Bird's Nest and Wayne's World: Green Design
Finding a location that would inspire the right communal vibe proved to be a
daunting task for the production team. In addition, the filmmakers wanted a
shooting locale that was within 30 miles of Atlanta. What they ended up with was
the perfect setting. The only hitch? It was located 83 miles from the city.
Recalls the director: "When we got to this particular house, I was blown away.
Every other place we had seen would have been an 80 percent compromise to what
we saw in our mind's eye. We got here, and it was like it was built for our
storyâ€¦including the ponds on the property. In fact, the location inspired
several new scenes and jokes."
The place upon which locations manager ROBIN CITRIN had stumbled was an 1850s
10-bedroom house with high ceilings, which made the place instantly filmable.
"If we re-created it on a stage," Citrin offers, "we would have added a lot of
the same attributes that the house had on its own."
Although the house offered a set of logistical challenges, production designer
Aaron Osborne explains that the place was the ideal setting for a modern-day
commune. "Everything about it called out to us, so we worked with the producers
for many days to make it happen," he says. "We ended up there and worked it out,
and I think some of the crew members actually slept in trees. It was Elysium."
Osborne and his crew did their research by staying at and interacting within an
actual 30-year-old commune in the North Georgia Mountains. "We had a great
experience at this place called Earthsong," he tells. "We did sweat lodges and
swam in the lake and had an incredible time." In addition, he used artisans from
Earthsong to create many of the props and artwork seen on the set. "From the
tie-dyed shirts to the cow pen, they were all created by someone down the
The production designer's team imagined each character's room by devising each
of their hidden backstories. For example, he shares that Carvin's room is the
most eclectic. "We started at 1968 and went nuts from there, filling up the room
with everything we could find, including Life magazines from 1969 and on. We hit
every thrift store in Georgia. If you opened a box in that room, you would find
Grateful Dead ticket stubs from 1968."
For the bed-and-breakfast room in which George and Linda spend their first
magical night at Elysium, Osborne designed a space that projected elegance. This
ambiance was juxtaposed against the communal "open space" they share with the
other residents. The designer laughs: "Of course, George and Linda get sucker
punched and find themselves living in a room with no set dressing topped off by
a high arch."
Another stand-out site at the commune was "Wayne's World," as the art department
described Lo Truglio's hangout. "For Wayne's story, we figured he first drove up
to this place in his old 1948 Apache pickup truck, parked it and never left,"
Osborne says. "From there, he just started building around it, and then
integrated it into a barn. There's also a horse corral tied to it, and his
grape-stomping rig tied to that. The vineyards we planted in front of the house
all became part of 'Wayne's World.'"
Meanwhile, Seth's large "Bird Nest" is woven just like an actual bird nest, an
idea brought about by costume designer Debra McGuire. Osborne explains: "Debra
told us she had seen these giant bird nests during the time she had spent in Big
Sur. At first we brushed off the idea, but it turned out that there was this
fantastic artist out there who has been building these things throughout the
country. We commissioned him, brought him in and tied it all together. It was
It's not often said that a film crew follows the Boy Scout motto and leaves a
location in better condition than when it arrived, but that was truly the case
with the Wanderlust shoot. It was paramount to Wain and the producers that the
entire film was shot entirely "green." This eco-friendly notion all began with
electronic communication (such as Osborne showing Wain designs on an iPad)
rather than leaving paper trails.
Moreover, almost everything on set was recyclable. In fact, when the materials
were no longer needed on set, many items were sent over to area communes such as
Earthsong. "We used recycled elements in and on the sets, and then recycled them
again once we finished filming," Osborne explains. "At the property, we would
take trees that had fallen and turn those into a post, so we were getting lumber
off of the location as well."
The crew created actual gardens and vineyards for the shoot. Instead of putting
up silk plants, often done to match frames, the team planted flora. In fact, all
of the flowerbeds stayed at the location after photography was finished. The
green theme was also extended to crew snack time. Craft service would bring the
cast and crew water drawn from a well that had been placed in cups designed by
Though quite different from the commune style, George and Linda's micro-loft,
created on a soundstage in Atlanta, was Osborne's favorite set. Interestingly
enough, the loft's real-life counterpart in Manhattan could currently sell for
$2.5 million. He says, "It is the smallest set I've ever designed, yet it had to
hold a lot of people for filming. Everything was designed to break away and roll
away. It was a little tricky, but we wanted to give the audience a sense that
the characters gave everything up to be in this teeny, tiny space. It had to
look good enough yet small enough so they would say, 'Why are we here?'"
Spending time with George's brother, Rick, and his family drives George and
Linda back to Elysium. Rick is a well-off businessman who made his fortune
selling portable toilets and lives in a showy McMansion-style house that is
distasteful to the young couple. It was location manager Citrin's job to scour
the endless Atlanta suburbs to find a house that made the right statement. "It
had to say opulence, arrogance, excess," he says. "We needed a house that
matched Rick's dick-of-a-personality."
Ultimately, he found that perfect house. "It has that look about it, a bit
different than the other houses on the block," Citrin explains. "Even the
landscaping is a little peculiar. We re-dressed the inside, but it had this big
openness about it. We put in a lot of media and a lot of flat-screen televisions
to accentuate Rick's over-the-top, successful big-brother attitude."
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