"I own a small gourmet food store, soon to be a small gourmet restaurant. We're expanding. New flooring. I'm thinking hexagonal tile."
The filming of "Life As We Know It" took place in Atlanta, Georgia, where the story also takes place. Finding the neighborhood, and especially the house that Holly, Messer and Sophie would live in, was key.
Production designer Maher Ahmad offers, "For the exterior, we settled on a Colonial style house on a very pleasant street, with a bit of a curve and a little bit of a hill, providing good angles on the house. Then we had to determine what we needed for the interior of the house, since we didn't want to simply replicate what our real house offered inside."
The designer expanded the interior for practical purposes, but still created something that was in keeping with the exterior of the home. "My goal was to give Greg and Andrew Dunn, our director of photography, a set that would allow them as much variation in things to see and ways to shoot while keeping as much architectural and visual interest as possible," Ahmad expands. "To give them a lot of open views and the ability to move easily from one room to another, I designed big French doors and a back hallway that connects everything together, so they could dolly through on any kind of axis and see the big entry hall."
"The house is pretty beautiful," Berlanti states. "I think most of us decided we wanted to live there. Maher did an amazing job giving us something that suited all of our needs."
To fulfill the needs of the characters, Ahmad informs, "All of the appliances in the kitchen had to function, especially once Holly moves in because she is a chef and we would see her cooking. And two of the fireplaces on the set were operational, which would help convey the passage of seasons."
"The movie takes place over the course of about a year, and all the events that come with that - birthdays, Thanksgiving, and so on," Berlanti notes.
In families with children, one of the most heartwarming rooms in the house is the nursery, and Sophie's room had to be special. As it happened, Ahmad received some input from an unexpected source: producer Barry Josephson, whose wife was about to have their first baby. "Barry was doing his own nursery, so he had some suggestions, including building a dormer window into the room, to make it feel both light and snuggly," Ahmad recalls. "It made a nice architectural variation for the room."
Josephson appreciated how much the design team's efforts assisted in creating the right atmosphere to tell the story. "After the tragedy they've just gone through, we couldn't have them move into a house that was somber. It needed to feel like Holly and Messer would be off to a fair start if they were living there. The design Maher gave us felt very positive and very organic in terms of family."
The baby's room wasn't the only place influenced by Josephson. In one sequence, during a block party on the street, an ice cream truck appears. "Our art director, Austin Gorg, is a very skilled graphic artist, and came up with a logo and caricature for the side of the truck: Big Barry's Ice Cream," Ahmad grins. "It was a bit of a surprise to Barry, but one that he seemed to enjoy."
Though the house was the central set in the film, there were others that were critical to our understanding of Holly and Messer's individuality: Fraiche, Holly's café; and the studio where Messer works as a broadcast technician for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.
"The Fraiche location was really important. We looked at a lot of places - I personally saw as many as 40 - before we found Belly General Store." Though almost ideal for their purposes, the store needed a bit of work to turn it into Fraiche, but, says Ahmad, "The owner was gracious enough to let us change whatever we needed to."
The NBA was also very cooperative with the production. "We couldn't have done what we needed to do without them," Josephson declares. "Not only did they allow us to use real footage, but they got us into Phillips Arena and introduced us to the Atlanta Hawks." The filmmakers were permitted to shoot at a game, as well as a scene on the floor of the empty venue, which depicts a critical moment for Messer.
For the broadcast booth, where Messer works during games, Ahmad and his team were prepared to build a set when TBS stepped in. "As it turns out, Turner Studios had a large production booth available, with all the switchboards and monitors and so on, which worked out really well for us."
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