As published in the September issue of "Business in Calgary" Magazine:
Working in the Background…
Enhancing the Foreground
by Mary Savage
Tucked inside the community of Ramsay, F&D Scene Changes Ltd. quietly goes about their business and does so largely unnoticed by the general public – unless you’re a patron of the performing arts and entertainment industry.
And when you step inside their office, the walls are lined – floor to ceiling – with photographs of sets and scenery from all corners of the world: all designed and built in the F&D shop.
For three decades, their sets have graced the stages worldwide – from Broadway to Hong Kong. They have built sets for Hollywood, Disney, Cirque du soleil and dozens of museum exhibits throughout North America. Closer to home, if you’ve recently caught the Broadway shows Wicked, Mary Poppins or Les Mis, then you’ve seen their scenery.
“With our history in the entertainment industry, there isn’t very much that we haven’t been asked to build,” explains Leyton Morris, project manager.
A few years ago, responding to the changing economic climate, F&D altered their course and started to reinvent themselves on a more local level. Although they continue to design and build sets, today the majority of their work focuses on specialty fixtures for the architectural world and themes for the retail sector, mainly projects that are too fussy and complicated for most construction businesses to take on.
“The construction standards in the entertainment sector are far more precise and exact than anything you’d find in the real world,” explains Morris. “In addition to the precision aspect, the structures have to come apart and go back together again – for years – all with moving parts.” This meeting of two distinct worlds has left its mark – and around Calgary, F&D has left their mark.
Inside the Calgary Zoo, they have built and painted Destination Africa, Creatures of the Night, the entrance to the South American Pavilion, Eurasian Marsh and the popular new exhibit, Penguin Plunge.
Other notable projects include the new Calgary Stampede Entry Gate (17th Avenue access), the larger-than-life Mardi Gras masks inside the Elbow River Casino, large icons inside and outside CrossIron Mills and host of other public venues. And if you watched the Calgary Stampede’s 100th-anniversary parade, F&D was there; they designed and built seven of the floats.
“We have started doing a lot of custom retail themes and public art, so we’ve started to chase a whole new world,” says Morris. “We complement the architectural features and the work we create today is astonishing and challenging: some of these structures are 65 feet tall, weigh a ton and they have to withstand the Alberta climate. Often, the client will give us an elevation, a colour palette and a general idea, but we figure out the details: the separation of layers, structural components and the finishing materials.”
On the 54th and 55th floor of the Encana building downtown (The Bow), F&D is fabricating a sculpted shell that surrounds the seating in their lecture hall. The complexity of the design did not lend itself to a prefabricated commercial system, so F&D’s custom-building expertise in unique situations was a tremendous asset.
F&D pre-builds most of the projects in their shop and this has proven to be a welcome asset in the commercial world. “Presently, we are prefabricating retail units for installation in the Edmonton Airport,” remarks Morris. “Since security is restricted in many areas of the airport, the retail units are pre-built in our shop, shipped to Edmonton and set up over the course of a couple evenings when public traffic is at a minimum. Once we start the installation, the store is usually up and running within three to four days.”
“One of the things that sets us apart is our crew – it’s one of our greatest assets. Many of our trades people are SAIT graduates and most of our painters and sculptors are ACAD graduates; we have some of the finest talent in the world working at F&D,” adds Morris. “It’s not often you hear a client say to you, ‘this is better than I ever dreamed possible!’ but we work very hard to build our clients’ vision – and then some.”
F&D Scene Changes
803 24 Avenue SE • Calgary, AB