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Art Directors Honor Excellence in Production Design

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From left: Sarah Greenwood, production designer for Anna Karenina, winner for period film; Tom Walsh, president of the Art Directors Guild, and Dennis Gassner, production designer for Skyfall, winner for contemporary film.
Production designers for Anna Karenina, Life of Pi and Skyfall were the winners in the three feature film categories – period, fantasy and contemporary, respectively – at the 17th annual Art Directors Guild Awards held Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton hotel. In the five television categories, the top awards went to the production designers for Game of Thrones, Girls, American Horror Story, The 84th Annual Oscars, and Saturday Night Live.

Hosting for the fourth consecutive year was comedian Paula Poundstone, who again got laughs from attendees by asking members of the audience slyly uninformed questions about production design and art direction.

Competition was fierce in all categories. All three winners in the feature film categories were also past ADG awards recipients:

Dennis Gassner, production designer for Skyfall, the latest addition to the James Bond franchise, received the contemporary film kudo. He had previously won the ADG award for The Golden Compass in 2008.

It was the second consecutive ADG win for Sarah Greenwood, production designer for Anna Karenina in period films. She was similarly honored last year for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Greenwood is one of five nominees for the best production design Oscar, to be handed out at the Academy Awards at the end of February.

So is David Gropman, this year’s winner of the ADG Award for fantasy film for his production design work on Life of Pi. He previously received an award for Chocolat in 2001.

Based on their ADG wins, Greenwood and Gropman should be regarded as favorites for the Oscar for best production design, (the new name for what had been the Oscar for best art direction since the beginning of the Academy Awards in 1928). The other three 2013 Oscar production design nominees are Eve Stewart for Les Miserables, Rick Carter for Lincoln and Dan Henna for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey who were all ADG awards nominees.

Television ADG Winners

Gemma Jackson, production designer for HBO’s Game of Thrones, received the award for “one-hour single-camera television series.” The kudo for “television movie or mini-series” went to Mark Worthington for American Horror Story. Judy Becker, production designer for Girls, the new HBO hit, won for “half-hour single camera television series. “ Saturday Night Live production designers Keith Ian Raymond, Eugene Lee, Akira Yoshimura and N. Joseph Detullio won for “multi-camera variety or unscripted series” for the SNL episode hosted by Mick Jagger. And multi-Oscar winner John Myhre got the award for his production design for the 84th Annual Oscar Awards, in the “awards, music, game shows” category. The Oscars show is a perennial winner.

Finally, Christopher Glass got the ADG award for commercials and music videos for his production design for the X-Box “Halo 4” video game ad.

A coterie of special awards were handed out for memorable achievements in the history of production design.

The ADG Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Herman Zimmerman who is known for designing Star Trek, both on television and in the series of movies. There was a lengthy tribute but Zimmerman was not there to receive the award for health reasons. His longtime art department collaborators Michael Okuda and Alec Bernstein accepted on his behalf.

On the 50th Anniversary of the long-running James Bond series of films, the outstanding contribution to cinematic imagery award went to the four production designers who have worked on the films: Sir Ken Adam, Allan Cameron, Peter Lamont and Dennis Gassner. The latter three were there to accept the award and Adam, who was first in line with Dr. No and went on to do six more Bond films, addressed the audience in a pre-recorded video. Also recipients of the special award were Bond film producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

There were three more inductees into the Art Directors Guild Hall of Fame:

Preston Ames (1907-1983) worked often with director Vincent Minelli on the glorious MGM technicolor musicals of the 1950s including An American in Paris and Gigi (he won an Oscar for each), and also Brigadoon, The Band Wagon and Kismet.

Richard MacDonald (1919-1993) was a British production designer who worked both in England and the United States. He collaborated with director Joseph Losey on 15 films. Other credits include The Day of the Locust, Far From the Madding Crowd and Marathon Man, all for director John Schlesinger.

Edward S. Stephenson (1917-2011) worked largely in television. He won the first of three Emmy’s for designing An Evening With Fred Astaire in 1958, a landmark special in the golden age of TV. He had a longstanding relationship with Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, and did production design for All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude and Good Times.

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