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ATL   Full Production Notes    View All 2006 Movies
Starring: Tip “T.I.” Harris, Lauren London, Evan Ross, Jackie Long, Big Boi, Albert Daniels, Jason Weaver, Kadijah, Malika
Directed by: Chris Robinson
Screenplay by: Tina Gordon Chism
Release Date: March 31th, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language, sexual material, violence.
Box Office: $21,170,563 (US total)
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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Tagline: A new American story.

The musical ensemble comedy is set in an Atlanta hip-hip roller-skating rink. T.I. will play Rashad, the head of a roller-skating team, while London will play New-New, an employee at the rink who is in love with him. The story is based on material by music producer Dallas Austin and T-Boz, a member of the pop group TLC.

17-year-old Rashad (Tip Harris) was forced to become the man of the house earlier than most. Since the death of his parents, he’s carried the responsibility for himself and his little brother Ant (Evan Ross) squarely on his shoulders.

While he does his best to keep Ant in school and out of the trouble that’s always lurking just around the corner in their South Atlanta neighborhood, sometimes it seems like a losing battle – Rashad can’t be everywhere at once, and Ant is dangerously close to falling under the spell of a blinged-out local dealer who promises fast money and the respect Ant dreams of getting.

A talented artist, Rashad doesn’t see any future for himself beyond assisting his Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson) as a janitor after school. The thing is, “assisting” George actually means doing all the work and seeing none of the cash. Lately it seems the only bright spot in Rashad’s life is New-New (Lauren London). She sees something special in him, something more than he sees. When the two get together, everything begins to change, and Rashad’s future starts to open up for the first time. But New-New has a secret that’s getting harder and harder to keep.

Behind her ghetto-fabulous front, New-New is actually Erin, a rich girl from the right side of the tracks who’s drawn to the music and vibrant life she sees in Rashad’s neighborhood. Her father, successful CEO John Garnett (Keith David), grew up on the south side of town, but once he left he never looked back. Garnett doesn’t want his daughter slumming on the southside, and forbids her from setting foot anywhere near his old neighborhood. So every weekend she leaves Erin behind, lying to her parents so that she can become New-New, the person she thinks she needs to be to find acceptance in Rashad’s world.

Lauren London (center) as New-New with Khadijah Haqq as Veda and Malika Haqq as Star in ATL.
Besides New-New, there aren’t many people Rashad can count on. His best friend Esquire (Jackie Long) is an ambitious student who dreams of attending an Ivy League college, and is willing to do anything to make that dream come true. When Esquire runs into New-New while cozying up to her influential father for a letter of recommendation, he has to make a decision whether or not to blow her cover.
When Rashad finds out New-New’s real story, he doesn’t know who to trust anymore – it seems everyone in his life is lying to him, even the people he loves the most. As Ant gets pulled deeper into the life of a dealer and Rashad’s dreams for him begin to fade, Rashad is going to have to make tough choices about what he wants and where he’s going.

Back in the Day...

Directed by acclaimed music video helmer Chris Robinson and starring platinumwinning rapper Tip Harris, ATL is loosely based on filmmakers Dallas Austin and Tionne “TBoz” Watkins’ experiences growing up on Atlanta’s south side. In the midst of drug dealers, gangs and violence, their only escape was a local skating rink called Jellybeans, where every Sunday night from 8:00pm until 1:00am, the teens and their close circle of friends entered a world that allowed them to escape the pressures of everyday life for awhile in the music and excitement of the rink. Many of today’s top hip-hop artists could be seen at Jellybeans every Sunday back then, including Atlanta-bred performers OutKast, Jermaine Dupri, Little Jon, Trillville and TLC.

“Atlanta is like a little high school,” says T-Boz, a founding member of the platinumselling group TLC. “If you are from Atlanta and you were living in East Point or Collegepark in our time, you probably have either been to Jellybeans or heard of it at one time or another. It was urban kids putting their energy and creativity into musical expression and dancing – there was so much positive energy going on in that building that it almost breathed by itself. I’ve made a whole career out of what I learned going to Jellybeans every Sunday night."

Acclaimed music producer Dallas Austin’s innovative style has shaped the sound of today’s pop and R&B music worldwide. Prior to ATL, Austin served as executive producer and executive music producer on 2002’s Drumline, which was based on his own experiences in his native Atlanta and explored the rich tradition of marching bands on traditionally black Southern campuses. Using the current electric Atlanta hip-hop scene as a backdrop, Austin wanted to ensure that ATL remain similarly authentic to the culture.

Music video director Chris Robinson was tapped to direct. Renowned in the music industry for directing some of the biggest names in hip-hop, such as platinum-selling artists Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes and Usher, Robinson took on his first feature film with ATL.

“Everything I’ve done in my career up until this point, in the last ten years, has been an exercise, a training ground for me to direct this film,” Robinson asserts. “What I really love about this script is that it’s a character piece. It’s a story about five real kids who each have a different dream. I wanted to make a film where you really care about the characters and the story. I already knew that the visual part would come.”

Robinson was well-suited for the project on two levels – in addition to his proven ability to shoot from a video-director’s point of view to capture the music-driven aspects of the film, the producers were interested in his ability to tell a compelling story. “A lot of music video directors can’t capture the story,” Austin says, “so what we’d do was turn on the directors’ tapes, turn down the music and just watch to see if we could find the story. Chris was far and away the best.”

To get the feel of the film, Robinson traveled to Atlanta and spent time with Austin to soak up the city’s unique vibe. “I went to his house and met his mom,” he recalls. “I experienced Atlanta with him and suddenly the story really opened up in my mind. I knew then that this film was perfect for me and that it had to be shot in Atlanta.”

The director also knew who he wanted to play Rashad, the young man whose story is atthe heart of ATL: Tip Harris, also known as platinum-winning hip-hop artist and Atlanta native “T.I.” Four years earlier, Robinson had directed Harris’ first music video and was immediately impressed by the young talent. “He had a crazy charisma and so much presence,” says the director. “But on this film he came to the table, worked so hard and never tried to be T.I. – he became Rashad. Over a three-month period he turned down huge opportunities to do shows paying lots of money to do this project. He totally dedicated himself to making this film.”

Robinson brought Harris to Austin’s attention during the casting search for the film’s star. “I made mention to Dallas that he had to put me in this movie,” says Harris. “I told him, you gotta make sure I’m a part of this project.’ And I was very, very up and coming at the time, it was early on in my career, and I think he still recognized how much authenticity I could bring to this film.”

Rapping since he was nine, Harris signed his first recording deal with Arista Records when he was 19 and released his debut album, I’m Serious. He generated a powerful underground buzz with the hugely successful Grand Hustle Records mix tapes In Da Streets, Parts 1 and 2. Harris exploded into national prominence with Trap Muzik, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, spawning such top-charters as “24’s,” “Rubber Band Man” and “Let’s Get Away,” and along with other artists such as OutKast, Goodie Mob and Organized Noize, helped bring Southern hip-hop into the national consciousness. His second release, Urban Legend, made an explosive debut in the #1 spot on Billboard’s “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums” chart.

Of his character Rashad, who has been placed in the position of head of the household at a very early age, Harris says, “He’s a very focused young man. A mature young man who finds himself in a lot of adult situations. He’s the father figure of the household, and he’s perceived as a leader, as well as a no-nonsense kind of guy. And,” he adds, “he’s also a bit of a ladies’ man.”

A talented artist, Rashad dreams of being a cartoonist for the local paper. However, with the death of his parents, those dreams have all but vanished. Left in the questionable care of their Uncle George, Rashad and his little brother Ant do all of his janitorial work themselves after school, while he picks up the checks – and locks the food up tight at home to make sure they’re not getting too big a share. Facing graduation from high school and seeing nothing promising in his future, Rashad focuses his attention on making sure his younger brother stays in school, saving up what little money he can put away so that Ant can get into college and move on to a better life.

“Like a lot of kids in America, Rashad’s had to take on the role of a grown man at a very early age,” says Robinson. “He’s an old soul. He really considers what he does, how he spends his money, and tries to do what he feels his parents would have done, especially when it comes to his little brother. Then he meets a girl who brings color back into his world. He finds himself believing that he can have dreams and that perhaps his life isn’t what he thought after all. Rashad’s story, his art and what he learns along his journey form the centerpiece of the film.”

The girl who inspires Rashad to dream of something better is ghetto-fabulous New-New. When he’s around New-New, Rashad feels for the first time that someone thinks he’s really worth something, that he has what it takes to move beyond his circumstances and make something of himself. “She sees something in Rashad,” says newcomer Lauren London, who plays the rebellious young woman. “He seems more responsible than the other guys, he’s a leader and he has a freedom that she envies. As she gets to know him, Rashad becomes more vulnerable and open to her – he shares his dreams with her.”

But New-New has a secret…. Contrary to the front she puts up around the neighborhood, in her everyday life, New-New is really Erin Garnett – the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the city. Sheltered from the real world by her father, on Sunday nights Erin slips away to re-invent herself on the other side of town. But when she falls for Rashad, her secret becomes harder to keep.

“She’s been tucked away and sheltered all her life because her dad doesn’t want her to see the things he saw growing up in a bad neighborhood,” explains London. “New-New comes from Erin’s imagination – she dresses up in all these ghetto-fabulous outfits and crazy make-up. She’s the side of herself that Erin can’t show at home; New-New can have an attitude and be more aggressive, where at home the attitude doesn’t fly. So she portrays this character in order to fit in, until she learns that if you just be yourself, people will like you for who you are.

“New-New is based on T-Boz as a kid,” London adds, “I talked to her about my character and she was very open about her life. She explained to me how it was when she was young – the attitude and the flavor. And it’s funny, a lot of people say that I act like she used to act at the skating rink.”

“Yes, I’m the New-New of the movie,” laughs T-Boz. “But unlike New-New, my mom supported me going to the skating rink,” she continues. “If I did something bad, my punishment was that I didn’t get to go – and I’d just die twice. Of course, Mom didn’t know that I’d sneak out the window and go anyway.”

Although New-New is becoming important to him, Rashad’s life revolves around his fifteen-year-old little brother Ant, played by Evan Ross, who makes his film debut in ATL. Always in his brother’s shadow, Ant is struggling to find his own way. He believes that the easy road to success is becoming one of the big-time dealers who are rolling in cash and seem to command the respect of everyone in the neighborhood. The lure of making big money as a big man is too much for him to resist, and he quickly gets in way over his head.

Ross, the youngest son of Grammy-winning Diana Ross, feels that Ant is at a crossroads in his life. “His story is about being in high school and trying to choose which path to take – the right one or the wrong one – and finding strength to be somebody when you don’t really have anybody to look up to. I realize that kids all over are dealing with these same issues and sometimes they take the wrong path, but if you’re lucky, you get a second chance.”

Working with Harris was a revelation to Ross. “He’s a great actor,” he exclaims. “It’s his first movie too, and that has been good because we’ve been able to find ways of doing it together that has made it a lot easier for each of us. We’re able to talk about personal things and about growing up. He’s had a totally different life than I have. He’s from the South and knows about this side. He’s helped me with my dialect – and he brought me to the hood. Now we’re family!”

Rashad and his crew of three best friends Esquire, Brooklyn and Teddy are also just as close as family. “All these guys support each other and they look out for each other,” says Robinson. “I think when we become adults that’s one thing we lose – we forget how much our friends meant to us. You discover the world together. And although their paths may go in different directions after this summer, these four guys are on the cusp of adulthood, and they’re facing it together.”

Confronted with the challenge of finding young actors who would make up the film’s ensemble cast, the filmmakers held open auditions in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. From the beginning, Robinson knew he wanted newcomers – faces that had never been seen before. And once he found his crew, he made sure they were as tight offscreen as they were on.

“I wanted to create a group of friends who you really believed in,” explains the director. “Before we ever shot a cell of film, I had them come to Atlanta for six weeks and we went over the script, sat around talking, ate dinner together, and learned to trust one another. It was so collaborative that we became this tribe, this little unit. The fact that we created a team like this is what’s going to make this film really sing.”

Of the four friends, Esquire is the most ambitious. No one in his family has ever been to college and he is determined to break the cycle by getting accepted into not just any college, but a prestigious Ivy League school. Having gotten himself into an elite prep school on scholarship, Esquire’s worked hard to secure his future, and he seems to be on his way. However, there’s one small snag – he needs someone of importance to write a letter of recommendation in order to have any chance of making it to the Ivy League. While his job at the local country club brings him into contact with the one person who could solve his dilemma, when that person turns out to be New-New’s father, it creates a situation that could destroy his lifelong friendships.

“Esquire’s life is a series of deceptions,” says Jackie Long, cast as the determined Esquire. “His friends don’t have too many goals, but he strives to be different. He goes to a different school, he dresses differently and he works at a country club where he pretends to be someone he’s not.”

“Esquire reflects a friend of mine,” says Austin. “He worked at the country club even though he told us he worked at a hot dog joint. When he’d come to school, he was all dressed up like GQ magazine and you’d think his family had money, but he lived in the projects.”

In contrast to his ambitious friend, street poet Brooklyn can’t seem to hold down a job for more than a day. The character of Brooklyn is brought to life by Albert “Al Be” Daniels, who has earned recognition as a poet, most recently appearing on Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry for HBO.

“I’ve known Al Be since he was 15 years old,” says Robinson, “when he was a production assistant on music video shoots in New York. He was this annoying kid who was always getting fired because he was so inquisitive and obnoxious. But I always thought he had something. Eight years later, I ran into him in New York at a poetry reading and knew he was perfect. But he had to audition and he didn’t have any money to get to Atlanta, so he went out and hustled money doing poetry in the subways, got on the bus and came down. He was amazing and he got the part. He deserved it.”

“I was a poet before this,” says Al Be, “and on the stage there’s no take two, no let’s do it again. There’s one time. The film has actually been easier because we had rehearsal and a couple of chances to get it right. We went through hard training, but it was fun – we had Popeye’s chicken!”

Jason Weaver was cast as Teddy, the fourth member of the crew. Weaver had previously appeared with Whoopi Goldberg in The Long Walk Home and as the young Michael Jackson in the made for television movie The Jacksons: An American Dream. When the young actor appeared in Austin’s Drumline, he so impressed the producer that there was no doubt about his having a role in ATL. “There’s a Jason Weaver in any of our societies,” says Austin, “so he’ll probably be in most of my movies, if not all of them.”

Weaver describes Teddy as “the comic relief of the film. He’s what you’d call your average Atlanta or SWATS type of guy,” he says. “SWATS stands for South Atlanta – gold teeth, really long shorts, very bold personality, very southern, genuine and sincere with his relationships and his friends. Sometimes he’s a little loud, but when you get into who he really is, he’s a very soft person.”

Unlike the other guys, Teddy doesn’t go to school. Instead, he works at Eddy’s Gold Teeth, fitting customers for their “grills.” He’s content with his job and even has his own set of trophies. “It’s a big thing in the South,” explains Weaver. “It shows people that you’re successful, and in the hood that means everything. If you’re walking around with a grill and you have four on the bottom or four on the top, if you’ve got ice in your teeth, that means you’re shining, you’re doing your thing, you’re getting your money. It’s an honor for Teddy to get his trophies, because it makes him feel like he’s doing pretty well.”

Twins Malika and Kadijah portray Star and Veda, New-New’s best friends at the skating rink. The girls are not new to the world of show business, having been part of it since they were three years old. However, ATL is only their second film, and the first where they’ve actually played twins – they had previously appeared in the movie Sky High, sharing a single character.

Kadijah describes her character Star as “a ghetto fabulous Atlantian, who loves a few things – her friends, her boys, and stealing.” Malika as Veda feels that her character is much the same with one exception. “She loves to talk. Veda is always talking when she should be listening. Gets her into a lot of trouble.”

It was vital to the filmmakers that they give all of the young performers in their cast a platform to develop and display their talents. “We’re going to make stars, and that’s important to me,” says Robinson. “All this young black talent out there, all these young black actors who don’t get a shot or who have to wait years to get their shot, are getting their shot in this film, and they’re bringing it.”

“I call them my ‘Black Pack,’” adds Austin, whose Dallas Austin Foundation is dedicated to developing the talents and skill set of urban youth by exposing them to various facets of the music and entertainment industries. “Like the Brat Pack used to be.”

Emmy Award-winner Keith David portrays New-New’s father John Garnett, CEO of a major Atlanta company. Garnett has risen up by sheer force of will and determination from the ghetto and lives comfortably in a very upscale neighborhood. He has no idea that his daughter lives a double life as New-New, drawn to the place that he’s worked so hard to escape. Thinking he’s rid himself of anything having to do with his old life, he’s dismayed to find out that his daughter is associating herself with the old neighborhood and getting involved with a boy who lives there.

“My daughter wants to hang out on the south side,” he says. “And when I find out, I come down really hard on her. She’s lied to me and because of that I conjure up all the worst possible scenarios. I don’t trust that I’ve raised her well enough to know how to be careful and to make a phone call if she gets in trouble.”

Having two daughters of his own made David more aware of what it means to be on the verge of adulthood. “It’s a coming of age story for young men and women,” he says. “It’s a story about trusting who you are and believing that you don’t have to lie about who you are to be friends with people who may not be in your social class. The only difference may just be the bank account.”

Authentic Atlanta

In addition to his talented main cast, in keeping with the atmosphere of authenticity he was trying to achieve with ATL, Robinson wanted to have as many cameos in the film as possible. “I wanted all of our cameos to be authentic Atlanta,” he explains, “real people.”

Grammy Award-winning music producer Big Boi, who is half of the avant-garde hip-hop duo OutKast, plays the role of a flashy neighborhood drug dealer. Mega-producer and three-time Source Award nominee Jazze Pha plays the DJ who runs the rink every Sunday night. “He’s an Atlanta cat and he’s hilarious, and obviously does amazing music,” says Robinson. “We have Rico Wade, one of the original guys from Jellybeans who became part of the Atlanta-based production team Organized Noize. That team helped define and then represent the late 90s Southern rap by producing most of the area’s most esteemed artists.”

Grammy Award-winner and Dallas Austin protégé Monica appears in the film as a Waffle House waitress. Monica was first signed to Rowdy Records by ATL producer Dallas Austin and many of her songs were produced by Jazze Pha. Also making cameos are Atlanta rappers Killer Mike, Bone Crusher and Concrete. “It wouldn’t be right if they weren’t in the film,” concludes Robinson. “It’s not stunt casting or novelty casting. These are talented Atlanta people who really fit their role.”

Music of the ATL

Music for ATL was coordinated by Austin, who views movies as a cultural extension of much of the music he’s produced while being based in Atlanta. According to executive producer Timothy M. Bourne, “It’s all new music that’s rooted in the Atlanta vibe.”

“I’m a musical person first of all,” says Austin, “and that’s how I pitched the story to Hollywood – as a way to make a musical without putting Singing in the Rain on the screen. Drumline was my first film and now we have another environment – the skating rink – that can fill a movie with music without the kids breaking into song. I’m determined to show Hollywood and New York the culture from the South.”

Representing that culture musically in the film meant more to Austin than loading the soundtrack with current hit music. “We’re not really interested in the big super acts,” he says. “We thought it would be much more interesting to get the guys who are about to come out, the stars of next year that everybody in Atlanta is listening to right now. That way it’s more like an event rather than a bunch of songs you’ve heard before.

“I think we’ve done a great job at putting together the little spices of Atlanta and its music,” he continues. “Regardless of how you look at this movie now, in 10 or 50 years, at the end of the day, you will see what a huge place Atlanta is for music – the one place in America that hasn’t stopped. It will always be a classic.”

Hitting the Rink

Three months prior to the start of production, the young actors gathered at Atlanta’s Skatetown to begin training for the electrifying skating sequences in the film. Most of them had never been on roller skates before.

“We started from scratch,” said Vaughn Newton, skate captain. “They had to learn basic balance, simple muscle building, and exercises to get them used to the skates. They had to learn coordination, the mechanics of the footwork and how the upper body works together with the footwork. And we had a rigorous schedule. We practiced from 9:00-11:00am, took a break and then again from 3:00 to 6:00pm.

“Lauren and the twins, Malika and Kadijah, adapted very quickly. The guys came along a little slower. Al Be, Jason and Jackie Long developed very fast. T.I. was determined to learn. They were all great students and very supportive of each other.”

“I can’t say that I was a skater,” says Harris. “I did go to the skating rink but I didn’t do moves or special routines and I didn’t have a skate crew, so I wasn’t really a skater, but what I didn’t have in skill, I made up for in heart,” he confides. “No time out.”

When Lauren London found out that she was being considered for the film, she visited a local rink in Los Angeles. “It wasn’t the same as Atlanta skating,” she remembers. “So when I got out here, I had to start all over. I found muscles in my legs I didn’t even know I had. But I loved skating with the guys. It’s like being a little sister playing with my brothers.”

Jason Weaver remembers roller skating when he was around 12 years old. Learning to skate for the film took him back to that childhood, but with a difference. “Back when I was 12 years old, I was just trying to stay on the wheels, trying not to fall, but this was really intense. We could spend up to two hours on moves like ‘the glide’ or ‘lay it down.’ You really had to focus and be in shape, too.”

While Albert “Al Be” Daniels felt Newton was a phenomenal coach, he says that his skating technique was refined by the extras, real skaters who were cast in the film. “These people skate every Sunday, every week,” he says. “Some would come by and say ‘arch your back a little bit,’ or ‘when you clap, do it this way.’ I learned a lot from them.”

Jackie Long was “so bad I didn’t even know how to put on a pair of skates.” Now he’s so good that he feels he could “teach a few lessons, flip, dip or whatever.”

Evan Ross’ character Ant doesn’t skate in the movie, but when he went out to the rink to watch, he was hooked. “Everybody was learning to skate and dance and there was all this choreography and, while I don’t have to skate in the movie, I am a dancer in real life so I had to go out there and see what I could do. Everybody said I was a natural. I was disappointed I wasn’t going to get to skate in the movie. The vibe was incredible.”

Choreographing fell to Devyne, one of Dallas Austin’s lifelong friends. “We actually hung out in the day at the skating rink,” he says, “and Dallas and T-Boz always promised that when they got the movie going, they would reach back and let me be part of it.”

Devyne has worked on artist development and choreography with talents such as Usher, Monica, Ciara, Gwen Stefani, P. Diddy and Jay-Z, to name a few. He had never been involved in skate choreography but had no qualms, because as he says, “what we do on skates, we actually do on foot. It’s the same kind of routines I put on artists.”

“At first, the cast was just mimicking what they saw,” adds Newton. “Then I watched them begin to grow in just the short time we were rehearsing. I had to take them back in history and teach them about Atlanta skating, where it started and those who came before them. It put my cast on a whole different level – it opened their minds. And once they took those lessons to heart, you could see the creativity and passion come through in their skating.”

On the Rink

Upon his return from a trip to Atlanta, director Robinson called production designer Robb Buono with exciting news. “I told him I couldn’t believe what I’d seen,” he says, then proceeded to describe some scenes he’d observed at the roller skating rink. “It was like New York City in the 80s,” he recalls. “It was like the evolution of hip-hop. Atlanta is where it’s going. What these kids are doing is so exciting. It’s amazing. It’s almost like break-dancing on skates. And the energy – I told Robb he had to come down and see it!”

The next trip to Atlanta included Buono, as well as executive producer Tim Bourne. “The three of us went around to skating rinks and I saw it for myself,” explains Buono. “And I was like WOW! Blown away! So even before I had a script, I knew what the heart and soul of the movie was. I knew what the story was about. I knew what the environment was.”

Robinson and Buono decided that there were two parts to the script – the reality of the teenagers’ life experience and the roller skating rink. “Even though the roller skating rink is set in the present,” says Buono, “we wanted to look at it through rose colored glasses, because when you think back on your memories of that time period – no matter what age you are – you see everything bigger. Our goal was to make that roller skating rink a character that grows as we keep coming back, and each time it’s more magical – a Saturday Night Fever-like contrast to the reality of life.”

It was on a Sunday night that the Cascade Family Skating Rink in south side Atlanta was discovered. “Chris and I had been to several other rinks,” says Buono. “We got to Cascade about 10:30pm. There were cars parked all along the highway, the parking lots were full and the gas station across the street was full. We had to park about two blocks away and walk in, and there’s such a scene, such energy outside. We’re just in awe. Then we went inside and the energy was even greater.”

Sadly for the filmmakers, the inside of Cascade was no more than a black box with a blank canvas. “It was the lowest common denominator,” sighs Buono. “Everything was bland –gray carpet, the colors were a WalMart blue and maroon – very 80s, and not a good 80s. So it was up to me to turn this rink into a magical place...to determine what was right for its character and for Atlanta.”

He decided on black and red as the rink’s color palette. “Red is an intense and energetic color and matches the energy and excitement of skating. Black is negative space and the more black you use in a space as large as a rink, it makes it bigger and larger than life. It makes the bold color of the red stand out.”

Buono also realized that lighting the rink was going to be a massive challenge. The giant white dropped ceiling afforded no room for the lights so it became necessary to remove it. “With the ceiling out, we realized that because we were going to have all these lights above the rink, they would bounce off the wood floor which would be too bright on the faces, so we had to refinish the floor, making it darker, which gave us a wonderful reflection of whatever lights we put up on the ceiling.”

Rigging for the lights became an artistic challenge for Buono. Working with the art department, the rigging electrics and the rigging grips, he designed a wagon wheel effect that moved with the motion of the skating and allowed the lights to be programmed, aesthetically lighting both ends of the rink and capturing the action of the skating sequences.

Buono gave every other part of the rink its own personality as well. “The skate rental, the snack bar, the arcade – all have their own personality,” he says, “so that while so much is happening on the skating rink, when we come back to the other areas, they don’t get monotonous.

“We did every inch of that rink,” he continues. “The carpet on the walls, painting the ceiling, putting in the lights, painting the snack bar, changing the color of the tables. We used a lot of neon and bold bright colors.”

There was debate over what the Cascade sign on the outside of the building should look like. “Chris originally thought that the sign should be neon,” says Buono. “We were pretty sure that we wanted a classic old-school metal sign. I took a digital picture of the rink at night and drew in what I thought it should look like and lit it up digitally, and once I showed it to everyone, there was no doubt about what it should be. There are a lot of important things that happen at Cascade and I wanted to design a place that would lure us in – much like the way that old Las Vegas or old Atlantic City used to draw you into the hotel or casino or theater. I wanted the design to be that icon for what Cascade really means.”

 These production notes provided by Warner Bros. Pictures


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