Landscaper makes transition into movie business

By Graham Ulkins


Russell Doyle has worked with plants his entire professional career. But a recent job switch makes these plants a bit more famous than most.

"Most of the time people don't even notice my work. But if my work wasn't there, you would absolutely notice it," Doyle says.

Many of his plants these days are artificial, pruned, and prodded for their moment in the spotlight.

"I was a landscape designer and contractor for 14 years. The business started getting dry and I had a family member suggest I get into the movie industry."

Doyle is a greensman, responsible for everything natural on a movie set. Like this futuristic backyard used in the film "Ender's Game." He transformed a bare soundstage into an eerie forest currently seen on TV.

"These are skilled craftsmen. I mean Russell is really making a name for himself in the industry, and it's really cool that he gets to share his God-given talents with the world from Baton Rouge," says Patrick Mulhern.

Mulhern is the director of Celtic Media Centre where Doyle, a Louisiana native, does much of his work.

"The nice thing about Louisiana is you move further faster. You can actually work on more productions here in Baton Rouge or New Orleans now than you can in LA.

"Being able to work here at Celtic I'm 10 minutes from my home. I'm working on a major motion picture here."

Only three years in, Doyle runs his own movie landscape company and has worked on blockbuster films like "Twelve Years as a Slave." Scenes in the Cotton Fields were shot out of season.

"This was Hibiscus plants that we put cotton all over and I taught Lupita how to pick cotton off Hibiscus which had to be pulled a certain way to look realistic for the camera."

Services and skills once unique to California, now available locally. It's an important reason why the big studios keep coming back.