When comedy video website Funny or Die launched in 2007, it started with ten videos and a trash-talking two-year-old telling comedian Will Ferrell off. Fast forward to 2014, and the site, which was co-founded by Ferrell and writers Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, now features thousands of videos starring noted names in the entertainment industry and boasts millions of viewers. Despite FoD’s rise, it still adheres to the grassroots ethos and rock’n’roll attitude that have given the site its distinct brand of humour.
For FoD’s new West Hollywood headquarters, Clive Wilkinson Architects channelled the production company’s irreverence into its aesthetics and created a space that reflected the brand’s creative direction.
“FoD, even with its successes and significant growth in size, still has the anti-corporate start-up mentality,” said Meghan Kelly, project architect. “They are a scrappy company with a young workforce that was a bit wary of moving in to a building that projected a corporate image. To counter this, we created an office environment that emphasised the
in-process aspect of living/working, rather than a finished product, which can have a sterile quality and be at odds with the brand.”
Working within a tight budget, the design firm used unusual materials to give the HQ an unrefined rawness. Reception desks were made from sanded-down OSB and parts of the office were constructed using plywood, galvanised metal and pegboard.
In line with the ‘work in progress’ philosophy, the team installed internal walls with exposed metal studs around the perimeter of the shared spaces and on the outside of private offices. They also created a glass-walled conference room carpeted with AstroTurf, and left all the concrete walls, ceilings and floors unfinished, which contrasts with the brightly painted walls in blue and yellow. “Subtlety was not a characteristic that FoD was looking for; they embraced the more provocative design,” says Kelly.
FoD’s new digs, which act as both a production company and a film studio, are spread over two floors in a new building on The Lot, a production studio whose history dates back to the silent film era. It sits alongside parent company Gary Sanchez Productions as well as younger sibling Gifted Youth.
“The three companies see themselves as distinct and separate, with very different work flows and daily operations,” says Kelly. The architects strategically designed the offices around practical issues such as noise control and minimising disruptions to shoots. Producers, editors and writers were grouped accordingly and their space was laid out based on the level of privacy each department required.
“Gary Sanchez is buffered from the rowdiness that can sometimes ensue in the FoD office by placing the private offices of the quieter and more reserved FoD employees adjacent to the few boundary walls of the Gary Sanchez suite,” explains Kelly. “Gifted Youth are nestled on the first floor, off of the elevator lobby, so they have their own entrance into their suite and don’t have to have clients walk through the FoD production spaces on the first floor.
One of the challenges the architects faced was how to connect the production spaces on the ground floor with the main office and collaborative areas on the second floor. The solution was an internal staircase, painted bright yellow, which matched the centrally located kitchen where all the various team members can cross paths. “The kitchen is deliberately located centrally in the common shared space in order to add to the buzz of the gathering area of the lounge and reception,” says Kelly.
While the kitchen and staircase are permanent fixtures in the FoD office, having a flexible space was imperative to allow for the on-the-fly shoots that FoD is best known for.
“The desks in the open area are on castors to easily be rolled out of the way; the soft furniture is all modular and movable; and the power that services the desks retracts up to the ceiling to allow for open floor space for filming,” explains Kelly.
The wheeled furniture allows the FoD crew to easily create a diversity of interior niches for filming, effectively turning the entire office into an array of mini ‘sets’. But there is also a large, dedicated filming stage that is equipped with two green-screen walls and an impressive audio system. Around the stage, and dotted throughout the entire office, are editing bays, prop rooms and hair and makeup stations.
“The studio is located on an exterior wall that’s all glass, so a new concrete block wall was built just inside that exterior glass wall, with insulation between the two to prevent the noise of the drive and street from entering the room,” says Kelly. “The stage’s air-conditioning system was separated from the rest of the building’s and placed outside of the room. The air had to pass through duct silencers and enter the stage at a very low velocity. There is a vestibule that acts as a sound lock before entering the stage, which has doors with acoustical seals.”
The office currently has 65 staff members, and will doubtless continue to grow. Happily, its designers have created a dynamic and adaptable space that allows for new settings to be easily generated depending on the needs of the work that’s being produced.