The Art Directors Guild’s 19th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards is now in the history books with Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians Of The Galaxy winning the top film prizes. HBO’s Game Of Thrones, True Detective, and Silicon Valley, and FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show cleaned up on the TV side. Here’s how it all went down.
Owen Benjamin, hosting the ADG awards for the second year in a row, starts the night with solid crowd service. His intro celebrated the unsung nature of art direction, comparing art direction to the defensive lineup of a football team. “You do all the important work, and you get to live longer,” he says, “but nobody knows who you are”.
His run-down of tonight’s nominees had some decent zings. About Grand Budapest Hotel: “it shows us what life would be like if we were an Instagram filter.” On The Theory of Everything: “it shows us that if you understand the physics of the big bang, you get to have sex with your nurse”. And so on, and so on, but funny stuff.
And now the first award of the evening, Excellence in Production Design for Short Format, Web Series, Music Videos, or Commercial, presented by YouTube star Tyler Oakley and Mad Men’s Keirnan Shipka. And The Winner is Shawn Hargreaves for Apple “Perspective”.
Aaaaand the second award of the evening, Excellence in Production Design for Variety, Competition, Reality or Game Show series, presented by Loni Love, goes to Tyler B. Robinson for Portlandia, “Celery”.
The first of this evening’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement awards went to illustrator Camille Abbot. It was presented by Tim Wilcox, chair of the Illustrators Council. Wilcox noted that for more than a decade she was the only female illustrator working on any studio lot. About Abbott, he said “she’s an educator, and active volunteer in the community, the secretary of our craft for the past 42 years, a mother, and someone I’m proud to call my friend.”
Abbott is notable for her work on numerous films, including Spaceballs, Annie, the original Battlestar Galactica, Flashdance, and many, many others. She received a standing ovation from her peers as she approached the stage to accept the award.
Accepting her award, Camille Abbot said “one day, I realized that the older generation was gone, and tag, I’m it! and thankfully, somebody recently told me my room isn’t ready yet. I am truly overwhelmed and never expected to receive such an award…
“What I found so fascinating was to see my work come to life,” Abbott continued, “in everything from the prehistoric era to the futuristic space Odyssies.” She also thanked her husband, saying “my career allowed me to be a wife and a mother. With my husband’s support I could continue my career and pursue my family interests.”
The evening’s second Lifetime Achievement award, for Scenic Artist, was presented to Will Ferrell. Ferrell’s storied career includes such films as Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Silver Streak, 1776, and Irma La Douce, as well as significant tv work including The Bette Midler Show.
Blossom and Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik presented the award for Excellence in Production Design for Multi-Camera series. The winner: John Shaffner, Big Bang Theory, for “The Locomotive”, “The Convention Conundrum”, and “The Status Quo Combustion”
Next up, it’s Excellence in Production Design for an Award or Special Event. Presented by Constantine star Matt Ryan and his attractive Welsh accent, the award went to Derek McLane for the 86th Annual Academy Awards.
The ADG tonight inducted three new members into the guild’s hall of fame: John Gabriel Beckman (1898-1989), notable for The Maltese Falcon, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Mildred Pierce; Charles Lasanby (1926-2013), hose work includes Barry Manilow: Big Fun On Swing Street, The 60th Annual Academy Awards, and Baryshnikov on broadway; and Walter H. Tyler (1909-1990), who worked on The Blue Dahlia, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and The Odd Couple.
What else can you say when confronted with resumes like that, but damn.
In a rare deviation from the normal way of Awards ceremony things, the shows is moving so fast they’ve apparently asked Owen Benjamin to drop an extra 7 or 8 minutes of standup. He’s as surprised as everyone else is.
After the comedy break, the ADGs resumed with the award for Excellence in Production Design for a Half-Hour Single Camera Series, presented by Veep and Arrested Development’s Tony Hale.
However, hilariously, the A/V team ran the clip for one-hour single camera instead of the correct clip, apparently having misplaced it. Whoops. While they looked for the actual category reel, Owen Benjamin hopped on a piano and played Chopin while making up lyrics about Ikea. It’s that kind of night.
Aaannnyway, the award for Excellence in Production Design for a Half-Hour Single Camera Series eventually went to Richard Toyon for Silicon Valley.
Up next, the award for Excellence in Production Design for a Television Movie or Mini-Series. Presented by Lisa Edelstein, the award went to Mark Worthington for American Horror Story: Freak Show.
The evening’s third Lifetime Achievement Award, this time for Set Designer/Art Director, went to John P. Bruce. A longtime television set designer with work on shows like Falcon Crest, The Waltons, Muder, She Wrote, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and more recently, Dexter, he’s also worked in film, notably Armageddon, and Batman and Robin.
George Clooney came out to HUGE applause in order to give the evening’s final Lifetime Achievement award, for Production Design, to Jim Bissell.
Clooney noted that Good Night and Good Luck, the second film on which the two worked together, is the least expensive ever to be nominated for an Oscar in production design. “So what I’m saying is that Jim is cheap,” he joked. He continued, saying “some of my favorite moments are being on location with Jim as he draws scenes on cocktail napkins… Jim always surpasses your wildest dreams. He’s the most passionate guy on set. He loves his work almost as much as we do.”
Jim Bissell’s prolific career is a constant highlight reel that includes four films with George Clooney, as well as E.T., The Falcon and the Snowman, 300, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and so on. Coming up to the stage, he received the second of the evening’s unambiguous standing ovations.
“I love the smell of sawdust, paint, I love the people that I work with, I think they’re extraordinary. I also love the craftsmen of every sort, and there’s nothing I like better than the sound of whirring steel blades and paint brushes,” he said at the start of his acceptance speech, before paying tribute in kind to Clooney, who he praised for their work on Confessions.
But his most heartfelt comments were for his peers. “I’m awed by the talent in this room tonight. I look at this list of nominations… and I just go “boy I hope I can get a job again”. This is amazing… But one thing I’m grateful for is it brought my family together. They’re sitting here, my son Jamie came all the way from Rwanda. My mom Liz, my dear mom. She came down from the central coast My two kids, Alexander and Elizabeth, they actually came out of their rooms.
“But that’s my core family, and this is my bigger family. There are so may people I’ve come to know and love in this business, I feel like this is my extended family. Thank you all for being part of my family, and for this great honor.”
And the winner of the award for Excellence in Production Design for One-Hour contemporary single camera series is Alex DiGerlando for True Detective.
Julie Bowen presented the award for Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period of Fantasy Television Series. The winner is: Deborah Riley for Game of Thrones.
Anne Hathaway presented Christopher Nolan with the award for Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery. After a worshipful introduction by Hathaway, Nolan walked out to a standing ovation and delivered a humble speech that largely paid tribute to the artists he’s worked with, in particular his longtime art director Nathan Crowley.
And now, The Award for Contemporary Feature Film, presented by The Theory Of Everything’s Felicity Jones. The winner is Kevin Thompson for Birdman. This is the latest in a string of recent wins for the film, a heavy favorite at this year’s Oscars.
The penultimate award for the evening, Excellence in Production Design for a Period Feature Film, goes to Adam Stockhausen for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
At last, we come to the end of the night, and sending us off to bed is The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne, presenting the award for Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Feature Film. The winner, in an amazing upset, is Charles Wood for Guardians of the Galaxy.
At last, we come to the end of the night, and sending us off to bed is The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne, presenting the award for Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Feature Film. The winner, in an amazing surprise, is Charles Wood for Guardians of the Galaxy.