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Production Design in SWEENEY TODD

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Direction: Tim Burton

Production Design: Dante Ferretti

Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

For my umpteenth first time, since I’ve started the Los Angeles Film School, I’ve watched a movie with new eyes. On Friday night I watched Sweeney Todd. My eyes were sliding on the TV screen while I was realizing that every single little detail in each scene was studied; behind every prop there was a reason, a research. Even Sweeney’ shaver shape, design, and material had had a deep study at its back.

This movie, released in 2007, won the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction in the same year, thanks to the great and genial Dante Ferretti’s vision. The film won also more other awards for performances, make-up, costumes design, and again art direction as well.

After the screening, I looked for making off(s) of the movie, and fortunately I bumped with a clip about the VFX. In the short presentation it was shown the ambience digital reconstruction, which means the different layers used in 3D Animation for the creation of the environment around the characters. Interesting is that, reading a book about Dante Ferretti and its works, I’ve known that Tim Burton’s first idea for the movie production was to mainly use the green screen and the blue screen for creating the settings virtually, the reason behind this choice was the fact that they had a low budget for a Hollywood production. Therefore, the design producer preferred to physically create the most, and leave to the green and blue screen just the bare essential, reassuring the director that the budget they had was going to be enough. He also thought that actors could give a best performance if soaked in the right ambiance to act.

The Production Design team worked brilliantly in the ambience reconstruction, I’ve particularly liked the choices done for the barber’ shop and the baker, and Pirelli’s tent. About this last one, I could finally understand how even the graphic is important for the well production of a real story.

The art direction plays the main role in a movie, because it gives the atmosphere through shapes and especially colors. In Sweeney Todd the film is grayish, and this prepares psychologically the public to a specific emotional state. Everything looks distant, and cold, and personally I felt a kind of emptiness, melancholy, and sadness too.

I really appreciate Dante Ferretti’s perception, that I was so into the design of the movie, that I barely perceive how splatter it was.

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