How do I Become Part of an Art Department?
The art department working on a film is one of the key elements of pre-production for just about any movie, and especially for major blockbuster films with extensive action set pieces and special effects. The work and planning that the art departments of these movies do make the rest of the movie easier to create and ultimately lead to a more cohesive and compelling final product. In general, the art department for a movie can potentially include a fairly wide range of individuals, from the actual artists themselves who create concept art, storyboards, and production designs, to those who start building and creating these things prior to production. If you are interested in becoming part of an art department within the film industry, then you should consider artistic ability and practical knowledge of utmost importance.
While many people who work in the film industry attend film school, film school itself is not necessarily for everyone. People who work as part of an art department for a movie typically have a background in art, design, architecture, engineering, and various other aspects of other fields. They then bring this knowledge and background to bear in a film production in order to work together and create a movie. Even those who may have some experience with film in education often have other types of education in their background as well. Doug Chiang, for example, a prominent member of the art department on the first two Star Wars prequel films attended film classes, but also focused on industrial design and artistic classes as well. The designs he created were the foundation for much of the look and overall aesthetic sensibility of those movies.
Film school can often be seen as the best way to begin a career working in the film industry. For many jobs working in film production, however, film school may not always be necessary or even preferable. Those working in art design for a movie typically need a strong background in art, design, and various other types of work in order to have the practical skills and artistic understanding necessary to work in the industry. You may find that your own artistic abilities are up to the task of working on films, but you do not know how to get the contacts and experience necessary to break into the industry. Working with a mentor as an apprentice (extern) can often help you find opportunities to show off your work to prospective employers and find a place for yourself on a film production’s art department.