One of the most exciting things about filmmaking is taking ideas and turning them into reality (or close to it at least). Taking words on a page and actualizing them is a fun (and arduous) process and nothing quite exemplifies it quite like our main location: Uncle Slavko's All-American Family Lodge.
From it's inception, Slavko's was an idealized version of a roadside attraction with a perfect balance of cheesy ambiance and unabashed commercialism. It's the place I always wanted to stumble across during long road trips, but alas didn't seem to exist. It seemed that if I wanted to find a place like this I would have to build it. So that's what we did.
We began by sculpting the words and defining the place in the script. At it's inception, the place was less of a lodge and more of a ranch; Uncle Slavko's Family All-American Vacation Ranch to be specific. It was a destination more akin to Disneyland than a Howard Johnson's, tucked away from the freeways on large acres of land, a giant pool, and the hint of some fixed amusement park rides. The place was enormous, exciting, and budget prohibitive. It was one of the first things that needed to be changed in the script.
I remember having long talks with Mike about the realities of Slavko's in those early days. We both knew it needed to be smaller, but neither of us knew what the place looked like. Being an arrogant director, I told Mike just to write something and we'd figure it out. Mike, being the pragmatic writer, opted to go on an adventure to "find it" so he knew what he was writing. Different strokes, I guess.
As I'm sure we've mentioned before, Mike took an extended road trip up through Northern California, specifically Bigfoot Country. After days of driving the winding mountain roads, Mike stumbled upon the Patrick Creek Lodge and he knew he had found it. Slavko's finally started to take shape.
With the physical location found (and preliminary conversations started to secure the place) Mike was able conceptualize the lodge. Gone was Uncle Slavko's All-American Family Vacation Ranch, replaced by Uncle Slavkp's All-American Family Lodge and so began the next step of it's development: Concept art.
While the lodge was described in the script, it was fairly bare bones. My first step was to visualize the lodge and how all the pieces would fit together. It was the first moment (of many) that Mike's vision would be filtered through my brain. I drew on influences like Sam and Max Hit the Road along with some real life roadside attractions, and put into words what I saw when I read the words 'Uncle Slavko's All-American Lodge'. While I was as thorough as possible, and tried to include some visual references, "Like The Fourth of July threw up," is how I summed it up.
My vision in words, we handed it off to a couple of concept artists: Nipa Eason and Borja Pena. Nipa's work we showcased a while back, so forgive me for not showing her stuff again. Borja's stuff, however, we've posted at our Facebook page, but never got around to showing here. Allow me to rectify that mistake:
Borja even gave us a nighttime version of the same:
Jaw-droppingly amazing stuff I must say. And for the record, if you want to see more of Borja's stuff, check out his website or his tumblr. I guarantee you'll be blown away. How this guy isn't making millions of dollars is beyond me. Anyway…
Concept art in hand, I turned things over to our Production Designer Jon Bell. As much as Mike and myself (and Andy to an extent), designed the lodge, Jon was the one who really had to bring it to life. Taking things like feasibility, budgets, and schedule into account, he did the hard work of making the ethereal into the physical. In the end, he ended up delivering this magic place:
Pretty amazing, right? It's a great blend of idealized road side attraction and cheesy ambiance, but still grounded in reality. Exactly the kind of place I would stop at if I saw it from the road. Kudos to Jon and Chloe (our Art Director) on their excellent job bringing this place to life. With everything ready, the final step was committing the image to film (or the digital equivalent).
Unfortunately, you're going to have to wait a little bit to see that part of the process. Stay tuned, I'm sure we'll have something to show you in no time.