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Filmmaking / Directing : Making your own props and set pieces by Jordan Craig

Jordan Craig

Making your own props and set pieces

Just wondering what mediums you all like to use when building custom props or large set pieces, especially for those bigger productions. I'm always working on small low budget productions, so I end up making a lot of my stuff out of carved foam pieces and coating it with something, like plaster or resin or something similar. I'm curious as to what others out there have a preference for.... Also, if anyone has a suggestion on a inexpensive but quality sprayer for painting large pieces with paint (or even better plaster) I'd be eternally grateful!

Dennis R Varni

Hi Jordan, I writing a si/fi screenplay and wondering about the cost for set pieces, no real special effects but I want to make the settings as futurist as I can using "what ever mediums" let me know about readings or anything you discover...i'l;l do the same.

Jordan Craig

Hi Dennis! One great resource is the Replica Prop Forum (www.therpf.com). Although it is a lot of people doing cosplay/costume type replications, the techniques that get discussed can be used for making a great deal of movie props, on the cheap. One of the mediums I've really grown fond of is using expanded polystyrene foam (basically styrofoam). I use am electric hot knife to carve out my shape, and from there I can coat with a material of my choosing (plaster/fiberglass/resin). This can get a bit messy; you need a workspace to do this in. However, once you invest in the hot knife (I bought an industrial one for ~$150), the materials can be dirt cheap from the local hardware store, and then it is your time investment making your prop.

LeAnn Morris

Hey Jordan, on our last film project I had to design a jail/dungeon cell. I made the stone-like blocks out of paper mache. Then they were spray/spatter painted; attached to cheep paneling and then the framework. My cover photo shows the end result. Another resource I've found very useful is what I call "cardboard sheetrock". It comes in 4'x6' sheets and is about 1/2" thick. I found this stuff at the local Sears stores where they sell outdoor equipment. I think the cardboard is used as part of the pallets for lawnmowers. Anyway it's really great and has a lot of uses!

Jordan Craig

Oh that's pretty cool texturing with the paper mache. Did it take long to build up?

LeAnn Morris

Not really. Once I figured out the size I wanted for each block it went pretty quickly.

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