Inside Search Party’s Entirely Foam-and-Felt Apartment

The felt apartment, which is slightly smaller than the non-felt apartment complex.
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

Research group has always been a deliberately offbeat TV show. But in season four, which premiered last January on HBO Max, the dark comedy was at its most surreal when Alia shawkatThe character of Dory Sief is kidnapped by the delusional and obsessive Chip of Cole Escola, as part of a plot to convince her that he is her best friend. First, he chains her to the basement and shaves his head to use his hair for a Barbie doll in his image. But he also wants her to feel at home, so he recreates her apartment entirely out of… felt and foam.

It’s understood? You kind of have to see the show. But the recreation was an interesting challenge for the production designer. Danica pants, who, along with decorator Casey Adams and artistic director Cara Alpert, had to bring the stuffed world to life.

The living room: “There’s this centerpiece on the coffee table, a little boat; it’s a cookie jar in his real apartment and that alone took a full week to make and the person who made it did an amazing job evolving the replica.
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

Dory’s original non-felt apartment.
Photo: Mark Schafer

The record: “The record is an important part of history. Chip continues to play ‘Groove Is in the Heart’ over and over throughout the season, and I thought he would definitely make a copy for Dory, since his record player is a centerpiece of his real apartment. It’s a little Easter egg.
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

“It was just a four-room apartment,” Pantic says of the felt set. “It took us three months. There were 20 people in our office making foam stuff. I started in October and we shot it after Christmas.

They took the work and the rules of her world very seriously. “In the script it said that the hushed apartment was an exact replica of Dory’s actual apartment, and because Dory ultimately uses a chicken bone to escape, that was very important to Charles Rogers and Sarah. -Violet Bliss, ”the show’s creators and showrunners,“ Absolutely nothing in the apartment has anything hard, ”Pantic says. “If any of the objects had wire or something other than foam and felt, Dory could have used it to escape.”

The kitchen: “We ended up cheating using cardboard in some places to make skeletons of some of the bigger pieces like kitchen appliances, but because we knew we would have a scene where Dory would try to tear up the apartment (and not enough money or labor to make duplicates of everything), most of the set was actually felt and foam, ”Pantic explains.
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

The kitchen: “It is really difficult to make a refrigerator that is completely soft but still stands up!” Said Pantic laughing. Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max.

The kitchen: “It is really difficult to make a refrigerator that is completely soft but still stands up!” Said Pantic laughing. Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max.

Alia Shawkat and John Reynolds in the original apartment.
Photo: HBO Max

They were very precise, right down to the felt food inside the refrigerator. She credits artistic director Cara Alpert as “she’s also a seamstress and costume designer, so she understands how fabric works.” But “all the construction guys, when we gave them the plans, they were like, ‘What the hell is this? “They just know how to use wood and plasterboard.”

Pantic, artist and textile designer, is originally from Belgrade, Serbia, and fled the country with his mother during the war, first to Paris, then arriving in New York just before September 11 at the age of 14. years. speaks English, ”she says,“ but not quite fluently. The only place I fit in was with theater kids. She got a job building set at a theater, The Duke on 42nd Street, in high school, and honed her English by watching movies and listening to song lyrics. Graduated in 2009 from Wesleyan, where she studied theater, she got a job in an architectural firm. “What attracted me to theater and architecture is that you are creating a whole new world,” she says.

Bedroom: “Dory’s apartment had a lot of mid-century stylish pieces, which means the seats are all self-contained without a solid base. For the bed and the sofa, we ended up putting a thick piece of foam that we covered with black felt to support the mattress and the seat of the sofa. I got the idea from my theater days, where dressing something in black means to the audience that it doesn’t exist in the story world, and the thing luckily worked on camera too.
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

But the theater was her true love, and she came to the conclusion that a life in any creative field was going to be risky. A few of her friends had started careers in film and television, so she decided to move on and found her home. “I just started feeding myself in the New York team meat grinder and got hooked.” She met Charles Rogers after a friend of hers left who had worked on the show for the first two seasons and got the production designer job for seasons three and four.

For all the wacky things the show lets him do, this project was his favorite – until now. “Much of the foam apartment was a challenge,” Pantic says, “but once we started things just kept coming to life. The hardest thing about this season was honestly diving into the foam world and then having to come out and work the rest of the season because I loved being in the foam world so much.

View: “The cityscape was another layer in the onion – the light changes as the show progresses, and in keeping with the storyline, Chip has a way of controlling day and night for Dory. Originally we were going to create a quilted cityscape backdrop for this element, but Jonathan Furmanski, the cinematographer, and I thought it would be fun to create a three-dimensional space and give it a little sparkle. .
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

The bathroom: She wanted to donate props to her hard-working felting team: Abby Manock, Kevin Cabello, Shelby Tuper, Morgan Mein, Lex Blake, Dennis Thomas and Eric O’Casio.
Photo: Jon Pack / Courtesy of HBO Max

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