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‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, the ensemble cast comedy due out this summer, slated a 48-day/nine week shoot in and around Atlanta, Georgia, with commencement of principal photography on July 26, 2011. The filmmakers decided to film each story separately, so that each couple had the best opportunity to familiarize themselves with their roles and with each other. “It’s almost like we shot five short films,” says Director Kirk Jones. “It turned out to be very rewarding for everyone, to work in these concentrated two-week shooting periods.”
Jones entered production fully aware of the challenges of filming in Georgia in the summer, especially with a large cast and a set full of babies and toddlers. Miraculously, the production sailed through mild weather and a problem-free schedule.
Several of the smooth shooting days can be credited to the baby-whispering skills of professional baby wrangler, Dawn Jeffory-Nelson. “‘What to Expect’ was definitely the most babies I’ve ever worked with in one shoot,” reports Jeffory-Nelson. “There were days where we had 35 babies on set at one time or another, and never less than seven together in a scene. So it was challenging, sure, but we pulled it all together.”
Creating the film’s fictional reality television show, Celebrity Dance Factor, required more prep time than any other sequence in the film. Working within a restrictive budget and an extremely limited time frame, production designer Andrew Laws and the location team found an abandoned Home Depot just outside of Atlanta, in Austell, Georgia, and transformed it into the glitzy set for Celebrity Dance Factor.
The spectacular results even managed to impress real-life dance show stars Tyce Diorio and Cheryl Cole. In addition to playing a celebrity judge on Dance Factor, Diorio also served as the film’s choreographer, providing the jazzy Cha-Cha for contestants Jules and Evan, the disco-influenced Whitney Port number, and Dwayne Wade’s hip-hop-inflected dance sequence.
As a rule, production used practical, real life locations for its shooting sets. Recalls producer David Thwaites, “We were very intent on shooting Atlanta for Atlanta, and that definitely helped us, because we could go into locations and not have to pretend they were someplace else.” Apart from the Celebrity Dance Factor set and Wendy’s store, The Breast Choice, which production built from the ground up, the filmmakers were understandably forced to break their practical location rule in one other instance: Holly’s and Alex’s journey to Ethiopia.
With the help of green screens and ample set dressing, Laws and his team transformed a rural church in McDonough, Georgia into an Ethiopian orphanage and the Fulton County airport into a remote Ethiopian airport. The sequence was enhanced by plate shots captured by a skeleton crew dispatched to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image Courtesy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting