Cathy Whitlock
Cathy WhitlockFilm and Design Author and Contributing Journalist for Architectural Digest & Hollywood Reporter

Travels from Tennessee

Cathy Whitlock is a magazine writer, lecturer and author of the books Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction (Harper Collins) and re-de-sign (Fairchild). As a contributing writer for The Hollywood Reporter and Architectural Digest, she specializes in film, travel, set, costume and interior design, lifestyle, and celebrity profiles. Whitlock’s work also appears in Vanity Fair, Veranda, Elle Decor, Better Homes and Garden, Frederic, British Glamour and Atlanta Homes and has been profiled in numerous outlets from the Wall Street Journal and Italian Vogue to NPR. As an international speaker and panel moderator on production design and set decor on film and television, she has lectured across the globe at museums such as DC’s Corcoran Gallery, universities including Vanderbilt, film and design schools like New York School of Interior Design, design events such as Madura/Paris Design Week and Modernism Week, as well as film industry and corporate events, women’s clubs, and charity functions.

In her myriad Designs on Film-related talks, Whitlock lifts the curtain on movie magic and celebrates the many ways in which art direction and set design allow us to lose ourselves in the diverse worlds showcased on the big screen. Who can forget the over-the-top, white-on-white, high-gloss interiors through which Fred Astaire danced in Top Hat? The modernist high-rise architecture, inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead? The lavish, opulent drawing rooms of Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence? Through the use of film design—called both art direction and production design in the film industry—movies can transport us to new worlds of luxury, highlight the ornament of the everyday, offer a vision of the future, or evoke the realities of a distant era. Whitlock brings to life the evolving story of art direction over the course of a century and illuminates her multi-media talks with rich visuals—from the massive Roman architecture of Ben-Hur to the infamous Dakota apartment in Rosemary’s Baby to the digital CGI wonders of Avatar’s Pandora. Drawing on insights from the most prominent Hollywood production designers and the historical knowledge of the venerable Art Directors Guild, Whitlock delves into the detailed process of how sets are imagined, drawn, built, and decorated.

Speaking Topics:

  • Designs on Film: Set designs of iconic and popular films from the early 1900s to present day with behind-the-scenes images, anecdotes, film sketches and stills
  • Architecture on Film Sixties Style: Set and Costume Designs from Film and Television Art Deco on Film
  • Designing the Period Film from Gone With the Wind to Little Women
  • Designing the Genre Film (western, film noir, musical, horror, contemporary, etc.)
  • Set Décor: Interior Design on Film and Television
  • Costume Design on Film
  • The Making of Bond, James Bond


Praise for Designs on Film


“An amazing glimpse into art direction.”

—The New Yorker

“[Designs on Film] traces the art of building pretend worlds. Starting back in the pre-talkie years and moving through Hollywood’s golden age and the epic-crazy ‘60s, right up to contemporary Hollywood, the book is packed with insider tidbits about the wildly inventive―and improvisational―business of movie-making.”

—Wall Street Journal

“Whitlock makes a major contribution to movie literature by saluting undersung production designers, set decorators and art directors.”

—Los Angeles Times

“This lush book of pictures and drawings showcases big-screen glamour over the decades, from the opulence of Cleopatra to the more modern majesty of Batman.”

—Entertainment Weekly

“A compendium of images celebrating iconic interiors and architecture….[Whitlock] sifted through decades of archival photographs to assemble this rare glimpse into the world of Hollywood art direction and set design. ”