By Bruce Shutan
It made perfect sense for Warner Bros. to hire a production designer from Boston to articulate the creative vision for its new backlot in Burbank, which boasts a suburban New England-style setting. Lauren Crasco instructed the painters to stick with a color scheme featuring several white homes with black trim, a yellow edifice with black shutters and a light-blue structure. “It immediately registers with the audience; if you do peach you think Florida or California,” observes Crasco, who has worked on Gilmore Girls.
One challenge was emphasizing subtle variations so that the modular homes, all of which were the same size and shape, wouldn’t look too generic or vague. That meant adding elements such as a porch or fence as well as turning a gable toward the street.
The lot is dual-purpose. In addition to the new residential street shooting environment, it offers office space behind the buildings for productions shooting on the lot. They include the TV series Joey, Cold Case, Gilmore Girls and Commando Nanny, and the features Oceans 12 and the untitled Ted Griffin project.
Named Warner Village, it was dedicated on June 17 after 10 months of construction. The office space is located in 11 two-story homes. Each house has a working entrance in the rear so that occupants can work without interrupting production, while parking, signage and streetlights can be easily adjusted or removed for filming.
To build the project, Warner Bros. “used as many of our tradesmen as we could, as well as specialty outside contractors for things that we don’t do,” said Jeff Nagler, executive VP for Warner Bros. Studios Facilities. In-house expertise included carpenters, painters, furniture makers, sign writers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, plaster and metal workers, some of whom were instrumental in building a utility infrastructure.
Studio executives are so pleased with the outcome that they’re considering building another residential setting over the next few years that would also serve the dual function of housing productions filming on the Burbank lot.
By Bruce Shutan