Even during the long pandemic months of 2020, we had amazing projects—including a great fast-turn collaboration for Chance the Rapper during last year’s Holiday Season.
This is the story of a relatively last-minute project with a super tight deadline, where fabrication expertise and decades of experience mattered most.
Imagine, it’s November 2020 (just prior to Thanksgiving) and fourline creative—working with Chance the Rapper—calls Chicago Scenic with the challenge: Create seven scenic sets for Chance’s Surprise Virtual Holiday Concert video special. And this was key: Do it fast.
The concert, streamed on YouTube and Instagram, showcased songs by Chance and friends as they moved through scenes from Chance’s favorite childhood television shows and holiday movies. Chicago Scenic fabricated seven sets, including a bedroom, outfitted with bunk beds, from “Step Brothers”; the iconic “Home Alone” living room, the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” kitchen, and a gritty Chicago alley complete with a roll-up door, brick wall, fire escape, and awnings. A “glow in the dark” dance room doubled as the “Mean Girls” talent show set; a realistic elevator with working hydraulics was added at the last minute.
Creating seven sets in a short timeframe was a challenge, recalls Doug Pokorny, Chicago Scenic’s Project Director. To meet that challenge, job leads were assigned a room/set as their own. As set components were built, they were trucked to Cinespace Chicago on the city’s West Side where video footage was being shot, and Chicago Scenic crews worked onsite with local IATSE labor union members on rolling installations. Instead of assembling a “pre-build” in the shop, components were coming out in pieces and assembled for the first time at Cinespace; details like trimming and wallpapering wood were happening onsite, Pokorny says.
Installations began the week of Thanksgiving and—with Thanksgiving Day off—continued through the Thanksgiving weekend. When a worker onsite tested positive for Covid-19, work ground to a halt while crews were tested for Covid, then returned to work a couple of days later. Installation was completed by the end of the first week of December, videotaping continued, and the teams dismantled the set overnight on December 12. The “surprise” concert premiered just six days later on December 18.
While Pokorny oversaw the project in general, Project Manager Doug Peer managed shop fabrication crews and Project Manager Erin Tiffany—in her third week at Chicago Scenic—assumed installation management oversight at Cinespace.
We know it’s June 2021—yet it’s never too early to think of planning your Christmas special or fabulous holiday installation.
Memo to Chance the Rapper: We’re ready when you are!