Everything's coming up roses in Hollywood and mums, carnations, daisies and more. And the handful of local florists who cater to television and movie producers couldn't be happier.
"Directors know that flowers touch all humans; the element of something natural in a movie is just as capturing to the audience as special effects or sound," says Charles Gonzales, co-owner of White House Custom Florals in Los Angeles. "It's something I sell to all directors and producers."
Set designers figure that floral touches offer a different, softer perspective than rough-and-tumble special effects.
"What a lot of the public wants to see are romantic films and period pieces," says set designer Lea Simmons. "That's where flowers for movies come in to help designers make the sets as authentic as possible."
Stephanie Ziemer, set designer for the recent HBO movie "Weapons of Mass Destraction," a drama based loosely on the lives of media moguls Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch, says she is among those who take blooms very seriously.
"I didn't realize their importance until I met Charles Gonzales (White House's co-owner)," says Ziemer. "He'll look at fabrics, textures, and even ask how wealthy the characters are."
In "Weapons," the two main characters are very wealthy. This required many of the movie's locales largely mansions and offices to be decorated with floral arrangements that typify that wealth.
Ziemer recalls a dinner scene in which a tycoon and his well-heeled guests are celebrating his nephew's engagement. At the dinner table, the set designer placed elegant silverware, an expensive silk table cloth and napkins.
"Flowers were extremely important, especially because it was a wealthy home," says Ziemer. "(The floral designer) used a spray of very pale cream and pale pink roses and a cream-silk ribbon. It was really beautiful."
It was also very expensive. The spray of rare Porcelina roses, flown in from Paris, and imported organza ribbon cost $5,000.
Although set designers are given a budget which they are free to spend as they see fit, Ziemer says, producers often raise an eyebrow when checking out the floral bill.
"Producers don't understand how it could cost thousands for flowers, but it's funny after they see them, they say, 'Wow, they really made the scene,'" says Ziemer. She admits that she often pads the flower budget, scrimping on other props to spend more on blooms.
In a major motion picture, the cost of flowers can soar as high as $70,000, like it did for "Father of the Bride Part II," says Gonzales. He used florals in scenes ranging from an elaborate baby shower to dinner parties.
Many of the flowers used, like the European-grown Leonidas and Holland Highn flower had to be flown in from overseas.
"When you're working with entertainment, they don't care about the money. They just want it done and want it done right," explains Paul Rovner, co-owner of Dave's Flowers & Gift Baskets in Hollywood.
Despite the premium prices Hollywood is willing to pay, only a small number of local florists cater to the entertainment industry, largely because of the enormous demands.
Local flower experts who service Hollywood are routinely put on 24-hour call while productions are in progress; they are depended on to come up with out-of-season flowers at a moment's notice, and must deal with massive egos.
"You have to have a lot of patience and be a real team player," says Gonzales. "If you're not, then you're out."
Gonzales recalls the time when he got an urgent call from a frantic set designer at 3 a.m.
"I was at home sleeping when I got a call that (director) Bill Friedkin insisted all the light-colored red flowers had to be changed to blood-red roses," says the floral designer.
Friedkin, most famous for "The Exorcist," decided blood red was crucial to a particular scene in his murder mystery "Jade."
The result, after an exhaustive search throughout L.A., Gonzales says, was a great burst of 300 of the deepest-red roses he could find.
"It couldn't be a happy-red bouquet of flowers, they had to depict muder and blood," stresses Gonzales. "I worked closely with the director to capture that feeling on screen."
At what exotic locale did Gonzales discover such murderous blooms at the ungodly hour of 3? Pavilions market.
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