‘Real Pros’ Take Attendees on Movie Production Career Paths

Attendees who dropped into a VAMA lecture received inside information on the jobs of people who create the look of the movies that filmgoers love.

By Valentina Yanez

(HOLLYWOOD, Calif.) — Gotham City in Batman, Tatooine in Star Wars films, and the magical sets of Hogwarts in Harry Potter are all created by production designers. 

They work with directors and producers to use graphics, props, sets and locations to create the visual look for movies, TV and theatre productions.   

Both the art director and the production designer are distinct career paths in a film’s art department.

The L.A. City College Visual and Media Arts Department (VAMA), sponsored the first in a series of panels on Sept. 25 via Zoom lecture with the support of the LACC Foundation.  

More than 50 current students and recent graduates attended the Reel Jobs; Real Pros panel, which explored the career pathways of Hollywood film professionals. Attendees participated in a discussion moderated by L.A. City College art professor Amarpal Khanna.  

Two production designers and an art director discussed their experiences with LACC students for about two hours. The guests included Jade Healy, a production designer who worked on films such as “I, Tonya” and Netflix’s “Marriage Story.”  

“A production designer has to read the script, bring the set to life, meet with the director, see if you are a right fit and work with the cinematographer,” said Healy who is currently working on Disney’s upcoming “Peter Pan.”  

Production designer Akin McKenzie has worked on Netflix’s “When They See Us,” created by filmmaker Ava DuVernay and on two music videos produced by rap mogul Jay Z. McKenzie is currently working on the $183 million Warner Brothers’ live-animated sequel to “Space Jam,” that will be released next year entitled “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”  

“A designer does all physical aspects of the film, aside from lighting,” McKenzie said.  

Art directors work with producers, directors and production designers to produce a creative vision. Art director Miles Michael, whose work includes “The Old Man and the Gun,” and working with Marvel’s Anthony and Joe Russo in “Cherry,” also participated in the Zoom panel. The art director brings a designer’s vision to life according to the panelists. 

The panelists also offered advice and encouragement to students who would like to work in the industry. 

“Make yourself indispensable,” Healy said.

The guest speakers also agreed that starting small, by going to local film festivals is a good exposure to the industry and added that getting your foot in the door is probably the hardest part. 

“Your hard work does not go unnoticed even if it feels like it does,” Michael said.

A recording of the panel will be made available by the LACC Foundation to all students on the college website. 

“This panel series will inform students to the jobs available in the Art Department, connect students directly to professionals currently working in the field, and discuss how to break into the Art Department to work in the movie industry,” professor Khanna said.

Artwork by Valentina Yanez

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