Designing A Perfect Environment For “Bleep!”
The way people decorate their surroundings reveals a lot about who they are. Production designer Glenda Rovello ensures environments she creates for shows such as "Bleep! My Dad Says" help define the inner workings of the characters that inhabit them.
"You get the script and you read the story," said Rovello. "Often times the sub-direction you get explains where this person is, and what kind of place this person would have. The writers have a very good idea of who these characters are. We help round it out."
After being hired as production designer for the pilot of "Bleep! My Dad Says," Rovello met with the producers who had a clear vision of the direction of the show. A usual turn around time after the initial production meeting would be five week: two weeks for design work and three in physical construction. Rovello had one week to create models and boards depicting the layout of the set’s design to the studio and days to complete construction. Certain elements of the set were pre-determined, due to the nature of the multi-camera shooting style employed.
"There is no fourth wall; it’s open to the audience. Oftentimes that kind of dictates where things play," said Rovello. "You have to open sets to camera, and you have to open sets to audience, because the audience drives the actors in terms of pacing: how to deliver a joke, how to deliver dialogue. It’s very much like theater."
Other elements were slightly unorthodox, particularly the placement of the main character’s chair. Per the request of the network and producers, Rovello placed Ed Goodson’s (William Shatner) chair in the center of the stage, a spot generally reserved for the living room sofa. Rovello then had to anticipate other aspects of the house’s layout that would be necessary for the subsequent pick up of the pilot, such as a kitchen and dining room. After determining the layout of the set, Rovello then moved into the details of the style and period of the interiors. The choices are made based on the facts about the characters.
"I knew that Ed was a retired physician, but he keeps his license, working one or two days a week. He’s a well educated bachelor living in San Diego. This house has always been his house. He may have had wives but the choice made for the interiors are his choices alone," said Rovello.
In creating the physical space, Rovello prefers to keep the room sizes compact. She focuses on the amount of strides actors will need to walk across a room, as well as enter or exit a scene. Working on a comedy, the timing becomes crucial, and an over-sized room has the potential for killing a joke. The period for the actual construction of the sets vary greatly between days to a few weeks. Rovello has a complete team of construction workers that assist in the building of whatever room the script may need outside the living room, called swing sets.
"With swing sets, you get lots of outlines early in the season – the writers want to tell where the story’s headed in nine, twelve, twenty episodes down the line," said Rovello. "They try to get a lot done in the beginning of a season. As scripts come to you at a slower pace, you don’t have to worry about the next week; you can anticipate things in advance."
In creating the interior of the set, Rovello likes to incorporate organic materials when possible. "Will and Grace," a previous comedic series Rovello served as production designer on, allowed her to explore the use of fine woods such as dark cherry, mahogany, and Douglas fir. While Ed Goodson does not share the same flair for designing his home the way Will Truman did, Rovello has found a way to incorporate organic elements that have darker colors, allowing the actors to pop when placed in front of them.
"I do like to see wood and things that are natural and organic," said Rovello. "Ed’s fireplace is made of black stone pieces. I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring the detailing in the wood grains is exactly what it should be."
Working closely with serie’s set decorators, Rovello ensured that the appearance of the house is extremely masculine. The pieces of furniture chosen for the set represent a span from five to twnty years. Although nothing is new, nothing is worn or tattered. The decorations on the wall represent a pride in Ed’s career and time spent in the military.
Rovello also works extremely close with the director of photography, Greg Heschong to ensure the rooms are designed to accommodate the camera set-ups, as well as to ensure the lighting needs are met. This may be done through the construction of windows and the placement of practicals throughout the set, in addition to the set’s lighting grid.
"We give opportunities to have a natural light source come into the set," said Rovello. The actors look like they’re walking from light to dark. We sometimes will use light fixtures and scrims to add patterns to the lights as well."
While a studio shoot doesn’t have much of a need for a location scout, Rovello does work with a scout in determining the establishing shots of locations used within a series.
"Sometimes you see the establishing shots and they look like such a different house," said Rovello. ”I saw an aerial shot of a house in the Palisades that was just perfect. Luckily we were able to get the permission to use it.”
To learn more about Glenda Rovello, visit her website: