A few months ago, a local film school asked me if I’d be interested in teaching a production design class for them. I told them I had never designed for the movies, but, the more we talked, the more I realized that production design is very similar to set design, so I agreed to do the class. Then I immediately went looking for books on production design to pick up on anything I didn’t know.
That’s when I found two books that can not only also apply to theatrical set design, but that cover a number of topics I haven’t seen in set design books, which, for the most part, tend to cover design itself briefly and then move right into how to build scenery. There are other books on the subject, but these were the two I was able to get through my public library, and both are available through Amazon.
The first is The Filmmaker’s Guide to Production Design by Vincent LoBrutto, and you can view the table of contents online at https://www.amazon.com/Filmmakers-Guide-Production-Design/dp/1581152248#reader_1581152248. The book covers topics such as how to visualize a screenplay (the same thing we do with a script) and how to interpret the characters visually (ditto). It also has a good section on research, and chapters on design drawings, color, texture, architecture, and genres (a chapter that I found especially appropriate to live theatre). It even includes a list of one hundred films to study for production design.
The second book is Production Design for Screen: Visual Storytelling in Film and Television, by Jane Barnwell. This one covers the design process, the visual concept, how to use space, light, color, set decoration, and other topics, and, like the other book, focuses everything on how to use visual design to help tell the story. You can view the table of contents at https://www.amazon.com/Production-Design-Screen-Storytelling-Television/dp/1472580672/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_img_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=X9MGQ1P7Z7S2MMA6GHFV#reader_1472580672.
I’ve been saying for years that I think it’s sad that theatre people tend to focus mostly on books and magazines on live theatre, and that more cross-pollination would would be a huge help. These two books definitely fit into that thinking process. Please check them out.