Cinema Crunch Ep 130: Production Design
Cinema Crunch Ep 130: Production Design

– Hey there.
Welcome to this episode of Cinema Crunch. My name is Rose Donahue and we are filming in
the Quantum Arc Media Studios in Las Vegas Nevada. We love watching actors in TV and Film. But what’s happening around them really
sets the scene. Today I’ll be speaking with production designer, Alby Lombardo. Thanks so much for joining me today. – Thank you for having me. – Absolutely, it’s such a pleasure and I, you know I was just thinking,
as I said in the intro about, I watch an actor, but it doesn’t mean as much without everything around them, kind of giving Giving us a sense of the space to the person watching. – Yeah – So that’s kind of what you’re responsible for. – Yeah, well, the set’s a character. – Set’s a character, yes. – ‘Course, yeah – I think about that with Las Vegas specifically because it has such a reputation but that’s true for absolutely any film ever. -Film, TV show, commercial if you didn’t have the set it wouldn’t mean anything. – Yeah, yeah. What’s your favorite type of set to build? – Oh. Wow. I think they’re all in their own way really Cool. You know? But, you know, I like a police station. -Oh.
– I love doing a police station. – Interesting. – The bull pens and the offices and All the personal stuff that we put in there. – Yeah. – You know, that we’ll draw and make stuff up and – Sure. -Yeah. – Yeah, I was thinking… I was – I was kind of imagining, like, fantasy would be fun or whatever. But police station is must be somewhat formulaic but those little personal details -Yeah. -are what make the difference. -Yeah, all the Post-It notes and -Oh, yeah, yeah. – You know, their own little things in the office. It’s interesting, cause it’s a lot of it. – Yeah. – You know, it’s huge. I’ve done huge bull pens before for, like, newspaper shows and stuff like that. – Oh, yeah. -Yeah. – Right, those itty-bitty details all the way – Stuff that you don’t think anybody would ever see. Moreso now with the Switching from film to digital. Uh, And, and, Like the 6K cameras, 4K’s, 6K’s, – Yeah. – It’s a whole different world now. – Because of the clarity of the image? – Yeah. I mean, there was a day you could take a A vine and stable it up on the wall with staples Or put books into a bookshelf and you’d be like “Meh, no one would ever see that.” – Uh-huh. – Now they do. – Wow. – So, everything’s got to be greeked. – Right. – Staples have to be blacked out or the color of the wall. – Yeah – I’m going to make a million dollars, I’m going make colored staples. – Oh. Game-changer idea. – Game changer, I’m telling you. – Love that. – You don’t have to Sharpie them out anymore. – Yeah. – But yeah, it’s changed a lot. I mean, just with the lighting. Now, – Right. – LED lighting. – It’s bright. – Yeah. No one ever thought that would happen. Oh my god. – Really? – Yeah, that’s craziness. That would never happen. And it did. – LED’s specifically, – Yeah. – shifting to that. – Yeah. – Right. I mean, well, lighting is such a – technique. So, and I am not an expert in any way but, from what I have heard, you know there is a real um, passion for some lighting techs and gaffers and such that are for the Tungston lights and the specific type of light. And LED just, I don’t know, -Yeah. – Kind of simplified things – It did.
– But there’s still an attachment to the basics.
-I don’t think, -Which I think is fair. – I don’t think it would ever be simplified but it’s so weird ’cause I remember when Kinoflows came out. And, uh, You know, people loved them and people hated them. – Right. – Now, everybody loves them and Kinoflows have gone to LED now too. So it’s, everything switched over, along with the cameras, along with makeup. The only thing I – Sure. – I don’t think has changed is you know, sound. – Interesting. – It’s still a guy with a mic and a mixer and a boom guy. – Catching it all, yeah. Stopping when we have plane fly over, ecetera, yeah. – “I got a cricket” – Yeah, yeah – Turn off the AC – Yeah
– Yeah – Um, – I was gonna, I’m glad you’re bringing this up ’cause I was wondering How closely as a, um, set decorator, production designer, you’ve really done a lot of different roles.
-Done the gamut, yeah. I was never a PA. – Well, good for you. – Which is amazing. – That is impressive. – So happy I wasn’t ’cause I didn’t have the
temperment for it. – Ah, that’s a good thing to know about yourself. – Yeah, it is. – I think there’s a lot of value in being a PA and getting to know the system, but if you realize that’s not quite right for you then, – I always thought the PAs were treated so badly. – It is unfortunate when that happens. – And they make the least amount of money and do – And they do so much. – The most work. – So much, I know. – You know?
– Yeah. – Must be hard picking up all that coffee and
dry cleaning. – It adds up. – It really is. – It’s a lot. Alright,
– I’ve never known a PA that had a clean car. It always looked a bomb went off inside.
-There’s always something going on in there. Okay, well, an official “thank you” to all the PAs out there. Right?
-All the PAs, absolutely. – Seriously. – Absolutely. – Um, So, in all of your work, minus PA-ing, um, How closely were you working with the lighting team and the camera team to make sure things would translate in the actual capture?
– So, like, the operators and the DPs? Um, Oh, you mean, when you’re on set, I did on-set dressing for a long time and that’s kind of like a little offshoot of the art department. – Okay. – You’re there to move a desk or move a plant or a light. Make sure you have photos of everything. Guys make whole careers out of this. They just do on-set dressing. I did it for a while. I hated it ’cause I hated being with the
shooting company. – Oh. – Yeah. It’s, I like to get in, get out, no one gets hurt. – Okay. So you don’t hang out during production? – No, but when I was doing props, now, I did props for 25 years, um and there it’s more, you’re working with the actors so you become really familiar with them and close with them because you’re constantly
working with them. Anything an actor touches we handle. – Sure. – So, you know, you get to know guys like, you know, De Niro and Hoffman. And they’re, you know, People were telling me “Oh De Niro’s the biggest you know what and
you’re going to hate him.” My brother told me that. – Oh. – And I was like, “Really?” He did a film and he hated him. I met him and he was the nicest guy in the world. So,
– Yeah. – You know. But it’s… Working with certain departments, we all work together. – Right. – Everybody is in on the, in on what we’re doing that day, or as I like to call the Gag. -Yeah. -You know? The circus came to town. – Yeah, the circus, we’re in it. That’s great. – Exactly. – So, what is communication like when you have
so many people? Is it like, team meetings? Is it email threads? Is it walkies?
– Well, they have like a, like a, like on a TV show they’ll have a table read. That’s the first thing you do on Monday morning. They do a table read. Uhm, The actors go off and do what they do. Go home or whatever. And, uh, Like, if you’re in props or set dressing
then you start building what we’re talking about.
– Yeah. – You go, oh, we’re going to build a swing set
over here of a diner or whatever So everybody goes out and gets that and does their thing with set dressing. Props goes off and does their thing. But on feature films it’s more of a, it’s more like, freeform jazz. You get a script. They hire you, you get a script, You go off and do your thing. – Right. – They give you a ton of money and you, you just go off and do your thing. – Right. – Which, if one department doesn’t show up on a feature film, like a huge, union feature film, which I’ve done a ton of them, it grinds to a halt. There’s no way you’re going to do anything. Props doesn’t show up,
– You’re all expected to to do your part. Show up. – Yeah. And people do.
– Like, this is the time and date Yeah. And people, and I’ve seen peple not show up. – Really?
– Yeah. And that’s, That’s crazy to me. But, That’s something, I think that’s something we suffer from here in Vegas, is We’ll get, I won’t tell you what show it happened
to me on. – No, please don’t. – But, I, uh, someone called me and said “Hey, would you mind doing a prop job?” And it was a big, TV show coming to the town. And I was like “yeah, sure, no problem.” And, uh, I showed up to the prop truck Now, I’m like, they call it brooms, so, you have your prop master, you have your assistant prop master, you have your first broom, and then it goes from there; second, third, fourth. So, I was like the third broom on the thing. Yeah, I was just, doing whatever. I get to the truck and I’m like, “Hm, they said six o’clock and no one’s here.” And there’s a universal code that we use on all the trucks for the padlocks. – Okay. – I won’t tell you that either. – Yeah, don’t tell us that. -‘Cause I don’t want people like, “Hey, I’m gonna go get my” – “Let’s see what in there.” – “Go get myself a camera.” Uh, So, I open the truck up and And I just looked at the sides that I had And I pulled everything that was needed for that day. I’ve never been on the show before, I’ve never watched the show before. And there I am, – Doing it. – Pulling everything out. But the afflication we suffer from here is people get to Vegas, and they’re on vacation, not location. – Ah. – And these guys started rolling in and they were still hungover. – Oh no. – If not drunk. – Yeah. – And, uh, It was pretty funny. – Yeah, it’s funny, ’cause I feel like a lot of people who I’ve worked with who
are Vegas locals are so timely. Like, I’ve, even, other guests I’ve had on the show. I’ll have a 10 a.m. time slot, they’re here at 9:30 and I’m like, “Wow, you’re early.” I love it. It’s fine. But it’s true the sense of visiting Las Vegas is very different when it’s just your lifestyle. – It is. People lose their minds when they get here. – Yeah, yeah, it’s funny. It’s a wierd thing.
– Really is. – The character of Las Vegas. Um, Okay, so, I wanted to just circle back. You said, “a swing set.” for TV. Could you just let me know what that is? – So, a swing set is like, um, they’ll have a diner on a show, but it’s not in every episode. So, the best way that I can describe it is Did you watch Party of Five? – Yes, I have. I’ve seen it a couple of times. – So there was a diner on that. And I did the first year of that show and we would have to do the diner and then it would switch over to another swing set so, We would have two crews working. We would strike one and put up another one, you know, within a night. – Wow. Yeah, just, bang it out. Uhm, For television, when you have a set that’s like, used throughout the season, or a swing set, do they shoot, in your experience, has it been that that shoot the full episode and, like, then they bring the set back? Or, do they have all of the scripts done
for the whole season and they’re like “Let’s get all of the scenes in this location.” – Oh no, that would be way too efficient. – Too organized? Okay. Just checking. – No, because they would have to bring in
actors for that. – Right. – They, they’re getting people on the fly and doing that stuff so. No, it just goes into storage and then they bring it as they need it. – Bring it back out. – Yeah. – Keeps you guys busy. – Yeah, – Yeah. – Love that. – Yeah, that’s good. – God, I love making money. – Yeah. – Did I say that? – Nothing wrong with that. Um, and then also so, kind of going back a little bit again, to working with the lighting and camera team, Um, I know sometimes colors translate differently on camera. Are there, do you have like, a formula for Oh, this red is going to look more like coral? Or, like, This dark purple is going to look like black or whatever? – No. No, I mean it’s, They, the great thing about being on a show and being a production designer or a decorator Um, If you have a really good, like, so the decorator works under the
production designer So, I’ve worked under some great production
designers I’ve worked under some awful ones. Uh, But, No matter what when you have a production
designer, they’re a frustrated decorator. And a decorator is a frustrated production
designer. – Okay. – So, it, If they paint a room a color, that’s the production designer’s call. However the production designer wants the set to look, is their call. And, uh, It’s the job of the decorator to go in and put stuff around it. But yeah, I mean, there’s no real, I’ve never really seen that. I mean you don’t really want to paint stuff black because it just goes away. – Yeah, sure. – Or really dark colors, ’cause it just goes away. But, uh, you try to do things to
-You lose the depth. – You try to do things that match what’s happening in the scene. You know. – The mood. Scene.
-Yeah, if it’s supposed to be scary, then it’s gotta, you know, there’s a lot of things you can do. – Right. If it’s Victorian, you need fancy couches. – Oh, yeah. Yeah.
– Nice wood, whatever. – If it’s art deco or art nouveau it’s gotta be this way. You know, so there’s, there’s, I always laugh because I’ll, I’ll look at a set and I’ll be like, “That’s a Queeen Ann chair, that shouldn’t be there.” Like, what’s that doing there, you know? – Yeah. – And, it’s just funny to me, you know. – Yeah. Do you do, kind of, like, dramaturgical research in your – Oh, yeah. -position a lot? – Yeah, my dad, uh, I bought a book. This was years ago. And it was all about furniture. – Just the different, chairs and, the different you know anthology of the different eras of furniture
and all this stuff. You know, Shaker and Stickly and
– Oh yeah. – All these different furnitures so it’s it’s all in my head and it drives me nuts. – Yeah. You’re just looking for it. – Yeah, I’m, – Not even on purpose. – Yeah. It’s really funny ’cause I, when I watch a movie now it’s like I’ll catch mistakes and I’m just like, “god. – “Come on, you guys.”
– Can’t I just go to the movies and just watch a movie and not worry that I saw something that was stupid, or – I think that plagues the industry. A little bit.
-It does. I think we’re all that way. – Yeah, totally, in our own ways. – Yeah. – I get violent. – Oh. Okay, well, I won’t go to the movies with you. – “That poor guy that I went to the movies with.” – Um, In terms of like, being on a production design team, all the different roles, how valuable is woodworking or metal working as a hard skill? Being on a team like that. – So, You know, it’s funny. Okay, so, when you’re on, like, a a microbudget thing or a non-Union thing you gotta do a lot of stuff yourself. I, I’ve really only done, like, a handful of non-Union things. Um, so I farm everything out. You know. – Sure. – I did a show called Tommy Lee Goes to College. And I was the production design on it. And, I had a bed made for him that was metal flames. Yeah, it was really cool. It was suspended by chains in his dorm room. It was really funny. And, uh, – Sounds very cool.
– He loved it so much he took it home with him. – Nice. – Yeah, it said Tommy Lee in the flames. It
was really cool. But, um, It’s great because I found a guy out in Nebraska. To make this thing for me. – Sure. – And the guy was super creative and – Yeah. – was so into it. You know? But,
– Yeah. – I’ve done a lot of stuff myself, I mean, I’m constantly doing stuff, – Yeah.
– Like that. – Yeah, well, that makes sense. It’s important to find the support team to make the vision happen. – Absolutely. – None of us can do it all by ourselves. – No. I had to have a tooth made, this is a funny story. I had to have a tooth made, a gorilla tooth. – Oh, big tooth. – For a movie. Yeah, yeah. It was an incisor. It was huge. And, uh, I went to, uh, my dentist. – Oh, okay. – In LA, and it was for a show called Buddy,
with Rene Russo. And I went and was talking to my dentist and I was like, “Will you make this tooth for me?” And he was like, “Uh, well, I, sure.” You know? So, He made this gorilla tooth. And he was so proud of that tooth that I had it put onto a little gold chain. – Aw. And then I gave it to him. – Yeah He would wear that tooth around his neck. – That’s awesome. – Yeah, it’s cute. Cute story. – It’s super sweet. It’s funny that people, like, People get really excited to be part of something. – They do, especially when they’re not in the business. – Right, right. Totally. – They get all starry-eyed. – Right. It’s good. It’s a good resource to have. – I’ve lost that starry-eyed thing. – No. Well, you’re grounded. Which is also an important quality. Yeah, you’re just like “Nah.” – Grounded? Insane? Same thing.
– Enough. So, okay. So, welding, uh, woodwork, you can find people. Has 3-D printing made much of an impact on that sector of the industry yet? I don’t, Well, I’m sure it has. – Sure, okay. – I’m sure it has somehow.
– For your experience. – I know they’ve had it in films like where the guy prints a 3-D gun. I forget what show that was in. There was a show where a guy printed a 3-D gun. But, um, I don’t think really yet – Uh-huh – it has because I don’t, I don’t see it as viable yet. – Sure.
-I’m sure they’re doing it but the 3-D printers that I’ve seen you know
– Right. – They’ll get halfway through
– The price. the project and then freeze and then they have to reset it It’s, I don’t think it’s quite there yet. – Yeah. – For what we would need for. – Okay. There’s much bigger things
– And there’s so many places Yeah, there’s There’s so many places like ISS and, in LA that is a, a prop house. And they do everything. And Earl Hays is another place that, they do all the printing. All the newspapers you see, yearbooks, all that stuff, is done at Earl Hays. – Okay. – Yeah. Just, any prop, prop book item. – It is so many newspapers. – Oh, yeah. – That I’ve seen And I’ve used. And it’s the same newspaper over and over again. – That’s so funny. – It’s hilarious. I was watching an episode of, uh, Of, uh, oh man what was it? The Ponderosa, what show was that? – Oh, no. – Anyway, we all know what I’m talking about
– Yeah. – The map burned. They made the map that burned. – Uh-huh. -Uh, and, But I was watching and the same newspaper that they used in that, I, like, has used on a show two weeks earlier. – Oh my gosh. – And that was That was back in the 60’s. – That’s the newspaper.
– I was like, “Wow, that’s funny.” – Oh my gosh. – Yeah. – Yeah, so how, how have you developed relationships um, connecting with all these different resources? Like that? – Oh my god, I don’t know. 35 years in the business, you’d think I
wouldn’t know anybody. You know what, it’s kind of like just, You find them. – You just find them. – Yeah, and there’s always someone new in L.A. that’s just popped up. And, uh, I love L.A., but it’s gone through like this really wierd change. There used to be a lot more prophouses. Like, there was this place; Ellis Merchantile, that was the oldest prop house in L.A. They had the polar bear from The Addams Family. – Oh. – In this place.
– Cool, yeah. – And you’d go and they would have all these wonderful things and it was very cool. Huge gun collection and all that stuff. So, they went out of business and it was so funny, cause some farmer in
Iowa owned the place. – Oh. – Like, he bought it as an investment.
– Eh, why not? Yeah. – Now it’s been years. And then, uh, they sold it and it all went to ISS and then ISS just kind of enveloped everybody. – Oh. Interesting.
– Like, really kind of put people out of business. But, um,
– Yeah. But there’s like Alfonso’s, Alfonso’s Breakaway Glass. That’s been there forever. And he makes breakaway glass. – That’s his thing. – Dishes, glasses, all that stuff. Um,
– So specilized. – Yeah, it’s totally specilized. And there’s a lot of machine shops there to that build one-off things. You know, for TV shows and stuff and um, I did, I worked on Back To The Future 2 and 3. -Okay, yes. – But I was a, um, fabricator. I was going to change careers, I was gonna, “Eh, I’m going to get into fabricating.” It was awful. I hated it. – Didn’t suit you.
– You actually have to work with yours hands, which, that sucked. But, um, There were a lot of things that, you know, I watch in that show that I’m like, “Those are coffee can lids that we used on that” or, That was the top of a matchbook that we had to put there.
– That’s so fun. It’s really intersting, what I love, like, hearing about your stories and, um, people in that aspect of the industry is how you make something into something it’s just not. – Yeah. – But, it looks like what you want it to be. – Exactly.
– And that, like, mystery and magic is such a cool element. – Yeah. You know, it always cracked me up. There was a scene in The Big Lebowski where they go to pick Donny up from the funeral home and they just get a coffee can. And put him in a coffee can instead of buying this expensive urn.
– Oh my gosh, an urn. Uh-huh. And they buy this big Folgers coffee can. And I always looked at that because I was like, “You know what? When I die, I just want to go
in a Folgers coffee can.” Like, – It’ll smell nice. – Yeah, it’s like so cheap.
– Smells like coffee. – I’ll be chock full of nuts. It’s a wonderful thing. I’ll be drinkable. – Oh-kay.
– Uh, No, but it kind of reminded me of like doing props. That you just grab something and you’re like, “Oh, okay, I can do this with it.” -Make it work. – Yeah, make it work. Um, I did a, a TV show called Near Future for I think it was like a, Netflix thing, but way back when. No, it was HBO. So, they needed this bubbly wierd drink that this guy drank. And I remember seeing this drink in like this Korean supermarket that had these like wierd little balls floating in it. – Oh, like boba.
– I didn’t, I didn’t know that it was boba. – At the time.
– Yeah, no one knew it was boba. – Right, wasn’t trendy yet.
– This was back in the mid-90’s. It was like, So I went down to this place and I bought it. and I brought it back to the set and the director was like, “Is that safe to drink?” I was like, “I don’t know. There’s all these
Korean people drinking it, And they love it so it should be okay.” But, uh, I gave it, it was just one of those things that was, I put it in a different bottle and people loved it
and it looked great. – Right. – The actor loved it, so – Well good, that helps. – He didn’t throw up or nothing so he must be okay. – Yeah, well, we all know boba is delicious now. – I love boba. Green milk tea. – Yeah. What was it? Green milk,
– The green milk tea one. – Yeah. That’s, I like lavender. But there’s so many options. There’s so many.
– Yeah. – I bop between them. – There’s a bazillion different options. – So many options. Um, so you do food and, uh, non-food. Non-perishable.
– Non-perishable, yeah. – Interesting.
– Uh, Yeah. We, I did, uh, food design for a while. And I’ve done it on actually some commercials up here, for the Aria and stuff like that. It was fun.
– Hm, cool. – And, uh, but there’s some great food stylists here. That actually know what they’re doing. – Oh good, yeah, yeah. I believe that. – But, um, But, yeah. It’s like, when you’re, when you do props, you do everything. It’s really wierd. It’s kind of this whole, encompassing Actors will come to the set and be like, oh, you know, “do you have any cigarettes?” And you have to have a little cigarete budget. – Just in case you got, yeah. – They give you a cigarette budget, but you can’t turn in a reciept for cigarettes. So you have to make up a reciept. Like, something else. – Wow. – “These were left-handed buggy whips
that we had to buy and that’s why they were so expensive.” So, – Wow. – Yeah. – Alright. Yeah, so, you’re keeping an eye on everything, making things accessable. – Yeah. – Making all the magic happen. – Yeah. George C. Scott was the guy, he, he told me, he goes, uh, The producer actually told me, that George
has a drink in the afternoon. – Oh. – So I was in charge of, – Gotta have a tad, bit of a drink on set.
– Getting his drink for him. – Yup. – And it was, this much coffee and that much Seven. So that was like, – Whatever keeps you going
– Yeah, hey. – sometimes, right? – At his age, yeah. He was a sweet guy. – Oh, that’s wonderful. So, we are at our time, which is crazy, I know. – That’s nuts. It went by so quick. – Every time I’m just like, “there’s so much more to talk about.” – There is. – But, we’ll just have to save it for next time. In the mean time, where can our listeners find out more
about you and your work? – Uh, the post office. – Oh? – Just those pictures that hang on the wall, you can lok for
those. Or they can go to – Okay. sounds like the most useful resource. But if they see you on a wanted poster they’ll know where
– Well, they know where – Know where to really find you. – Get the reward and let’s split it. – Well, thank you so much for coming in today.
– Thank you. – Really appreciate it. – Thanks Rose, I appreciate it. – Oh, so glad you could come. And thank you all for catching this episode of Cinema Crunch. Super appreciate you tuning in. If you are watching on YouTube, we would love a like. And if you’re listening on iTunes we would love a couple sparkly stars so other people can find us. Catch you guys next time.

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