“The speakers will allow crews in the screening room to hear their sound effects and adjust them with a control center in a room next to it,” Chamasone said.
While the room had multiple levels of seating, Det Chamasone said his team had to remove storage racks that once held instruments to open up the space.
“We’re also trying to retain rooms that may have additional uses for scenes,” Chamasone said, “such as one of the science labs that will stand in for a lab set.”
The former cafeteria will be divided into several rooms to serve as a hospital setting.
“We’ll add hallways in the building’s halls and divide the room into nursing stations and patient rooms,” he added.
One storage room remains filled with old textbooks and library books.
“We’re trying to save anything we may need later on,” he said.
The former concession area outside the larger gym will become a cafe for coffee and sandwiches, he said.
“We also want to enclose areas with glass coverings to provide more space,” Chamasone said. Pointing at a section of open space between two parts of the building, “We plan to install a garden there.”
Meanwhile, the 160-space parking lot can serve production trucks and RVs. He also plans to create sets for a hospital and courtrooms, because they are so common in movies and TV. Future plans even call for installing residences on the second floor so crew may stay on site.
Although Burton is in lightly populated Geauga County, as well as 30 miles from downtown Cleveland and 34 miles from downtown Akron, Det Chansamone said he’s confident that crews in the region will find the space despite its location.
Rech said he doesn’t believe the Burton location will deter Hollywood studios and other film and TV producers from using the space.
The Chansamones did not originally plan to relocate here but recently cut the cord on California.
Kiyomi said they wish for more dining options in the Burton area, but the couple enjoys its charm.
“We certainly don’t miss L.A. traffic,” she said.
Det said the village has been helpful in getting the studio launched, such as approving zoning variances. The schools were enthusiastic about his potential program; he already hosts tours of the work-in-progress studio.
Moving from L.A. to Ohio was not Det Chansamone’s longest trek. He emigrated as a 5-year-old with his family from Laos to the U.S.
“We had to sneak out of the country to Thailand,” he said, and recalled that his brother had to don more American-style clothes to pass for a young Thai man returning home. His family settled in Utah, where several members of the family worked at a factory.
He also followed a circuitous path to the special effects business. He attended UCLA and got a degree in philosophy. He had planned to become a lawyer, but working at several law firms as a file clerk while he was in college changed his mind.
“I always tell people that if you want your son or daughter to be a lawyer, don’t let them work at a law firm until after law school,” he said. He had originally planned to pursue law as a day job and creative activities in his free time.
“Our entire family is very creative,” Chamasone said. “We always had projects. I enjoy the constant problem-solving in creating scenes and movies. I had planned to pursue hobbies at night while working in law. That changed after I decided to drop law.”
So he pursued creative work instead. His start came, as is typical, “with a studio that hired young people and paid peanuts. But it was a great experience.”
For his part, Chansamone is now more worried about when the current Writer’s Guild of America strike ends. It already has cost the studio three planned productions, he said. So for now, he continues to ramp up efforts.