'Chuck' lived it up in old Hollywood


For a guy who works at a Best Buy-esque store, geek-turned-spy Chuck Bartowski on NBC's "Chuck" sure lives in high style -- in the famous El Cabrillo apartment building in Hollywood.

When making the pilot, creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, along with pilot director McG, set out to find a courtyard apartment location that was reminiscent of old Hollywood/Echo Park. The locations department, managed by Robert Karpman in conjunction with production designer CeCe Destafano, producer Paul Marks and McG, researched and scouted several courtyard and bungalow apartments from the 1920s before deciding on the El Cabrillo on Grace Avenue in Hollywood.

The building, designed and built in 1928 by celebrated period architects Arthur and Nina Zwebell, is steeped in old Hollywood lore, and it's alleged that a Rudolph Valentino movie used the Spanish revival courtyard building as a set. For decades, the building was an apartment complex but recently was restored and converted into condos by Xorin Baldes.

The makers of "Chuck" liked the El Cabrillo because it "offered many interesting textures -- concrete blocks, wood-spindle balconies, private balconies, an impressive interior courtyard turret and a courtyard fountain," said location manager Kelly Harris, "and provided an amazing background for our characters to interact."

When shooting the "Chuck" pilot at the El Cabrillo, the production's biggest concern was the neighbors in the high-density Hollywood area. To minimize the overall impact, the production parked the majority of its trucks in local lots and only brought in essential equipment.

Alas, Chuck does not live at El Cabrillo anymore. Not exactly, anyway.

In the pilot, Chuck's apartment comprised several units at the El Cabrillo, and it was unfeasible to continue shooting at the complex. Thus, the apartment and the building's courtyard were re-created on Stage 4 on the Warner Bros. lot.

"Re-creating the location onstage gives us the freedom to shoot Chuck's apartment at any time and in many different ways," Harris said. "(It) allows us to create an environment that is very film-friendly."

Guild 'finding its footing,' honoring its own

The Locations Managers Guild of America held its biannual board meeting, followed by a reception that saw service awards handed to outgoing board members.

One motion under consideration Nov. 4 at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., was a proposal to reduce the size of the board from 21 to 15. It was transferred to committee for more exploration.

"We're Hollywood's newest guild, and we're finding our footing," LMGA president Kayla Thames-Berge said. "We want to be a lean organization that is really efficient. That is our goal."

Those honored included Peter Gluck, who was involved in the guild's events from the Web site to the new newsletter, as well as Thom Anable, Pamella D'Pella, Kristi Frankenheimer, Diane Friedman, John Grant, Kathy McCurdy, Deborah Page and Scott Trimble.

"We're a nonprofit organization, and in order to have a pool of volunteer candidates that will come back the next year, and to involve new folks, it's important that they see that their work is recognized and valued," Thames-Berge said.

Picketers pick quite a location

When writers picketed Tuesday in Toluca Lake, Calif., the WGA strike for the first time impacted location managers. More than 30 picketers disrupted a "Desperate Housewives" shoot and stopped production outside a home.

"It's the location manager who is responsible to get the permits to film on location, and it's the location manager that is responsible for everything that happens on location in terms with liaising with the community," said one locations person who declined to be named. "So when a bunch of picketers show up, that impacts the community, and therefore they do have an impact on the permit and on the location manager's job."

Still, while locations people might have sweated community relations, at least one person was happy about the disruption.

"They film at that house all the time, and it's kind of a nuisance to the neighborhood," resident Susan Rubin said as she waved at a neighbor walking the picket line. "It's nice for it to be interrupted." (Borys Kit and Leslie Simmons)