Tag Archives: film

!nsp!re – Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters @ LACMA


Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the member preview for a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – GUILLERMO DEL TORO: AT HOME WITH MONSTERS. The exhibit focuses on the artistic life and influences of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth).


Costume detail from "Crimson Peak"
Costume detail from “Crimson Peak”

For those who have read his book, “Cabinet of Curiosities“, this exhibit is especially thrilling. In the book, readers get a view inside Del Toro’s suburban Los Angeles home (named “Bleak House”). The home is packed with all manner of unusual oddities, props, artwork, and collections.

Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli
Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli


Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Illustration from "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
Illustration from “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

In this exhibit, those collections have been placed on view for the public; and it is horribly magnificent. The show is not a retrospective of Del Toro’s work; but a look at his influences and inspirations. In keeping with that idea, the exhibit is laid out thematically. Paintings, drawings, maquettes, full size sculptures, and more bring Del Toro’s unique visions into full relief in this exhibit that surrounds and immerses you into one mans fever dream.

A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.

The work of many artists is on display, and its easy to see where Del Toro derives his inspiration.


Sculptures by Mike Hill
Sculptures by Mike Hill

Taking its inspiration from the tone and architecture of Bleak House, the exhibit is housed in an architectural shell, with long hallways that twist and turn, opening into room after room. The walls and other elements are in muted tones of black, gray, and blood red. The use of rafters overhead is enhanced by lighting that casts shadows onto the ceiling and surrounding walls.

One room in particular is modeled after Del Toro’s writing room, in which a perpetual rainstorm falls outside the “windows” of the room.

007The exhibit is truly wondrous. It’s a through and detailed examination of artistic inspiration and process. A good example is that there are several of his notebooks on display. Since they could easily be damaged by the public, all the pages have been scanned and patrons can flip through them virtually on a touch-screen adjacent to the actual notebook. It’s a great way of revealing the artist while preserving the work.

El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer
El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer

I have only two small quibbles with the overall exhibit. The first is that it appears to have been put together quickly. The finishes on the display vitrines are somewhat slap-dash, with visible paint brush marks and drips. One would think that an exhibit with this sort of “draw” in the marketplace would have warranted a greater attention to detail. My other minor negative comment is that I would have loved to seen LACMA embrace a greater degree of theatricality through lighting and video. The black costume from “Crimson Peak” is especially poorly lit, diminishing its detail and beauty.


003Finally, there’s also a great book/catalogue that has been published in conjunction with the exhibit (Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections). The book goes into even more detail about Del Toro’s process, journals, and inspirations.

The exhibit is on view through November 27, 2016. Admission is free to members (which I highly recommend by joining here) or with regular admission ($15) to the museum.



The Assistant Lighting Designer's Toolkit
The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit

I just finished reading Anne E. McMills new book, THE ASSISTANT LIGHTING DESIGNER’S TOOLKIT, and I found it to be a comprehensive guide to a profession that is often, sadly, overlooked in the entertainment industry.

The book is set into four main parts: The Profession, The Process, The Paperwork, and The Industry. Within each area, Anne dives deeper, proffering concrete information about her subject. Calling this book a toolkit is a perfect description. Peppered throughout are tips, tricks, and insight, drawing not only from Anne’s extensive experience across a broad spectrum of entertainment, but from other design professionals as well.

Her detailed descriptions of the expectations of an assistant and their role in each of the four areas is comprehensive and thoughtful; especially during “The Process”, where she steps through, in great detail, design prep, loading in, and tech rehearsals. Also included are descriptions of each of the “players”  in addition to advice on how to work with some of the different personalities one might encounter.

In Part 4, “The Industry”, she does a great service to her readers by touching on areas of employment for lighting personnel. From the obvious, like Broadway and the West End to other areas that might not typically be considered; like architectural, industrials, and themed entertainment. Many people in this field are driven to work only in the theater, so its great to see someone discussing the many areas of employment open to those who are interested.

Anne features all manner of charts, photos, and diagrams to illustrate her points; with examples from notable designers like Ken Billington, Don Holder, Andrew Bridge and many, many others.

Notably, in the final part, she doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges in making a living in this predominantly free-lance industry. Here again, she offers advice and practical tips on how to make things work for you, while pursuing your passion.

The book wraps up with a comprehensive appendix, full of checklists and samples that are invaluable.

Whether you’re looking to be an assistant or a designer or both; there is a wealth of pertinent information provided for you in this book. Anne’s writing style is easy and personable, and she lays out her information so that its accessible and easy to digest.

From Focal Press, the book can be purchased through numerous outlets like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

You can also checkout ALDToolkit to learn more about the book and the author.