Culver City Historical Society Goes Behind the Scenes with The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness, is a large format book that includes sumptuous photos of movie backdrops, and the stories of the scenic artists that produced them.

As film historian Leonard Maltin wrote, the book “reveals a facet of moviemaking that even savvy film buffs may not know about … You will be amazed, as I was, at the number of familiar scenes from films as varied as The Wizard of Oz, North by Northwest, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events that make use of these canvases … This is truly an eye-opening book and a valuable contribution to our understanding of how movies are created.”

On Wednesday, July 17th, at 7 p.m. author Karen L. Maness and cinematographer Mark Morris will give a talk and video presentation on The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Ms. Maness collaborated in the 2017 Art Directors Guild Archives Backdrop Recovery Project, which recovered over 200 MGM backdrops from Hollywood’s golden age of film for display and study. She is a professor of scenic art, figurative painting, and practical special effects for UT Live Design at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre & Dance, and Scenic Art Supervisor at Texas Performing Arts. Her studio practice and design work include public art, exhibitions, consultation, and corporate commissions. Her paintings have been exhibited nationally and are held in private collections worldwide.

Mr. Morris is an award-winning producer of commercials and videos, as well as a cinematographer and writer on numerous feature films and TV shows. He grew up in Cheviot Hills, earned his MA in Communication Arts/Film & TV at Loyola Marymount University, and operated a film production office in The Culver Hotel. There he wrote and produced his first feature film in the streets of Culver City, which included stunts and gunfights — and a visit from police to find out what was going on. He is a member of the Culver City Historical Society, and currently shoots video for the Sony Pictures Stock Footage library.

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop received the USITT Oscar G. Brocket Golden Pen Award (2018), and the University of Texas at Austin Cohen Hamilton Faculty Literary Award- Runner-Up (2017).

A limited number of books will be available for purchase, and Ms. Maness will be available for a book signing after the program.

Historical Society members and the general public are invited to enjoy this free program in the Multipurpose Room in Veterans Memorial Building, located at 4117 Overland Avenue. The entrance to both the ARC and Multipurpose Room is through the back of the building and open to the public.

About The Culver City Historical Society: Founded in 1979, the Culver City Historical Society was created for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting the history, cultural and civic accomplishments of Culver City and its surrounding areas. General meeting programs are held quarterly in the Multi-Purpose Room of Veterans Memorial Building, which are open to our members and the general public. The Historical Society Archives & Resource Center (ARC) is open the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment. For additional information please visit

Ryan Vincent

The Actors' Gang

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