Although runaway production has decimated many local suppliers to the film and television industry, one Sherman Oaks business is flourishing in the current atmosphere.
Goodnight and Company makes sets, props and the occasional talking rhino for awards shows, commercials, talk shows, live theater and whatever production that needs something done quickly and done right.
“I love it, I really do,” said owner Beth Goodnight, a 47-year-old mother of two who lives in Thousand Oaks. “It’s always different, every experience is unique. Some of my greatest joys are collaborating with the artists who bring jobs to us and go ‘How do you think we can make this happen?’ I’ve got so many incredible artists around me that I can go, ‘I know who to ask.’”
Goodnight provides work for a core staff of 20 that can expand by up to 100 or more during heavy workload periods like awards season. It’s taken awhile, but her business is now a signator to five International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees agreements. Scenic Express and All Sets Design and Construction, both located north of downtown L.A., are pretty much the only other union affiliates that aren’t part of major studios or networks — and most of those corporate shops have been shut or severely downsized in the past decade.
“That’s hurt all of us in Southern California,” noted Goodnight, who was born in Simi Valley, has worked in her field for 27 years and started a non-union shop, Company Inc. Sets, with her brother, Bill Horbury, at the turn of the century. They amicably split so he could pursue his interest in live music shows while she stuck with the productions she loves.
“But we are thriving,” she acknowledged. “It’s created a demand.”
Goodnight’s supplied special lighting and/or props for such big L.A. productions as the Academy, SAG and Kid’s Choice Awards. Ellen Degeneres’, Queen Latifah’s, Craig Ferguson’s and other’s talk shows, game shows, reality programs and commercials constantly need the stuff, too.
Goodnight keeps an entire Wendy’s restaurant set at her 32,000-square-foot facility. The main building’s cavernous workspace accommodates a welding platform, standing backdrops and a computer-generated cutting device that can quickly shape Plexiglas and lumber to exact specifications.
Shop helps keep talent home
For local artisans who prefer not to spend months away from home working on movies shot in big production incentive locales such as Georgia, Louisiana and Canada, Goodnight is not just a professional godsend. It’s a great place to be.
“I don’t go on location anymore, for personal reasons,” said sculptor Brian Cole, whose work history goes back as far as the 1968 movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and who, most recently for Goodnight, made the sphinx seen in Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” video. “I know it’s hard for people, and Beth sort of fills that gap.
“She’s a very, very kind lady, and very good to work with,” Cole added. “She has a good idea of what she wants because she’s been in the business for so long, and she has a lot of contacts. I’ve been in the industry a long time and I’ve worked with a lot of people; some have been hard to get along with, but she’s very easygoing.”
“Beth has such a good name in the business,” added Tim Baker, a 25-year industry veteran who, among other things over the past three years, made “The Late Late Show’s” Sandra the Talking Rhino with Goodnight. “And the more I worked with her, she ended up offering me shop space for free, just so that I would be around when something comes up. We all kind of work together as one big family, which goes really well.”
Ed Brown, the business agent for IATSE Local 44 (Affiliated Property Craftspersons), is glad Goodnight signed on.
“It means more jobs for members of our union in an environment where, because bigger productions are not being made in L.A., we have more people out of work,” Brown said. “She has become an extremely valuable asset to commercial set construction that the union is supporting and encouraging.”
Production designers are glad Goodnight is around, too.
“I keep bringing shows there, so yes, I’m very satisfied with their work,” said John Ivo Gilles, who’s worked on such series as “America’s Got Talent” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” “There’s certainly room in the market for a good scene shop. And I’m pleased and excited that Goodnight is run by women. It is just refreshing to see the good old boys’ club broken a tad.”
Goodnight said that she doesn’t think a lot about how her gender might affect her business, though she can’t think of another woman in her managerial position on the building side of things.
“I was the lead carpenter for a Nickelodeon show many years ago, and building just makes sense to me,” she pointed out. “I have a ton of experience.”
Maybe the best part about Goodnight’s job, though, is that she continues to learn on it.
“I have people come to me who have so much experience, so much skill, so much talent, and they bring me these resumes that are just unbelievable,” she said. “I feel like my world and my mind are always being opened up by the people that work for me and the people who are bringing me work.”