Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Let’s all just calm down.

Today’s media freakout seems to be about the big fire on the Universal backlot.

The fire started in the New York Street facades, but no one on our local news seems to be explaining what a facade is or why they burn so well. I bet they’re not explaining it on your local news, either.

Basically, they’re lath and plaster over a wood frame, and from the outside they look just like buildings. Inside, they’re hollow with some rickety walkways, rotten fabric (hanging in the windows under the guise of curtains), and random piles of bird-shit splattered construction waste. Also, there are no fire escapes or emergency lighting and off the top of my head I can’t remember any fire sprinkler systems inside any facade I’ve ever seen (although I’m sure there are some somewhere).

Now, I’m certainly not pointing any fingers at anyone about this. The facades on all the lots look about the same, and when you consider how heavily used they are the accident ratio’s really not all that horrifying.

Universal Backlot


Facade interior

Facade interior

Facade interior showing stairs

As you can see from the photos, moving from one part of a facade interior to another can be challenging – there’s not really a direct route from point a to.. well, any other point at all, so quick escapes aren’t easy. Also, the interiors aren’t well lit so had there been a production shooting and someone (such as myself) had been inside the facade babysitting a light, it could have been a lot worse than just some replaceable and heavily insured structures burning.

Let’s all just take a break from the media hysteria to be thankful that there were no people trapped inside those facades when the fire started, and to hope that the few firefighters who were injured recover quickly.

Happy Sunday.

It’s just stuff.

Filed under: Photos,

June 2008
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"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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