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Making magic behind the scenes

Local stretches small budget into big award for popular soap opera.

July 27, 2011|By Sara Cardine
(Courtesy of Jeanne…)

A couple of weeks ago while most employed America

ns were returning emails and pushing papers, La Cañada resident Chip Dox was staging a car accident. He and his team were asked to create a full-scale collision, complete with steam and confusion, without causing as much as a single dent.

This is par for the course for Dox, production designer for the popular daytime soap opera, “General Hospital.” For the past 12 years, he’s been responsible for building and arranging sets, background scenes, homes and props for the show’s motley cast of residents.

The challenges of fully outfitting the TV town of “Port Charles” on a shoestring budget, arguing with producers and cataloging every prop for easy reference and replacement later is right up his alley. Recently, that passion earned Doxs and his team a coveted daytime television honor — an Emmy Award.

Their work was recognized in a June 17 Emmy Awards reception held for craftsmen who ply their trades behind the scenes. “General Hospital” won the award for best art direction, an honor it hasn’t received in 29 years.

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“We didn’t think we had much of a shot at it this year because we’d seen the other submissions,” Dox said. “We sat in the back of the auditorium and were prepared to leave early.”

As exciting as the recent win was, it wasn’t Dox’s first. He received an Emmy in 1997 for his work on “Days of Our Lives,” where he’d worked as the art director since 1980. Shortly thereafter, he pulled up stakes and moved to ABC.

As easy as the finished episodes make the whole process seem, Dox's job involves real craftiness for designing scenes that look intricate but cost as little as possible. There are 125 existing sets for “General Hospital” — from homes and offices to local haunts and operating rooms — including the main hospital, the only set that remains permanently intact inside the Prospect Studios building in the Los Feliz area.

Production designers like Dox work with producers, directors and writers to make sure all the action written in the script can be accommodated. As familiar sponsors close up shop and purse strings tighten, tempers may occasionally flare over last-minute changes and competing philosophies.

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