Impact: With the pilot of “Girls,” “Ruby Sparks,” “Hitchcock” and “Silver Linings Playback,” Becker demonstrated her creative versatility. In “Playbook,” she incorporated several regional design elements that would make a strong visual statement for the film’s suburban Philadelphia home and its dance contest. For “Girls,” she presented her hometown of New York City in a realistic way. “It was thrilling to be told to avoid cuteness and prettiness,” she says. “I feel we really achieved something different in portraying New York on a comedic television show.”
Upcoming: David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” based in part on the Abscam scandal of the late 1970s, set for a Christmas release.
Impact: From tawdry to palatial, the world of male performers got the Cummings design treatment on “Magic Mike” and “ Behind the Candelabra.” The two projects even collided in their usage of a prop he sourced — a six-foot Hermes statue. “The steamy Florida strip club and environs of ‘Magic Mike’ begged for vibrant color and so I had to beg Steven Soderbergh for forgiveness because his films tend to favor the monochromatic,” he says. “His response: ‘Go for it!’ The same held true for the look of Liberace.”
Impact: Even in the face of her three Oscar nominations (“Les Miserables,” “The King’s Speech,” “Topsy-Turvy”) she’s most proud of “Call the Midwife,” where she reconstructed a London seminary and East End neighborhood for the TV series’ third season after it was gentrified out of its locations. “It’s about getting characters to inhabit a real world,” she says. “People who lived there in the 1950s come up to me and say they’re reliving their history.”
Upcoming: “Frankenstein,” “Muppets Most Wanted.”
Impact: “American Horror Story” gave the three-time Emmy nominee a chance to delve into sophisticated design for a long-form series, and with season two’s mental institution, he hit his stride with an atypical design: “You had to create this whole world with a tonal investment, but something that was also recognizable as an insane asylum,” he says. “So how far can you push it before it falls apart visually?”
Upcoming: Season three of “Horror Story.”
Impact: Now wrapping up Lifetime miniseries “Bonnie & Clyde,” the designer remembers his experience on another TV period series, “Hatfields & McCoys.” “History channel viewers are usually pretty smart and very observant so the people at the channel forwarded hundreds of emails to me sent by viewers with questions about the look of the show,” he says. “When you do historical subjects, you’d better get it right.”
Upcoming: In talks for a Sean Penn project
Impact: Designed for Nicolas Refn’s “Only God Forgives” and Baltasar Kormakur’s Wahlberg/Washington starrer “2 Guns.” Having worked with thesp Ryan Gosling on “Forgives” and the earlier “Drive,” she followed him to his directorial debut, “How to Catch a Monster.” She describes fantasy set pieces made on a tight budget as “a designer’s dream come true. We always asked ourselves, ‘How can we build this out of cardboard and tape?’”
Upcoming: Working on Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s “Focus.”
Impact: Oscar-nominated for “Life of Pi,” he created imagery based on fact and fantasy. “Recently someone asked if the island was based on a real ecosystem,” he says. “That for me was the greatest compliment.” He also delved into the northern Oklahoma landscape of John Wells’ “August: Osage County.” “With John I immediately felt comfortably at home, even if that home belonged to the film’s remarkably dysfunctional family.”
Upcoming: Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” for which he says he’ll be “as honest as possible in creating the background of a rural village in the South of France.”
Impact: He led three design teams on “Man of Steel,” collaborating with Zack Snyder in creating Krypton to tell Superman’s origin story. “My approach is to fill a world first, and that tells the audience about the story beyond the dialogue,” he says. “For Krypton, we had to make decisions about 200,000 years of culture and how to convey that in every object.” He was also visual consultant on “Rise of the Guardians.”
Upcoming: Potentially, another Superman sequel. He teaches immersive storytelling at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Impact: As production designer on Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy (the first entry grossed more than $1 billion worldwide), the fellow Kiwi is following up on another Jackson trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” on which he served as art director. Overseeing a crew of 400, he thinks big (“Hobbit’s” Ravenhill Fortress took more than three years to build) but minds the small things, too: “Every detail counts in this demanding medium,” he says.
Upcoming: The next two “Hobbit” installments, and plans to “kick back in the country and wait for the phone to ring.”
Impact: The J.J. Abrams loyalist made his mark with “Star Trek Into Darkness,” where he fast-talked his way last year into location shooting at the National Ignition Facility, subbing it for the Enterprise’s warp core. “I believe our warp core in this ‘Trek’ upped our game,” he says.
Upcoming: Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” which he calls “Something of a unicorn … we’re creating the storytelling rules.”