Last Friday, the Art Directors Guild hosted an exhibit of gorgeous film backdrops by JC Backings at Sony Studios. In a large warehouse that must house thousands of rolled-up canvases, two rooms were set up with the enormous background paintings on display; they were rolled upwards or downwards at intervals to allow more to be shown in the relatively small space. (This rolling sometimes created an illusion of self-motion that was kind of fun.) There were also tables set out with sketches and photographs to show the process that goes into creating these backdrops, as well as a key to which movies the pieces were from, which included “Ben Hur”, “Little Women” (1949), “National Velvet”, “Mermaids” and “Mystic River”. The staircase behind me, above, is unidentified, but looks vaguely familiar.
Apart from the sheer size of some of these pieces, especially “Kismet”, the most impressive thing was how convincing they were, especially in photos with someone standing in front of them, or even out of the corner of your eye. In photos, the colors pop and the person posing looks almost CGI-enhanced. That’s when the details and realistic depth and perception really work. It was also fun to see the supplies tucked away in the corners: very old draft tables, an ancient pencil sharpener, a stack of items (art prints?) marked “Poltergeist” and “Modern Problems”. It’s easy to get jaded about “the industry” when you live in L.A., so it’s always fun to be reminded of the real magic and artistry involved in movie-making.
(Photos after the jump)
Photos taken by Simone Snaith for the LA Beat, with Stephanie Ruiz & Kate Gragg