The Aviator, Finding Neverland, and Phantom of the Opera made it to the Oscar nominations in 2005 for their awesome art direction. Ultimately, Dante Ferretti (The Aviator) got the Oscar for Best Art Direction. Art Direction is what gives the film its look and feel edge.

In advertising and print work, art directors (often in collaboration with a copywriter) come up with concepts and creative ideas which communicate with us through theme, metaphor and symbolism. Some art directors do little more than dream up these ideas and present them to clients, while some oversee almost all aspects of the design and production process.

This specialisation, though not very technical in nature, has gained a lot of prominence in the past decade. It now demands a lot of creativity and understanding of various environments.

What do I have to do?

The following steps demonstrate how a set is created from start to finish. Firstly, an art director has to develop a three dimensional idea for a producer/director or agency brief. This is then visualised to include virtually everything the camera sees to compliment the actors. Research is done to source construction and prop requirements together with working drawings and colour visuals for the clients.

Working under the supervision of the art director, the art department is responsible for arranging the overall look of the film (i.e. modern/high-tech, rustic, futuristic, etc.), the design and the ambience of the scenes as desired by the director. Individual positions within this department include: production designer, production buyer, special effects supervisor, draftsman, art director, assistant art director, set decorator, set dresser, property master, leadman and property assistant.

The Art Director is the one who oversees the artists and craftspeople who build the sets. As an art director you also need to know what the technologies are and how they're used. The hardest part about art direction is arguably the development of a sound and creative concept.

This literally takes years of practice in most cases. Finding an idea-generation technique that fits your own personality can take just as long.

What should I study?

The eligibility is a degree in any subject stream. Experience in media is preferred. Most of the areas in filmmaking are highly technical and therefore require professional training. Even for artists and directors, which are basically creative fields requiring inherent talent, training helps in honing the skills.

Selection for most courses is through an aptitude test. Duration depends on the course that one opts for and can be from one to three years.

What are the prospects?

Art Direction makes you a creative, skilled and versatile designer. You will acquire an extensive range of skills and experience in performance design and an in-depth knowledge of the arts and entertainment industry that equips you for a fulfilling and successful career in an exciting and challenging field of work.

The Indian film industry produces the largest number of films in the world. It produces over 800 films per year, mostly from Bollywood i.e. the studios of Mumbai. Regional movies are also produced in large numbers, especially in the southern states and Bengal. The industry, though generally unorganised, gives employment to a large number of people. Thus there is ample scope for you in the area of Art Direction.

You can also move into fields such as theatre design, museum and installation design, architectural lighting, TV art direction, concert lighting design and costume design.

Finding employment in the film and media industries and in arts organisations in general is highly competitive and requires determination and flair as well as experience and qualifications. In the US, employment for Art Directors exists in the film industry, performing art companies and theatre.

It is basically concentrated in New York and other major cites with large commercial houses for musicals and touring productions. Arty Directors can also find work in summer festivals, on cruise ships, and in theme parks. Employment in motion pictures and in film is centred in New York and Hollywood. However, small studios are located throughout the country.

In Europe and Australia, you could be involved in making documentary films, films and serials for television, and in theatre productions.

— The writer is the Director of the Institute for Career Studies based in Lucknow, India


Xavier Institute of Communication (XIC), St. Xavier's College, 5, Mahapalika Marg, Mumbai – 400001. Website :
Course : Diploma in Film and Video Production

Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC), Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia
Nagar, New Delhi - 110025
Course : MA in Mass Communication (comprising Radio, Television, Film and Audio-Visual Production)

Film and Television Institution of India, Law College Road, Pune - 411004.
Course : Two-year diploma courses for film editing, motion picture photography, audiography, production management, and art direction
This Institute is India's best for Film and Television. A member of CILCET
(International Liaison Centre of Schools of Cinema and Television), it is one of the world's leading film schools. Most of the avant garde filmmakers in the country are its alumni. For most courses, the eligibility is a bachelors degree and proving your worth in an aptitude test.

Film and Television Institute of Tamil Nadu, CIT Campus, Chennai - 600113
Courses :
i) Diploma in Direction and Screenplay Writing
ii) Diploma in Cinematography

Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, E.M. By-Pass Road, PO Garia, Kolkata - 700094
Course : Diploma in Direction
This campus has some of the latest education and technological resources for filmmaking.

Asian Academy of Film and Television, Marwah Studios Complex, FC 14/15 Film Centre, Sector 16A, Noida (U.P.)-201301 website:
Course : Diploma in Production / Direction
This institute trains professionals for the film industry and the electronic media. Its courses are a mix and match of theory and practicals.

Zed Institute of Creative Arts, Essel Group, Nagilla Towers, Begumpet, Hyderabad 500016. This is India's first animation film school of international standards. Belonging to the ZEE TV group, ZICA offers a three year diploma course. Candidates with a flair for figure drawing, acting, music, good imagination and a pass in the 10 + 2, are eligible. The faculty includes Russian and Indian filmmakers.

Digital Academy, Plot number C-3, Street number 11, MIDC, Andheri (East), Mumbai : 400 093.

Academy 18, Studio Kabuki, F-7, Sector 16A, NOIDA - 201301 Course : Six month's course in TV Production and Direction

Whistling Woods International, Film City Complex, Gorgaon (East), Mumbai 400065.
Course : Film Studies with specialisation in Direction

Where should I study ?


  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • University of California, Los Angeles, California
  • Northeastern University, Boston, Massachesetts
  • Dept of Cinema Studies, New York University, New York
  • University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, Michigan
  • Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
  • American Film Institute, Los Angeles, California
  • San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
  • Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
    31402-2072 USA
  • The Yale Summer Film Institute, 55 Whitney Avenue, Suite 402, New Haven, Connecticut 06510


  • Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane, Oxford OX3 0BP
  • Centre for Film Studies, University of Essex, Colchester, Wivenhoe Park CO4 3SQ
  • University of Westminster, London, W1W 6UW
  • University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT
  • Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, NG1 4BU
  • University of Bristol, Senate House, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TH


  • The University of Melbourne
  • RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, 3001
  • La Trobe University, Victoria