Jim Halpert proposes to Pam Beesly in the season 5 premiere of The Office. Showrunners always put a lot of consideration into any scene involving John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters. Naturally, the same went for Jim and Pam’s engagement. In The Office BFFs, Fischer explains why the engagement took place in the parking lot of a Best Buy.
Jim proposes to Pam at a gas station inspired by Greg Daniels’ childhood
“Greg [Daniels] wanted the proposal to feel special, but he also wanted it to feel like Jim made the decision without a lot of planning,” Fischer writes in the “Jam” chapter of her and Angela Kinsey’s book The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office From Two Best Friends Who Were There. Daniels’ childhood inspired the scene’s location — a gas station along a freeway between Scranton and New York.
“We based the station on one that Greg Daniels had traveled to as a kid along the Merrit Parkway in New York,” Fischer explains. “Instead of flying us there, our production designer Michael Gallenberg and his team built one in the parking lot of a Best Buy in Los Feliz, California.”
Behind the scenes of Jim’s proposal to Pam in season 5 of ‘The Office’
With the help of Google Street View, Gallenberg captured images of the Merrit Parkway station and built one to match. “The interior of the gas station is a series of high-definition photographs,” Fischer writes. “Those soda bottles and cereal boxes inside the window are not real, folks!”
Showrunners created a four-lane parkway and used 35 precision drivers to operate cars, trucks, and semis at 55 miles per hour around the faux gas station. “[They drove] in a giant circle around the set and in front of the cameras,” Fischer writes. “I could feel the wind from the vehicles as they zoomed past.”
“On top of all this, [we used] rain machines,” Fischer adds. “It felt like I was on the set of a major film production …” After filming, special effects replaced the California mountains in the background with trees and foliage native to the East Coast.
The 52-second scene Jim proposes to Pam cost $250,000 to shoot
As Fischer explains in The Office BFFs, the engagement was the “single most expensive and elaborate scene” ever filmed for the show. Showrunners only had nine days to scout a location, design the site, and build the set. According to Fischer, the scene, which is only 52-seconds long, cost $250,000.
‘The Office’ episode where Jim proposes to Pam caused a debate behind the scenes
Showrunners knew how critical the engagement was for fans — especially after making them wait three seasons for the couple to get together. As Daniels recalls in An Oral History of The Office, there was a divide on how to best capture the moment.
Should the engagement scene have sound and give viewers a close-up of the experience? Should it be a more intimate moment with no sound, only visuals? They shot the proposal both ways, but there was still much deliberation around what would make the final cut.
In the end, a security guard for the building in which The Office was edited chose for proposal scene with sound. His reasoning — “[he] could hear it.”
Watch episodes of The Office on Peacock.