Hailing The Office’s Unsung Heroes!
by Jenna Fischer, aka “Pam”
I’ve talked a lot about the writers, directors and producers behind The Office [returning with new episodes March 2 at 9:30 pm/ET, on NBC]. But there is another, often overlooked, group of people who are just as essential to creating the environment at Dunder-Mifflin. They are the set-dressing, props and art departments. Led by our production designer, Michael Gallenberg, these departments work together to create our authentic office atmosphere. Michael might be our most underappreciated genius. He has an overall vision for our office environment and oversees even the smallest details. If he does his job right, no one notices. He’s not supposed to razzle-dazzle you. He makes sure each department works to create the most real-looking sets possible.
The set-dressing folks, headed by Steve Rostine, choose the desks, the wall hangings, the plants, the lamps. They fill the shelves with random clutter. They are the ones who make sure we have lighted EXIT signs over our fake doors. If you get our Season 1 DVD, you will notice that in the first few episodes my office chair didn’t have arms. I really wanted one with arms so I talked to these guys and they ordered a new chair for me. Pretty cool, huh? I’m such a diva.
The props department works closely with the actors, since they are responsible for anything an actor might hold in his/her hand or use specifically in a scene. Pam’s teapot, Dwight’s bobblehead, Meredith’s sippy cup and Phyllis’ flowers from Bob Vance are all examples of props. I worked with Philip Shea, the head of our props department, to pick out Pam’s engagement ring. We went through two trays of rings before settling on a 14K-gold-and-diamond-cluster ring worth about $80. (Roy’s not much of a spender.) Philip also asked me what color teapot I thought would be Pam’s favorite. In the Christmas episode, our on-set props assistant, Doug Abrahamson, had to wrap and rewrap the teapot between every take. We did that scene over a dozen times.
The art department is responsible for any type of card, sign, certificate or logo created specifically for our show. For example, they created the Dunder-Mifflin logo. They designed the greeting card that we give to Meredith for her birthday. They also created that horrible poster of the babies playing jazz that Angela gets in the Christmas-party episode. That poster made us all laugh so hard, the writers gave it another plotline in a future episode. Everything is subtle and wonderful.
These guys have a good sense of humor, too. If you look closely at the certificates they made for the walls of the office, they are quite hilarious. Here are some of my favorites:
Rain Forest Harvesters Association presents the One Million Cut Trees Award to Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company. Whereas the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company has demonstrated excellence in the total disregard of the environment in its utilization of the vast resources of rain forests across the globe, the association has awarded them this citation.
Or there is this one:
Paper Manufacturers Conglomerate presents the Pulp Tonnage Award in recognition of the company’s outstanding use of over 50 megatons of raw pulp in one year.
It is a very popular thing on TV shows to put the names of crew members on the decorations around the set as an inside joke. We have a “Dunder-Mifflin Salesman of the Year” plaque and a “Humanitarian of the Year” certificate that feature the names of several crew members. Our first-assistant director, Kelly Cantley, was upset that her name didn’t make it on any of the decorations around the set. I guess she complained, so they made this one up especially for her and hung it on the pole by Stanley’s desk:
Whereas it came to our attention that Kelly Cantley was whining that a lowly second assistant director had a plaque with her name on it and whereas Kelly Cantley made a comment on the air regarding that fact… we have decided to give her this certificate because we love her.
So, it’s not just the actors and writers who get to have fun. Our crew is pretty darn cool as well. We spend a lot of time sitting around the set, and it’s fun to find their little jokes posted here and there. It’s like a treasure hunt! Thanks for all your hard work, guys, and for keeping me entertained in the process.
Until next week…