Our July theme of the month, R&R, continues with this Pause It for our film of the month, Shag (1989).
PAUSE IT: What do you see? It’s the morning after an out of control party in director Zelda Barron’s Shag. Asleep inside a bathtub, Caroline “Pudge” Carmichael (Annabeth Gish) and her summer crush Chip (Scott Coffey) are startled awake. Strewn about the bathroom are clothes and toiletries, curtains and furniture. In short, it is an unqualified mess. Yet, all of what you see, the world occupied by the characters and the inanimate objects that fill the screen, was envisioned and designed by someone long before it was ever captured by the camera. On a film set, the person whose duty it is to breathe life into the visual world is known as a production designer (or PD). The PD is in charge of crafting the visual look and feel of the world you are witnessing. This includes but is not limited to the sets, the props, the decor, and the color palette used within the film. Depending on the movie and its particular set of demands, this can sometimes be a painstakingly detailed and thoroughly researched endeavor. As the head of the art department, the production designer is also the person who oversees the creative work and input of their fellow craftspeople like the art director, the hair and makeup artist, the painter, and the costume designer. While production design is one of those things that can often go unnoticed by the casual viewer, when done well, there is a certain lived-in quality that a movie has and a sense that a verisimilitude of time and place has been achieved. Good world building, visually speaking, happens when we learn something about the characters, the themes, and the tone of a story just by looking at how each visual element within a frame has been crafted and relates to the others. With director Barron at the helm, Shag production designer Buddy Cone crafts a world of a bygone era. Taking place during the summer of 1963, Shag had to be, at once, both realistic and nostalgic for the early days of rock ‘n roll. The cumulative effect is a magical coming-of-age tale brimming with friendship, dance, and chart-topping hits. So, roll down your windows and turn up your radios. Shag is available to own today.
Director: Zelda Barron
Cast: Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates, Annabeth Gish, Page Hannah, Jeff Yagher and Scott Coffey
Production Design by Buddy Cone
Cinematography by Peter MacDonald
Available from Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray
July 27, 2017