Review: Create-A-Scene by Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill’s new book is a must-read for anyone interested in set design as a career or hobby. reviews

Photo courtesy of Bruce Hill

Photo courtesy of Bruce Hill

‘This book is not about creating perfect designs. That’s up to the individual. It is rather about the methods one uses to create these designs, in a practical and cost effective way for the film industry’.

This is a perfect quote which accurately reflects the relaxed, do-it-yourself approach Create-A-Scene maintains throughout each of its clearly structured sections. As Hill correctly discusses, these days it is becoming more and more common for film and television careers to begin via the degree route which, in many universities, whilst allowing students to build up academic based skills sometimes lacks focus on crucial techniques which can only be gained from experience on the job. It is refreshing then to stumble across a book which encompasses this latter point and provides what is essentially a ‘toolkit’ to set-building; a distinct Bible to any student wishing to pursue such a career path. Hill moves away from theory to offer practical and useful information on process, technique and materials that can be used to form a basic understanding of how set designers achieve the visions we see on screen.

This is a book that has been written to appeal to the senses of a set builder; nearly every paragraph is accompanied by a glossy, clear picture to illustrate the point being made and the technical explanations are short and to the point. Hill also makes good use of tables to lay out important details in a visually pleasing manner. However, Create-A-Scene is much more than simply a reference book – although it certainly can be utilized in this fashion – Hill’s colloquial tone and anecdotal slips make it a trustworthy companion; it is book brimming with interesting encounters that add a eloquent personal touch to a ultimately technical world. The final section is set aside to pay particular attention to ‘life on the job’ which is outlined as fairly bizarre and unpredictable. Furthering this, a reader must be sure not to overlook the beginning section which gives a helpful insight of the overall film crew and how a set designer finds his/her place amongst the team.

Overall I would heartily recommend this to any student who is seriously considering set-design as a career, or simply an individual who has an interest in the art as a hobby. Hill’s book gives a diverse view of the industry which makes it an easily accessible read.