Returning to the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown for the second consecutive year, the Art Directors Guild (ADG) held its 24th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards Saturday, February 2, 2020. The gala was presented before roughly 1,000 in attendance as well as live streamed, ensuring international members could participate.
Actress/Comedian Debra Wilson ignited the crowd with an energetic blend of comedy and appreciation of the various crafts that compose production design. In a year where the lack of diversity throughout the awards spectrum has been highlighted, Wilson did note the expanse of “white males” in the room. Avoiding a lasting sour note, Wilson encouraged the celebration of the achievements of all who were nominated, urging the attendees, “Let’s respect each other and let’s talk to each other.”
Oscar nominated director Denis Villeneuve presented the William Cameron Menzies Award posthumously to Syd Mead. The award, named after the visionary who received the first “production design by” credit for his work on Gone with the Wind, is presented to an artist that has propelled the craft of production design.
Mead, who died December, 2019, had informed Villeneuve he coined the term “visual futurist” for himself. He was a concept artist who worked on films including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Tron and Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. Villeneuve described Mead as a kind and generous man who was a “sincere optimist”, and highlighted seeing the artists original concepts for Blade Runner – images that were rejected by Ridley Scott for not being dark and dystopian. “They were really stunning, they were masterpieces.”
Chuck Lorre received the Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award for his contributions to the television landscape. For over twenty-five years, Lorre worked on over 1,000 episodes of television, creating and producing many long running comedy series. His credits include: Dharma and Greg, Two and a Half Men, Grace Under Fire, Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory, which received the evening’s award for excellence in production design for a multi camera series.
Upon receiving the award, “It’s a strange thing to be given an award for a visual art when my entire career has been built on people sitting on a couch,” said Lorre. “All I’ve been trying to do for 30 years is make people laugh. ‘Hopefully this lands in someone’s living room and makes someone laugh,’ that was the goal.” He expressed his sincere appreciation to his production designers over the years, who were in attendance for his award. “I stumbled into this job, I feel in love with it. I’m grateful for the ride we’ve been on, and we’re still going.”
Additional previously announced lifetime achievement awards were presented during the evening, including Production Designer William J. Creber, best known for his work on the Irwin Allen disaster flicks The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and the first three Planet of the Apes movies, and production designer Roland Anderson, best known for his work on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, White Christmas and Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra, who were inducted into the ADG Hall of Fame for their extraordinary contributions to the visual art of storytelling with a special presentation.
Production Designer Joe Alves, ADG, best known for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the three Jaws films, received the ADG Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Directors Council (AD). Denis Olsen, a prolific artist on movies, television, theater and commercials known for his work on Ghostbusters, Rocky 2 & 3, The Muppet Movie, Romancing the Stone and Poltergeist, was honored by the Scenic, Title and Graphic Artists Council (STG), presented by Scenic Artist.
Stephen Myles Berger, ADG, spotlighted for his work in theme parks around the world and on films such as Sunshine Boys, Basic Instinct and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, was awarded by the Set Designers and Model Makers (SDMM) Council. Jack Johnson, ADG, best known for his work on films such as Edward Scissorhands, Toys and Jurassic Park III, was honored by the Illustrators and Matte Artists (IMA) Council.