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HBO Game Change: Making Baltimore over and over...

Maryland is no stranger to movies and TV, but with the filming of the HBO political drama "Game Change" here, our small state has taken on its toughest role ever — Alaska.

Yet production designer Michael Corenblith and set decorator Tiffany Zappulla weren't intimidated. Challenged to film a scene at the Alaska State Fair for the docudrama about the 2008 presidential election, they headed to Six Flags America near Bowie. They found a rollercoaster that looks just like the one up north and tracked down a 9-foot stuffed grizzly from an antiques store in Easton to evoke the vibe of a real Alaskan midway.

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Then they built a booth selling reindeer sausage — each board, nail, sign and piece of meat matching details provided by researchers — and photos from the real fair in Sarah Palin's home state.

Finally, they decided they had to provide some snow-capped mountains in the background via the magic of computer graphics.

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"It has a little visual effect component put on it, so we'll add some snow-capped mountains that you guys don't have here," Corenblith says. "But that's about the only thing we couldn't find in Baltimore."

Based on the best-selling account of the 2008 election, HBO's film starring Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson focuses on the GOP storyline from the time Sen. John McCain picked Palin as his running mate to their defeat by Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the general election. That means a multitude of campaign events, hotel rooms and days on the road.

"Every screenplay gives you a different mathematical equation to solve," Corenblith says. "And since this screenplay is telling the story of the 2008 presidential campaign, it mandated a canvas that covered coast to coast. And so, we had scenes that go everywhere from the Central Valley of California, to Alaska, to North Carolina and the hills of Virginia. And Baltimore really offers us the geographic and architectural diversity that we need to tell a coast-to-coast story."

While some press accounts of the production have described Baltimore as standing in for Washington, Baltimore and Maryland sites in fact will be standing in for Alaska, St. Louis, New York, Phoenix, Arlington, Va., St. Paul, Minn., Dayton, Ohio, and at least one rural roadside hamburger joint on the campaign trail traveled by McCain's Straight Talk Express, according to Corenblith.

(Pictured set decorator Tiffany Zappulla and production designer Michael Corenblith)

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