You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Drunk History’s’ Quick Production Pace Challenges Design Crew’s Skills

When Emmy-nominated production designer Chloe Arbiture — the only woman to get the nod in her category — first joined Comedy Central’s “Drunk History,” on season four, she realized that the main challenge was going to be the show’s rapid production pace.

“There’s 10 episodes, and we shoot three stories per episode and one a day,” says Arbiture. “Each story has its own time period and up to 14 different sets. On top of that, we have no prep. Everything has to be shot in a single day.”

Created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner, the show’s liquored-up version of American history features an inebriated narrator and a changing cast of actors and comedians who travel across the country re-creating historical events.

To keep up, the crew maintains a brutal schedule. “The call is at 7 a.m. every day, but the art departments arrives at 5 a.m.,” Arbiture says. “By 7:45 a.m. we’re busy shooting, and by 11 a.m. we’re done and the set is already broken down.”

The show uses miniatures, backdrops and 2D scenery to create nontraditional sets that lend themselves to the comedy and story at hand. “Derek, the host and director, is a really big fan of the community theater aesthetic, so we often lean into that, as it helps us tell the story,” Arbiture explains. “Miniatures mean that no idea is off-limits.”

She cites an episode in which “we had to re-create this real-life molasses flood in Boston and build an entire city covered in the stuff on a very small budget.” The solution? “We built the whole of downtown Boston in a 1/87th-scale miniature and then just dumped a ton of molasses on it. It worked perfectly. It’s all about telling these stories in creative ways.”

Arbiture stresses that the aim is “always to make the stories as historically accurate as possible. All the research and the execution serve that end. We never try to make the set design, costume design, hair or any of that stuff comedic. The comedy always comes from the drunken narrator. We don’t try to make fun of the history itself.”

Arbiture’s Emmy nomination, which is for outstanding production design for variety, nonfiction, reality or reality-competition programming, comes for her work on the “Hamilton” episode, appropriately narrated by Lin Manuel-Miranda. As the only woman nominated in the production design category, she says “it’s still a bit of a boys’ club, especially in the comedy category, which tends to be male-dominated more than drama — so I’m very happy to be nominated. In fact, nearly all my crew are women, so I’m thrilled we’re seen as an equal creative force to men.”

More Artisans

  • Chaz Ebert DePaul CHA Documentary Filmmaking

    Chicago Program Gives High School Girls Lessons in Documentary Filmmaking

    At the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, three of the projects screening in the Short Film Corner — “Birthday,” “Phenomenally Me” and “Without Dying” — will be products of the DePaul/CHA Documentary Filmmaking Program, a six-week course co-sponsored by the Chicago Housing Authority in which high school girls learn filmmaking from graduate students and faculty of [...]

  • Steven Spielberg55th Annual CAS Awards, Inside,

    Cinema Audio Society Sets 2020 Awards Show Three Weeks Earlier

    The Cinema Audio Society has moved its 2020 awards show ahead by three weeks to Jan. 25 due to the compression of the season. It will be held at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown. The CAS Awards recognize sound mixing in film and television, outstanding products for production and post-production, as well as the recipient [...]

  • Rocketman Elton John Biopic

    'Rocketman' Production Team Took the Fantasy Route With the Elton John Biopic

    Paramount has high hopes for “Rocketman,” the Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton as the legendary performer. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, the film comes on the heels of Fox’s massively successful Freddie Mercury movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” and could capitalize on audiences’ newly discovered interest in rock star stories that transport [...]

  • Burbank-based Barnstorm VFX Studio Expands to

    Barnstorm VFX, Creator of Visuals for Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and Other Shows, Expands to Vancouver

    Barnstorm VFX, the company behind the visual effects on Amazon Studios’ “The Man in the High Castle” (pictured above), “HBO’s Silicon Valley” and CBS’ “Strange Angel,” has opened a new facility in Vancouver, British Columbia. The move positions the boutique digital effects, design and production shop to take advantage of expanding work north of the [...]

  • Maryland Production Incentives Include 25%-27% Refundable

    Maryland Lures Producers With a Tax Credit of Up to 27%

    With its close proximity to the nation’s capital and a wide diversity of filming locations, Maryland offers producers many enticements. The physical attractions range from the historic and picturesque Chesapeake Bay, scenic Appalachian Mountain landscapes, the U.S. Naval Academy with its marching cadets, the gritty yet gentrifying cityscapes of Baltimore, and the leafy suburbs around [...]

  • Women Rule in Front of, Behind

    Women Reign in Front of and Behind the Camera on 'The Spanish Princess'

    “The Spanish Princess,” which premiered May 5, rounds out the Starz miniseries triptych that began in 2013 with “The White Queen” and continued four years later with “The White Princess.” The latest seven episodes revolve around Spain’s Catherine of Aragon, played by Charlotte Hope, in line to receive the highly contested throne of England in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content