Tango Films, LLC Collection of Film Production Material

The William H. Hannon Library recently acquired a collection of production material from the films “Hugo”, “The Aviator”, and “The Edge of Darkness.” Donated to the library from Tango Films, LLC, this collection consists of set draftings, concept art, blueprints, reference images, notes on shooting locations, and scene continuity photographs and documents. The collection also contains costume design material such as patterns and fabric.

A lot of work and talent goes into designing the visuals for a movie, especially a Martin Scorsese film. In fact, art director Dante Ferretti and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo together earned the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (now known as Best Production Design) for both “Hugo” and “The Aviator,” making this collection quite the exciting addition!

Most extensive are the set draftings, or technical drawings, created to envision sets and set pieces for the film “Hugo.” The library was gifted approximately 1000 oversized and fragile original draftings as well as smaller facsimiles used by crew for easy reference. A set piece as seemingly simple as a clock face is the result of many detailed drawings.

sketch of the clock face
Facsimiles of a drafting used to create the tower clock in the film “Hugo”

In order to create such elaborate draftings, artists perform extensive research, often gathering hundreds of reference images. Such images are a large part of this new collection featuring numerous images of trains, train stations, clocks, and automatons assembled for the film “Hugo.”

Pictures of automatons
Some reference images used in the design of the automaton in the film “Hugo”

Perhaps the most well-known pieces of production design are concept art and storyboards. High quality facsimiles in both color and black and white illustrate ideas for vivid scenes. Brief descriptions are included to identify scenes and actions.

Storyboard images for scenes in the film Hugo
Storyboard images for scenes in the film “Hugo”

Have you ever noticed a movie character is wearing a watch on her left wrist in one scene and it magically jumps to her right wrist in the next shot? Probably not, and that is because of those managing scene continuity. The film “The Edge of Darkness” utilized binders filled with photographs and notes to provide quick reference for reestablishing a shot already in progress.

pictures of man in bed with scene items list
A sheet listing the details of a particular scene, including where items are placed and background actors. Photos are provided to further establish the shot.

This is just a small sample of items that make up the Tango Films, LLC Film Production Material. Whether you want to study how sets are built, feel costume material with your own hands, or just view storyboards because they are pretty amazing, we welcome you to make an appointment. And if you are interested in scene design for live theater, please also check out the Charles E. Erven Theater Collection which is filled with great hand draftings and design process material.

Written by Marisa Ramirez, Processing Assistant for Archives and Special Collections.