...more NOPE

January 3rd, 2023 by Karen Burg

Main Photo
Wind Dancers in the middle of nowhere. Insider note: The palette for this film was based on Skittles! Photo by Glen Wilson © Universal Studios.

Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA

Production Designer Ruth de Jong


“The genesis for this film was something I felt was missing...a movie that didn’t exist: the big UFO horror film,” says Director/Creator Jordan Peele. And like his other forays on screen, this would be like no other.
Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA and Production Designer Ruth de Jong talk with Jan Pascale SDSA about the intensely collaborative and joyful experience of bringing this film about despite scorching desert temperatures in practically inaccessible remote areas, animal and wind dancer wrangling, creating an “old” farmhouse, an oversized sitcom, and a theme park, all interrelated!

This is such a unique project, we asked Gene about the collaboration with Ruth and Jordan Peele...in the video, he describes the fantastic process Jordan has established. Be sure to click on the video for that and so much more!
Gene, re: working with Ruth de Jong...
“Ruth has a wonderful sensibility that lent a poetic beauty to the story of NOPE.”
“She developed a rich canvas that allowed for me and my team to come and sketch in a lot of the details.”

Photo 3
OJ – horse trainer Otis Haywood Junior [Daniel Kaluuya] - doesn’t trust what’s in the sky above their gulch. Photo by Glen Wilson © Universal Studios.

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Haywood homestead, interior: The exuberant Em, OJ’s younger sister, is often at odds with her brother’s quiet reticence. Note all the details of this long-lived in family space. Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya. Photo by Glen Wilson © Universal Studios.

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Production Designer Ruth De Jong points out, “We chose a weathered farmhouse for the family home, and built it in the middle of that isolated gulch. And we were very happy with the results, it looked like it had been there for ages. But then, where was the soul, the personality? That’s where Gene and his set dec team come in and make it a home with history that’s being lived-in today.” Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

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Wranglers and wind dancers and a house covered in blood. Don’t ask! See the movie, click on the video above for insider info! Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

“She’s also a bit of a Jordan Peele whisperer in that they have an artistically intimate rapport and vision that enables and invites the rest of us to build and contribute in ways that are deeply rewarding. She has a sure hand and a way with crew that challenges us to bring our best game, but also a winning personality that makes everyone feel like their contribution is valued.”

Photo 7
OJ confers with Angel Torres, a tech salesman at Fry’s Electronics re: dealing with the unmentionable problem. Daniel Kaluuya, Brandon Perea. Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

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Fry’s Electronics: Plans were to shoot at the iconic geek store, but it closed during the pandemic and the team had to re-create that one-of-a-kind electronic wonder store. Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

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Fry’s Electronics: All kinds of electronics! Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

 Gene, re: working with Jordan Peele...
“Jordan is one of the most exciting and original filmmakers working, and I was delighted for the opportunity to get into his movie world.”
“He has a strong point of view, but not to the exclusion of good ideas that help tell his stories. He’s deeply respectful of peoples’ crafts and constantly challenges his team to dig deeper for new layers of reality.”
“As an added bonus he and his creative producing partner, Ian Cooper, are deeply decent humans who also happen to be hilarious conversationalists. I can only hope I get another chance to work with them down the road”

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Personal editing bay of renowned cinematographer Antler Holst. Ruth points out that Jordan insisted everything be practical, and yet Gene and team made it gorgeous as well. Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

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Holst editing bay corner. Again, accurate and working. And somehow organically beautiful. Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

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A pensive Holst in his archives. Gene reveals, “Jordan had the idea that this cinematographer might be the most interesting person in the world.” Michael Wincott as Antler Holst. Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

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Holst’s work desk and many cameras and film...all sourced by Gene and his team working also with Prop Master J Michael Glynn and his team. Gene gives a nod to the film’s actual cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytema – “We channeled him a bit. He’s one of my favorite cinematographers.” Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

Photo 14
Holst living room. Gene points out, the location was a Lautner house in the Hollywood Hills, and because Lautner was known for his Organic Modern style, that allowed Gene latitude from staying strictly with Mid-Century modern furnishings and could use more natural materials. Courtesy Universal Studios ©2022

SDSA Business Members
So many vendors made it possible for us to create the settings for NOPE. Here are some of the SDSA Business Members whose services were invaluable:
·      Warner Brother Property (especially Drapery and Upholstery)
·      Universal Property
·      Omega Cinema Props
·      LCW
·      Alpha Medical
·      Hollywood Studio Gallery
·      Hollywood Cinema Arts
·      Faux Library
·      Astek Wallcoverings
Crew member acknowledgements
·      Grant Samson, Leadperson
·      Allison Isenberg, Assistant Set Decorator
·      Jory Alvarado, Drapery Foreman
·      Will Lynch, Set Dec Office Assistant
·      Whitney Lowdermilk, Set Dec Coordinator
·      Sally Baxter, Buyer
·      Gang Bosses: Kristen Granados, Carl Studebaker and David Agajanian
·      Set Dressers:  Chad Davis, Derek Dean, Nick Higgins, Kory Friedman, Chris Progar
·      Nikolai Loveikis, On-Set Dresser
·      Mondi Wannamaker, Trainee
Special shout out to J Michael Glynn, Prop Master
Editor's note: We're avoiding spoilers, but click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below to get a glimpse of the theme park & sitcom. 
And click on the video above where Gene and Ruth give in-depth stories and descriptions of them!