Understanding The Profession Of Art Direction With Harshita Reddy

Harshita Reddy
Photo courtesy Harshita Reddy

Any movie we see on the big screen is a masterpiece of creativity. While the story and the actors of a film majorly attract our attention, there are many other factors that go into the making of an entire film, right from the lights to the after-effects. These factors also require immense creativity as they too add to the overall beauty of a film. This said the movie world offers numerous career opportunities to many who create wonders with their creativity, which we all see on the screen. 

We all are very well aware of the fact that it is not easy for aspiring actors to get into the film industry, but what we fail to realise is that it is also equally difficult for those who wish to work in the field of filmmaking apart from actors. To develop a distinguished place in the filmmaking world, one needs to have strong passion, talent, and the right qualification. Youth Incorporated approached one such talented and passionate art director and set designer, Harshita Reddy, to know her professional journey. 

Harshita Reddy was drawn towards the creative side of films at the age of 12, when she first saw behind-the-scenes Telugu movie, Arjun. Harshita was fascinated by looking at how the creative team of the film had recreated the iconic Madurai temple for just that movie. The workmanship that went into creating the monumental structure left her stunned. This is when she says she caught the ‘design bug’. 

From then on, Harshita started actively participating in all art-related activities in school and started designing backdrops and set pieces for the drama club. The decision to pursue the profession of art direction and set designing was triggered after Harshita saw Nathan Crowley’s design work in films like Lake House’ and ‘The Prestige. Attending her calling towards filmmaking, Harshita Reddy decided to pursue a degree in production design from the American Film Institute, one of the most distinguished film schools in the world. She says that this master’s degree helped her to apply the learned skills in designing for the camera. It helped her break away from a rigid and practical approach and understand how to adapt to what a specific show demanded. 

Harshita Reddy
Concept art by Harshita Reddy (Photo courtesy Harshita Reddy)
Set Still from thesis film Moth – Production designed by Harshita Reddy (Photo courtesy Ayinde Anderson(DP))

Since the institute was located in Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment industry, proved to be a plus point for Harshita. After completing her graduation from the institute, she applied for the Production Assistant internship program by ‘Art Director Guild-800’ which is an art department union in Hollywood. Harshita was so skilled that the portfolio reviewing team deemed her to be overqualified for the post of a production assistant and offered her to work as an assistant art director. Harshita states that though this was a great opportunity, she chose to work as an art production assistant to understand how things work in the real world before taking on more responsibilities.

Set Still of Rent live! by 20th Century Fox (Photo courtesy Adam Rowe(Art Director))

Harshhita Reddy got her first job was as an Art Department Assistant on an NBC universal TV Show called ‘The Good Place’ starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. The art director of the show, Adam Rowe offered Harshita to work with him on his next show ‘Rent’ for 20th Century Fox. That show went on to win the Emmy Award for Production Design. What made this victory more special was the fact that the art department of this show consisted of only six people. Harshita has also worked as an assistant art director on Ava DuVernay‘s Show ‘Cherish the Day’. She now is also a member of the Art Director Guild. 

Harshita Reddy
Harshita Reddy with Art Director Adam Rowe for the show ‘ RENT’ by 20th Century Fox. RENT was awarded the Primetime EMMY AWARD 2019 for Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special.

When asked about in will to work in Indian cinema, Harshita Reddy readily confessed that the Indian cinema has always been a huge influence on her. Thus, she stated that her long term goal is to work as a production designer in India. She says, “ I am in the process of interviewing for a big production house as an art consultant. As of now, I intend to gain more experience and work my way up to be able to design large-scale features back home. The up-and-coming directors are creating story-driven content that is very fresh and exciting, it would be a treat to collaborate with them.”  

When asked if it is compulsory to have a degree in filmmaking, she says that this choice depends from person to person. Since there are many resources to learn like the internet, one no longer faces a lack of knowledge. As parting advice for the youth, Harshita says that no matter how many degrees you choose to pursue, one must have practical knowledge and work experience to move upwards in one’s career. 


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