Behind the scenes at A Christmas Story

Nativity scenes were part of Christmas during my childhood. I was quite fond of them, not for any religious reason, but because they reminded me of dioramas. I LOVE dioramas. I have made many shadowbox dioramas out of old shoe boxes. I love to go to natural history museums because they have dioramas.

I think much of the pleasure I get from building these little sets comes from that old love of dioramas. This “Nativity Scene” I am creating is really just a diorama displaying my rather odd sense of humor within a loose framework of the “birth of the messiah” story.

An actual photo of the Judean Hills.  Somewhere south of Bethlehem if I remember correctly.

I had to cut up lots of straw.

I used the barn from my turkey pardon post. I tried to give it a rustic look like a barn built onto the front of a grotto.

Cardboard and duct tape.

I like cardboard and duct tape.

I used my duracell flashlight for interior barn lighting.


The grotto barn is in place.

Manger is made.

Rocks, fence, straw. Check, check, and check.

Ready for more props.

The studio with some of the main props.

My studio is a mess.

Hey look, it’s the cooler! In the final version, the cooler isn’t so obvious. It is filled with water bottles for the kids, near the food table. You pretty much have to look for it.

Oops. Blood still on the burger stand from the turkey shoot.

Checking the lights.

A side view.

Gathering some characters.

The Purchasing Department got me a fake campfire.

And this cool tent.

What’s a picnic without some dogs running around?

Working on lighting for the barn. This was before I got the duracell flashlight set up.

These three were around for the entire setup.

Farm animals, and the first little boy barbie I tried. He was too big so I found a different one.

Excess stuff that was in the way, plus studio supplies (duct tape, scissors, beer, sharpies).

I love the expression on this dog’s face.

Originally I wasn’t sure whether I would have kids at the party, which is why you can see booze on the ground by the cooler in some of the prep shots.

Ultimately, I decided that the party was a family affair, so the kids got to go.

The alien and his space ship were going to show up, but I just couldn’t squeeze any more objects into the scene. Sorry dude.

Booze next to cooler. Gotta get that picked up before the kids arrive.

That is one faithful dog. Faithful to food that is.

I needed help from Perils Cat. She came a’runnin’ when I called.

Oh great. Whose party is this?

Trying to figure out which kid to use for the newborn.

The sign for the burger stand is ready to go up.

It was a major job to get all of these people dressed.

I just randomly stuck them in the scene as I finished dressing them.

I wasn’t sure how many I could squeeze in. The spaceship didn’t make the final cut. Neither did the snowmachine.

My husband stopped by for a look. What is that on the roof of the burger stand?

Perils Cat observed from above.

And then went back to chewing on her toenails.

She is above the fray.

Still not happy with my barn lighting. I need to work on that.

Hey, it’s the blue hat!

The booze has moved to the table, the cooler is wandering around, and the dogs remain faithful to the food.

I finally get the set the way I like it.

Lighting in the right place.

The cast is ready to go.

The burger sign is up, and the booze finally made it over to the burger stand.

I’m happy with my barn lighting.

Perils Cat does an inspection in the middle of filming.

And then she’s off to greener pastures.

You don’t need me anymore, right?

I really really didn’t mean to make Paul’s new bell look like a big penis.

But what the heck, he deserves a big penis. And the Purchasing Department deserves a round of applause for the great poem about Paul and the Blue Hat, which many of you saw in the comment section of a previous post. Paul and the Blue Hat sounds a little like Charles and the Purple Crayon. Maybe Paul and the Blue Hat can have other adventures. Paul and the Blue Hat Go to Godzilla Island. Paul and the Blue Hat’s Excellent Adventure. Paul and the Blue Hat Hear a Who.

After a grueling day of filming, the cast finishes off the booze and parties like there is no tomorrow.

Rin Tin Tin looks on as the cast gets silly.

If I were a rich man…


9 responses to “Behind the scenes at A Christmas Story

  1. Very interesting but seems so small. The finished scenes are so lifelike in a rural barbie sort of way. I am not sure I like to be disallusioned by the behind the scenes views. lol

  2. So glad you included this ‘Behind the Scenes,’ although I understand kk’s point of view as well. I didn’t think the barn was made of cardboard and duct tape. Red Green would be proud ! For those of us that maintain our innocence and naivete, it’s like seeing the vending machine open and discovering that it doesn’t get filled by magic elves.
    Thanks also, too for sharing the bigger view of your studio and the others in your life. Funny to see that Perils cat has to share his tower with your set lighting.
    All in all, what a nice treat ! You are a diorama-tist extraordinaire and you’ve done your primary school teachers proud. Happy Holidays – – you may now go and enjoy some well deserved Egg Nog with that hubby of yours.

    • In this modern techo-world of special effects, cgi, etc., it is good to remember the value of cardboard and duct tape. And masking tape. I actually use masking tape even more than duct tape. Because masking tape is more neutral-colored, and easily folded, it is what I use to attach objects to doll hands (phones, guns, etc.), keep clothing closed when it doesn’t have fasteners, keep hats on, and many other uses.

  3. I love the “behind the scenes” and a glimpse into your creative thought process. However, you totally blew it when you took the alien off the roof. Every Nativity set I’ve seen has an angel on the roof! Your purchasing agent is amazing…

  4. Looks just like every “wrap” party I’ve ever been to.

  5. Thank you.

  6. I really hope you do a “behind the scenes” with all your stories. I’m glad you waited to do this after the real first story which I enjoyed very much! I like this just as well and I’m fascinated – so much talent, great laughs and fun to see how you set it all up. Sometimes while waiting for the next new story I go back and look at older ones. Can’t wait till the next one! Got one for new years 2013?

    I’m a big fan. My mother did work as a muralist and also made dioramas (she’s in a nursing home now). The Purchasing Dept. does a great job too!

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