At the 18th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards on Feb. 8, production designers for The Great Gatsby, Her and Gravity were winners in the triple-decker feature film category. The top television accolades went to production designers for Game of Thrones, Behind the Candelabra and Veep.
Other highlights of the Art Director’s Guild‘s annual awards dinner, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in the International Ballroom, included the ADG Lifetime Achievement Award, given to Rick Carter, known for his work on Forrest Gump, Avatar and Lincoln, among many other films; and the receipt by director Martin Scorsese of the guild’s Cinematic Imagery Award. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, stars of The Wolf of Wall Street, introduced the film’s director. Both Carter and Scorsese received a standing ovation from the 800 attendees.
The ADG gives out awards in three feature film categories, differentiated by themes and historic periods. Catherine Martin won in the best period film category for her production design for The Great Gatsby, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Andy Nicholson received his award for the lost-in-space thriller Gravity, in the fantasy film division; and K.K. Barrett won for Her, about a virtual romantic relationship set in the near future, in the contemporary film category.
All three of the ADG feature film winners are also among the five nominees competing for the best production design Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards in March, along with two other ADG nominees for the films American Hustle and 12 years A Slave.
For television production design, Gemma Jackson received the award for Game of Thrones, for the “Valara Dohaeris” episode of the popular fantasy series, in the one-hour single camera series format; Howard Cummings triumphed in the television movie or mini-series category for Behind the Candelabra, the tell-almost-all depiction of Liberace and his gay lover, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, that has grabbed kudos at this year’s awards shows in nearly every category; and Jim Gloster for the half-hour single camera series Veep, about a female vice president starring Julia Louise Dreyfus, for the “Helsinki” episode.
One overall winner for the evening was Time Warner, namely the company’s movie division, Warner Bros., which released all three of the feature films that won for production design; and its premium cable service, HBO, was the outlet for three top television shows.
Other TV winners were Brian Kane, production designer for Battle Star Galactica, the sci-fi franchise series, in short-form live action; Tyler Robinson, for the “Missionaries” episode of Portlandia, in the multi-camera, variety, or unscripted series category; and Steve Bass for the 67th Tony Awards in the awards, music or game shows category.
Finally, production designer Todd Cherniawsky received the award for Call of Duty: Ghosts, for the “Epic Night Out” spot, besting several popular music videos in the Commercial, PSA, Promo and Music Video category.
In accepting his award for Her, Barrett said, “I didn’t know if we were making a fantasy or a period film in the future. Spike Jonze told me, ‘Who are we to question what anybody else feels is real.’ Looking around the room, I believe in all your realities.”
“Gravity was an incredibly long and tough journey for my crew,” Nicholson said. “None of this would have been possible without the artistic vision of Alfonso Cuaron.”
Catherine Martin could not attend, as she was in Australia working on a project, but sent a message thanking the ADG, her key assistants and her husband, Baz Luhrmann, director of The Great Gatsby.
In accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Carter told the audience of production designers, art directors and other art department crew: “[We] bring forth imagery that not only says where we are, we start to define who we are. Not who we are as individuals. I’ve found there’s a collaborative spirit, and when that goes out into the world, it’s not just who we are, it’s our values, our character.”
“How does one even separate cinema from production design? You can’t,” said Scorsese in accepting the cinema design honor. “We have images in our mind, pictures in our head, but yours are the ones I look to to get those images on the screen. You’ve never let me down.” As he held up the award, he told attendees, “This is for you.”
Three historic production designers were inducted into the ADG hall of fame, bringing the total number to 38 (only deceased PDs qualify for entry): Robert Clatworthy, Harper Goff and J. Michael Riva.
Clatworthy was production designer on Alfred Hitchcock’s classic shocker Psycho, and director Stanley Kramer’s Ship of Fools and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, among many other notable films. Goff’s work stretched from Hollywood’s Golden Age to the 1950’s with credits on Sergeant York, Casablanca and Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Riva, who passed away in 2012, served as production designer such films as The Goonies, the Lethal Weapon series and Django Unchained.
Comedian Owen Benjamin was the host for the evening, scoring big with a funny song about hard-working production designers and their staffs that had attendees singing along to the refrain. As has been the case for many years, the leader of the orchestra was Johnny Crawford, the star of The Rifleman in his youth.