All the Doors to Hollywood and How to Open Them - Art Director

04/29/2013 09:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2013

Just what does an Art Director do?
"It's a multi-faceted job," says Mark Garner. "I'm kind of an office manager at first, putting the art department together. The film's concept, its mood and look, is determined by the director and production designer -- and I create drawings to illustrate the concept. I supervise the construction coordinator, set designer and set decorator to carry it out -- the set designer is essentially a draftsman in set construction. At the same time, everything is coordinated with the production assistants and the assistant art director. Likewise with the location manager. The locations have to be practical as well as appropriate. And I create the budget for all of it, in line with the movie's overall budget -- and see that we stick to it!"

What was your training for all of this?
Garner began with a degree in architecture and landscape architecture. Working in landscape, he was feeling dissatisfied, when he got an offer of a job on a small HBO feature, Somebody Has to Shoot the Pictures, as a Set Designer. Another HBO film followed - and then came his first big screen movie, My Girl, with Macaulay Culkin, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd.

I had to learn the language of set design -- what "wild walls" were, for instance -- walls made to be removed easily to allow camera maneuvers -- and how to draw for sets that would be torn down, instead of the real thing.

His second feature as set designer was Wilder Napalm, with Deborah Winger and Dennis Quaid. "The assistant art director, Ross Gallichotte, was my mentor. I also art directed a few short-lived, low budget TV series and maintain today that if you can do that successfully you could run a small country!"

Where have you worked?
All over the country. Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, Rhode Island, which is where we shot Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell -- my first art director credit on a feature film. And Savannah, the location for Robert Redford's Conspirator, with Robin Wright and Kevin Kline, was fabulous - rich in history. And I love historical films. One that I'm particularly proud of is HBO's From the Earth to the Moon. That was a series of 13 two-hour movies, set in the '50s and '60s, about the space race -- a big part of our national history. We shot in Florida, of course.

What do you enjoy about what you do?
Many things. I love the opportunity to go to places, like Cape Canaveral, restricted to everyone else. I love having shaken the hands of men who've walked on the moon. I love that we work with people who influence the world in many ways -- fashion, and in design. I love seeing our drawings given life on film. We have so many perks -- of places, of people -- every job is different.

And I come from a small rural town on the west coast of Florida. I'm the first in my family to finish college. I was raised largely on a farm and -- coming from that background -- my life seems a series of incredible adventures.

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