sketches, models and research material as well as the actual living room set of the Faraway Downs homestead, providing visitors with a unique and timely opportunity to step ‘on set’ of Australia.

Speaking at the opening, Karen reflected on working on Australia. “It’s incredibly rewarding working as an Art Director on a Baz Luhrmann film, because the art department is unique. The production designer, Catherine Martin, is responsible for the images that inform and amplify the story from the research stage through to the final days of post production. The truth is in the strength and layering of the early images you see here in the gallery, and they end up on the screen,” she said.

“I’ve loved being involved in this exhibition. It’s a wonderful celebration of the contribution of the talented pool of artists, from set designers, model-makers, set dressers, digital 3D modelers and craftspeople brought together by the production designer to help create those final, rich and memorable worlds we experience in Australia and in all of the films featured here at ACMI,” said Karen.

Also in attendance was AFI Award winning production designer, Roger Ford whose work on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is featured in the exhibition.

When speaking about bringing classics like C.S Lewis’ novels to life through created environments, Roger said the task is at first daunting. “These are much loved books read by the most discerning audience – children – each with their own idea of what the land of Narnia should look like so it is a huge responsibility.”

“In order to surprise and delight them in the cinema, you have to go further than their imagination takes them. It is intimidating but very exciting for a production designer. It’s like a playground for the imagination,” he said.
Other Australian production designers with work featured in Setting The Scene, include Chris Kennedy (The Proposition and forthcoming release The Road), George Liddle (Dark City), Owen Patterson (The Matrix trilogy and Speed Racer), Stephen Curtis (beDevil and Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy) and Steven Jones-Evans (Ned Kelly).

The exhibition features works from over 80 films, created by more than 30 internationally acclaimed production designers, including Ken Adam, Anna Asp, Dante Ferretti, Frank Schroedter, Robert Herlth and Alex McDowell. Other films featured in the exhibition include The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Mon Oncle (1958), Dr. Strangelove (1964), The Apartment (1960), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Cabaret (1972), Alien (1979), The Shining (1980), The Cat in the Hat (2003), Dogville (2003), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Terminal (2004).

Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia opens on Thursday 4 December 2008 until Sunday 19 April 2009.

For more information, please visit: www.acmi.net.au