Executive assistant Melissa Hesse, art director Robert Bates, lead development specialist Patrick Tassos and their ESPN Creative & Studio Direction team are the minds behind the ESPN holiday set decorations every year.
Every year, SportsCenter, NFL studio and virtually all studio shows get a set makeover for the holidays, creating festive looks and memorable backgrounds.
“The most difficult part of the job to me is trying to coordinate all of the ‘moving’ parts,” Hesse said. “It’s a domino effect. I need to book the studio time before I can schedule pick up and drop off of the decorations and the hiring of the stage hands (aka “elves,” in the video above).
“We try as best we can to make each studio unique but we also have to factor in how big the studio is along with being cognizant of essential equipment in each studio,” she said. “Ariana Massimilla from Production Operations helps us to recognize the most frequently used camera angles, so we know where the decorations will look best on camera.”
This season, for the first time, the creative team also decorated ESPN’s radio studios, since many shows are simulcast on TV.
“We re-use the decorations so the sets are decorated pretty much the same each year,” Hesse said. “There are usually some leftover items from previous sets that have been ‘decommissioned’ so we see where we can add a little extra.”
The whole project is a true labor of love.
“My favorite is the NFL studio because I’m huge fan of the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys in particular,” Hesse said. “I just think it’s more fun because that’s the studio both the talent and behind the scenes crew have the most fun interacting with the decorations.”
Samantha Baron produced the above video.