Every once in a rare while, you meet someone who has the coolest job in the world.

In my world, that’s Nelson Coates. And he’s talking about his coolest job at the Laguna Art Museum THIS Thursday, Oct. 20th.

Trust me – this is going to be one of the most interesting evenings you’ve had in a long, long time. Tickets are free for museum members and just $7 for non-members at – click “Events” to find the Film Night page.

This Guy Decides What a Blockbuster Movie is Going to Feel Like

Nelson is one of the most wanted Production Designers in Hollywood. When he first told me he designed movie sets, I thought it was all very fascinating …  until he told me what he really does in his “design” work … and that information simply blew me away.

The top Production Designers in movies and television are actually one of the top two dogs – if not the top dog – of the entire production’s direction and filming process. While everyone sees the Director of the movie as the man or woman who creates the essence of the film, it’s actually the Production Designer who innovates the look, feel, energy, location and flow of the entire movie.

After movies such as Flight (Denzel Washington) and The Proposal (Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds) and Hot Pursuit (Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara), Nelson recently wrapped the filming of TWO movies at once – the second and third installments of Fifty Shades of Gray. For months, he was sending me and other friends texts about finding this giant yacht or that amazing palace, or transforming an art museum in the South of France to a millionaires’ gala, or working with the costume designers on his vision for Dakota Johnson’s wardrobe, or designing the new look of character Christian Grey’s Manhattan penthouse.

(And here I sit, still in my pajamas, writing this simple column.)

Nelson never brags – he’s just darned excited and enthusiastic about his everyday life at the office. And who wouldn’t be with this job?

After the first Fifty Shades movie rolled out at a mere $571 million in box office sales, the producers and author of the books decided to … change horses mid-stream, shall we say … and chose an entirely new Director (James Foley of Twin Peaks, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Chamber, and House of Cards) with an entirely new Production Designer, our own Laguna-based Nelson Coates.

I haven’t read the books, and I only saw the first Fifty Shades movie after I heard Nelson was hired for the second and third, because I want a baseline of comparison in my head. I’ll step up to the premier events for both movies, because I know Nelson’s going to knock it out of the ballpark.

Secrets of Secret In Their Eyes

This Thursday night at the Laguna Art Museum, Nelson is discussing a different film – the dark and brooding Secret In Their Eyes, which starred Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiewetel Ejiofor. After his initial introduction on how he envisioned and molded the film (again, he never admits this but, let’s just be honest here), we actually get to view the movie in its entirety.

I was one of the lucky ones who was able to see this movie – with Nelson in tow – last February, and there’s simply nothing like viewing a movie with the person who designed its look and feel.

At the movie’s conclusion, there will be more Q-and-A for those of us taking notes.

Altogether, one of the most unique evenings imaginable with one of our very own here in Laguna Beach. Be sure to reserve your ticket in advance at




Get Laguna's Restaurant Updates!