Hello again! This week was fun because I got to do something I have always wanted to do…go on a tour of Paramount Studios! I have always been a huge fan of movies and how they transport you to a different world for an hour or two. And historically speaking, movies have had a really important cultural and social impact with people utilizing them as a way to escape the hardships of everyday life (as during the Great Depression) or to tell stories that comment on current political happenings (…Citizen Kane). One of the first, and arguably one of the biggest movie and tv production studios is Paramount Pictures. They started back in 1912 but quickly rose to the forefront of the emerging Hollywood scene. Paramount is responsible for hundreds of classic movies, from Forrest Gump to Titanic and the Godfather to Indiana Jones. Because Paramount created so many of my favorite films, namely Indiana Jones, the Italian Job, Footloose (just to clarify I mean the original), Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, and the Patriot Games; I was very excited to go on this tour. Another plus was that this tour was scheduled through Northeastern, so I only had to pay $20 as opposed to the $40 it would have costed me otherwise. This also meant that I got to meat some other Northeastern students who are doing their co-ops in the Los Angeles area! Ok onto the tour…before the actual tour even started we got to go into a room where they had some actual costumes out from famous films such as Sweeny Todd and Zoolander. In the next room there were four Best Picture Oscars that were on display for everyone to see. The Oscars were from Wings, the Godfather, Forrest Gump, and Titanic. The tour guides also played a movie that showed famous clips from many of the movies that paramount has been a part of since its beginning.
Sorry for the bad lighting, the case the Oscars were kept in was very reflective and brightly lit so it was hard to get a good picture, but this is the Oscar for Titanic!
After the short video, we moved into another room where we were briefed on what we could expect on the tour and what kind of things we might be able to see. Shows like NCIS: LA, This is Us, and a few Nickelodeon kids shows were filming the day we were taking the tour, and even though it didn’t end up happening, there was a possibility that we could see the sets and/or actors on these shows. The tour started with a walk around one of the many courtyards and the cafe, which used to function as a dance hall to rehearse big dance numbers before filming. Fun fact: that dance hall is where the creators of the show I Love Lucy met for the first time. After this we headed out to look at some of the soundstages which is where a lot of shows and movies are filmed. There are 29 soundstages on the Paramount Pictures Lot, and they are all gigantic, and I mean gigantic! A soundstage is basically a giant warehouse that is heavily soundproofed and fitted with a grid system of lighting hanging from above. Since the soundstages were were let into were being used as current sets, or set for shows that were going to be coming out in the future, no pictures were allowed inside any of them. Still it was a really cool experience to be able to go inside the soundstages where shows like Frasier and Cheers were filmed! One of the coolest parts of the tour was getting to walk through the New York sets. There are facades set up in block style, with each block being styled as a different neighbourhood of New York, such as uptown and Greenwich Village. We got to walk around the area and even walk inside some of the buildings, which were pretty much empty. It was at this point that the tour guides mentioned a little movie secret, if you carefully watch the extras in films, you can usually spot some of the same people come onto screen more than once. What happens is that the extra will walk through a door wearing one outfit, then quickly change their top and add a hat, turn around, and walk out a different door, becoming a completely different person. The next time I watch a movie, I am definitely going to be on the lookout for some repeating extras! After that we got to go into a prop warehouse, and before we went in, the tour guides mentioned that we could touch anything we wanted too, with the exception of getting into the cars. With that being said, we walked into another giant warehouse filled to the brim with props from hundreds of iconic movies. Some highlights were of a huge Transformer standing in the corner, a futuristic looking tree from Star Trek, and the car from Grease Live used for the Grease Lightning performance.
Here is the transformer I mentioned!
Later, we got to walk past the giant pool that is used to create ocean scenes in movies. As unbelievable as it sounds, the pool is only 4 feet deep when filled with water, but on camera it looks just as real as the ocean. Movies such as Orange County, and the Patriot Games were filmed here, and both films utilized people on wave runners to simulate the waves that are seen in the final cut of the movies. When it is not being used for filming, the pool is emptied and actually used as a parking lot! At the end of the tour, we got a chance to sit on the bench used to film the iconic opening scene from Forrest Gump, which was actually made at exactly a 90 degree angle, so that Tom Hanks didn’t injure his back while filming for long hours every day. This did make it very uncomfortable to sit on though. The tour ended in front of the main Paramount Gates, with the Hollywood sign visible in the distance, a very fitting ending for a studio that is steeped in history and has been involved with so many iconic movies. That’s all for this week, check back next time for some run on sentences about how much I love Los Angeles.
A look at the famous front gates of the studios, in person if you look carefully, you can just see the Hollywood sign in the distance!
Where the magic happens!
This gives you an idea of what a lot of the studio looked like as we walked through