The film world is full-swing into awards season; nominee announcements kick off tonight with the Golden Globe contenders. In the world of production design, however, January 3 is the key date when the Art Directors Guild of America reveals its list (the ceremony will take place on February 2). In 2012, Hugo was the big winner, taking the Oscars and the ADG award for legendary designer Dante Ferretti (the Italian maestro talks about the challenges of designing for 3D in Filmcraft: Production Design).
This year the field is wide open, but it seems certain that some of the talents profiled in Filmcraft: Production Design will be recognized for their work. It’s impossible not to be impressed by what Jack Fisk has achieved (with David Crank) in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, for example, and it seems time that his work should be honoured as he has also finished two films with Terrence Malick this year alone. Rick Carter, nominated last year for War Horse, hauntingly re-imagines the American Civil War era for Steve Spielberg in Lincoln. And Sarah Greenwood’s brave and dramatic re-think of Anna Karenina’s world – setting it literally on a stage – for her longtime collaborator, the director Joe Wright has been drawing raves, particularly in the US.
“The thing is, had we done it in a conventional way, we could have got a B – it would have been good,” she recalls of their last-minute decision not to shoot on location in Russia but to build Anna’s world entirely on a £1m stage at Shepperton Studios. “It would never have been brilliant, we just didn’t have the money or the resources to do it amazingly and to build what we wanted to build.”
Three weeks into pre-production, Greenwood and Wright called a halt to their previous plans. “We went into a room for a week and thrashed it out” she says, with a total of 11 weeks to reconceive and re-build Anna Karenina in London. “So to do it like this, we realized it will either be an A* or an F. There won’t be anything in between. This is a concept that will either work, or not.
“I guess,” she says, “the bottom line is that you could fail, but nobody could accuse you of not trying. I mean I hate laziness and I hate sloppiness and all that, but if you’re going to fail it’s better to have had a damned good try at it – it’s better than being safe and dull.” Nobody could ever say that of Greenwood’s brilliant work on Anna Karenina, and it may well be honoured this year.