Monday, February 10, 2020

Hollywood Backdrops on CBS News

Hollywood backdrops, or "backings," as they are known in the industry, are some of the biggest and most illusionistic paintings in the world.

They're still used in movies and TV shows when you need a way to place a scene in a faraway place, a time in history, or a different season. When they're not used they're rolled up in giant tubes.

CBS Sunday Morning did a feature on them, interviewing Karen Maness, who wrote the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Maness is an atelier-trained painter who teaches at the U.T. Austin's Department of Theatre and Dance. She works as a Scenic Art Supervisor at Texas Performing Arts, and recently co-founded the new Atelier Dojo.

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop is 324 pages, hardbound, slipcased, with huge photo reproductions that spill across its 11x14" pages.
Previously: Hollywood Backdrops: Illusion at a Cinematic Scale


Tad Stones said...

Working at the Disney Studio when it was just a small player in Hollywood, let me glimpse many of the time honored techniques. Paul Chadwick introduced me to Dave Mattingly and Harrison Ellenshaw when they were doing glass paintings for the Black Hole. I saw Bob McCall working on a huge space mural for EPCOT Center. But the proof of artistry involved in backdrops was visiting the painters working in ultraviolet light for the scene painting of the Pinocchio ride for Fantasyland. The light from the various doorways literally glowed under black light. I turned to leave and almost collided with a backdrop of Geppeto's workshop. Like Wile E. Coyote, I had mistaken the painting for the real exit.

Pierre Fontaine said...

I saw this story yesterday morning (it's mandatory viewing between morning mass and my other Sunday responsibilities). This story made me so happy as the story gave a wonderful glimpse into this remarkable film-making technique and the individuals who see it as worthy of preservation.

scottT said...

Recently revisiting some old television shows I'm just now conscious of the painted backdrops for outdoor scenes. I had never noticed it before. On the related subject of matte painting, I just saw a documentary on the making of Gone With The Wind and I'm surprised at how much of is painting--exterior shots of grand estates, ornate ballrooms etc--all Hollywood sound stages with painted walls and ceilings.

Tad...that is very cool!

James Gurney said...

ScottT, yes, and they've been used a lot in recent films, such as Series of Unfortunate Events, to give the movie a sense of heightened reality.

doforanimals said...

Thank you for sharing this! So fascinating. I can't imagine that these backings were once thrown away! So glad there are people around understanding the importance of preserving such historic artistic contributions.

Roberto Quintana said...

Great Post, James.
Here’s that article about the lost backings they show in the video.
I came across it just last week. –RQ

How 200 historic Hollywood backdrops were saved from the dumpster