Much of Semi-Pro takes place in the Flint Coliseum, which was designed and created by production designer Clayton Hartley in the gymnasium of the Los Angeles Fire Department Training Facility, located near Dodger Stadium.
"Their gym was just a barrel-shaped space that had a raw floor and two basketball courts side by side," director Kent Alterman recalls. "We finished the floor and built all of the stands. The only impediment that it had was a post-WWII big artillery gun that we called "The Cannon." When we first got there they told me that it couldn't be moved, so I said, 'Let's build around it and give it a feeling of authenticity and texture.'"
"I love the barrel-shaped ceiling and the pattern," Alterman continues. "Even though it was built in the '30s, there was something about the pattern on the ceiling that felt like a period '70s sports arena."
It was in the arena that the most very hair-raising portion of the production, involving a scene where Jackie Moon wrestles a bear as a promotional stunt, was filmed. Thankfully for Ferrell, he was already familiar with wild animals. "I'm very good with animals. I have a lot of wild animals at home. I have a couple of rare jaguars. I really shouldn't admit that I have them because it's illegal. I have a couple of California condors. There's only like 12 of them out there and I've got two. I love wild game."
Ferrell ultimately emerged fairly unscathed. "It seemed to work out OK, except the bear did thrash me pretty good. But it's a bear, right? What do you expect?"
Additional basketball sequences were filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. During the final week of production, the company traveled to the actual Flint, Michigan to film exteriors.
Further evoking the look and feel of the decade is Susan Matheson's costume design. The costumes all have a feel of authenticity. The sneakers are flat and lacking in support, which led to many shin splints and sore knees. The shorts are short and the jerseys are tight - a lot has changed in basketball fashion since the '70s.
"I think the seventies are just intrinsically hilarious," cast member Andrew Daly comments. "People didn't know, I guess. They didn't realize at the time that their clothes were so comical and ridiculous, or that their hair was unacceptable. They had no idea. Their sideburns were extreme and their mustaches were foolish. But now we can look back on that, and we see it all with the clarity of thirty years' distance. It's ridiculous and it's so much fun to watch."
"It's funny that a lot of these styles are cool now," Will Ferrell says of the costume design. "I remember as a child of the '70s thinking - even when this was the contemporary fashion - 'this does not look good.' I think it was a weird time where we were kidding ourselves. We thought bell bottoms were cool. But now, for some reason, they are cool."
Director Kent Alterman was pleased with the creative forces that helped bring the style and flair of the Flint Tropics pop from the page to the screen. "From the production design, the costumes and the photography, it's really proven that we that we're all creatively in sync," he says.
Given that the cast was made up of a group of comedians, improvisation was encouraged. André Benjamin loved to take part in the improvisation as well, noting that the process of improvising on set is somewhat similar to putting a song together in the recording studio. "In music it's the same thing," he says. "As long as you know your line or the basic structure of the song, you can play with it. You can go anywhere with your lines as long as you know your purpose."
Alterman was enthusiastic about fostering the comedic impulses of the gifted group of comedians, many of whom he's known for years. "When we got to the arena and we had Dick Pepperfield and Lou Redwood and Bobby Dee and Father Pat the Ref, the actors playing these roles are all my friends in real life," Alterman enthuses. "To see Andy Richter and Matt Walsh and Will Arnett and Andy Daly and these guys all coming together, and to be surrounded by your friends who are incredibly talented and funny, is really an amazing dream come true for me."
Of course, many of the actors were excited for the opportunity to see Will Ferrell become Jackie Moon. "It's a pretty daunting thing at first," Braaten says. "If you're a fan of movies or television, or pop culture, you know Will's body of work. To see how he goes about his day has been a cool experience for me. When it's 2:30 in the morning and we've still got two scenes left, he's supremely upbeat. He's happy to be here. It's been fun to work with Will and a lot of people whose movies I've admired."
"The difference with working with Will this time is that he is a lot shorter now that he's not on skates," jokes Will Arnett, who last worked with Ferrell on Blades of Glory. "Will is constantly hilarious in new ways every time that I've worked with him."
"The fact that it was a group who all for the most part knew each other, we just had the best time, on and off camera," says Ferrell.
"I think because we are an actual team, we had to band together," André Benjamin says of the camaraderie on set. "We looked out for each other and helped each other out. When you're together for three or four months and you're going through lines, and you're going through the plays, and you're sitting on the bench for hours talking about life, you become a true family. It's just like the Tropics. We've become Tropical for life."