Video Essay: Polly Platt – Authorship by Design

As I’ve discussed in detail in earlier blog posts, Polly Platt was a key Hollywood figure for decades. She’s mainly remembered for her production design on a variety of films, in both credited and uncredited roles, between 1968-1987. But she also played significant roles as a writer, costume designer, location scout, and, later, producer, in a career that lasted until shortly before her death in 2011.

Much of the history and critical scholarship of creativity in 1970s Hollywood has been written about the decade’s larger-than-life men – directors like Altman and Scorsese, or producers like Bob Evans. However, the decade also saw an explosion of new talent behind the camera, in roles like cinematographer, designer, editor, and writer. And much of that creative force included women like Platt, who performed tremendous amounts of labour in creating the look, feel, and potential meanings of their films.

In this video essay, I briefly outline some of the signature components of Platt’s design work in the 1970s, and try to show how significant her contribution was to the films she worked on – the ways that, as one of the primary creative talents on her films, acted as one of their authors.

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