Art Direction: Introduction

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The first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, just after the advent of “talkies.” By 1930, enthusiasm was so great that a Los Angeles radio station did a live, one-hour broadcast, and the Awards have enjoyed broadcast coverage ever since.

The number and types of awards have grown and changed over the years to keep up with the development of the motion picture industry. Awards of Merit—Oscars®—are presented in each (or in sub-divisions) of the following categories: acting, animated feature, art direction, cinematography, costume design, directing, documentary film, film editing, foreign-language film, make-up, music, best picture, short film, sound, sound editing, visual effects and writing. In an age when awards shows seem as common as nightly news programs, the Academy Awards are unique because the judges—Academy members—are the top filmmakers from around the world. The question, “Who gets the Oscar?” is decided by a true jury of peers.

The awards process provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students about the many craft areas—and the many communications techniques—that play a part in creating a motion picture. Filmmaking is by nature a collaborative process, with each creative area supporting and being supported by the others. Because our space is limited, this kit focuses on just one of those areas—art direction.

Selecting Films for Student Viewing

Students may select the films they wish to view during the following activities.

The following films have won Academy Awards for art direction and may be appropriate for your students: Moulin Rouge (2001), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Titanic (1997), Star Wars (1977), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Citizen Kane (1941).

The following films were nominated for Academy Awards for art direction and may be appropriate for your students: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Pleasantville (1998), William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), Apollo 13 (1995), A Little Princess (1995) and Forrest Gump (1994).

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Complete Art Direction Activities Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: Creating the Look

Activity 2: Setting the Stage

Activity 3: Color and Texture

Activity 4: Learning from the Best

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