If you didn’t already know it’s awards season, one step inside 15-year-old Goodnight & Co., located in an anonymous corner of the San Fernando Valley, would put you straight.
“It always looks like a bomb went off here,” says owner Beth Goodnight during a recent visit to her shop. “The next day, it’s a different bomb.”
Goodnight has become recognized as one of the prime builders of sets for all major awards shows, including the Oscars, Golden Globes and SAG Awards. The company handles about 400 builds per year, and has ties to all the major showbiz unions, operating under agreements with what sounds like a football signal of IATSE Locals — 33, 44, 729, 800.
During a Nov. 17 walk-through, the shop was prepping work for the American Music Awards’ individual stage performance areas — “act looks” in the argot of set-builders — from which Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj would sing their hits six days later.
“We have to have six different act looks by Wednesday,” she noted. “We’re often building sets with that kind of tight deadline. We do the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Oscars, so that’s a lot on back-to-back days.” To accommodate the workload surge, Goodnight quadruples the size of her staff, from 30 to 120.
About 40% of company’s workload comes for awards shows. The rest is devoted to building sets for recurring entertainment programs — including “Big Brother” and “Access Hollywood” — and mockups for commercial shoots. Goodnight has its own production designers who brainstorm with show producers. Their collaborations have yielded such artifacts as the giant chandeliers that adorned the SAG Awards or the 40-by-80-foot floral wall that decorated the Oscars earlier this year, as well as the
sets that are used in nationwide commercials for Wendy’s.
Derek McLane, production designer on the 2014 Oscars and the upcoming “Peter Pan,” praised Goodnight’s shop. “They’re outstanding at oddball creations that most other set-builders would not want to do,” he says.
Goodnight, 47, got into the set-building biz in 1987, and a dozen years later, felt she needed a change of situation. “In 1999, I was traveling all the time, working as a production designer on TV commercials,” she recalls. “I was looking for a way to stay home. I really wanted to have a family. I decided to open my own set-construction shop.”
She’s seen runaway production take work out of Los Angeles, and welcomed the passage in September of legislation to triple the size of California’s production-incentive program to $330 million a year.
“The town is busy, but most of the work in features is from reshoots,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of optimism about filming coming back here in 2016, when the incentives take effect.”
Until then, Goodnight won’t be wanting for business, particularly with all those awards presenters needing a snappy-looking place to put the podium.