"No pressure at all," Ellen Lampl says, joking, when asked what's it's like to be hired to design and oversee building of the new backdrop for "Austin City Limits," the longest-running music show in the history of television.
"As a fan, I always thought the show was filmed outdoors," says the native of Shawnee, Okla., who moved to Austin in 1995 when her husband, Craig Denham, got a job at the GSD&M Idea City advertising agency. "We're looking to convey the same sense of being outside" with the new faux skyline, she says. The original backdrop is too fragile to move and will remain at Studio 6A.
The new backdrop will be unveiled Feb. 24 at the KLRU gala celebrating the opening of "Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater."
Although the Austin horizon has changed dramatically since the "ACL" backdrop was built in 1981, producer Terry Lickona says "artistic license was put into use" so that the University of Texas Tower and the Capitol aren't dwarfed by the new highrises in the updated set.
"We're honoring the past, while also making it current," says Lampl, who was recommended to Lickona by mutual acquaintances in the film community. Although she came up in advertising, Lampl says "film work found me" after she was hired to work designing sets for 2003 movie "The Life of David Gale," which was directed in Austin by Alan Parker. Lampl's subsequent credits as graphic designer include "The School of Rock," "Friday Night Lights" (movie and TV series), "Sex and the City" and the upcoming "True Grit" and "Tree of Life." The mother of two was also a member of the team that was nominated for the Art Director Guild Award for 2009's "Up in the Air," starring George Clooney.
But the work on the "ACL" set is especially dear to her, she says, because "the show is such a big part of the Austin community." Indeed, the backdrop of "ACL" is perhaps the most iconic image of the city to worldwide audiences.
So don't blow it, Team Lampl. (They won't.)
Meanwhile, Capital Area Statues Inc., the nonprofit that gave the city Philosophers' Rock at Barton Springs Pool, has commissioned Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields to create an 8-foot statue of Willie Nelson that will greet fans at the new venue's entrance at Second and Lavaca streets.
In unconfirmed ACL Live news, a good source lets on that Nashville's Lost Highway will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a SXSW showcase at the 2,700-capacity theater starring Hayes Carll, Black Joe Lewis and a special guest, likely Ryan Bingham. The Johnny Depp look-alike with the Waitsian pipes will be in Central Texas this spring filming a movie directed by his wife, German filmmaker Anna Axster.