Oscar Circuit: Production Design


And the Nominees are…

  • American Hustle – Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)
  • Gravity – Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)
  • The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)
  • Her – K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)
  • 12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration)

The Oscar for Production Design – formerly titled Art Direction – awards set decorators as well as production designers, and has been a tricky one to predict in recent years. Unlike most guild award precursors, the Art Directors Guild (ADG) has a very sketchy track record with Oscar. Only 10 of the last 17 Oscar winners for Production Design were winners of the ADG. You can add to that shaky stat the fact that there are THREE ADG winners, giving them three times the odds of lining up with the eventual Oscar winner. You would think they would be more like 17-for-17 with those odds. It seems an unmissable situation at that point, yet, they hover at just around 59% in pairing up with the Academy in their existence.

One of the more recent trends of late has been the Production Design winner matching up with the Visual Effects winner. Prior to last year, three out of four winners in those two categories were the same. Last year, Life of Pi was the clear favorite for Visual Effects AND had won the ADG award, and so following this trend, I predicted Pi to win the Oscar for Production Design, and even convinced Clayton into doing the same. To our chagrin, however, the Academy went the more traditional route, giving the award to Lincoln instead. I still haven’t heard the end of it.

Here’s an interesting stat for you:  the winner for Best Production Design has not matched with the winner of Best Picture since 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). The eventual Best Picture winner, in fact, has only been nominated in this category 12 times since 1990.

It should also be noted that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the first of the five (so far) Middle-earth films to not receive a nomination in this category. Dan Hennah, who had received the nomination for those four films plus a fifth one for his work on King Kong, will be watching from the sidelines this year.

Here is a little bit more information about your nominees: