NBC was the first television network to provide late night talk show comedy with Broadway Open House, hosted by Jerry Lester in 1950, and is now the first to institute a company-wide initiative, calling for a reduction in the carbon footprint of the shows and movies produced under the NBC Universal banner. The “Green Is Universal” campaign kicked off last November, and the recently premiered Late Night With Jimmy Fallon is the first show entirely designed and built under this mandate.
Meredith Bergmann of Green Media Solutions, a consultant and project manager, was hired by NBC to make greener a number of productions. “For Fallon, it was really in the construction,” Bergmann says. “‘Being green’ is a relatively new industry. This way of doing things is new, and the demand is starting to grow faster than supply, so things are starting to get expensive, but we did as much as we could.”
Showman Fabricators engineered, constructed, and painted all of the onstage scenery—everything that’s seen on TV by the viewers at home— and many efforts were made to follow sustainable practices. “Showman was really willing to provide green elements wherever they could,” adds Bergmann. “Everything we suggested they did, and they wanted to do more, but due to budget constraints, we couldn’t.” Showman Fabricators has been using greener methods for some time now, incorporating being green into its business philosophy. “We have programs on a larger level as well as on a smaller level,” says Bob Usdin, Showman co-owner, who is also an LEED-accredited professional. “For example, when we clean the steel used to construct our sets, we use a citrus-based or non-solvent-based cleaner, rather than a solvent-based cleaner that gives off volatile organic compounds [VOCs].”
For Fallon’s new set, all of the carpeting was made from recycled soda bottles or recycled from other carpeting. The platform where Fallon sits with his guests is covered with bamboo flooring, a rapidly renewable product. All of the plywood is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified. The FSC makes sure that the trees are responsibly harvested, ensuring several are planted for each tree that is cut down. Some of the faux-windows on the set use 3-form, which is like Plexiglas® or acrylic made from eco-resin and formed into sheets of plastic, a much more environmentally friendly product than regular acrylic. Homasote®, a product used for sound installation and made from 100% recycled newspaper, was cut, split into bricks, and scenically treated to look just like red bricks. Most of the paint on the set is low- or no-VOC.
Co-production designer Ellen Waggett of Brooklyn-based Vibrant Design, who also created the Real World Brooklyn’s green living quarters for MTV, was brought in by production and set designer Leo Yoshimura. “The challenge to going green is that it costs more money at the outset, and it is a very hard climb for a designer to convince a line producer to spend more, but it is worth it,” she says. “Once they get their heads around it, they see that it’s good. As many green choices we could make, we did. It’s impressive.”
The design philosophy for the project was to use a mixture of old and new, something not uncommon for near-superstitious studio executives and talent. Fallon’s historic Studio 6B was home to shows bating back to Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theatre from 1948 to 1956. Adding to the historic atmosphere are the 275 audience seats salvaged from Radio City Music Hall. “They weren’t even reupholstered,” Waggett notes.
The final set was approved in December, and building began in January, taking about three weeks. “We really wanted to have a green modernity, in addition to reusing and recycling as much as we could. Leo wanted the set to look like an old theatre, so I went to BAM and photographed the Howard Gilman Opera House and Harvey Theatre for inspiration. We feel that it is fine to reuse the old, because it provides that sense of history. Fallon’s refurbished desk was bought from a used furniture store, and the sconces on the stage bought on eBay.
Several doors and windows on the set are from Queens-based nonprofit Build It Green, whose proceeds go to funding environmental education services for school children in New York.
“We have furniture from the Sopranos, Conan O’Brien’s bandstand, and pieces from the new Julia Roberts’ movie, Duplicity. We also have a lot of amazing materials from old buildings that are being renovated here in New York,” says Justin Green, Build It Green program director.
Lighting designer Christopher Landy, also of Vibrant Design, says the studio is still using some of the same conventional fixtures from when Jack Paar called Studio 6B home. In addition to the various ellipsoidals and followspots, Landy has added energy-efficient LEDs to light the band, as accent lighting along the interview area, and where Fallon does his nightly monologue.
“I like to shoot in daylight, which was something new to the studio, because the executives have certain expectations, and things are done rigidly across the board for all the late night shows, but I really wanted to make the show new and fresh and vibrant,” Landy says. “Fallon’s going after a younger crowd, most of whom have never even heard of Jack Paar but want something exciting.” The lights on the bands change every day, but other than that, Landy says that it’s pretty much traditional, consistent lighting for the monologues and celebrity interviews.
Continue to Page 2 to see the show’s lighting gear list.
98 Philips/Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12
7 Philips/Color Kinetics ColorBlaze 72
8 Philips /Color Kinetics ColorBlaze 48
6 Vari-Lite VL2500 Spot
4 Vari-Lite VL2500 Wash
4 Barco/High End Systems Studio Spot CMY
6 Barco/High End Systems Studio Spot
8 Barco/High End Systems Studio Color
4 Barco/High End Systems Studio Beam
12 Coemar ParLite LED
16 Wybron CXI Color Scroller
39 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal 50° 750W
46 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal 36° 750W
14 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal 26° 750W
3 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal 19° 750W
27 ETC Source Four PAR 750W
20 ETC Source Four PAR WFL
7 ETC Source Four PAR NSP
3 PAR46 WFL
2 ARRI 650W Fresnel
2 ARRI 300W Fresnel
19 Mole-Richardson Studio 2kW Fresnel
12 Mole-Richardson Baby 2kW Fresnel
71 Mole-Richardson 1kW Fresnel
4 Mole-Richardson 650W Fresnel
1 Mole-Richardson 300W Fresnel
5 Mole-Richardson 200W Fresnel
17 Mole-Richardson 2kW Softlight
2 Mole-Richardson 1kW Softlight
18 Mole-Richardson 16 Birdie
5 Altman Lighting 6" Scoop
8 Ianiro Single Cell Cyc Light
2 Vega Strips 750W EYC (six sections)
2 6' Ministrips 750W EYC
1 Robert Juliat Manon Followspot
1 Robert Juliat Cricket Followspot
1 MA Lighting grandMA Lighting Console
1 MA Lighting grandMA NSP
1 ETC Obsession II Console
1 Wybron CXI Power Supply
8 City Theatrical PDS-750 TR
4 City Theatrical PDS-375 TR