Production Designer

Art Director

What you do in the job?

I am Francis Boyle, Production Designer on Doctors. A production designer is one of a group of departmental heads, like costume, make up and cameras who jointly give a programme its artistic look. The background for the job is usually a degree in either Fine Art, like me, Architecture, Interior Design or Theatre Design.

I joined the BBC in 1983 and worked for them for 14 years. I have been freelance for 6 years. My first experience of television design was in 1977 when I was a student doing holiday relief work at television centre, mostly involving the use of a broom! I came into the design department much later by accident, a happy accident as it has been a terrific job with acres of job satisfaction.

I have a staff of 10, 6 standby Art Directors, 2 Art Directors, a designer colleague and a transport coordinator. A typical day begins at 7.30 (1hr before turnover is usual in Art Departments) when I see our 3 teams who are filming doctors to ensure they have all they need for the day. These standbys are mostly under 30 and in the early stages of their careers, they have degrees but not all in Art related subjects. Once the teams have gone to location or studio, we designers and Art Directors will variously get sets ready for filming later in the week or perhaps build a
new set altogether. Most days I do a chunk of buying of either action props or dressing props for the following weeks filming. This job is often done by a dedicated production buyer, but we have always done this task ourselves on Doctors. The complexity of this shows logistics means that there are many things delegated to the Art Directors who are superb. If a
production is referred to as a team, the Art Department is a team within a team, of necessity very close and supportive.

The Art Department is geographically in the main Production office, meaning we have constant access to our directors. With 3 teams shooting, 1 in post production and another 3 in preparation, that is 7 directors we have to keep happy. This involves satisfying the needs of the script, what locations to use, the medical aspects of Doctors, and how they would like
things to look. For example, today we were trying to arrange shooting a bookies on location and a back room built in the studio, as the location did not have one.

I talk informally to our script Department most days as they like to have advice on the practicality of some of the scripts that come in from their writers. Our episode down the mine shaft was a good example, straight away you know you will have to create what cannot be found. 2 actors plunging down a mine shaft, having a fight at the bottom, climbing back up, all done safely in a set that looks convincing.

Entry to television design remains still a matter of luck, perseverance and ability. I get lots of CVs sent to me from people trying to get into the industry. We try to help and have benefited by securing some of our best Art Directors this way, but inevitably sometimes it is not successful.
Students from Nottingham Trent TV Design Course always receive a good
hearing as no one we have met from there has been less than good. Most Designers I know like Art Department junior staff used to be,not over confident, very hard working and primarily interested in the success of the Art Department they are part of.

Francis Boyle
Production Designer on Doctors
December 2003

What qualities are required?

Art and Design qualification, lots of practical experience of TV or Theatre, a three dimensional mind, ability to be inventive and design to budgets, good communication skills.

How you start and where you can go with it?

Design Assistant then Designer. You will work your way towards more impressive and rewarding productions.

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